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I want to touch on something right there, and that is the question of this fence which Senator Hatch mentioned this morning. The fence that was so much in the press and created such a big issue was a very short little thing. It extended from what they call "J Street," down to the Quarry Heights military encampment. This is less than a mile. As you know, the division is 50 miles long. Therefore, it was just a little thing that would have very little effect on anything. It was for a police control plan near the big school-there is a normal school, and a lot of students came over and caused difficulties. That was the reason that Governor Potter erected it. It was erected by Governor William Potter, who was one of the predecessors of present Governor Parfitt. He decided to erect it just for protection in that area.
However, it was merely symbolic, because the Canal Zone was not fenced off at all. The flow of people back and forth has continued unlimited throughout the years. President Lakas, the present President of Panama made a statement to Mr. Buckley-William Buckley— who came down there and made a TV program.
He said, "When I was a boy I used to be able to go over and look at the canal freely. Now I can't go over there because of the fence."
That was absolutely ridiculous, because anybody can drive in and out of the Canal Zone. There is no customs. There is nobody to stop you. It is a free flow.
Senator ALLEN. Thank you very much, Judge Crowe.
Judge CROWE. It was a pleasure. Thank you, gentlemen, for your attention.
Senator ALLEN. Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, please?
Admiral Moorer, we are delighted to have you come before the subcommittee and give us the benefit of your views. We are proud of you, and I am proud of you as a fellow Alabamian. I am proud of you as a great patriot and as a former Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. You are a great military leader and a fine American citizen.
We are certainly delighted and honored to have you come and testify.
TESTIMONY OF ADM. THOMAS H. MOORER, U.S. NAVY, RETIRED, FORMER CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF
Admiral MOORER. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the Subcommittee on the Separation of Powers, I am honored to be here as a witness since I have such a deep interest in the subject which you have under consideration. I sincerely hope that my testimony will prove helpful in these hearings regarding the U.S. Canal Zone and the Panama Canal.
My military experience during the last 12 years of active duty, from 1962 to 1974, offered me some extraordinary and unique opportunities to assess the importance of the Panama Canal to the United States, as well as its value to our allies and friends and, indeed, to all maritime nations.
My evaluation of this waterway as an invaluable possession of the United States was intensified in 1962. At that time I was Commander, 7th Fleet operating in the Western Pacific. Frequently my fleet's capabilities depended on the prompt arrival of supplies from the Atlantic seaboard, supplies loaded aboard ships which were utilizing the Panama Canal.
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From the 7th Fleet I went to Commander in Chief, Pacific; from there to Commander in Chief, Atlantic and NATO's Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic; from there to Chief of Naval Operations and from there to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Each of these commands provided unique opportunities, and sometimes urgent reasons, to evaluate the Panama Canal. I saw this strategic waterway from many vantage points and under stressful circumstances.
As Commander in Chief, Pacific, I recall in some detail the Tonkin Gulf era of 1964. During that period I saw the Panama Canal as a conduit for rapid reinforcement from the Atlantic Fleet should the naval forces of the Soviet Union or mainland China become involved in the Vietnamese war. The U.S. high command was never sure during those early phases of the war of the intentions of either the Soviet Union or mainland China. We knew they had the naval and air capabilities to make trouble and therefore we had to draw up contingency plans for such eventualities. Later, in order to equalize the wartime exposure and hardship throughout the entire Navy, large numbers of Atlantic Fleet units were continuously rotated through the canal to the combat theater in the South Pacific. In addition, as the Pacific Fleet Commander, I looked to the Atlantic side for rapid logistics support. The U.S. Army, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Marine Corps, and the US. Navy all required a continuous and heavy flow of logistic support; such necessities as fuel, ammunition, spare parts, and food. Our allies fighting with us in Vietnam also required considerable support from the United States.
If the Panama Canal had not been open and available, the war in Vietnam would have been much more difficult and costly to conduct. This conclusion is also true for the war in Korea.
To give you some idea of the magnitude of Panama Canal usage and its relationship to the war effort, in 1963 there was a total of 300 U.S. Government transits through the Panama Canal. As the war in Vietnam escalated, the number of Government ships transiting by 1966 had almost doubled. The records show for that year—1966—a total of 591 Government ships transited the canal. In 1968 we saw a peak of 1,504 Government ships coming through the canal. Most of these ships were carrying critically needed logistics support to the forces operating under my command.
