4. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (Ross) to the Under Secretary of State for Security Affairs (Tarr)1 2

Security Assistance Presentation

Your March 21 memorandum to me asked us to reexamine the purposes, goals and rationale behind our security assistance programs in Africa. You suggested that we conduct this reexamination in order that the information might be useful in developing the most persuasive brief possible for presentation to the Congress of the FY 1974 Security Assistance Program.

Every substantive officer in AF has had an opportunity to make suggestions on your request. The result of our efforts is contained in the attached study. It is organized under the four headings you suggested and consists of individual short paragraphs which can be lifted from context without doing damage to the concepts each contain. We have presented our thinking on the subject matter without regard to classification. Prior to having some of these ideas presented to the Congress, with the examples cited, we would appreciate having the opportunity to re-clear the Congressional Presentation Document.



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I. Justification for Provision of Foreign Military Sales Credit to African Countries in View of their Pressing Economic Needs.

African countries do not produce significant amounts of military equipment but they need a certain amount. Their need is rarely caused by potential external aggression. Internal security is the primary security concern of almost all African nations. These internal security needs are not primarily caused by unpopular regimes trying to maintain themselves in power. Rather, they are inherent in the vastly complicated and diverse cultural make-up of each of the African nations. Unity is the essential prerequisite to economic and social development towards which most African governments are committed. A limited quantity of appropriate weapons is necessary to maintain this unity. FMS credits are a visible token of our interest in the fundamental security concerns of African nations.

African nations need some military equipment and will obtain them regardless of cost and source. It would be an error to make a direct one for one link between funds an African nation might expand on military equipment and the funds they have available for economic and social development. By proper use of FMS credits we can help keep certain key African countries favorably disposed toward us. By the influence we build with them we maintain some influence over their military expenditures and the nature and sophistication of their armaments.

The African military is one of the modernizing forces in most African countries by being above tribalism. African military establishments can assist African nations in integrating and unifying their societies. Certain parallels can be drawn between this effect in African countries and the effect military service has had in the U.S. since the abolishing of segregated units in the US military.

African military establishments provide a form of training and education which has significant civilian application. Depending on the African country, the military may provide one of the few means open to this end. Twentieth century industrial concepts are introduced which may otherwise be lacking, for instance, preventative maintenance and managerial skills.

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FMS credits, as compared to grant materiel programs, have proven to be an excellent way to bring home the cost of weapons to African governments and to make African governments consider their own military, economic and social priorities. We can use limited quantities of FMS credits in order to drive home the point that the primary African focus should remain economic and social development and that political problems should be resolved through political means.

Some FMS credits are used for items that are not uniquely military. Not all, or even a majority of FMS credits go for weapons. Much of the FMS credits go for transport equipment which has an obvious economic and disaster relief potential as well as a military application.

FMS credits assist in opening markets for US commercial firms in non-military equipment. For instance, where military aircraft have been furnished under FMS credit we have noted that commercial aircraft and other items follow. The initial expenditure of FMS credits introduce some US material, generally of superior quality, which interest African Governments in other purchases. In this way FMS credits play a role in reorienting trade patterns away from the preference systems and habits of the past.

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II. Rationale for the Provision of Grant Military Assistance Training to African Countries, Particularly Those Which Traditionally Look to Metropole Nations for Such assistance.

Politically, economically, and socially, African countries are fully as complex as non-African countries. The USG cannot totally ignore one facet of international relations in Africa and deal exclusively with others more to our liking.

The newly-independent countries of Africa in most cases remain closely linked economically, financially and in other more subtle ways to the former metropoles; however, they each face strong internal pressures to demonstrate their independence. Looking elsewhere for new relationships, including some military training, is an Africa-wide characteristic. Most African countries realize they are neither in a position nor do they wish completely to replace the continuing role of the former metropole in all fields. They are very interested in “tokenism” and we should be responsive to this urge without attempting to replace the former metropole.

It is quite likely that token US assistance in various fields, including military training, actually helps in maintaining the former metropole as the principal donor by providing a safety valve for internal African pressures.

All US military services benefit to some extent by the personal and professional contacts established with their African counterparts, The US military learns about Africa and the African military gains a broadened viewpoint about the US military.

By providing some military training involving development of middle level management skills, the US participates in nation-building within African States. Additionally, we build ties with future significant figures in African states. The returns may be intangible, but we consider them significant in both directions.

