78. Memorandum From the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Clements) to the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft)1


  • Assistance for South Africa (C)

(TS) Early last month the Acting Chief of the South African Defense Staff approached Admiral Holloway to request US assistance in the design and construction of an improved maritime command and control system for South Africa.2 The program proposed would be a phased one involving technical assistance from US commercial contractors, purchase of equipment from US commercial sources and system operation by a new, non-military South African agency. Our involvement would be facilitative only (i.e., to assure issuance of export licenses for commercial equipment and technical advice). No US military participation is contemplated.

(TS) We have examined the proposal (attached) and believe it offers real advantages for US national security at a modest political cost. South Africa’s strategic position astride one of the world’s key shipping lanes is well known to us all. In a crisis or war situation, access to information generated by such a system could be highly valuable. Further, such cooperation would be certain to enhance US-South African political-military relations and our ability to influence attitudes within the South African military leadership.

(TS) I therefore request your agreement in principle to the initiation of a cooperative surveillance program with South Africa as an exception to our present arms supply policy. If you and State agree, I plan to discuss the proposed program with CIA [less than 1 line not declassified] before informing the South Africans of our willingness to help them acquire the equipment needed to upgrade their maritime surveillance system.

[Page 187]

(U) I am also writing to Secretary Kissinger along the foregoing lines.3

W.P. Clements, Jr.
  1. Source: National Archives, NSC Files, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–218, National Security Decision Memoranda, NSDM 81. Top Secret.
  2. The attached letter from Armstrong to Holloway, June 12, sought U.S. assistance in upgrading South Africa’s maritime defenses. The United States would provide technical and material support, [text not declassified] coastal surveillance radars, long-range acoustic sensors, and sensor correlation and analysis centers.
  3. Not found.