As Commander in Chief, Atlantic, and NATO's Supreme Allied Commander, I saw the situation at Panama in another perspective. That was for the period 1965 to 1967. The war in Vietnam was still expanding, but now I was looking at the canal not only as a means of sending support to the Commander in Chief, Pacific, but also from the Atlantic perspective. I saw the possible need to reverse the flow of ships through the canal, particularly if the situation deteriorated in the Middle East or in the Caribbean during those volatile months of tension and conflict in both those areas.
Both in our U.S. planning and in our NATO planning we envisioned contingencies calling for reinforcements from the Pacific Ocean areas. We envisioned the need for combatant tonnage, Army and Marine divisions, and particularly we saw the need for amphibious lift to be transferred from the Pacific to the Atlantic.
As Chief of Naval Operations I had to look at the Panama Canal as an essential means of equalizing the strength and providing the
balance between the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets. The canal made it possible to pre-position certain types and tonnage, but always with the knowledge that the balance could be shifted to meet unforeseen situations. The Panama Canal gives the naval planner much flexibility and versatility that he would be deprived of without it. In effect, it permits using a one-ocean navy in two oceans.
As Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff I became even more sensitive to the strategic value of this U.S. canal as a means of protecting the security of the United States. My job as Chairman involved all of the Armed Forces of the United States—their collective requirements and I was primarily responsible to the President for their ability to carry out their roles and missions as assigned by the Congress. Any commander acting in that capacity will immediately perceive that it is vital to U.S. interests to retain complete ownership and control of the Panama Canal.
It was at this juncture of my command responsibility, which was at the end of my active duty, that I became concerned about the proposals to surrender the Panama Canal to a leftist-oriented government allied with Cuba. There existed the potential danger for giving this U.S. advantage to a man who might allow or might be persuaded that it was in his best interest to permit Soviet power and influence to prevail by proxy over the canal, in much the same manner as happened in Cuba. I was convinced as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and I remain convinced today—that if the Soviet Union ever gained even proxy sovereignty and control over the U.S. Canal Zone and canal through Cuba, U.S. security as well as U.S. prosperity would be placed in serious jeopardy.
The United States would be placed in jeopardy because interocean mobility would be threatened. The mobility of allied commercial shipping and naval forces would face the same threat. The economic lifelines of the entire Western Hemisphere would be needlessly jeopardized, and the point is: There is no point in surrendering this vital interest. I have yet to see any solid justification advanced as to why the United States should willingly sacrifice the strategic advantages afforded to us by our possession of the Panama Canal.
Also, by relinquishing control of the Canal Zone and the canal, we would force all those nations who depend on our power and leadership to accommodate to the adverse implications of such action on our part. The Canal Zone could become the satellite base of an adversary, and the advocates of giveaway do not appear to take this factor into account.
I might expand on that point to a degree-that is, the need for the Panama Canal. The Panama Canal is one of the four maritime gateways of the world. The four gateways are the Molucca Straits, the Suez Canal, the Straits of Gibraltar, and the Panama Canal.
In addition to that, we have the situation today where we are heavily dependent upon Middle East oil. Middle East oil constitutes a large part of our imports. Although it is perhaps not generally known, we are now importing about 50 percent of the oil consumed in the United States. The so-called VL-CC's, the very large commercial carriers, must come around South Africa.
In just 5 years the U.S. strategic position in Africa has significantly deteriorated. There was a time, Mr. Chairman, about 5 years
ago when we could cover an oil convoy from the Persian Gulf or the Arabian Sea to either Western Europe or the Western Atlantic and use nothing but Portugese airfields, all of which were readily available to the United States. All of these airfields are gone. The Soviets are in every one of them. They are in Angola, as you know, by virtue of using the Cubans to get there.
Were the sealanes interdicted, then you would see a heavy, heavy demand on the Panama Canal for the transport of those critical materials which normally come around that Cape.
I think that the developments in Africa in the last 5 years have a very serious impact. To me, they certainly seem to make the Panama Canal a more valuable strategic resource than they have been in the past.
For the foregoing reasons and others not listed, I cosigned with three former Chiefs of Naval Operations a letter to President Carter. The key message in that letter was this:
Under the control of a potential adversary the Panama Canal would become an immediate crucial problem and prove a serious weakness in the overall U.S. defense with enormous potential consequences for evil.
The military and commercial considerations are obvious.
