The Secretary of Defense (Johnson) to the Secretary of State

top secret

Dear Mr. Secretary: Reference is made to Department of State memoranda concerning the provision of military equipment to the Governments of Haiti and Nicaragua, dated 28 April 1949 and about 4 May 1949, respectively.2 The Department of the Army is not able, at the present time, to provide this assistance.

In a memorandum dated 28 June 1948,3 the Department of the Army informed the Department of State that it was no longer in a position to fulfill requests of Latin American countries for United States military equipment. Since that time a number of such requests have been received and the Department of the Army has explored every possible means of continuing military assistance to the other American Republics. Although some statutory authority exists for the transfer of U.S. military equipment to certain foreign nations, the statutes are either so limited in application or circumscribed with restrictions as to render them useless in fulfilling normal requests for military assistance under existing conditions. Transfer of equipment excess to the needs of the Army to Latin America under such statutes as are now available, would deplete existing stocks of material to be used in satisfaction of higher priority requirements of the pending Military Assistance Program.4 It is considered that the Department of the Army has provided military assistance to the other American Republics to the limit of its available means under present conditions.

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In another memorandum dated 19 July 1948,5 the Department of the Army informed the Department of State that it would attempt to assist the Latin American countries by permitting them to participate in Army procurement programs from commercial sources. It has been found however that obstacles, similar to those described above, prevent the establishment of such a program. The quantities of equipment desired by Latin American countries are usually so small as to make it impractical for a Latin American government to place contracts for the manufacture of this equipment direct with commercial concerns in the United States. While it is possible that representatives of these Governments can find civilian type equipment in existing commercial stocks as a substitute for some of the items requested, the Department of the Army is unable to advise on this matter other than to supply the names of the recognized manufacturers.

The Department of the Air Force is confronted with the same problems as the Department of the Army in resolving this difficulty. Due to certain provisions of The American Republics Act (22 U.S. Code 521–527) applying to naval vessels, the Department of the Navy may continue to provide limited assistance to these countries.

Favorable action by the Congress on the proposed Foreign Military Assistance legislation will provide a more satisfactory legal basis for a new Latin American assistance program, although it is anticipated that financial and priority considerations will severely limit such aid. Pending enactment of the law and an expression from the Department of State as to the extent and mode of participation to be accorded the Latin American countries thereunder, it is believed that no useful purpose can be served by further referral of such requests to the Department of the Army or Department of the Air Force.

The above problems have been discussed informally in the Foreign Assistance Correlation Committee and it is suggested that any further matters relating to the provision of military assistance and requiring inter-agency coordination be channeled through the Foreign Assistance Correlation Committee.6

Sincerely yours,

Louis Johnson
  1. Neither printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. The Military Assistance Program was provided for in the Mutual Defense Assistance Act of 1949, approved October 6, 1949 (63 Stat. 714).
  4. Not printed.
  5. Tables listing sales and transfer of military equipment to foreign countries including those in the Western Hemisphere which were transmitted to Representative John Davis Lodge under date of August 8, 1949 and which covered the period since V–J Day are printed in the Department of State Bulletin, September 26, 1949, pp. 480–481.