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


  • More on a Mid East Command

Talking with OSD and JCS staffers yesterday, I was told that more questions to Brown won’t produce results.2 Defense wants to be told by the White House to make the change. That takes the heat off Jones and Brown.

In checking on the quality of the two Defense papers for the next framework SCC,3 one on a deployment schedule and one on an exercise schedule, I learned that the absence of a command structure for the Persian Gulf is a major obstacle to both papers. The JCS cannot produce an exercise schedule without exercise funds. They must take funds from EUCOM and PACOM, neither of which wants to spend a penny in the Persian Gulf if it can be kept for exercises in Europe and the Pacific respectively. The same obstacle confronts maintenance of our force levels in the region, i.e. the deployment schedule paper.4

I have also learned that the arguments about a new command structure costing more money are not valid. The REDCOM (Readiness Command in Florida) can be used for and/or moved to the Middle East/Persian Gulf. At present it is a remarkably unused unified [Page 259] command. Mobilization functions, given to it last year to keep it busy, could be as effectively performed by the military services.

Perhaps you recall that the RDF still has no complete list of forces. In other words, it is in large part notional. The Army element has specific troop lists although some units are NATO contingency forces, leaving their mission and their type of training ambiguous. The Air Force designated units for a command post exercise, but specific squadrons and support elements are not clearly assigned to General Kelly. The Navy would not so much as provide force lists for the CPX. Thus, we have not the slightest idea what naval forces to train for deployment in the region or to count on for contingency planning. The Navy says they will let us know when the conflict starts.

For your further frustration, let me briefly explain an emerging problem for air support in the Persian Gulf region. Brown recommended to the SCC that we keep the equivalent of two carriers in the region. When one of the carriers is not in the Indian Ocean, he intends to substitute for it land based air in Egypt, Oman, or elsewhere. This is a very sensible way to achieve the desired military presence level, but it always depends on at least one carrier projecting air power over land on the Arabian Sea littoral. In every exercise, however, once potential Soviet intervention is part of the scenario, the Navy adamantly demands that their carriers move out of BACKFIRE range. That pushes Indian Ocean carrier deployments down around Diego Garcia and makes them of no value as support for ground forces in the region. With the present command arrangements, Admiral Long in PACOM can order a carrier south notwithstanding General Kelly’s demands and needs. We may never get the Navy close enough to provide proper air cover, but a Mid East unified commander could make it a court-martial offense if they abandon him. This may seem too hypothetical to be significant, but it is of sufficient importance to cause at least one unified commander to write an extremely indicting letter to Harold Brown on the matter and to hint at retirement and public protest. The President’s question about when an exercise can be run in the region has frightened a number of senior officers who believe they may end up looking silly in the event because the command arrangements make an effective execution most unlikely.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 63, Persian Gulf: Military Facilities in Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean, 3–8/80. Secret. Outside the System. Sent for information. A stamped notation on the memorandum reads: “ZB has seen.”
  2. On May 6, Odom sent Brzezinski a memorandum on the Persian Gulf Security Framework in which he discussed the Mid East Command. Odom indicated that he had Brzezinski’s signed memorandum “asking the two questions of Brown for the President.” (See footnote 2, Document 69.) Odom urged Brzezinski to “strike quickly on this one. Time is running out for us to get either the operational advantage or the political advantage of the command change.” Brzezinski wrote in the left-hand margin next to this: “OK. I will send it. Where is it?” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 63, Persian Gulf: Military Facilities in Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean, 3–8/80)
  3. These papers were part of a package of background briefing materials for the scheduled May 12 SCC meeting on the Security Framework that Dodson sent to Mondale, Muskie, Brown, Jones, and Turner on May 9. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Defense/Security, Ermarth, Box 11, Security Framework: 5/80)
  4. An unknown hand wrote “ZB per our discussion this morning” in the left-hand margin next to this paragraph.