298. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • Military Assistance Program for Egypt (U)

As you know, the PRC met last week to consider how to respond to the Egyptian request for a five-year program of military cooperation and assistance. As indicated in the summary notes at Tab B,2 Cy Vance, Harold Brown and I agree that a major program is required. Jim McIntyre has submitted his comments separately at Tab A, rightly pointing out the budgetary implications of a very substantial, long-term security relationship with Egypt. (S)

Egypt’s very large military establishment is facing massive obsolescence in the near future. There is no inexpensive quick fix for this situation. There is also no realistic probability that other sources of military support will soon appear. The questions which Jim raises in his memorandum underline the difficulties which we all recognize are associated with a program of sufficient size to respond to Egypt’s needs. A high-level Defense delegation visited Egypt in mid-August for frank and detailed discussions of the military supply problems Egypt faces.3 Our own subsequent analysis of the $8 billion Egyptian request concluded that a program in the neighborhood of $4.35 billion is required to meet Sadat’s basic military and political needs over the next five years. (S)

We do not underestimate the difficulties of presenting a program of this magnitude on the Hill, and we recognize that it would be used as leverage to increase Israel’s current aid levels. However, it is our reading of the mood on the Hill that the Egyptian predicament is understood and viewed with considerable sympathy. That viewpoint is substantiated by the findings of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Staff, which recently conducted a fact-finding visit to Egypt. [Page 969] They concluded (and are reporting confidentially to the Committee) that there is need for an enduring U.S. military supply relationship with Egypt beyond anything discussed to date, probably including additional credits in FY 81 plus FMS credits in excess of $500 million per year. The politics of this situation are very different from the F–15 sale to Saudi Arabia. (S)

Harold Brown is looking at possibilities of substituting materiel from our own inventory in place of new purchases with long lead times. However, the Egyptian problem of mass obsolescence is so great that we cannot expect to remedy it by drawing down our own active inventories. For example, Harold believes we could find about 15 F–4s from USAF inventories to offer the Egyptians, but that is only a small percentage of what they need. We may be able to find a number of M–48 tanks to replace Egypt’s aging Soviet equipment. However, this is an issue which will have to be worked out in subsequent discussions with the Egyptians as we help them pare down their priorities to about half of what they have identified as their “minimum” needs. (S)

Similarly, the proposal to adopt “cash flow” procedures in managing Egypt’s military account recognizes that we would permit Egypt to borrow against future credits. There is some risk associated with such an approach, but it is the same risk we have already accepted in dealing with large programs for Israel and Jordan. The fact is that continuation of the present “full funding” procedures will severely limit the mileage Egypt can hope to squeeze out of available credits and will inevitably lead to requests for significantly higher aid levels. (S)

Jim McIntyre’s suggestion4 of a joint State-Defense decision paper is a good one. Since most of the analytical work for such a paper has already been done in preparation for the PRC meeting, I recommend that the paper be completed for your review and decision no later than October 8 in order to provide ample time for necessary consultations on the Hill and preparation of our presentation to the Egyptians in early November. I am concerned that we not delay very long on this issue, in view of the pressures on Sadat to show concrete results from his new association with us—pressures that are also related to the success of the [Page 970] peace process. Thus politically there is need for some urgency, whatever we decide. (S)

RECOMMENDATION: That a joint State/Defense decision paper be prepared for your review by October 8, examining the implications of a long-term military assistance program for Egypt along the lines proposed by the PRC, and alternatives.5 (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 77, PRC 123, 9/20/79, Egypt. Secret. Carter initialed “C” at the top of the memorandum, indicating that he saw the document. The memorandum was found attached to an October 1 covering memorandum from Brzezinski to Vance and Brown, directing them to produce by October 8 a joint State/Defense decision paper examining the implications of a long-term military assistance program for Egypt and advising them of Carter’s view that “we be cautious about excessive U.S. commitments” and that “budget constraints will be very severe.” (Ibid.)
  2. See Document 296.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 274.
  4. Attached but not printed is a September 26 memorandum from McIntyre to Carter. McIntyre concluded that the assistance package for Egypt should be “carefully structured to avoid the impression of entering into a formal five-year military supply relationship which is likely to be unnecessarily costly and politically and diplomatically awkward.” Stating that “we can structure a better package,” McIntyre recommended to Carter that he direct the Departments of State and Defense to produce a decision paper which considered the “budgetary impact on other programs (particularly Israel), alternative ways of structuring the program, and likely congressional and foreign reaction.” Moreover, McIntyre urged Carter to delay a decision on the package “until you can see the full budgetary implications in November and December.
  5. Carter initialed his approval of the recommendation and added a handwritten note: “Be cautious about excessive U.S. commitments. Budget constraints will be very severe. J.C.”