37. Memorandum for the Record1


  • Summary of Conclusions, SCC(I) Meeting, 21 December 1977, 3:30–4:45 p.m., White House Situation Room


  • State:

    • Cyrus Vance
    • Warren D. Christopher
    • Richard Moose
  • Defense:

    • Harold Brown
    • David E. McGiffert
    • General George Brown (JCS)
    • Lt. Gen. W.Y. Smith (JCS)
  • CIA:

    • William W. Wells
    • Robert Bowie
    • William Parmenter
  • Justice:

    • Frederick D. Baron
    • Kenneth Bass
  • NSC:

    • Zbigniew Brzezinski (Chairman)
    • David Aaron
    • Paul B. Henze (Notetaker)

The meeting was devoted entirely to discussion of the current situation in the Horn of Africa and its implications for U.S. policy. During the first 25 minutes CIA representatives summarized currently available intelligence on the Soviet Airlift, the military situation in Ethiopia, Ethiopian and Somali military capabilities and the Ethiopian political situation. At the end of this presentation, Dr. Brzezinski directed the intelligence community to give high priority to collection of information on all these subjects and to analysis deriving from it—in particular Somali capabilities and foreign support.

The next 40 minutes were devoted to discussion of the implications of Horn developments for U.S. policy, their potential impact on larger issues in U.S.-Soviet relations, and possible courses of action the United States could consider to keep the situation from deteriorating further and cause developments to move in directions more favorable to our basic interests. In anticipation of a more focused meeting on these subjects in January with, hopefully, more information available, Dr. Brzezinski suggested that several subjects be further studied, with discussions meanwhile at Working Group level if necessary:

• the stability of the Mengistu government and the character of alternate leadership groups.

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• the current and projected military balance between the Ethiopians and the Somalis.

• the role of PDRY and ways of influencing it.

• possibilities for promoting serious negotiations between the Ethiopians and the Somalis.

• new diplomatic initiatives in Africa and Europe.

• means of denying the Soviets an opportunity to consolidate their position in Ethiopia.

• possibilities for direct, frank talks with the Soviets.

During the final ten minutes of the meeting, the CIA paper on “Proposed Covert Action Regarding Ethiopia”2which was discussed at the SCC/SAWG meeting on 15 December 1977 was reviewed.3 It was decided that the Agency would go ahead with a low-key media placement campaign in Africa calling attention to the problems which Soviet and Cuban involvement are causing for Ethiopia but that other aspects of the CIA proposal would be deferred until the whole Horn situation was reviewed again in January.

  1. Source: National Security Council, Carter Intelligence Files, Box 20, Minutes–SCC Intelligence Working Group 1977. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. No minutes of the meeting have been found.
  2. Not found.
  3. The Summary of Conclusions of this meeting indicate that the Working Group discussed covert action proposals. (National Security Council, Carter Intelligence Files, Box 20, SCC Special Activities Working Group 1977)