37. Memorandum From the Officer in Charge, Inter-American Security and Military Assistance (Spencer) to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Mallory)1


  • Pentagon Proposals for Internal Security Assistance to LA Countries

We now have before us for consideration (see JCS paper attached)2 a large portfolio of internal security programs which the Pentagon proposes to conduct under its own auspices. This paper is now being reviewed by Mr. Hill (ARA). In addition, we have been confronted with a series of Pentagon actions (see enclosure) designed to implement these programs. According to our informal Pentagon contacts, the JCS paper was developed as a result of concern by the [Page 209] Secretary of Defense3 regarding the following: [3 lines of source text not declassified]; (c) prevailing LA unconcern regarding the danger posed by Castro and communist movements; (d) failure of existing U.S. policies and programs to counter the spread of Castroism and communism in the hemisphere.

To fill up the vacuum created by these deficiencies, the Pentagon would engage itself in the following activities: [4½ lines of source text not declassified]; (2) establish special courses in U.S. military schools for the indoctrination of LA military personnel in anti-communist doctrine and techniques; [3 lines of source text not declassified]; (4) establish in the Canal Zone a course in psychological warfare training for LA military personnel; (5) develop intelligence programs within the Inter-American Defense Board, including a program for the exchange of intelligence information, the FBI to supply information made available by the U.S. All of these programs appear to have the common aim of countering the export of Castroism from Cuba and the spread of communism generally throughout the hemisphere.

The JCS recommendations appear to be based on the assumption, which I believe is probably correct, that LA armed forces, rather than police forces, are in most LA countries the only groups really capable of maintaining security against widespread internal disorders fomented by Castro or communist movements, and hence, that our preponderant effort, in providing LA countries with intelligence and counter-intelligence assistance, should be directed toward the local armed forces rather than the local police. The JCS proposal seems to be based on the further assumption that an effort should be made not only to develop the physical capability of local armed forces to deal with communist activities, but also to promote, through political indoctrination programs, anti-communist and pro-U.S. attitudes within LA military groups. It should be noted, in the latter connection, that several of the programs identified in the JCS paper involve participation by the U.S. Army’s unconventional warfare group at Fort Bragg. From my brief exposure to this group, I have serious reservations regarding many of the techniques they have developed for the indoctrination of foreigners.

Our decision regarding the JCS proposals would seem to be one of deciding how far it would be desirable to permit the Pentagon to become engaged in this sensitive field, bearing in mind two basic risks: (a) errors in judgment, particularly errors in political judgment, by U.S. military officers engaged in the sensitive area of internal security can seriously harm U.S. across-the-board objectives and relations in any LA country, yet it is virtually impossible to control the activities of the U.S. military, even at the MAAG and training mission level, where the [Page 210] chief of diplomatic mission is in theory expected to exercise control; (b) as our military become involved in the touchy area of internal security, we will become the target of local criticism, some of it emanating from non-communist sources, that we are building up the local military as an instrument of U.S. intervention in internal politics. If the communist or Castro threat in any country is sufficiently grave, it may be desirable to assume these risks. As we assess the merit of the JCS programs I believe we should bear in mind that the risks are lessened by the fact that we now have non-dictatorial, constitutional regimes presiding in most countries and that as wise a Latin American as Lleras Camargo4 has stated his belief that our military programs throughout the hemisphere should concentrate on developing the capabilities of the Latin American military to maintain internal security. In his own mind, Lleras Camargo presumably maximizes the communist threat and minimizes the danger of building up local military forces as agents of repressive political movements. My specific views regarding the JCS proposal are as follows:

