89. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to President Kennedy1

JCSM 832-61


  • Military Actions for Latin America (U)
On 12 October 1961, in your conversation with General Decker at Fort Bragg, you asked what additional contribution the US Armed Forces could make in conjunction with indigenous military forces toward the attainment of US national objectives in Latin America. As a result of consultations, the Joint Chiefs of Staff submitted an interim report on 9 November,2 in which you were advised that a comprehensive program was being prepared for later submission to you. This program is submitted herewith in three parts.3 It is intended for use in conjunction with and in support of existing US political, economic and social measures and in implementation of the concept of the Alliance for Progress. It is designed to maximize the contribution of the US military in the achievement of over-all objectives for Latin America.
Part I summarizes recommendations for increasing the effectiveness of the military program and the contribution of the US Armed Forces for the achievement of US national objectives in Latin America. Implementation of some of these recommendations will require additional funding and personnel.
Part II is a detailed presentation of the recommendations with supporting data. Included therein are some military actions that will require coordination by other US agencies and acceptance by allied governments. Part III is factual data, including US and Latin American military capabilities in the Southern Hemisphere.
It is recommended that you approve the suggested programs as a matter of policy guidance governing the future role to be played by the US Armed Forces in Latin America.
It is further recommended that detailed Diplomatic Mission plans reflecting this guidance be developed and implemented as a matter of priority.

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

L. L. Lemnitzer4
Joint Chiefs of Staff

Appendix A


Part I

1. Recommendations

The following recommendations are submitted for consideration as means for increasing the effectiveness of the US military program in Latin America and the contribution of the US Armed Forces for the achievement of US national objectives in Latin America and in support of the Alliance for Progress.

Of paramount importance is the necessity to convince the Latin American Governments of the significance of this program and encourage [Page 199] and prevail upon them to accept it in good faith and assist in its implementation and success. These governments should be made to understand the importance of the educational phase in particular, and persuaded to accept it and fill all available quotas in US schools. Latin Americans must also discard the philosophy that a corps of US trained country personnel are dangerous to the indigenous governments because of the radical changes they could impose as a result of their exposure to the US and the US way of life.

a. For Increased Internal Security

Seek congressional action to make less restrictive those provisions of the Military Assistance Act which limit military support in the internal security area.
Orient the Latin American armed forces to accept the apolitical role of the military. All US Government representatives in Latin America should continue to stress to their counterparts that the military is an instrument responsive to democratic government and should act in support of the constitutional principles of that government.
Expand the provision of US military technical assistance to develop more efficient Latin American military establishments.
Broaden and expand the capability of indigenous forces to conduct counter-insurgency, anti-subversion and psychological warfare operations.
As the emphasis on our military assistance to Latin America shifts from hemispheric defense only to internal security, anti-submarine warfare, counter-insurgency, and civic action programs insure that means are available and methods are developed to guarantee the rapid provision of the necessary training, equipment and material.
Improve the US/LA combined intelligence capability.

b. For Hemisphere Defense

United States act to increase the effectiveness of the Inter-American Defense Board.
The United States lend full support to the early establishment and subsequent contribution to the operation of the Inter-American Defense College.
United States encourage frequent US/LA Defense Conferences.

c. For Economic Development

Encourage and assist the indigenous armed forces to devote more effort and influence toward internal development.
Increase the number of US military advisors and mobile training teams in Latin America to provide a broader scope and an accelerated advisory effort in civic action programs.
Establish Latin American Civilian Conservation Corps Programs.
Strengthen the Latin American Military Air Transport Capability.
Increase the activities of the Inter-American Geodetic Survey (IAGS) to accelerate the production of critically needed maps of Latin America.
Encourage and support a Latin American military contribution to indigenous communications improvement programs.
Encourage Latin American services to convert more strictly combat units to dual purpose units which will contribute to the countries’ military capabilities, and also to their economic development.
Expansion of Latin American shipyard capabilities.

