46. Paper Prepared by the National Security Council Staff1

NSSM 104



NSSM 104 develops four alternative U.S. force and basing packages for 1971–75 consistent with varying views of U.S. interests in the Indian Ocean area and the threats to U.S. interests, particularly the Soviet naval threat.2

It assesses these alternatives in terms of:

  • —each’s consistency with friendly plans for the area, particularly those of the U.K.
  • —the presence of U.S. and friendly forces compared with Soviet forces and possible Soviet reactions.
  • —possible reactions from neutral countries.
  • —costs and naval force availability.

NSSM 104 does not treat broad alternative U.S. strategies for the Indian Ocean involving trade-offs between different ways of protecting U.S. interests, e.g. MAP, economic assistance, and political actions. The focus is on one instrumentality: naval forces and basing. While NSSM 104 focuses on the relationship of the various postures with allied plans, it does not develop a political program for implementing whatever option is chosen that would encompass the U.S. diplomatic and public relations posture.

Interests and Threats

Interests—Relative to the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean areas, U.S. interests in the Indian Ocean area are modest: [Page 139]

  • —The U.S. has an interest in insuring open commercial transit through the Indian Ocean and to the Persian Gulf, because of the importance of oil and other supply lines between Europe, the Persian Gulf, Japan, and Australia.
  • —While the U.S. has no reason to control the Indian Ocean area, it has an interest in denying control of the area or a dominant portion of it to the Soviet Union and other potentially hostile powers.
  • —Because of the large share of the world’s population residing in Indian Ocean countries such as India and Indonesia, the U.S. seeks to encourage their political and economic progress and their friendly participation in international affairs.

U.S. commitments in the Indian Ocean area reflect U.S. interests and include: CENTO (Pakistan, Iran); SEATO (Pakistan and Thailand); an air defense agreement with India, and ANZUS (Australia).

The current U.S. presence in the area is small, reflecting the historical absence of large-scale threats to the area and the stabilizing role played by the U.K. The U.S. has the following assets in the area (see attached map):3

  • —a 3 ship (Middle East) force at the U.K. base at Bahrain in the Persian Gulf,
  • —communications facilities at Ethiopia, Australia and one planned for Diego Garcia,
  • —atomic energy detection stations in nine littoral states,
  • —space-tracking and support facilities (some militarily related) in five states,
  • —a navigation station at Reunion.

Threats—The only major threat to the Indian Ocean is that which might result from the expanding Soviet naval presence in the Indian Ocean area.

The first Soviet ship presence in the Indian Ocean was an oceanographic research ship deployed in 1957. During 1965–67 the Soviets sent a destroyer on annual visits and in 1967 17 surface ships sailed to the Indian Ocean in support of space operations. Prolonged operations by warships began in 1968.

Presently the Soviets maintain a small naval force averaging 2 to 4 combatants in the Indian Ocean (compared with the U.S. Mideast force presence of three ships). The Soviet combatant ship operating days were 980 in 1969 and are expected to at least double that number in 1970.

[Page 140]

If the Suez Canal remains closed, we can expect the Soviet force to increase to 5 to 7 ships in the 1971–75 period. Opening Suez would raise this number to 7 to 13 ships. To support either of these expanded force levels the Soviets can be expected to develop logistics facilities east of Suez within the next five years.

Comparative U.S., Soviet and U.S. and Allied Presence Under Current Conditions

The following table compares current U.S. and current U.S. plus allied presence with Soviet presence in the Indian Ocean area.

Table 1

Presence of US, UK, and Soviet Combatants and Auxiliaries4 Number of Ships Ship Days Port Visits
U.S. 3–4 1100–1400 100
U.K.5 3–4 1100–1400 30
U.S. and U.K. 6–8 2200–2800 130
Soviet 5–9 1800–3300 60

The table shows a rough parity of U.S. and U.K. presence.

U.S. plus U.K. presence is roughly equivalent to Soviet presence, although if U.K. presence at Singapore and Bahrain (home ports for U.K. ships) were included U.S. plus U.K. ship-days would exceed Soviet ship-days.

