156. Memorandum From Jessica Tuchman of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1

SUBJECT

  • Sale of F–15s to Saudi Arabia

In my judgment we stand an extremely slim chance of getting Congressional approval for the sale of F–15s to Saudi Arabia within the next six months—and probably longer. Many of those on the House Committee (Bingham, Wolff, Solarz, Ryan, etc.)2 who supported the AWACS, or were only mildly disapproving of it, will be strongly opposed to this one. I have less first hand knowledge of the Senate Committee, but I would guess that Case, Javits, Stone and perhaps Humphrey would be opposed.3

As they did on AWACS, members will question the need for this particular system rather than a less advanced one. In addition to pointing out that the F–5s we are now delivering are straining Saudi Arabia’s absorptive capacity, Congress will want to know why we are selling them F–15 instead of the F–16. There is no good answer. Saudi Arabia simply does not face the external threat or have the geographical conditions that might argue for the necessity of a two-engine plane. In my view therefore, we should be looking for a way out of this with the [Page 518]Saudi’s that will not damage our bilateral relations. I would suggest the following as a first step.

Even if we were to go ahead with the sale, we would get—as we did on AWACS—a request from the GAO for a cost effectiveness study comparing the F–15 and the F–16. I suggest that we task DOD for such a study right now. If it is an honest effort, the study will show that the F–16 is at least as good, if not better than, the F–15 for Saudi Arabia. (While there would be opposition to an F–16 sale also, it would be less than to the F–15.) We could then quietly use the results with the Saudis to try to convince them to alter their request—both as to the kind of plane, and timing of the sale.

If such a study is undertaken it should be completed well ahead of the Foreign Minister’s visit in late October.

RECOMMENDATION:

That you sign the attached memorandum to Secretary Brown asking for a comparative study.4

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 67, Saudi Arabia: 9–12/77. Secret. Sent for action.
  2. Representatives Jonathan Bingham (D-New York), Lester Wolff (D-New York), Stephen Solarz (D-New York), and Leo Ryan (D-California), members of the House Committee on International Relations.
  3. Senators Clifford Case (R-New Jersey), Jacob Javits (R-New York), Richard Stone (D-Florida), and Hubert Humphrey (DFL-Minnesota), members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
  4. Attached but not printed. Brzezinski did not sign the memorandum, but added next to this recommendation: “Jessica—Just call over and get it started. I do not want the record to show that it started from here.”