65. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Affairs (Bergold) to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Security Assistance (Peet)1 2

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  • Diego Garcia

(S) John Wilberforce of the British Embassy came into State this afternoon to give the UK answer on Diego Garcia. I was present.

(S) Wilberforce, reading from his cabled instructions, made the following points:

HMG has no major problem in agreeing with our proposal for upgrading Diego Garcia.
In making this decision, the Ministers had very much in mind the need to check Soviet naval expansion in the Indian Ocean and to assure that vital Indian Ocean sea lanes remain open. They believe there is a need for the US and the UK to elaborate joint or harmonized policies in the common goals and activities in the area. They will have some specific suggestions along these lines.
Although they envisage the agreement on Diego Garcia as a confidential diplomatic exchange, the Ministers expect the existence of that agreement to become public. This could evoke adverse reactions from the Soviets, the Indian Ocean littoral states, and the Arabs. The latter might conclude that the presence of US forces was directed at them presenting an obvious and serious risk to the possibility of the situation in the area. The Ministers are therefore interested in coordinating with the US the way the Diego Garcia matter is presented publicly in both countries.
Public announcement of expansion at Diego Garcia should concentrate on the long held policy of safeguarding critical Western interests in the area.
As publicity may flow from Congressional and Parliamentary briefings, Ministers recommend a low key briefing with a rationale jointly agreed by the US and UK.
The agreement itself should be a confidential exchange of diplomatic instruments but with both sides acknowledging its existence. The agreement, among other things, would provide for the operation and joint use of the Diego Garcia facilities in exactly the same way as [Page 2] US bases in the United Kingdom are covered. This would mean that HMG would be able to assure Parliament that Diego Garcia remains UK sovereign territory.
The UK welcomes the US initiative to send a team and thinks this will be useful when the discussion gets to the technical and detailed level. As it is necessary to be perfectly clear on the basis on which the two countries are proceeding and the process governing the operation and use of the Diego Garcia facility, the Ministers would like to send a small team to Washington urgently headed by John Thompson, Assistant Under Secretary of the Foreign Commonwealth Office, and including several MOD officials.

(S) We urged Wilberforce to have the team come as soon as possible, preferably Monday and Tuesday, January 21–22. He undertook to try to get them here for those dates and, in any event, sometime next week.

(S) We sought to get Wilberforce’s agreement that we might now say to Congressmen and Senators that we have UK agreement in principle. Wilberforce said that, although the light is very green, he thought it implicit in his instructions that it would be preferable to wait until next week when common policy objectives and operational criteria can be developed with the British team.

(5) I told him that our package of materials, some of which went directly to the points he had specified, was ready. The State people told him they would be delivered to him tomorrow.

Harry A. Bergold, Jr.
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Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Peet) to the Director of the Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs, Department of State (Weiss)

Dear Sey:

(S) The attached information on the proposed upgrade of Diego Garcia and associated actions is provided to assist you in the negotiations with the British, and in our mutual dealings with Congress and the press.

  • —A detailed summary of the expansion effort including the makeup of the items now contained in our FY 1974 Budget Supplemental request as well as the follow-on efforts that are under active consideration. This will give HMG a specific view of what we plan immediately, as well as a fairly detailed overview of our longer range plans for Diego Garcia (Enclosure 1).
  • —A proposed recommendation on an exchange of notes with the British to permit the broad and generally unrestricted use of Diego Garcia by U.S. forces. Securing such an agreement, at least in principle, by January 25, 1974 should be a high priority effort because of the ongoing budgetary actions (Enclosure 2).
  • —Defense views on the policy rationale for the Diego Garcia expansion effort. An articulate and persuasive case will have to be made for increased U.S. presence in the Indian Ocean. We recognize the key State role in developing such rationale and encourage any additional suggestions you might have on the matter (Enclosure 3).
  • —A detailed Congressional scenario identifying the appropriate key Congressional leaders who should be briefed, as well as the responsible committees which have to be approached (Enclosure 4).
  • —Contingency statements—without Congressional and British approval and with British and Congressional approval—which have been developed by our Public Affairs staff (Enclosure 5).

(U) We are confident you appreciate the need for rapid action on this subject and trust that we will continue to work very closely together until an agreement is reached and Congressional approval secured.


Ray Peet
Vice Admiral, USN
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Enclosure 1

Summary of Diego Garcia Expansion

The negotiations for expanded U.S. operational use of Diego Garcia on a long term or permanent basis should include agreement to permit the following:

Facilities principally to support naval operations in the region (cost—$29.05 million).
POL Storage 480,000 Bbls
Power Plant Expansion 2,400 KW
Aircraft Parking Apron 64,750 SY
Aircraft Transit Storage 4,000 SF
Aircraft Arresting Gear
Ready Issue Ammo Magazine
Air Transportable Hangar
Corrosion Control Wash Rack
Runway Extension 2,000 LF
Cold Iron (MUSE/Fuel/Provisioning) Pier
Receivar Bldg Addition 1,250 SF
Air Operating Bldg Addition 2,850 SF
Subsistence Bldg Addition 3,517 SF
BEQ 272 Men
BOQ 32 Men
Cold Storage 4,190 SF
Armed Forces RTS 1,200 SF
General Warehouse 26,385 SF
Crash Fire Station 7,232 SF
Structural Fire Station 3,000 SF
  • —These improvements constituted the elements of the FY 74 supplemental request to Congress. Labor costs are based on SEABEE construction. There would also be some additional lagoon dredging performed by the contractor now on site.
  • —Key completion dates for this work, based on an approval to proceed within the next several months, are:
    • Dredging—May 1975
    • Airfield extension and aircraft parking apron—September 1975
    • Power Plant extension September 1975
    • POL storage June 1976
  • —Completion of these facilities should provide a capability to support:
    • —A Carrier Task Group (CTG), an Amphibious Task Group (ATG) with embarked Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU), and associated logistical support ships. Both of these groups would be capable of extended operations in the Arabian Sea/Indian Ocean area.
    • —A maritime air patrol squadron capable of providing surveillance and/or active operational support of naval units operating in the area.
    • —A forward operating location for an Air Force heavy air lift element (C–141/C–5 type) for resupply.
In addition to the naval support effort above, there are under consideration various improvements to the communications network, additional USAF support capabilities, and some other personnel support items.
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: 330–78–0011, 323:3, Box 64, Indian Ocean. Secret. Attached is Peet’s January 17 memorandum to Department of State negotiator Seymour Weiss, containing an overview of proposed improvements to Diego Garcia. Also attached but not printed are a draft modification of the 1966 agreement establishing the original base, a further elaboration of the rationale for expansion, and a list of Congressional contacts.
  2. Assistant Secretary Harold Bergold informed Vice Admiral Ray Peet of the British response to the United States’ Diego Garcia expansion proposal.