In the same fashion, there are significant advantages to US society as a whole, and particularly to our large black minority, in having contact with young African elites—including the military. African military who benefit from US training gain a more accurate point of view about the [Page 5] US which they will bear with them throughout their lives. US citizens, civilian or otherwise, learn something about Africa which will help to overcome false preconceptions or simple ignorance. Again, this benefit is intangible and impossible to quantify, but we consider it real and significant none-the-less.

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III. Contribution of So-Called “Military Regimes” to Stability and Development

It is not now U.S. policy to export our political system. African politics or political systems are not those of the U.S. and African countries and their governments would be hypersensitive to any attempt on our part to export our system. We have learned that African countries are just as loath to subordinate their newly-won independence to Soviet or Chinese influences.

Africa is in the process of working out its own political and social forms based on its own traditions and experience. The political systems left to the new African governments by their former colonial powers have, in many cases, been set aside and new forms are emerging. Military governments may be seen as one stage of such a development towards authentic African forms.

The introduction of the African military into the African political scene may also be seen as symptomatic of Africa’s basic quest for stability. In an African context, even a heavy-handed military regime which imposes public order, may be preferable to a collapse of public order. There is nothing to assure that a military regime is inherently better than a civilian administration in this respect, but the number of military regimes in Africa is symptomatic of the quest for stability. African military regimes are usually not based on a narrow, traditional, military elite. The professional officer Corps represents in many cases the modernising, nationalistic forces in African countries, which are trying to impose a sense of nationhood above tribal politics. As such, same military regimes are fairly broadly-based and have turned into modernizing political movements.

A “military regime” in Africa should not be discounted on the basis of that catch phrase alone. A military regime is not necessarily a danger to its neighbors or repressive internally. African military regimes recognize and accept existing colonial-imposed borders as readily as civilian governments. There is for the most part a lack of aggressiveness on the part of African military regimes which means that neighboring countries have little to fear from that particular type of government.

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IV. Specific Accomplishments of the Program in Recipient Countries

It is next to impossible realistically to point to examples in this sphere as we do not know what the alternatives would have been had we either flooded certain African countries with military equipment or, alternatively, refused any security assistance. On the other hand, we firmly believe that our security assistance program has assisted in providing the following factors in support of US foreign policy:


As discussed elsewhere, stability is the sine qua non for progress. Zaire provides a good demonstration of where an infusion of security assistance over the years has assisted a country in over-coming its dramatic centrifugal forces and has led to a climate which economic and social progress can take place.

Basic Orientation

Many African military establishments have remained favorably disposed to ties with the West which have been established or reinforced through judicious use of our security assistance program. Morocco might be cited as case in point, as Morocco has cooperated with the US on a number of issues of vital importance to us. Anti-US or anti-western pressures have rarely come from those military establishments with which we have had a significant security assistance relationship.


The relations established on a personal basis, as well as through grant materiel and foreign military sales have provided the US military and through our military the USG with access to certain key elements in some African countries. The reception accorded elements of the 4th Fleet in the Mediterranean during joint naval exercises with the Tunisian Navy (Tunisian CNO is USN trained) is an example.

The Commercial Aspect

As grant military assistance programs have been transformed into military sales programs not only have the providers of military equipment benefited, but other US [Page 8] businesses have benefited as well. With a few exceptions Africa was basically unknown to US businessmen 15 years ago. Today there is an increased awareness of Africa on the part of US business, both as a market for sales and as a source of African products. Zaire again furnishes a good example.

Limitation of Local Arms Races

By offering a limited amount of military equipment the US has managed to keep some African military establishments looking to us as one of their suppliers. Through our Embassies and MAAGs we have managed to introduce some cost realism into African military requests and have been able to influence African military to limit their acquisitions to some extent. This has permitted us a certain degree of influence in order to prevent wasteful local arms races.

The Cold War Aspect

By deliberately avoiding “Cold War” competitions in Africa we have also managed to limit, to some extent, the total quantity of arms imported into Africa from Soviet as well as Chinese sources. This has permitted some African countries to focus better on their pressing economic and social development problems and brought them to realise that they could not play off the super powers one against the other. As an example, our assistance to Ethiopia, while continuing, has been conservatively scaled to avoid creating East/West competition in the Horn of Africa between Ethiopia (largely supplied by us) and Somalia (largely supplied by the USSR).

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, AF/I Files: Lot 75 D 420, Box 1, MAP FY 74. Confidential. Drafted by Andre J. Navez (AF/RA); cleared by Peter Walker (AF/RA). The memorandum is a copy with an indication that Ross signed the original.
  2. Ross attached a reexamination of United States purposes, goals and rationale behind U.S. security assistance programs for Africa.