312. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Johnson to Director of Central Intelligence Hillenkoetter0


  • Support of Covert Operations of CIA

With reference to your memorandum request for supply bases, dated 11 May 1949,1 I have received the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and give you herewith the position of the Department of Defense with respect to the principles on which we will support covert operations of CIA. These principles of operation will generally apply regardless of the particular form of the organization to conduct various covert operations and are given without reference to present or future organizational structure.

As Secretary of Defense I recognize the importance of covert foreign operations under present world conditions, and I intend to take measures to support such operations. I have great concern, however, regarding the proper location of administrative responsibility for these operations and, pending further study, I reserve my position with respect to whether this responsibility should reside in your Agency. Since these operations effectively conducted constitute one of the best ways of supporting our national defense in time of peace and contribute importantly to success in war, I am proceeding to state herein the reasonable conditions on which the Defense Department will cooperate in the planning and conduct of such operations.

There are two very important factors which I believe must be emphasized as this organization for covert operations develops. First, the organization must assume autonomous responsibility and be so effectively obscured as to assure that neither the President nor the Secretaries of State or Defense will be placed in a position of having to answer publicly for its activities.

The second factor, and this derives partially from the first, concerns financial support of these operations. As indicated in NSC 10/2, operational funds are hereafter to be provided out of the CIA budget. As we reduce expenditures and personnel within the Department of Defense, you and your Assistant Directors must understand that there may be less money and manpower available to contribute to these and other functions [Page 738] of your Agency unless such contributions are of substantial value to U.S. national security.

With the foregoing in mind the following principles will constitute the basis for Department of Defense support of covert operations.

We recognize that the equipment which will be required to carry out covert operations, either in peace or in war, should be available in the areas in which required. There are, however, certain differences between the peacetime scope and the wartime scope of Department of Defense participation in and support for such operations of the Office of Policy Coordination, Central Intelligence Agency. NSC 10/2 directs the Office of Policy Coordination in time of peace “to plan and conduct covert operations” and “in coordination with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to plan and prepare for the conduct of such operations in wartime.” In addition, NSC 10/2 states that “in time of war or national emergency, or when the President directs, all plans for covert operations shall be coordinated with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and execution of covert operations in military theaters shall be under the control of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

Peacetime and wartime differences are not involved in the currently prescribed method of financing covert operations. NSC 10/2 states that after fiscal year 1949 “operational funds for these purposes shall be included in normal Central Intelligence Agency budget requests.” It is, therefore, expected that the Department of Defense will be reimbursed by transfer of funds from the Central Intelligence Agency for most of the material and services furnished.

As a general rule, covert operations planned and conducted by the CIA in time of peace should not be inconsistent with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and United States military policies, and should not be undertaken if specifically disapproved by the Department of Defense. The participation of the Department of Defense therein will be subject to the following general conditions:

Captured enemy equipment at the disposal of the Department of Defense and equipment which has been or may be declared surplus will be made available upon request by CIA without reimbursement, except for expenses incident to rehabilitation, packing, crating, transportation and any storage costs incurred through utilization of other than military facilities;
Subject to consideration of other requirements, military equipment and supplies in stock in the several Departments will be made available on a reimbursable basis upon request of the CIA. In this connection, military equipment and supplies with distinctive markings which would indicate the Department of Defense as their source will not be transferred unless such markings can be altered or obliterated to prevent such identification;
Military type supplies not available under a. and b. will, upon request by the CIA be procured by the Department of Defense on a reimbursable basis;
Personnel, supplies, and equipment will be transported to overseas storage points under military control and supplies and equipment will be stored and protected at such points without reimbursement where additional, extraordinary expenses to the Department of Defense are not involved. Details regarding the designation of storage points and the storage, protection, readying for use, and release of supplies and equipment must be arranged locally with the United States military commander of the area (including unified commands) who must first receive appropriate military instructions from the appropriate Executive Agent of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Where the Service incurs additional, extraordinary expenses in providing transportation or establishing and maintaining at overseas points dumps for covert operations, the CIA must make reimbursement therefor. However, military commanders may provide, to the extent that they are able to do so without adversely affecting normal military operations, necessary military personnel at overseas storage points without reimbursement for services, such personnel to be available for normal military duty only; and
Peacetime movement of supplies and equipment from military overseas storage points to areas in which or from which covert operations are to be launched will be the responsibility of the CIA. The Department of Defense would expect further that very special and effective precautions would be taken by the CIA to insure that such operations cannot be attributed to the Department of Defense.

Where the Department of Defense requests or embraces particular operations in covert support of specific military missions (e.g., the establishment of escape and evasion organizations), special arrangements for support and reimbursement will be made in each instance.

With respect to plans and preparations for covert operations to be conducted in military theaters in time of war, the Joint Chiefs of Staff are of the opinion, with which I concur, that, consistently with NSC 10/2, the following conditions and limitations must apply:

The operations for which military equipment and supplies are to be stocked must first be integrated in the war plans of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and any actual preparations must be specifically approved by them;
Military supplies and equipment for wartime covert operations will be made available from stock or procured on a reimbursable basis subject to consideration of other requirements. Special arrangements may be necessary in the procurement of highly specialized supplies for such operations; and
All details regarding the integration of military personnel for technical, security, and other purposes, in connection with covert operations, [Page 740] and all details regarding dumps of operational supplies, aircraft and aircraft equipment (including location of these supplies and equipment), must, after integration in each instance with war plans indicated in a. above, and with Joint Chiefs of Staff policy guidance, be locally coordinated with and agreed to by the representatives of the CIA and of the Executive Agent of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the theater concerned.

It should be pointed out that the foregoing views do not cover the actual conduct of covert operations in military theaters under JCS control in time of war since this is more properly an integral part of war plans.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that detailed arrangements for the matter discussed herein can be made through designated representatives of the Department of Defense until such time as a military organization to work with the CIA on covert operations is established.

If the above arrangements are satisfactory to you, I will issue the necessary directives to the Services to execute them. Please let me have your views at early convenience.

Louis Johnson 2
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency Historical Files, HS/CSG–2051, Job 83–00739R, Box 2, Folder 12. Top Secret.
  2. Not found.
  3. Printed from a copy that indicates Johnson signed the original.