64. Memorandum From the Director of the Vietnam Task Force (Cottrell) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson)1


  • Memorandum of February 11 from U. Alexis Johnson to Mr. Cottrell2


  • Civic Action Teams and the Provincial Survey in Viet-Nam

The following is in reply to your memo of February 11:


Military Civic Action. In October of last year a DOD civic action team completed a study of ARVNʼs civic action program. We have informally seen the teamʼs report,3 but understand that DOD has not yet accepted their recommendations. In any event, neither State nor AID has received a civic action plan from DOD or any request for action.

Embassy Saigon, however, reports that MAAG is trying to get the plan worked out by the DOD team accepted by the GVN and that the Embassy is working with MAAG in the effort to get GVN acceptance. There is currently no indication of funding requirements for this plan.

It was suggested to Saigon January 20 in a State message4 that a DOD-AID civic action team should visit Saigon this month, but Saigon indicated that it saw no value in another team until the GVN has accepted the plan worked out by the first team.5

On February 13 the Department sent out a circular airgram on the need to develop military civic action.6 Saigon was one of the addresses. It is expected that the post will respond with specific projects, for AID and MAP funding. If not, an AID-DOD team may be despatched to Saigon to develop a program.


Civilian Civic Action. Much of the USOM program, particularly the rural impact programs envisaged in the January 4 joint GVN-US [Page 138]communiqué,7 are civic action type programs. Progress on some of these projects is being held up pending AID approval of the FY 62 USOM program. One of the delayed projects affects the Montagnards. The Task Force has pressed AID for fast action on the FY 62 program, to the point of loaning one of our officers to them for a week. We are actively studying means for putting USOM Saigon on a war footing.

The GVN has a Ministry of Civic Action which includes responsibility for Youth, Information, and the old department of civic action. The functions of the Ministry are varied and its cadres are involved in propaganda and political organization and control of the population as well as true rural improvement work which we might regard as civic action. Nevertheless, it has an on-going civic action program which probably could be strengthened, and we will ask the field to consider ways of accomplishing this.


Provincial Surveys. You also inquired about the failure of the provincial survey teams to include civilian and political elements. The chief reason for this failure is that President Diem agreed to the provincial surveys with the proviso that they not be concerned with political factors, but would confine themselves to the military and intelligence side.

The teams have now completed the pilot phase of the provincial survey, a survey of three provinces (Bien Hoa, Tay Ninh, and Binh Long). The Embassy member of the pilot team has submitted despatches covering the political situation in two of the provinces (Tay Ninh and Binh Long).8 While the political and civilian elements in the provincial situation will not be jointly covered, they will continue to be reported to us insofar as they can be observed by the Embassy member of the team.

The Task Force also regards the failure to cover political factors as a serious shortcoming in the provincial survey, but sees no better solution, given Diemʼs attitude. The Task Force believes the provincial surveys are useful even within their truncated terms of reference.

  1. Source: Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 66 D 193, 8. GVN 1962, Information & Civic Action. Secret. Drafted by Heavner, initialed by Cottrell, and sent to Johnson through S/S and Harriman, who also initialed it.
  2. Document 56.
  3. Not found.
  4. See Document 30.
  5. See Document 38.
  6. Reference is to Aidto 189, February 12, which noted the Presidentʼs interest in the implementation of civic action programs by indigenous military force and provided guidelines for such programs. (Washington National Records Center, RG 306, USIA/TAP Files: FRC 68 A 1415, C.I.-Civic Action)
  7. See Document 4.
  8. Not further identified.