85. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Brown to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Amphibious Forces for the Indian Ocean (U)

(S) On February 29, 1980, the SCC approved a force posture for the Indian Ocean/Persian Gulf region which projected that “present levels be maintained” until the hostage crisis in Iran is resolved.2 The force posture also included battalion-size-ground forces in the region, either sea- or land-based, thereafter. Since then, a gap in this land force presence has been authorized, to end later this month.

(S) Subsequent political developments have indicated that the hostage situation is unlikely to end soon, and we are unlikely for the foreseeable future to be invited to deploy battalion-size ground forces to the region. Furthermore, resolution of the hostage crisis will probably not improve the likelihood of our deploying land-based forces to the region. This would leave the burden of ground force presence entirely upon our amphibious forces. (In this connection, it is worth noting that at any point in time we can get a few hundred ground troops almost anywhere into the region by air faster than by landing the MAU—which is likely to be many hundreds, or even thousands, of miles away at sea.)

(S) Limited amphibious lift assets dictate that we could not maintain continuous presence of an Amphibious Ready Group with embarked Marine Amphibious Unit (ARG/MAU) in the Indian Ocean without seriously degrading either our Mediterranean and Pacific amphibious presence or our fleet turnaround (training, upkeep and overhaul) times in the U.S. Lack of or severe limitations on port visit and exercise opportunities in the Indian Ocean are a detriment to the training, materiel readiness and morale of the fighting force. Additionally, all of the above factors combine to exacerbate our already serious problem of retention of experienced sailors and Marines.

(S) Ideally, we would like to be able to maintain a continuous land force presence in the Indian Ocean/Persian Gulf region. As long as this presence is limited to amphibious forces, however, we are con[Page 281]strained by the major factors of amphibious lift assets, training exercises and port visits. So long as we continue a major fraction of our present amphibious commitments in other theaters, then our present lift assets would dictate that the maximum presence we can sustain over the long term in the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and Pacific is 70, 65 and 60 percent respectively. Additional rationale for these figures and an illustrative schedule are included in the attachment.3 Actual achievement of maximum possible presence would depend in part on our ability to maintain the readiness of the force through exercises and port visits.

(S) The Special Coordination Committee is scheduled to discuss our Security Framework for the Persian Gulf/Indian Ocean Region on July 15.4 Included on the agenda for this meeting is a DoD-proposed schedule for military deployments and unilateral and combined exercises in the region for the remainder of CY 1980. The optimum case would have amphibious forces in the area as much as possible with these forces conducting frequent training exercises and port visits in order to maintain their combat readiness. The exercise schedule before the SCC represents a point of departure toward the achievement of this objective. It is thus essential that amphibious presence in the Indian Ocean and our exercise and deployment program for the region be addressed in the same context.

(U) I would appreciate your serious consideration of this proposal. I also recommend that it be discussed at the July 15 meeting of the SCC so that a recommendation can be made to the President as soon as possible.

Harold Brown
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 114, SCC 327, 7/15/80, Security Framework. Secret. A copy was sent to Muskie.
  2. See Documents 57 and 58.
  3. Attached but not printed. The attachment described what would be needed to sustain a “near-continuous (70 percent) Indian Ocean ARG/MAU Deployment Schedule” and listed pros and cons for a 70 percent presence and a 100 percent presence.
  4. See Document 86.