52. Memorandum From Secretary of State Vance to President Carter1


  • Amphibious Deployment to the Indian Ocean

Harold has proposed the deployment of an Amphibious Task Force to the Indian Ocean beginning in mid-February.2 He would hope to conduct exercises after reaching the Arabian Sea at the end of this month.

I concur, with some reservations, in Harold’s basic recommendation that we make such a deployment.

I believe there should be no announcement until after Reg Bartholomew and his team conclude this round of talks on facilities access with Oman, Somalia, and Kenya.3 The Bartholomew team returns to the United States on February 12th. Any publicity before mid-February regarding Marine deployments could affect the prospects for success on this mission. It may be prudent to delay not only the announcement but the actual departure of the Marines from the Philippines. That way we would avoid a situation in which there were rumors of preparations for deploying Marines without our being able to offer a public explanation for fear of disrupting the talks with Oman, Somalia and Kenya.

I believe this deployment should be on the basis of a stop at Diego Garcia and a circuit of the Indian Ocean and a return to Subic Bay without at this time anticipating any landings. Until our facilities mission has completed its work, we are not in a position to say with certainty whether any exercises in the area are possible.

Finally, I believe we should proceed with this deployment without any presumption of maintaining a continuous Marine presence in the Indian Ocean. We need to think through the scale and composition of our Indian Ocean presence over the longer term in general, taking into account the strains being placed on our presence and readiness elsewhere, including our carrier levels, Marine deployments, and lift requirements. Any decisions regarding permanent Marine presence in the Indian Ocean should await that general review, which I believe we should begin soon.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, General Odom File, Box 28, Middle East Command Post: 7/79–3/80. Secret.
  2. See Document 47.
  3. See Documents 49 and 50.