49. Letter From the Deputy Under Secretary of State (Murphy) to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Sprague)1

Dear Mr. Sprague: I have received your letter of April 17 to Governor Herter with which you transmitted Admiral Radford’s memorandum of April 15 on military force structures for Latin American countries.2 As I understand it, the substance of Admiral Radford’s memorandum is that, in general, all military assistance to Latin America, except the MAP Force Objectives, should be based primarily on political considerations. If we accept this general principle, under paragraph 34 a of NSC 5613/1 of September 25, 1956, we would be required to discourage purchases by Latin American Governments of any military equipment unless we consider such purchases “essential for United States political interests”. The effect of the Joint Chiefs’ determination as stated in Admiral Radford’s memorandum, when taken in conjunction with the President’s policy, would pose exceedingly difficult problems of implementation and we therefore plan to consult our Ambassadors in Latin America as to the feasibility of applying the determination of the Joint Chiefs. The application of the general principle outlined in paragraphs 2 and 3 of Admiral Radford’s memorandum may also be expected to affect the position and influence of our military missions or commissions in Latin America, especially in the eight countries with which we do not have Military Assistance Agreements, and the denial of additional equipment, unless essential for our political interests, may also have a bearing on the willingness of countries participating in the Program to maintain and utilize MAP supported forces for the purposes intended. We would, therefore, appreciate the views of the Department of Defense on the following points: [Page 288]

The units in the MAP Force Objectives are to be used only for agreed hemispheric defense missions and may not, without the permission of the United States, be used for internal security purposes. Our two Departments have agreed that we would approve the use of MAP forces to suppress internal disorders if it appeared that the ultimate purpose of the disorder were the establishment of a communist oriented or dominated government. In addition to this possible use of MAP forces for internal security, does the Department of Defense consider that Latin American military forces, especially their armies, require any other military equipment (either as replacements, modernization or additions) for internal security forces? If so, to what extent do the security interests of the United States require that we support internal security forces in Latin America?
The Joint Chiefs have previously determined that hemisphere defense plans require the participation of Argentina and Mexico, and the Department of Defense has requested that this Department conclude military assistance agreements with these two countries when it is politically feasible to do so. Is it intended that the general principle recommended by the Joint Chiefs would apply to these two countries and that their participation in hemispheric defense is therefore no longer required?
The Joint Brazil–United States Military Commission recommended on January 13, 1954, a substantial increase in the force objectives for Brazil. The Joint Chiefs approved this recommendation in principle and on June 13, 1956, authorized the Chairman of the United States Delegation to the Joint Brazil–United States Military Commission to so inform the Brazilian President of the Commission. This approval in principle of what is commonly referred to as Recommendation 18 of the Joint Commission was confirmed to the Brazilian Government by the Embassy’s note of October 5, 1956.3 The Brazilian Government may be expected to rely heavily on Recommendation 18, as well as the Military Assistance Agreement and the Annex thereto, to justify its request for substantial increases in the MAP Force Objectives during the military discussions to be held . . . . How should the general principle outlined in Admiral Radford’s memorandum be applied to Brazil? Does the determination by the Joint Chiefs modify in any way their previous recommendation on acceptance of Recommendation 18? If so, to what extent?

I should like to emphasize again, and I believe the foregoing points indicate the general nature of our problem, that our representatives in the field and we here in Washington have a very difficult task in attempting to implement the President’s military policy on Latin America. The recommendation by the Joint Chiefs that all requests for military equipment in excess of that provided under the military assistance program be considered on a political basis shifts to the Department of State the responsibility for deciding whether [Page 289] equipment is needed but does not provide an acceptable guide that can be used by our representatives on a continuing basis to carry out the President’s policy of discouraging acquisition of non-essential military equipment. We entertain serious doubt that attempting to discourage all procurement of military equipment unless it is for MAP Force Objectives will be very successful or that, in fact, the Latin American countries have no definable military requirement for military forces except as represented by the MAP Force Objectives. We continue to believe that an estimate of the forces which each Latin American country reasonably requires to discharge the missions envisaged in paragraph 32 of NSC 5613/1 is essential if we are to carry out the President’s Latin American military policy on a realistic basis.

Sincerely yours,

Robert Murphy4
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 720.5–MSP/4–1757. Secret.
  2. See supra, and footnote 1 thereto.
  3. Transmitted to the Department of State in telegram 351 from Rio de Janiero, October 5, 1956. (Department of State, Central Files, 732.5–MSP/10–556)
  4. Printed from a copy which bears this typed signature.