4. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Brown) to the Members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff1

  • Subj: Panama Canal Negotiations

1. Following our meeting today, I discussed the Panama Canal Negotiations with the Secretary of Defense in preparation for the Policy Review Committee Meeting tomorrow.2

2. There are two basic issues, i.e., duration and defense.

3. It appears that following the PRC Working Group report PRM #13 that duration will be; “The Treaty on the operation, protection, and defense of the Canal will terminate 31 December 1999.”

4. As for defense in the post-treaty period, Secretary Brown leans toward inclusion of the following words in the proposed treaty: “The United States and Panama agree that the neutrality of the Canal will continue beyond the termination of US operations and each country commits itself to protect the Canal after the termination of US operations.”

5. In my view, the position reflected above is one I can support and will give us what we need in the way of assurance that the Canal will be available to us for as long as we may require it and that the US can intervene in defense of the Canal when it feels it should. It also has the advantage of probably being palatable to Panama. I would like to have your views on this by 0900, tomorrow, 27 January, prior to my departure for the Policy Review Committee Meeting on this subject.4

George S. Brown
General, USAF Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 218, Records of Chairman George S. Brown, Box 48, 820 (Panama) Bulky 1 Jan 1976–31 May 1977. Confidential; Eyes Only. Sent to Holloway, Jones, Rogers and Wilson.
  2. For the minutes of the January 27 Policy Review Committee Meeting, see Document 6.
  3. See Document 3.
  4. According to a January 27 memorandum to Brown from Colonel Conlin summarizing the responses of the Joint Chiefs, the Air Force responded “no problem” via telephone; the Navy preferred an inclusion in the treaty guaranteeing a role in defense but supported the neutrality option, suggesting it be tied to duration via an attached memorandum; the Marine Corps preferred a harder line but agreed, via telephone, to the negotiated position; and the Army expressed the same views as the Navy via an attached memorandum. (National Archives, RG 218, Records of Chairman George S. Brown, Box 48, 820 (Panama) Bulky 1 Jan 1976–31 May 1977)