96. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Brown to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Increased US Military Use of Somali Facilities (S)

(S) As you will recall, we discussed this topic briefly at our luncheon on August 3. Additionally, in my letter to the President on increased presence in the Indian Ocean, I mentioned the need for cooperation with littoral states and access to regional air and naval facilities to support these operations.2 Considering the concentration of Soviet naval activity in the Gulf of Aden, we particularly desire to obtain landing rights in the Horn of Africa for our P–3 maritime patrol aircraft. At present, we have such rights only in Djibouti and, more distantly, in Seeb, Oman to facilitate our aerial surveillance efforts in the Gulf of Aden area. Judging from past experience, I believe it would be unwise to continue to depend as heavily as we have in the past on Djibouti to support our increased presence.

(S) During the March–May deployments of CONSTELLATION and MIDWAY to the Arabian Sea/Gulf of Aden region, a lack of available facilities elsewhere forced us to increase our reliance on Djibouti for [Page 272] P–3 operations and ship visits. While the Government of Djibouti was forthcoming, our increased usage of their facilities led to a request for military assistance from President Gouled—a request to which the USG could not, within existing policy, respond.

(S) In view of the above, I think it would be useful to explore the possible use of other facilities, such as those at Berbera and Mogadiscio, Somalia, to support our broader Indian Ocean strategy. The Somali government has, on several occasions, encouraged us to increase our access to its facilities. A moderate increase in our use of those facilities would enhance our politico-military objectives in the area, reduce our reliance on Djibouti, and contribute to our surge capability in the region.3

(S) Accordingly, I have the following recommendations at this time:

—Plan for US Navy ship visits to the port of Berbera, at the initial rate of one visit per quarter (subject to weather conditions), and the establishment of a limited bunkering arrangement with Somalia.

—Plan for access by P–3 aircraft to Berbera and Mogadiscio, at an initial rate of one flight per month, subject to a technical assessment of the support capabilities at those airfields. (Based on that assessment, some airfield upgrading may be required to support additional usage.)

—Consider improvements to Berbera port. (As I mentioned in our 3 August discussion, the USS DAVIS visit to Berbera in May indicated that effective use of Berbera port would be dependent on some improvement of the facilities, such as upgrading refueling capabilities, breakwater, and navigational aids. Such improvement might be accomplished as a civil development project, perhaps with AID and/or Saudi funding.)

If you agree, I will issue instructions for the development of specific DoD proposals for additional ship visits, a bunkering arrangement and the initiation of P–3 visits to Somalia, and for the coordination of these proposals with the Department of State.

(S) I should note, however, the likelihood that such US requests for increased access may well result in renewed requests for US military arms from President Siad. I am doubtful that the Somalis will be willing to stop their support of the Ogaden insurgents in order to qualify for such military assistance from the US. I therefore suggest that the question of an appropriate substitute assistance package be addressed urgently by State, AID and DoD, with recommendations to be submitted within thirty days for us to consider and perhaps to take up with the President.

Harold Brown
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Horn/Special, Box 4, 8/79. Secret. A copy was sent to Vance.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XVIII, Middle East Region; Arabian Peninsula, Document 27.
  3. For more on U.S. efforts to obtain the use of facilities in Somalia and other countries of the Persian Gulf/Arabian Peninsula area, see Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XVIII, Middle East Region; Arabian Peninsula, Documents 41, 42, 49, and 50.