Because the Soviets visit ports less frequently than U.S. or U.K. ships, U.S. and U.S. plus U.K. port visits are almost double Soviet port visits.

Third Country Views

Indian Ocean countries such as India, Pakistan, and Indonesia are major spokesmen for the non-aligned viewpoint. Reflecting their views the Lusaka Non-Aligned Conference in September 1970 called upon all states “to consider and respect the Indian Ocean as a zone of peace from which the great power rivalries and competition as well as bases conceived in the context of such rivalries and competition, either army, navy or air force bases, are excluded.” To this was added: “The area should also be free of nuclear weapons.”6

[Page 141]

The press and Parliament in India have already protested the planned establishment of a U.S. communication facility at Diego Garcia. Any substantial expansion of the U.S. presence in the Indian Ocean area would provoke strong protests from India and probably other non-aligned countries. These protests would be encouraged by the anti-western countries of the area such as Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, South Yemen, and the UAR.

On the other hand, littoral states such as Indonesia, Australia, Singapore, and Iran would probably welcome a larger U.S. role. The U.S. would also benefit from close U.K. relations in the Persian Gulf area, Singapore, and throughout South Asia if its presence were projected in conjunction with U.K. forces. The exception would be South Africa where a greater U.S. involvement, however projected, would cause most non-white states to regard conspicuous U.S. military cooperation with South Africa as condoning the latter’s racial policies.

Alternative Force-Base Packages

The following four force-base packages were devised to provide a range of possible U.S. involvement in the Indian Ocean area. Each package has force presence and basing elements and provisions for operations with allies. The basing arrangements vary for Bahrain, Singapore, Diego Garcia, and for Freemantle/Cockburn in Australia.

The elements of the various packages are illustrative and could be combined in different ways.

1. Alternative A. Maintain Current Presence

Description—The U.S. would:

  • —Retain the U.S. Mideast force of three combatants (one home-ported and two in the Atlantic Fleet) at Bahrain.
  • —Continue occasional transits and port visits by U.S. navy ships in addition to Mideast force and continue occasional air surveillance operations in the Indian Ocean.
  • —Maintain existing logistics support facilities on islands and littoral and existing command and communications facilities at Northwest Cape, Australia; Kagnew Station, Ethiopia, and the planned facility at Diego Garcia, BIOT.

The U.S. would urge:

  • —The U.K. to retain naval units and maritime patrol aircraft at Singapore to strengthen the Joint-Five-Power arrangement and preempt Soviet use of Singapore.
  • —Australia to continue its development of a naval base at Freemantle/Cockburn.
  • —The U.K. to participate in the utilization of Diego Garcia as a communications facility.

[Page 142]



  • —Would not provoke an adverse reaction from the non-aligned Indian Ocean states.
  • —Requires no increase in U.S. involvement or costs over current plans.
  • —Could not be used by Soviets to justify a further expansion of their Indian Ocean force.


  • —While current U.S. plus U.K. involvement exceeds Soviet presence, the absence of any concrete U.S. measures may deny the U.K. a justification for continuing its naval presence east of Suez until 1975. This could cause allied presence to fall short of the current Soviet presence.
  • —If the Soviets increased their combatant force from 2 to 4 ships to 5 to 7 in the 1972–75 period as expected, this option, assuming the U.K. maintains its current presence, would cause U.S. plus U.K. presence to fall short of Soviet presence.

2. Alternative B. Emphasize Allied Cooperation at Slightly Increased U.S. Force Levels

Description—In addition to the actions called for in Alternative A, this option would step up combined naval activities with allies and friendlies in the form of combined naval operations, cooperative maritime surveillance efforts, and increased joint use of support facilities.

Specifically the U.S. would:

  • —Qualitatively upgrade its Mideast force by replacing World War II vintage U.S. destroyers with modern ships.
  • —Conduct a combined cruise with U.K., Australian and other friendly navies at least on a regular annual basis. These cruises would last about a month and include joint naval training exercises with units of friendly littoral states (e.g. Indonesia) as feasible. Scheduled port visits would be an integral feature of these combined cruises.
  • —Conduct joint maritime surveillance efforts with U.K., Australian and other friendly forces.
  • —Develop a long-range plan for port visits throughout the Indian Ocean designed to create the most effective political/psychological impact. This action would likely entail increased use of logistic support facilities at Singapore.
  • —Consider upgrading the POL storage capacity of the planned communication facility on Diego Garcia to provide a limited POL and logistics support capability for transiting friendly units.

