197. Memorandum From Gary Sick and Robert Hunter of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • U.S. Military Relationship with Saudi Arabia (U)

In his recent report on Saudi Arabian military forces,2 Major General Dick Lawrence proposes a refocussed and restructured U.S. military relationship with Saudi Arabia. Briefly, he suggests creating a new U.S. military organization that would:

—replace the current U.S. Military Training Mission (USMTM);

—symbolize the genesis of a new military relation with the Saudis;

—have a regional orientation for unity of effort on the Arabian Peninsula;

—be functionally structured along two major tracks: FMS administration, and advisory and planning assistance with emphasis on the latter;

—be staffed with a smaller number of personnel of less visible rank than the current organization.3 (S)

Lawrence found an underlying concern within the Saudi Royal Family about the inefficiency, misplaced focus, top-heavy composition, and large size of the current U.S. mission in Saudi Arabia. By law USMTM is geared toward FMS administration and cannot effectively [Page 647] handle the areas of military advice and planning assistance which the Saudis now feel are of more vital concern than acquisition of hardware. This proposal is intended to permit the U.S. to focus on the weakest aspect of Saudi military development (middle and upper level management), to deemphasize the military procurement aspect of our relationship, to lower the visibility of U.S. military presence, to meet the expressed desires of key Saudi leaders, and to further strengthen U.S.-Saudi ties. (S)

There are three related areas which must be addressed in considering a restructuring of our security relationship with the Saudis:

—Organizational and management problems (e.g. should the Corps of Engineers report through the head of the U.S. organization in Saudi Arabia or is it more efficient for them to operate independently as they do now?).

—Political obstacles (e.g. how and when we approach the Saudis and at what level in such a way as to look responsive to their needs rather than merely telling them what we plan to do. The question of the Army vs. the National Guard also poses some delicate problems).

—Legal considerations (e.g. how we can best structure an advisory role consistent with the limitations of the Foreign Assistance Act). (C)

Although Lawrence has developed strong support for his proposals from EUCOM, the JCS, within OSD, and among some elements of State, the overlapping and conflicting bureaucratic interests involved in the three questions above insure that this proposal will have tough sledding before getting to any decision. ISA is currently preparing a paper on this issue which they intend to circulate on an interagency basis.4 (C)

The ISA paper will provide a good means of maintaining the present interest in the issue and smoking out any problem areas within the bureaucracy. We will monitor it closely and keep you informed. If it appears that the issue is simply being studied to death or being shelved for lack of high level attention, we may want to consider calling for a PRM. (C)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 67, Saudi Arabia: 8–11/79. Secret. Sent for information. Hunter initialed for Sick. In the upper right-hand corner of the first page of the memorandum, Brzezinski wrote: “push this—maybe PRC? ZB.”
  2. Not found.
  3. Brzezinski drew a vertical line and wrote “yes” in the left-hand margin next to this point.
  4. Not found.