69. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Brown to
President Carter1


  • Strategic Review of Our Unified Command Structure

This memorandum responds to the questions you raised in your review of my proposal for adjustments in the Unified Command Structure.2

I. How quickly could the RDJTF command take over in time of crisis? In the event of a major near-term contingency in the Persian Gulf/Southwest Asia region, the RDJTF could be ready to deploy within hours and the advance elements would arrive with the first deploying units. This would be just about as fast as either EUCOM or PACOM could deploy a task force headquarters. (Initially, the RDJTF would employ the plans which have been developed by the theater CINCs. However, the new headquarters has already begun the process of refining these plans and developing additional plans tailored to the RDJTF concept.)

II. How soon could we conduct such an exercise? From April 10–15, 1980, the RDJTF will be deployed and commanding troops in the field (in North Carolina, not the Persian Gulf) as part of a JCS-directed training exercise. Follow-on exercises will further refine procedures and capabilities.

III. Is it logical to exclude Israel, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Sudan from the Persian Gulf region unified command? A number of factors are involved here. In the case of Egypt and Israel, their relevance to our strategic position in the eastern half of the Mediterranean and their accessibility to Sixth Fleet units and forces from other bases in the Mediterranean area strongly supports retention in EUCOM’s area of responsibility. [Page 239] An even more compelling political consideration, in my view, is that placing Israel and the front line Arab states within the RDJTF commander’s purview would impose on him highly visible collateral responsibilities involving possible Arab-Israeli conflict. This involvement would seriously undercut his ability to work smoothly with other (mostly Islamic) nations in his primary area of concern.

The case for excluding Sudan is similar, though less clearcut since it is not one of the major Arab confrontation states. However, neither is it likely to be a major player in the various national alignments that define the command’s primary concerns: deterring Soviet penetration and protecting access to resources in the region. Therefore, in the absence of a strong contrary rationale, it would appear preferable to leave responsibility for Sudan unchanged.

Jordan and Syria are more borderline cases, but here too we would prefer not to overburden the RDJTF command with too many collateral responsibilities when we want it to focus primarily on extremely demanding PG/IO tasks.

However, I would emphasize that “exclusion” of these five nations from the boundaries of the command does not foreclose either their support or access to their facilities in a crisis (any more than including them would guarantee such support or access). Indeed, we can adjust the command boundaries later to include Egypt, Israel, or other areas, either for planning in peacetime or during the course of operations, if circumstances should change.

Harold Brown
  1. Source: Carter Library, Brzezinski Donated Material, Subject File, Box 37, Serial Xs—[7/80–9/80]. Secret.
  2. See Document 61. In a March 20 handwritten note to Brown, Carter commented: “Harold—re Persian Gulf Unified Command. The latest proposal is obviously an improvement, but I have a couple of questions: A) How quickly could the RDJTF Command take over in time of crisis? How soon could we have such an exercise? B) Is it logical to exclude Israel & Egypt etc. from the Persian Gulf Region Unified Command? I think not. J.C.” (Carter Library, Brzezinski Donated Material, Subject File, Box 37, Serial Xs—[7/80–9/80]) Upon receiving Brown’s April 1 reply, Brzezinski contended that it did not satisfy all of the questions and noted as much to Carter in an April 10 memorandum forwarding Brown’s April 1 memorandum. In the margin of the April 10 memorandum, Carter wrote: “Zbig—Address your ?’s directly to Harold J.” (Ibid.)