[Page 143]

Force Presence Comparisons—The following table compares U.S., U.S. and allied and Soviet force presence for this alternative:

Table 2

Alternative B Force Presence Comparisons
Number of Ships Ship-Days Port Visits
A. 1. U.S. (Alt. B) 3–5 1100–1800 115
2. Allied 3–6 1200–1600 35–40
3. U.S. and Allied 6–9 2300–3300 150–165
B. 1. Soviet (Current) 5–9 1800–3300 60
2. Soviet (Projected) 9–14 3300–5000 100–110



  • —Would permit the U.S. to increase its operations with U.K. and other friendly forces and marginally increase its presence at Bahrain, Diego Garcia, and Singapore.
  • —Would not permit the Soviets to justify a further escalation of their involvement as a response to U.S. escalation.
  • —One-time cost is $1.5 million and incremental annual operating costs are $0.1 million. Force diversions required from Atlantic and Pacific fleets are minor and would not uncover other commitments.
  • —Even if Indians and other non-aligned states protested the increased U.S. presence under this option, the U.S. could legitimately claim its involvement was less than Soviet presence under current Soviet presence, and roughly half under projected Soviet presence.
  • —Even against projected expanded Soviet threat would permit the U.S. and allied port visits to exceed Soviet visits although in number of ships and ship operating days the U.S. plus allied force would fall short of the Soviet force.
  • —Keeps the U.S. presence at near parity with its allies and emphasizes joint operations in a manner that could be viewed as consistent with the Nixon Doctrine and which would make it difficult for India or the Soviet Union to contend that the U.S. was turning the Indian Ocean into another arena for big-power competition.


  • —While under current conditions the U.S. presence is on par with the Soviets in ships and ship days, if and when the Soviet threat expands as projected, the U.S. presence would fall well short of the Soviets.
  • —The U.K. may be seeking more substantial evidence that the U.S. is concerned about the expanding Soviet naval involvement that would result from selection of this option.

3. Alternative C: Moderate Increase in U.S. Presence and Operations with Allies

Description—In addition to the actions called for in Alternatives B and C [A and B?], this option calls for the U.S. to:

  • —Establish a permanent U.S. naval presence in the Eastern Indian Ocean by operating two destroyers drawn from the Seventh Fleet either on a rotational basis or home-ported at Singapore.
  • —Increase level of combined U.S., U.K. and Australian group operations from one of one month duration each year (Alternative B) to two operations of up to eight weeks duration. Such operations could include a major combatant (carrier or cruiser) from the U.S. Seventh Fleet and similar U.K. and Australian ships.
  • —Conduct occasional cruises (less than 30 days) of a small U.S. naval task unit in the Indian Ocean. Nuclear powered warships or amphibious task units could be employed.
  • —Increase U.S. fleet visits and combined operations at Cockburn Sound as new Australian facilities develop there.

Force Presence Comparisons—The following table compares U.S., U.S. and allied, and Soviet force presence for Alternative C:

Table 3

Alternative C Force Presence Comparisons Number of Ships Ship-Days Port Visits
A. 1. U.S. (Alt. C) 5–8 2200–2400 230
2. Allied 3–8 1600–1900 70–80
3. U.S. and Allied 8–10 3800–4300 300–310
B. 1. Soviet (Current) 5–9 1800–3300 60
2. Soviet (Projected) 9–14 3300–5000 100–110



  • —Would permit U.S. and Allied presence to remain on par with Soviet presence if the latter expands as expected in the time period. Friendly port visits would exceed Soviet visits by a factor of six if the current Soviet posture is maintained and a factor of three if the Soviets increase their force.
  • —Would provide substantial evidence to the U.K. and other allies that the U.S. was prepared to act to meet the increasing Soviet threat [Page 145] in the Indian Ocean area. Such evidence might prolong U.K. involvement east of Suez, although it may ease Australian and other pressures on the U.K. to stay.
  • —Australia would find it easier to implement more rapidly its west coast naval development and to strengthen its commitment to the Five-Power Defense Arrangement for Malaysia and Singapore.


