149. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Morocco1

51623. For Ambassador. Subject: US Military Facilities in Morocco. Ref: A. State 32727; B. Rabat 835.2

1. During your forthcoming audience with King Hassan you are authorized to provide him with briefing information on closure of Kenitra and proposed establishment of GEODSS site in Morocco. Recommend that you prepare aide memoires based on paras below as indicated (Kenitra—paras 2–8; GEODSS—paras 10–15; press guidance—para 17) which can be left with him for his study. Suggest that you maintain same reassuring approach adopted in February 14 meeting and that in your introductory remarks you express USG appreciation for his forthcoming and understanding attitude and his acceptance in principle of US plans for Kenitra and GEODSS. You should make the point that the information is provided for his background, and emphasize that we only wish, at this time, to obtain his agreement with these plans, and will coordinate execution with appropriate GOM officials.

2. Plan for phase down of Naval shore facilities in Morocco. Advances in satellite and computer technology have resulted in changes in U.S. Naval communications which have rendered U.S. facilities in Morocco unnecessary. Consequently the Navy will begin to phase down these facilities on 1 June 1977 and the process will be complete by 30 September 1978.3

3. We expect to return use of the land at Sidi Yahia to the Government of Morocco by 31 December 1977 while the land at Bouknadel and the land and facilities at Kenitra will be relinquished by 30 September 1978.

4. We would expect in the future to enter more formal discussions with the Government of Morocco to determine which buildings and facilities at Sidi Yahia and Bouknadel will be left in place and transferred to Moroccan ownership. Within statutory limits and procedures [Page 356] and with the exception of some unique items, we intend to offer to Morocco, at minimum cost, certain items of equipment and materiel, including some communications equipment and associated antennae as well as about 400 family housing units. Navy records indicate more than 600 permanent or semi-permanent buildings at the three sites have a total value of approximately dollars 59 million. (FYI: Term “at minimum cost” could mean anything from market value to free of charge. End FYI.)

5. Moroccan employees hired through the Moroccan Office of Administration, whose annual salaries total about dollars 2 million, will receive severance pay in accordance with the existing labor contract. The plan is to release the 113 Moroccan employees at Sidi Yahia and 30 of the Moroccan employees at Bouknadel during the period October–December 1977. The remaining 15 Moroccan employees at Bouknadel and all 361 Moroccan employees at Kenitra will be released during the period January–September 1978.

6. Some 130 Moroccan employees are paid from non-appropriated funds such as those generated by recreational activities and clubs and their positions will be terminated in keeping with the rate of reduction of available non-appropriated funds which will result from the departure of American personnel.

7. According to initial estimates, severance pay for all Moroccan employees will total approximately dollars 2 million while accrued annual leave payments will add dollars 500 thousand more. Also, we will help set up a cooperative program with labor unions and local community organizations to aid in placing Moroccan employees in new jobs.

8. After 1 June 1978, funds will not be available to continue operation and maintenance of the base at Kenitra and for the remainder of the period until 30 September 1978 all US effort at Kenitra will be directed toward closure.

9. FYI: Possibility of continuing operation of communications training school still under consideration. If King should raise subject you should explain that matter is under study and we expect decision in near future.4 End FYI.

10. Proposal for establishment of ground-based electro-optical deep space surveillance (GEODSS) system in Morocco. Moroccan geography and climate provide favorable conditions for establishment of a GEODSS site which would become part of a global network of similar sites supporting passive monitoring of objects in very high-altitude [Page 357] earth orbit. This effort will support the mission of SpaceTrack which maintains a continuous daily accounting of all space objects.

11. The GEODSS station will consist of as many as four 20–30 inch aperture telescopes, low light level TV cameras, digital computers, control consoles and communications equipment. It will be operated and maintained by US civilian contractor personnel, sponsored by the Department of Defense and perhaps augmented by as many as five US Air Force personnel, in the numbers listed below for each phase of the project. Construction—12 men, installation and checkout—15 men, normal operation—40–50 men.5

12. The station is designed so that a major portion of it, primarily the technical equipment, could be disassembled and removed within two weeks. To house this equipment it will be necessary to build a structure with 10,000 square feet of floor space and four exterior domes for the telescopes. If approved by the Government of Morocco, construction would begin in the last quarter of calendar year 1978 and would entail maximum use of local labor and materials. While the US will bear all establishment and operating costs we would hope that the Government of Morocco would provide the necessary land free of rent or other charge.6

13. It is hoped that GEODSS can be installed within an existing Moroccan facility so that its identification with the US would not be emphasized. In this regard, assuming no additional cost to USG, Moroccan scientists and officials would be welcomed and could have access to the facility for collection of data on stars, planets and other celestial objects including scientific or geodetic satellites. In addition, the Government of Morocco can be provided data collected during operations.

