49. Letter From Secretary of Defense Laird to British Secretary of State for Defence Lord Carrington1

Dear Lord Carrington:

I am writing to confirm formally the request, made during your recent visit here, for the United Kingdom to participate in operating the naval communications facility which the United States is planning to construct on the island of Diego Garcia, in the Chagos Archipelago.

As you know, the British Indian Ocean Territory was set aside in the mid-sixties for defense projects of either country. I understand that in 1967 our predecessors had reached agreement for a joint air base on Aldabra Island, a plan later abandoned.2 British participation in the new Diego Garcia facility would therefore be wholly in keeping with previous planning between our two nations for the Indian Ocean area, as well as most welcome from the standpoint of this Administration.

The facility on Diego Garcia is designed to strengthen U.S. naval communications in the large area between Kagnew station, Ethiopia and Northwest Cape, Australia. Its airfield and POL storage will also provide minimal logistic support, but will be strictly supplementary to the communications function. We are prepared to substitute Royal Navy officers and enlisted men for U.S personnel on a one-for-one basis in a range of billets in the communications, maintenance, meteorology, and station support categories. Enclosed is a list of 53 such billets which would be appropriate for U.K. manning.3 In order to play [Page 154] an active role in the operation of this facility, beginning in 1973, we would suggest that the Royal Navy select up to 25 or 30 of these billets, representing about 10% of expected station strength, with details being arranged between our two Navies.

I am pleased to report that funds for this project have now been approved by the Congress, and their apportionment is expected shortly. We will be most interested to have your response,4 and trust that it will lead to another fruitful example of Anglo-American partnership.


Mel Laird
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–76–067, Box 73, Indian Ocean. Secret.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XXI, Near East Region; Arabian Peninsula, Documents 34, 37, 38, 39, and 42–47.
  3. Not attached.
  4. In his December 21 response, Carrington wrote Laird that the British agreed to help with manning the station, but that shortages of naval manpower meant their numbers and specialization required careful study. He also suggested that conditions for constructing and operating the facility could be covered by a memorandum of understanding. (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 330–76–067, Box 73, Indian Ocean)