44. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (Iklé) to Secretary of Defense Weinberger1



  • National Security Priorities—Memorandum for the President

The attached list was largely worked out between us and the State Department (Rick Burt),2 and reflects in many ways DoD-suggested changes. I am not sure, though, it still serves a useful purpose now to send it forward.

The only item added without our agreement is the penultimate tick on page 2 about North-South economic issues. The diverse economic issues relating to countries in the Southern Hemisphere should not be lumped together under the old label of “North-South,” which presumes something like collective bargaining between us and all the less-developed countries. One of the mistakes of the Carter Administration was to accept this confrontation as given, and then look for ways in which the Capitalist northern countries could atone for the fact that their economies were more successful. (Obviously, the new State Department team does not have such an approach in mind, but we must guard against slipping back in the old mold).

Fred C. Ikle 3


[Page 151]

Memorandum From Secretary of State Haig and Secretary of Defense Weinberger to President Reagan4


  • National Security Priorities

We have been working closely together to plan our activities so that we can move ahead rapidly and efficiently to implement your foreign policy and national security program. We believe the following priorities should guide our Departments’ work and the deliberations of the National Security Council (NSC) over the coming months.

—Our top priority is the Persian Gulf region. Our goal is for the NSC to decide on an overall program for improving our security posture in that volatile region. Closely related to this broad effort is the need to bring Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt and Israel more directly into our security planning in the region. A substantial security assistance package for each country will be an important element in determining our success with them. The question of a US role in the Sinai peacekeeping force (to be established under the Camp David accords) must be seen in this larger context. And preparations for oil emergencies must also be strengthened (in coordination with the DOE).

—A number of military issues affect the NATO Alliance. We need to develop better tactics to encourage greater Allied defense efforts and to manage the continuing difficulties in the implementation of NATO’s decision to modernize theater nuclear forces.5 Similarly, we are reviewing US policy toward Japan, to maintain close relations and to secure increased Japanese defense contributions.

—The NSC needs to address your overall principles for our relations with the Soviet Union and to apply those to a series of specific issues: our continuing preparations to ward off (or respond to) a Soviet invasion of Poland, our preparations for initial steps in arms control, and our management of East/West trade.

Central American Security issues pose a special problem for your Administration. We must continuously adjust and improve our policies to counter guerrilla activities in El Salvador and to interdict the Soviet [Page 152] and Cuban supported flow of arms. We need to strengthen governments in Costa Rica, Honduras, and other nations of Central America and we have to develop a policy designed to turn around the situation in Nicaragua.

For Cuba we should develop a longer-term policy that will help curtail the Cuban intervention worldwide, (in Africa, as well as Central America). This policy has to combine judiciously selected military support for the forces opposing Cuban intervention with a program of political action.

—The Administration should develop a coherent policy to guide relations with China and Taiwan, and by strengthening US ties with China help counter Soviet influence.

—The far-flung activities of Libya against our interests require a strategy that must enlist the support of other African nations, as well as certain European powers. Libya’s occupation of Chad presents both a challenge by and a vulnerability for Qadhafi.

—In addition, we will, in the near future, need to address questions relating to growing refugee problems and North-South economic issues.

—We believe that the issues underlined above would represent a good starting point in developing the agenda for the NSC during the coming months. There are, of course, a number of other subjects which we will be following and on which we will keep you apprised; but our expectation is that they can be resolved without NSC meetings.6 We will continue to work together to update our list of NSC priorities.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Fred Iklé Files, Chron: March 1981 (3). Secret. A stamped notation in the top right-hand corner of the memorandum indicates that Weinberger saw it on April 23. Iklé sent the memorandum to Weinberger under an April 22 covering memorandum, writing: “The attached list was largely worked out between us and the State Department (Rick Burt), and reflects in many ways DoD-suggested changes. By now, however, the list is somewhat obsolete. Frank and I agree it would not serve a useful purpose to forward this list at this time. Al Haig may advance reasons why the list should either be updated or sent as is. (Ibid.) An unknown hand wrote “OBE” in the top right-hand corner of the memorandum.
  2. Under an April 15 action memorandum, Burt and Wolfowitz sent Haig a copy of the memorandum, noting that they had been working with Defense officials on “generating a list of national security priorities,” adding: “Although you have a better sense than I do of whether it would be ‘politic’ to send this letter over to the White House at this particular time, I recommend that you and Cap sign the letter and that we begin to map out a strategy for getting these issues on the NSC agenda.” Burt and Wolfowitz recommended that Haig send the letter to Reagan; Haig initialed his approval. (Ibid.)
  3. Iklé signed “Fred” above his typed signature. Next to Iklé’s signature, Weinberger wrote: “I don’t think any purpose is served by this letter now.”
  4. Secret. A stamped notation in the top right-hand corner of the memorandum indicates that Weinberger saw it on April 23.
  5. See footnote 6, Document 35.
  6. An unknown hand placed a brace in the right-hand margin next to a portion of this sentence and wrote something that is illegible.