39. Memorandum From William Odom of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Progress on the RDF (S)

You asked for my comments on David’s memorandum about the JCS briefing on the RDF (Tab A).2 His points are valid, and I agree that we need to push DOD. I would, however, analyze the problem differently and offer a different action plan. (S)

The Problem

The JCS did not really ignore PD–183 for two years. They were discouraged from addressing it by ISA. Convinced that they would demilitarize the Indian Ocean, the ISA staff in Defense had no time or enthusiasm for the RDF. They got lots of encouragement from State and no discouragement from NSC regional and security clusters. The services—as distinguished from the JCS—also need some blame. The JCS, surprisingly, tried to take the RDF seriously but could not get service or OSD support for funding to meet JSPID requirements. (S)

There are three major sets of RDF issues: (a) the composition of the forces; (b) projection capabilities (i.e., air or sea lift, or local basing); and (c) command and control. (S)

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A. Forces. The forces have been picked. The issues remaining are, first, sufficient funding and personnel to meet readiness standards, and second, whether to use NATO contingency forces. The obvious solution to the first is more funding, but the second, creation of new forces, will require the military draft. We cannot recruit enough manpower to fill units now in existence. (S)

B. Projection.

Airlift is too expensive to buy in large stand-by formations. The CRAF program is the answer along with legislative authority to implement it. To be credible, however, we must exercise CRAF, mobilizing civil aircraft from time-to-time. (S)

Sealift needs a boost in the roll-on/roll-off (RO/RO) ship area. I have told you much about Soviet RO/ROs. A good RO/RO system could pick up an armor brigade on one ship in a few hours and deliver it to Europe in 4–5 days, 10–12 days to much more distant regions like the Persian Gulf. The Navy has no real interest in this “you call and we haul” mission. We could create incentives for merchant marine RO/RO ships to be mobilized in emergencies like aircraft under the CRAF program. (S)

Bases in the region and enroute are the third critical aspect of force projection. First steps in Oman and Somalia have been taken and the next steps can be expedited. And the enroute bases (Lajes, Azores, Beja, and Cairo) must be certain—a task for diplomacy. One enormous caveat: do not stock POMCUS at the regional bases. Some stocks, fuel, ammo, and equipment, but not the POMCUS type because the expense is too great and the flexibility in use is limited to the region. We have gone crazy with POMCUS in Europe. We cannot afford what is now planned, and we would lose it in a major war before the units arrive. (S)

C. C3I, of course, means more than the REDCOM/JTF which David mentions. That structure, sitting in Florida, does little to help us in the Persian Gulf. Brown instructed the JCS to open the Unified Command Plan and develop a Middle East regional command, but they dodged successfully. They have substituted JTF for a change in the UCP. David’s point about the “chair shuffling” is key. It involves more than decisions, however. It involves getting Harold to go back to the JCS with instructions to redesign the UCP, cutting the Persian Gulf out of EUCOM and PACOM regional control. (S)

General Jones will suffer enormous pressures if he tries to push through a unified command change. Brown also would anger senior military figures in the services if he forced the UCP change. Thus, both the Secretary and the Chairman are understandably reluctant to create this internal discontent if they can avoid it. We could take the “heat” for them by getting the President to send a directive that it be done. (S)

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1. SCC on Forces. Hold an SCC which addresses the following questions:

—Should forces in the RDF also be liable for NATO or other contingencies? (David’s concern)

Readiness: What funding is required for higher readiness?

Manpower: How to meet the higher levels? (The OMB report to Congress on the military draft, January 15, is relevant here.)

2. SCC on projection. This meeting should address the issues related to movement of forces:

Airlift, what needs to be done on CRAF and related matters?

Sealift, what are our capabilities and what ways can we improve them (such as a RO/RO merchant fleet that serves military purposes analogous to CRAF)?

Bases, what next steps and funds are needed for regional bases, permanent and temporary, and what to do to ensure enroute basing?

3. On C3I, I recommend that this not be made an SCC matter but rather handled by a memorandum to Defense directing the formation of a Middle East Command. I do not believe you want more “process” and debate on this matter. All the arguments raised against it (backlash in the region, etc.) have been undercut by the success of the Bartholomew-Murray trip4 or overtaken by events in Iran and Afghanistan. Brown’s response can be used for the President to announce a major “action” in the Persian Gulf region in the next six weeks. I will prepare a memorandum for this purpose if you desire.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, General Odom File, Box 28, Middle East Command Post: 7/79–3/80. Secret. Sent for information. Brzezinski wrote in the upper right-hand corner of the memorandum: “WO Discuss with J[asper] W[elch], and let’s plan an SCC on it—unless he objects ZB.” The Rapid Deployment Force was discussed at the January 14 SCC meeting; see Document 40.
  2. Attached but not printed. In the December 27 memorandum to Brzezinski, Aaron noted that there had been “little in the brief that added substantially to the information” Brzezinski had received since August. The JCS told Aaron that Brown had “approved an RDF command arrangement that would have the commanding general of the RDJTF reporting directly to CINC Readiness Command (CINCRED) at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.” It was still unclear as to who would command the RDF if deployed in the Middle East region. Aaron commented: “We should keep the heat on Harold to ensure that Defense makes these difficult bureaucratic decisions soon, so they can get the ‘chair-shuffling’ behind them and get on with the harder task of formulating specific military objectives and plans for the region.” Aaron also noted: “The message throughout the briefing was that the PD–18 requirement for an RDF was essentially new—and that it will take at least 5 years to have in-hand all the programs needed to break the RDF logistic logjam, e.g., C–X, Maritime prepositioning ships, etc.”
  3. See footnote 3, Document 28.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 38.