61. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Brown to President Carter 1


  • Strategic Review of our Unified Command Structure

The JCS and I have reviewed further the command arrangements for the Persian Gulf region described in my memorandum of January 26.2 This memorandum describes the conclusions I have reached and outlines the proposed changes to the operational and planning concept contained in the Unified Command Plan (UCP).

As a result of the review I have decided to confirm the current area responsibilities that have been assigned by the Unified Command Plan to both USCINCEUR and CINCPAC (the line falls between Pakistan–Afghanistan and Iran). These commanders are now responsible for daily interface with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other Unified and Specified Commands, as well as with supporting organizations within their region of responsibility such as State, CIA, DIA, and DCA. In addition, they now plan and administer security assistance, provide operational direction, intelligence support, and logistical directive authority, and are responsible for other services in the region. These functions, including the administration of overseas base structure, could not be easily transferred to a CONUS-based commander without serious mission degradation.

Moreover, in the event of hostilities, USCINCEUR and CINCPAC are staffed and organized to provide expanded logistics, command and control, civil affairs, and intelligence functional support to the combat force commanders in wartime. This would include the ability to act in a support role to a new CINC in the Persian Gulf. Examples include logistics and (from PACOM) fleet support. Therefore, the JCS and I [Page 214] see little point in transferring such major peacetime responsibilities to a new Unified Command as that would require substantial added staff and equipment to execute the mission.

I intend, however, to assign primary responsibility (in peacetime as well as wartime) for operational planning for major contingencies in the Persian Gulf region3 to the Commander, Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force (RDJTF). In addition I will designate the Commander, RDJTF, a Unified Commander for joint operations in the region, in the event of plan execution. In effect, this action will create a new Unified Command, if and when needed, that would report directly to the NCA (President/Secretary of Defense), through the JCS as our agent, as is the case for the other CINCs.

The review also confirmed the need for assignment of the additional duty in peacetime as Commander Forward Element of the RDJTF, to the Commander, Middle East Force. This appointment will require a modest augmentation to the staff based in Bahrain. The political realities of the region will require a very low profile for this activity (perhaps a dozen people). These peacetime missions will include collection of intelligence, liaison with US representatives in the region, and establishing forward operating bases to facilitate preparations for deployments, military exercises, and, if required, combat operations. This organization will insure unity of command, if RDJTF elements are employed, without disturbing the services and responsibilities currently provided by COMIDEASTFOR.

I agree with the JCS that these arrangements and the modifications to the UCP will further improve operational planning for the Persian Gulf region and facilitate the execution of contingency plans—without disturbing the wide array of services currently provided by PACOM and EUCOM. This arrangement would, in my judgment, be wiser than establishing another Unified Command, particularly because of the added costs and staff that would be required.

I recognize that these arrangements may in time require further modification; the JCS and I will review them in six months. In the [Page 215] meantime, I need your approval for this concept and the appropriate modifications to the UCP.4

Harold Brown

Attachment 5

  1. Source: Carter Library, Brzezinski Donated Material, Subject File, Box 37, Serial Xs [7/80–9/80]. Secret. A notation on the first page indicates that Carter saw the memorandum.
  2. See Document 48.
  3. The Persian Gulf region is defined as Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and all the countries on the Arabian Peninsula; the countries of Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, and Kenya on the Horn of Africa; the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf and adjacent waters. It excludes Egypt, Sudan, Israel, Jordan, and Syria, which remain in the EUCOM area of responsibility. But depending on the wartime situation, that could be adjusted at the time. See attached map. [Footnote is in the original.]
  4. On March 7, Brzezinski sent Carter a memorandum commenting on Brown’s memorandum. Brzezinski noted that it was “different from his previous proposal in two ways.” He continued: “Otherwise, it leaves many of the old problems of dealing through three commands: logistics, intelligence, and control over attaches and security assistance.” Brzezinski concluded: “It also introduces new complications.” Referencing the attached map, he asserted: “The complexity of the proposal, so graphically apparent from the attached map, makes me less than comfortable. Therefore, I suggest you ask Harold to address these issues before you give final approval to his concept for the Unified Command Structure.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, General Odom File, Box 28, Middle East Command Post: 7/79–3/80)
  5. Secret.