181. Editorial Note

The staffing and role of the Programs Evaluation Office (PEO), a civilian military advisory group within the Embassy in Laos, became an issue after the May elections. Ambassador Smith presented the Department of State with three possible options on May 27. The first entailed recruitment of PEO personnel within the limits of the 1954 Geneva Accords, which essentially meant hiring additional civilians to bring the PEO up to its fully authorized strength. The second course of action, supported by the Chief of the PEO, retired General Rothwell H. Brown, [Page 453] envisioned assignment of active military personnel on a temporary duty basis. Ambassador Smith believed that this solution was only temporary and contravened the Geneva Accords. The third alternative suggested by Smith was replacement of the civilian PEO by a regular U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG). Smith noted that this third alternative depended upon acceptance of the view that the May 4 election constituted the completion of the Geneva Accords in Laos and that the Royal Government of Laos was no longer bound by them. In addition, the contemplated establishment of a regular MAAG would require the support and cooperation of the French who had their own training mission in Laos. (Telegram 2016 from Vientiane, May 27; Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/5–2758)

The Commander in Chief, Pacific, Admiral Felix B. Stump, recommended to the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Arleigh A. Burke, that the United States, in light of the unsatisfactory results of the election in Laos, take the calculated risk of establishing a regular MAAG rather than the more dangerous one of allowing the Lao National Army to continue to deteriorate in the face of Communist challenge. (CINCPAC telegram 03130Z, June 3; ibid., EA Files: Lot 68 D 77, Laos 1958)

The Department of State on June 4 responded that while the establishment of a regular MAAG remained the eventual objective in Laos, it was not politically possible at that time. The idea of using active military personnel on a temporary basis was also open to serious objection on political grounds. Therefore the first course of action recommended by Ambassador Smith, hiring additional civilians up to the authorized level of the PEO, was the only possible choice for the time being. (Telegram 1457 to Vientiane, June 4; ibid., 751J.00/5–2758)

The documents described are included in the microfiche supplement.