d. For Information and Education

Encourage and assist Latin American armed forces to establish their own Military Information and Education Programs.
Establish and support a Western Hemisphere Military Speakers Program.
Expand the US/LA officer exchange program.
Increase the language training and proficiency both for US personnel going to Latin America and for Latin Americans undergoing training in the United States.
Increase US interest in the more junior-ranking Latin American military personnel who will later emerge as their countries’ leaders. Increase the number of US orientation tours for those young officers.

e. Miscellaneous

Encourage the revision of archaic Latin American per-diem laws which provide excessive allowances and serve to restrict the numbers of Latin American military personnel able to come to the United States for training.
Appoint retired US career military personnel to positions in the US diplomatic missions in Latin America.
Establish and support alumni associations for Latin American officers who have attended US service schools and academies.
Encourage Latin American military sponsorship of youth programs such as Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, YMCA, church groups, and sports activities.
Provide training and indoctrination for the Latin American services in disaster relief.

2. The Problem and Need for Action

The US military capability in furthering US national objectives in Latin America is greater than the actual utilization made of the US Armed Forces in this respect. Efforts of the US military within Latin [Page 201] America have done much to strengthen the US position. However, because of existing circumstances, opportunities are being missed in which the US Armed Forces could do much more to foster Latin American resistance to Communist penetration of the hemisphere and, at the same time, enhance the US image.
The importance of encouraging the Latin American services to organize and train for internal security and antisubmarine warfare as their most effective contributions to Western Hemisphere defense is recognized and appreciated.
Of almost equal importance is the requirement to demonstrate to the Latin American governments the potential of their own military services to support their own economic and social development. An analysis of the situation now existing in each of the Latin American countries, and an attempt to establish what could be done by the military to assist these countries in furthering their own economic development programs reveals certain over-all similarities. In most of the countries, a large majority of the population leads only a marginal existence. The reasons are primarily institutional and technical. Current programs of the Agency for International Development, aimed at overcoming these conditions, are broad in scope and catalytic in nature. However, in every country there are problem areas susceptible to attack by indigenous military forces in a civic action role.
Illiteracy encompassing the majority of Latin American populations is perhaps the greatest obstacle to development. In many countries, entire areas are without educational facilities. Construction of village schoolhouses and other buildings of public assembly is within the capabilities of indigenous troops. These same forces could provide teachers, as well as the physical facilities for an expanded program of public education.
As stated in the 9 November memorandum of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, an increased US military program in support of US objectives in Latin America should be established on a broad base of information and education for the Latin American military man. Annex D to Part II of the present report amplifies this.
Departure from the previously purely military roles by US and Latin American armed forces in implementing these recommendations will result in some resentment and criticism from certain power groups in Latin America. However, integrated policy direction at the US national level plus continued close coordination of approved programs by the US Ambassadors in their country programs will minimize this risk.
The US Armed Forces have done much in their combined operations, and in other contacts with the Latin American services, to reduce the traditional distrust and animosity between the Southern Hemisphere [Page 202] countries. Continued effort in this respect will contribute heavily to the establishment of the cooperation required between the Latin nations (as well as between them and the US) in the battle against communism.
Funding and additional personnel for the program presented cannot be determined until specific recommendations are approved, at which time the services will submit estimated requirements. Resources required will be justified by the value of the results achieved. Parts of this program will require no more than a change of attitude and direction.
The US military in Latin America are doing a good job in strengthening internal security in the Southern Hemisphere. With positive direction from the top and with coordination and cooperation between the military and the other executive agencies of the Government, from the top down, the US Armed Forces can do much more to help accomplish US objectives and help the Latin Americans derive greater benefit from the Alliance for Progress and country resources.
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Departments and Agencies Series, Department of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Vol. I, Military Actions for Latin America. Secret.
  2. JCSM-768-61; not printed. (Ibid.)
  3. Parts II and III are not printed.
  4. Printed from a copy that indicates Lemnitzer signed the original.