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South and Central America; Mexico

Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964–1968
Volume XXXI, South and Central America; Mexico, Document 29


29. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense McNamara to the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)11. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Latin America, Vol. III, 1/65–6/65. Secret.

  • SUBJECT
  • Study of U.S. Policy Toward Latin American Military Forces

In response to your memorandum of October 26, 1964 on the above subject,22. Document 25. I am forwarding herewith a study prepared in the Department of Defense proposing a new strategy for dealing with Latin American military forces.33. Dated February 25; attached but not printed.

The basic recommendations of the study are: (1) to initiate in FY 67 a gradual, selective and controlled phasedown of MAP matériel grants extending over two three-year periods: (a) FY 67–69— maintenance, overhaul items; (b) FY 69–71—investment items, and (2) concurrently to place increasing emphasis on credit sales, local defense production and better budgetary planning and programming by Latin American military establishments in a major effort to bring their forces more into line with domestic resources and with a realistic appraisal of the security threat. The proposal would include provision of matériel grants for emergency purposes to meet foreign exchange inadequacies or for political reasons on an ad hoc basis when specifically justified.

The views of the Department of State, AID and the JCS have been sought and fully considered in drawing up this paper. However, it has not been possible to reconcile the differing views with the result that not all of the conclusions and recommendations of the study are concurred in by other agencies.

The principal objections of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are: (1) to the threat analysis, which they believe understates the insurgency problem, and (2) to the relatively minor military importance the study attaches to the future anti-submarine warfare requirements in South American waters. An extract of their views is enclosed as a separate memorandum.44. Undated; attached but not printed.

The views of the Department of State are also enclosed in a separate memorandum.55. Reference is to a letter from Vaughn to McNaughton, March 29, attached but not printed. While the Department of State accepts most of the conclusions of the study, they reject the above basic action recommendations. They acknowledge that the proposals are sound in principle and desirable of attainment, but believe that action should be delayed until some indefinite time in the future. Their fundamental reason is that to embark on such a course of action would be disruptive of U.S. influence in these countries and might tend to alienate the military forces on whom the Alliance for Progress must depend to maintain stability in the area.

In the light of these comments, I recommend that the new strategy proposed in this study be regarded as a long-term goal, but one which must be approached without a rigid time frame. Under our present MAP guidance we have been undertaking:

(1) A systematic effort to induce Latin American MAP recipients, to the extent feasible, to gradually assume the maintenance burden, e.g. spare parts and overhaul, now being borne by the MAP, and (2) The development of integrated grant-credit packages of military assistance designed to provide maximum leverage in (a) holding down external military procurement of the Latin American armed forces to agreed upon levels and (b) directing their procurement toward realistic security requirements.

I believe that our best course of action is to continue these efforts, concentrating on prudent management of the MAP rather than upon the initiation of a new strategy.

In the meanwhile, the enclosed study provides a useful basis upon which to measure our progress toward accomplishment of the long-range goals of our Military Assistance Program in Latin America.66. For additional discussion of U.S. policy toward Latin American military forces, see Document 65.

Robert S. McNamara

1 Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Latin America, Vol. III, 1/65–6/65. Secret.

2 Document 25.

3 Dated February 25; attached but not printed.

4 Undated; attached but not printed.

5 Reference is to a letter from Vaughn to McNaughton, March 29, attached but not printed.

6 For additional discussion of U.S. policy toward Latin American military forces, see Document 65.