In my opinion, it would be unthinkable for us to write the Pentagon a blank check that would permit it to move ahead with all of the JCS programs on a wholesale basis, as it now seems intent on doing. In those JCS programs which provide for LA participation (except the internal security course now being conducted in the C.Z. with our approval), our decision to enroll an individual country should be based on a careful U.S. assessment of that country’s requirement for the type of training provided, taking into account political considerations that favor or militate against our including it in such a program.
We should carefully assess the internal situation in each LA country with a view to identifying: deficiencies in military equipment needed to maintain internal security; other internal security deficiencies, including those which the various JCS programs are designed to meet; political considerations standing in the way of meeting such deficiencies through U.S. military programs; the most appropriate and effective U.S. channels to utilize in providing those types of internal security assistance that are politically feasible. [1 sentence (1½ lines of source text) not declassified] This assessment should be made by a competent team of State, Defense and [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] experts sent to individual countries for consultation with U.S. representatives on the ground.
In those countries in which we permit our military to become involved [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] we should develop an administrative arrangement to bring their activities under the careful supervision of our Ambassador. As a minimum, their activities should be controlled by written instructions, agreed to by State, Defense and the Ambassador, indicating the specific types of subject matter they should and should not deal with, and specific activities they should and should not engage in, in their dealings with the local military.
The JCS paper appears to call for a long-range program for developing U.S. military specialists in the field of LA [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] and the development of political indoctrination courses for LA military personnel. The State Department should expose itself to such courses first hand, in order to insure that the political materials and courses developed for training U.S. and LA military officers are in every respect adequate and feasible. Perhaps the Foreign Service Institute could be called upon to review such courses, or a few appropriate State Department officers assigned to attend and review them.

Specific Recommendations:

That the substance of the foregoing view be expressed to the Pentagon in a letter which would make clear that the State Department must clear any action proposed by Defense in implementation of the JCS paper.
The attached letter from the Pentagon proposes that we seek to have the Congress remove the present restriction on the provision of internal security assistance to LA countries. We should defer taking a definitive position on this matter in our proposed reply to the Pentagon, but should consider the proposal during the development of next year’s military assistance program. I doubt that we could get U/MSC or Mr. Dillon to take a definitive position on this subject at this early stage in the development of next year’s program.

Note: I am circulating copies of this memo to Mr. Hill and all ARA office directors, so that they will be fully prepared to attend any meeting you may desire to arrange for a discussion of this broad problem.



Costa Rica. Request from our Ambassador in CR5 for [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] advisor to be assigned to U.S. Army Mission. We have rejected this proposal, over the Pentagon’s objections, but have advised our Ambassador that we are prepared to provide internal security training to selected CR officers in C.Z. or U.S. schools. The Pentagon continues to object strongly to our rejection.

Colombia. We have learned informally from the Army Department that a mobile [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] training team of two officers has been requested by CINCARIB for assignment to Colombia. Although the Pentagon first indicated that this team was necessary to implement the anti-guerrilla program being [Page 212] developed for Colombia, we subsequently learned that the team is to be assigned to our mission for two months [1 line of source text not declassified]. At our request, the Pentagon is withholding action until further word from us.

[numbered paragraph 3 (2½ lines of source text) not declassified]

Colombia. We accidentally learned from INR, in the Department, that the Pentagon has proposed that a military geographic specialist team be assigned to the Army Mission in Colombia [2½ lines of source text not declassified]. INR has advised our Embassy that such an assignment would be inadvisable and that such officers should be assigned to the office of our Army Attaché in Colombia.6
[sic] We note from an Army message to specified unified commands, including CINCARIB, that the Army is prepared to organize and despatch a number of MAP Military Action Mobile Training Teams in support of a military civic program which will provide advice and assistance to MAAGS, Missions and other elements of Country Teams in the conduct of civic action projects involving participation of indigenous country forces.

Defense has proposed that the FY 1961 military training program for LA include the following:

[subparagraph a (3½ lines of source text) not declassified]

b. $79,000 for a Militant Liberty Program in Ecuador. This would provide for the indoctrination, by our military, of Ecuadoran military conscripts in “democratic processes”;

[subparagraph c (3½ lines of source text) not declassified]

In a letter prepared for Mr. Dillon’s signature,7U/MSC is advising Defense that we defer our approval of a. and b., above, pending further consideration, but that we approve c. The latter program is one we agreed to about a year ago.

  1. Source: Department of State, ARA/OAP Files: Lot 63 D 127, Military Assistance Program. Secret.
  2. Not found with the source text.
  3. Thomas H. Gates, Jr.
  4. Alberto Lleras Camargo, President of Colombia.
  5. Dempster McIntosh.
  6. Lieutenant Colonel Howard C. Parker.
  7. Not found in Department of State files.