2. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson1
The attached report2 has the ring of truth to me, all the way through. The most important thing it says is that our personnel policies in Vietnam are wrong. The Army is running it in a regulation way, and that means that we have too much staff, too much administration, too much clerical work, too much reporting, too much rotation, and not enough action. (I was an Army staff officer for three years, so this is not just imagination.)
Taylor and Westmoreland are probably the ablest regulation officers we have, but that is not what we need, and in any case much of the [Page 5] trouble is here in Washington, which sets the policy on rotation and reporting and other forms of paper work.
For reasons that are not clear to me, Bob McNamara has always been hesitant about going behind the regulations on this side of the matter. But today I found him more responsive than ever before.
It may be that a real push from you would produce quite new results on the military side now.
It is true that Bob is very much opposed to larger U.S. forces. But when I asked him why, it turned out that what he is against is more of the overhead and administration and general heaviness that the attached report describes. I think he would be responsive to an instruction to develop a new plan for volunteer fighting forces that would proceed with a minimum of overhead and a maximum of energy in direct contact with the Vietnamese at all levels. At the very least it is worth asking him. We plan to have a meeting with you on Wednesday3 on this subject.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. VIII. No classification marking. Attached to the source text is a typewritten, undated, and unsigned note apparently addressed to the President which reads: “This was Mr. Bundy’s covering memo on that Newsweek article (or was it U.S. News and World Report) that you read the end of last week.”↩
- An article entitled “Can U.S. Win in Vietnam? An Inside Report,” which appeared in the January 4 issue of U.S. News & World Report. The article was in the form of an interview of reporter Sol W. Sanders, who had just returned to Washington after covering the war in Vietnam.↩
- January 6.↩