  • —The U.S. would be stepping out in front of its allies, expanding its presence beyond what could be justified on an equal partnership basis.
  • —Could permit the Soviets to justify an expanded involvement as a reaction to U.S. escalation. The Soviets would probably intensify their efforts to gain access to air and naval facilities, possibly anticipating deployment of Soviet-targeted SSBN’s to the Indian Ocean.
  • —Would bring strong protests from non-aligned states of the area.
  • —One-time costs would be $1.5 million (same as Alternative B) assuming it were not decided to home-port two destroyers at Singapore. Incremental annual operating costs are $.61 million compared with $0.1 million for Alternative B.
  • —Maintaining a two-destroyer force diverted from the Seventh Fleet to Singapore would require a commensurate draw down of destroyer forces available to meet other requirements in the Western Pacific. If a Seventh Fleet attack carrier were deployed, this would substantially reduce the contingency strike warfare capability and ability to cover the entire Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia areas of the theater. Similarly the deployment of guided missile escorts impacts on the overall air defense posture of the fleet units in the Western Pacific.

4. Alternative D: Begin Major U.S. Task Force Deployments, Upgrade Substantially Area Basing, and Increase Cooperation with Allies

Description—In addition to the actions called for in Alternatives A, B, and C, this option calls for the U.S. to:

  • —Home-port four destroyers at Singapore (instead of 2 in Option C).
  • —Conduct combined U.S. and Allied cruises of up to 60 days along the lines called for in option C but also including a helicopter or aircraft carrier task group from the Seventh Fleet.
  • —Increase air surveillance operations utilizing Navy and Air Force reconnaissance aircraft. Upgrade U-Tapao air patrol detachment to a full squadron and stage a rotational detachment of this squadron to Diego Garcia.
  • —Consider construction of an airfield in BIOT, possibly on Farquhar Island.
  • —Upgrade logistics and airfield facilities at Diego Garcia.

Force Presence Comparisons—The following table compares U.S., U.S. and allied, and Soviet force presence for Alternative D.

Table 4

Alternative D Force Presence Comparisons

Number of Ships Ship-Days Port Visits
A. 1. U.S. (Alt. D) 5–10 2200–2600 280
2. Allied 3–8 1700–2100 80–100
3. U.S. and Allied 8–10 3900–4700 360–380
B. 1. Soviet (Current) 5–9 1800–3300 60
2. Soviet (Projected) 9–14 3300–5000 100–110


The pros and cons of this option are essentially the same as for Alternative D [C?] except that for this option:

  • —The development [deployment?] of amphibious units into the Indian Ocean could cause some serious reactions from non-aligned littoral states.
  • —One-time costs would be $21.5 million and incremental annual cost would be $5.13 million.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–176, National Security Study Memoranda, NSSM 104. Secret.
  2. NSSM 104 is Document 42. The December 3 response to NSSM 104, entitled “Soviet and Friendly Naval Involvement in the Indian Ocean Area, 1971–1975,” was submitted to Kissinger on December 4 by Pranger, Chairman of the Interdepartmental Group. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–176, National Security Study Memoranda, NSSM 104) The CIA’s contribution to the response to NSSM 104 included three papers: the first, November 17, was entitled “U.S. Economic Interests in the Indian Ocean”; the second was a November 19 paper from the Office of Research and Reports, entitled “Soviet Involvement in the Indian Ocean”; and the third was a November 19 paper from the Office of Science and Technology, entitled “Assessment of the Soviet Threat in the Indian Ocean.” (Central Intelligence Agency, Executive Registry Files, Job 80–T01315A, Box 2)
  3. Attached but not printed.
  4. Annual estimate based on 1969–70 data. [Footnote is in the original.]
  5. Port visits do not include Bahrain and Singapore. [Footnote is in the original. In the margin next to this footnote, Kissinger wrote: “Why so many junk[ets]?”]
  6. The meeting was held September 8.