111. Memorandum From the Secretary of Defense (McNamara) to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Nitze)1

The tentative Military Assistance Program recommended by CINCPAC2 for South Vietnam for the years Fiscal 1965 through Fiscal 1968 totals approximately $575 million. In my opinion, this is at least $270 million higher than an acceptable program.3

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CINCPAC’s recommendations assume an unrealistically high level for the South Vietnamese forces and assign to them equipment which is both complicated to operate and costly to procure and maintain. I believe the plan needs to be completely reworked.4

Before the first of September, please submit to me your recommendations for the Military Assistance Program for South Vietnam for the years Fiscal 1965 through Fiscal 1969. For each of the years I should like to see the following information: the personnel strength of each of the South Vietnamese forces; the weapons inventory of the South Vietnamese forces in a form similar to that attached;5 the defense budget to be funded by South Vietnam; the Supplementary Assistance to be furnished by the U.S.; the Military Assistance Program, both in dollars and in terms of the weapons listed in the attached schedule; the U.S. forces assigned to South Vietnam broken down by function.

Robert S. McNamara6
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Vietnam Task Force Files: FRC 75-163, Chronological File-Vietnam-1963. Secret.
  2. On an attached interoffice control sheet, Colonel J.R. Kent noted that Admiral Felt had presented a proposed military assistance plan for Vietnam at the May 6 conference in Honolulu. Kent added, however, that the specific CINCPAC recommendations to which McNamara referred in this memorandum apparently were those in the Comprehensive Plan of January 25, Document 18.
  3. On May 17, William Bundy sent a memorandum to McNamara in which he proposed a military assistance program for Vietnam for fiscal years 1965-1969 not to exceed $450 million. Bundy noted that if the figures given in McNamara’s May 8 memorandum to Nitze were taken as governing, the military assistance program for 1965-1969 could not exceed $390 million. Bundy argued that a $390 million program would be too limiting, and would require an abrupt drop in Vietnamese force levels in fiscal year 1966 to the pre-build-up force levels of 1959. (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Vietnam Task Force Files: FRC 75-163, Chronological File-Vietnam-1963)
  4. An instruction to rework the plan in accordance with McNamara’s objections was sent to Admiral Felt by the JCS on May 9. (Telegram JCS 9820 to CINCPAC, May 9; Ibid., OSD Files: FRC 69 A 3131, VN 091.3 MAP 1963) This telegram also instructed CINCPAC to prepare, “as a matter of urgency”, a plan for the withdrawal of 1,000 U.S. troops from Vietnam before the end of the year. CINCPAC was instructed to bear in mind that Secretary McNamara felt that “the phase-out program presented during 6 May conference appeared too slow.” CINCPAC was to develop a revised plan to achieve a more rapid phase-out of U.S. forces, with emphasis on the development of training plans to accelerate the replacement of U.S. by South Vietnamese units.
  5. Not printed.
  6. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.