Although the large aircraft carriers and large supertankers cannot use the canal, 97 percent of the world's commercial and naval fleets can use the canal as it is. The canal, of course, always needs repair and certainly modernization from time to time.
About two-thirds of all the current canal traffic is bound to or from U.S. ports. When ships round the Horn instead of going through the canal, they must travel about 8,000 extra miles, have 8,000 extra miles of wear and tear, need 8,000 extra miles of fuel. On an average it takes 31 extra days to round the Horn. I have seen an estimate which indicates that it would cost the Navy in excess of $30 million annually just because of the difference in the fuel cost of coming through the canal and going around the Horn.
There is another interesting aspect of this that Judge Crowe made reference to. I do not think this is really understood by many. It is very expensive to transport the oil from the Middle East to the United States. It is very expensive. It is a long way.
If, as it now appears necessary, the oil from Alaska must be shipped from Valdez to either the gulf coast or the east coast of the United States where a large number of the refineries are, of course we will have to use the canal. This would mean that there would be something like 20 cents a barrel less in the overall transportation costs of the oil brought from Alaska to the east coast, as opposed to bringing it from the Persian Gulf to the east coast.
In short, if we are denied use of the canal, we would have to build a much larger Navy, much larger storage and harbor facilities on both the east and west coasts of the United States, and provide more merchant ships as well as escorts.
Surrender of U.S. sovereignty over the Canal Zone would inevitably lead to the transformation of the entire friendly character of the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Everything would depend on the attitude of those who held sovereignty and ownership.
Mr. Chairman, there are those who say that the fact that a great big country like the United States dominates the small countries like
Panama is looked on with disfavor by many of the other countries in this hemisphere. I do not believe that. I think that there may be a few who have expressed this feeling, such as Venezuela, Costa Rica, perhaps Mexico and Colombia, but on balance, in my view, I feel that these nations recognize that the stability and security and the fairness and objectivity and the efficiency provided by the United States in the Panama Canal is significant to their interests. They do not have confidence that this would continue in the event that the situation was changed.
I might say that in military affairs there is no substitute for ownership of the territory and the ability to control or to deny the waters and the airspace.
After having lived through three decades of conflict I do not believe it takes much imagination to envision some of the pitfalls we might face in turning the U.S. Canal Zone and the canal over to any government that might see fit to deny its use or use it against us.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to include in the record the letter signed by the four Chiefs of Naval Operations, including myself as part of my statement.
Senator ALLEN. Without objection, it will be included in the record. [The aforementioned letter was subsequently supplied for the record:]
The White House,
JUNE 6, 1977.
DEAR MR. PRESIDENT: As former Chiefs of Naval Operations, fleet commanders and Naval Advisers to previous Presidents, we believe we have an obligation to you and the nation to offer our combined judgment on the strategic value of the Panama Canal to the United States.
Contrary to what we read about the dec'ining strategic and economic value of the Canal, the truth is that this inter-oceanic waterway is as important, if not more so, to the United States than ever. The Panama Canal enables the United States to transfer its naval forces and commercial units from ocean to ocean as the need arises. This capability is increasingly important now in view of the reduced size of the U.S. Atlantic and Pacific fleets.
We recognize that the Navy's largest aircraft carriers and some of the world's super-tankers are too wide to transit the Canal as it exists today. The supertankers represent but a small percentage of the world's commercial fleets. From a strategic viewpoint, the Navy's largest carriers can be wisely positioned as pressures and tensions build in any kind of a short-range, limited situation. Meanwhile, the hundreds of combatants, from submarines to cruisers, can be funneled through the transit as can the vital fleet train needed to sustain the combatants. In the years ahead as carriers become smaller or as the Canal is modernized, this problem will no longer exist.
Our experience has been that as each crisis developed during our active service-World War II, Korea. Vietnam and the Cuban missile crisis-the value of the Canal was forcefully emphasized by emergency transits of our naval units and massive logistic support for the Armed Forces. The Canal provided operational flexibility and rapid mobility. In addition, there are the psychological advantages of this power potential. As Commander-in-Chief, you will find the ownership and sovereign control of the Canal indispensable during periods of tension and conflict.
As long as most of the world's combatant and commercial tonnage can transit through the Canal, it offers inestimable strategic advantages to the United States, giving us maximum strength at minimum cost. Moreover, sovereignty and jurisdiction over the Canal Zone and Canal offer the opportunity to use the waterway or to deny its use to others in wartime. This authority was especially helpful during World War II and also Vietnam. Under the control of a potential