14. The US will seek radio communications for the GEODSS site and submit entrance requirements for all Defense Department personnel and aircraft through normal channels.

15. Based on earlier generous agreement in principle of His Majesty King Hassan II, the US Air Force requests permission to make detailed site surveys in Morocco to determine at which location GEODSS would operate most efficiently.

16. FYI: (Not for discussion with Hassan) That portion of this project which relates to capacity of GEODSS system to provide data for anti-satellite targeting purposes is classified Secret XGDS–3. Verbal approval in principle which King Hassan provided February 14 will meet DOD budget submission deadline, enabling construction to begin in CY 78. However, DOD would prefer that US-Moroccan agreement [Page 358] on GEODSS be spelled out eventually in exchange of notes; this aspect will be the subject of separate instructions. End FYI.

17. Following is press guidance which Department and DOD propose to use if Kenitra or GEODSS should be raised by media representatives. No formal public announcement is planned either for GEODSS or Kenitra except for statements to be provided Moroccan employees regarding termination of their positions. Following press guidance to be used only after clearance by King Hassan. Begin text: Press guidance:

Q. Is it true that we are closing our base in Morocco?

A. We have not had “bases” in Morocco since the early 60’s when we evacuated our SAC sites at the request of King Hassan II. We have maintained a small naval communications facility and supporting training command in Morocco, but advances in technology make these facilities no longer necessary. We are closing them in the context of overall programs aimed at saving money and redistributing personnel to areas of greater need. We will begin a gradual closing of the facilities 1 June 1977 and they will be completely shut down by September 30, 1978.

Q. Are we replacing the current facilities with any other kinds of “facilities?”

A. King Hassan has very generously granted permission for the U.S. to locate a satellite tracking station in Morocco. This station has nothing to do with the closing of Kenitra. This would be a largely civilian-manned facility with about 45–50 persons possibly including five U.S. Air Force personnel. Naturally the scientific information it generates would be made available to the Moroccan Government and Moroccan scientists would be welcome to use the telescopes for their own scientific inquiry if they wished to do so.

Q. This appears to be a cutback. Does it signal some kind of chill in our relations with Morocco?

A. Definitely not. We have had friendly relations with Morocco for 200 years and they are especially close right now. No one should read into this any indication that our relationship with Morocco is anything but warm, cooperative and based on mutual respect. This change is being made in full consultation with the Moroccan Government.

Q. Do we have plans for other installations on Moroccan soil?

A. No. Were we to see any such need in the future, naturally we would consult with Congress, as we are in this case, and seek agreement with the Moroccan Government. End text.

18. FYI: (Not for discussion with Hassan) With one exception all other DOD proposals for military activities in Morocco have been set aside. That exception is aerial weapons/tactics training center for which [Page 359] USAF has expressed pressing need.7 After additional study in Washington concept has been modified substantially to encompass joint US-Moroccan air-to-air and air-to-ground training using advanced range instrumentation, weapons simulations, and small inert bombs. Department has agreed to give further consideration to this modified proposal as soon as DOD completes its internal, strictly in-house preparatory studies. Until DOD has completed these studies and Department has reviewed them and reached a decision, aerial weapons/tactical training center proposal has no repeat no official status.8 End FYI.9

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Subject File, Box 69, Morocco: 1–6/77. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Printed from a copy that was received in the White House Situation Room. Drafted in NEA/AFN; cleared by McAuliffe and in S/S, H, PM/ISO, and NEA/P; approved by Atherton. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770080–0282)
  2. See Documents 147 and 148.
  3. An unknown hand underlined the phrase “the Navy will begin to phase down these facilities on June 1, 1977” and “by 30 September 1978.”
  4. An unknown hand highlighted this paragraph and underlined “communications training school.”
  5. An unknown hand highlighted the last two sentences of this paragraph.
  6. An unknown hand highlighted this paragraph.
  7. An unknown hand underlined the phrase “is aerial weapons/tactics training center for which USAF has expressed pressing need,” and wrote in the right-hand margin: “What do you think? We should be involved in review of this before any decision made.”
  8. An unknown hand underlined the phrase “no official status.”
  9. In telegram 1457 from Rabat, March 17, Anderson reported on his March 14 audience with Hassan and a follow-up session with Laraki on March 15. Anderson wrote: “We thus have Moroccan green light to proceed with overall plan for Kenitra complex and GEODSS, and specifically to have GEODSS team conduct detailed site survey. At the same time, these are obviously delicate matters for the GOM, as reflected in the fact that the highest levels of GOM will be dealing with even routine details and in the King’s and Foreign Minister’s obvious wish to play down publicly the military aspects of U.S. presence in Morocco.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770092–0162)