25. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson1
- The Status of Non-Military Actions in Vietnam
Several months ago you asked that programs for Vietnam be reviewed to insure that all practical measures were being taken in the non-military sector. This led to numerous new proposals which you approved.2 The Mission Council in Saigon then assigned a scale of priorities to these projects. This is a report on those actions as they relate to broader, overall Mission programming in major areas of activity.
Population and Resources Control
The Viet Cong’s continuing ability to move freely among the population led to increased emphasis on police training and counter-subversion operations. A substantial amount of additional instruction has been [Page 58] added to police training and increased emphasis has been placed on control operations. This has shown marked success particularly in the Hop Tac area.
Informant Intelligence Operations
The Special Branch of the National Police has the key responsibility for general information on Viet Cong political activities. [5-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]
Bounties for Apprehending Viet Cong Leaders
In April the Mission approved a bounty program aimed at apprehending selected Viet Cong leaders. The program calls for a two-month preparatory period, followed by a four-month operational phase, after which the program will be evaluated to determine future actions.
Arrest and Detention Law
A draft law was prepared last April with U.S. assistance and approved by the Ministry of Interior. In May Quat asked for minor changes to be made, but there is no indication that he signed the law before his government fell.
The brittle administrative structure of the National Government in Saigon has made it necessary to buttress the authority and responsibility of the province chiefs, while still improving their communications and ties with the Saigon authorities.
A system of integrated provincial budgets was initiated in April. The position of the Province Chief has been strengthened by according him greater authority for technical services as well as for military and civilian administration. On May 30, provincial and municipal councils were elected to function as links between the people and provincial authorities. At the Mission’s urging, Quat and various government ministers began frequent visits to the provinces to demonstrate Saigon’s interest in the problems of local governments.
Operations Against the Viet Cong
CIA has considerably expanded its recruitment and training of local teams engaged in Viet Cong harassment, counter-terror and intelligence operations. By the end of this year there is scheduled to be almost 3,000 teams engaged in one or another of these activities.
Improvement of Popular Forces
MACV undertook to improve the equipment, morale and indoctrination of the provincial Popular Forces and to increase their medical [Page 59] support. The GVN has approved a substantial program for the construction and improvement of Popular Forces training centers.
INTERNAL POLITICAL PROBLEMS
Political instability has continued in the absence of a cohesive political infrastructure which could contain and channel the energies of such pressure elements as the students, Montagnards, Buddhists and Catholics. Several of the actions you approved were designed to minimize possibilities of conflict among these groups.
Youth and Students
Vietnamese youth and students remain volatile and restless and are quite capable of making political trouble. To minimize this prospect and to direct their energies along more constructive lines, the Mission has supported a summer youth program designed to place several thousand urban youth into rural areas to participate in small-scale civic action activities. The program has been well received by various political and religious groups. CIA has initiated a supplementary program among student organizations.
In late April a Montagnard agricultural conference was held at Dalat attended by 100 Montagnard officials and a Saigon delegation. The Minister of Agriculture announced that the Montagnards would be given title to the lands they now farm and be permitted to cut timber from government forests. In May an Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs was established directly subordinate to the Prime Minister to deal with Montagnard and other ethnic minority grievances. CIA gave special attention to the Montagnards in expanding their local Viet Cong harassment and counter-terror teams.
Buddhists and Catholics
You approved an action calling for a revitalization of the Inter-Religious Council, where religious grievances could be aired and adjudicated without resort to political action. Mission contacts with principal religious leaders were expanded and efforts were made to exploit these contacts for the revitalization of the religious council. While the more moderate religious leaders supported this initiative, extreme militants among both Buddhists and Catholics were not forthcoming and the tension between them persists. An initiative with the Holy See in Rome has further encouraged the moderating influence of the Apostolic Delegate in Saigon. The new government is considering the formation of a “National Consultative Council” to include representatives of the religious sects and other important political factions.[Page 60]
The labor sector is a prime target for Viet Cong subversion. The Vietnamese Workers Confederation (CTV) embraces most unions and generally has a non-Communist orientation. However, its strength and support in aggressive anti-Communist actions have heretofore never been fully committed to any Vietnamese government. AID dispatched two teams of labor consultants to Vietnam and urged the AFL-CIO to directly assist the CTV. A permanent AFL-CIO representative is now in Vietnam. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] move the CTV into more aggressive anti-Communist action. We believe the CTV is now on the verge of fully committing its organizational strength to the GVN.
INTERNAL ECONOMIC PROBLEMS
Implementation of Land Reform
The Mission, with Washington encouragement, has repeatedly urged the GVN to develop a comprehensive program for land reform. An initial, positive result was the establishment of a Secretariat of Land Reform (sub-ministerial but independent) in the Cabinet reshuffle that led to Quat’s downfall. Its continuation under the new government is apparently undecided. We have pressed for vigorous action.
Severe floods together with increased Viet Cong activity have created an emergency refugee and disaster relief problem involving more than 200,000 Vietnamese. A program was initiated by the GVN with strong AID and voluntary agency assistance, and the problem is now under control. The International Rescue Committee, a registered American voluntary agency, will assume a sizeable part of the refugee relief burden in a private, non-governmental program.
Emergency Quick-Fix Brigades
To cope with other emergencies as they arise in the provinces, the Mission has begun to organize action teams composed of the province chief, the MACV sector advisor and the AID provincial representative, backstopped by their respective Saigon organizations. Flexible procedures will minimize bureaucratic impediments and enable the provincial teams to act immediately with local resources and, if necessary, obtain on a priority basis from Saigon personnel, commodities and funds.
Coastal Water and Other Transportation
Viet Cong interdiction of communications and transportation lines has created severe problems for the movement of foodstuffs, supplies and other commodities. Agreement was reached early in June between [Page 61] the GVN and AID for the urgent development of a national logistics system, with emphasis on expanding port and harbor facilities.
A survey team is preparing feasibility reports on three pilot electrification projects. The AID electric power project envisions providing 80 rural locations with small generating units in 1965.
A recently completed AID study provides for a five-year $150 million low-cost housing and slum clearance project for the Saigon/Cholon area. The need for similar low-cost housing in other urban areas is being determined. A program to improve water supply facilities for 65 cities and towns is being accelerated.
GVN PRESS AND EXTERNAL RELATIONS
A high priority has been given to encouraging the GVN to assume greater responsibility for press briefings in Vietnam and to carry out a more aggressive external information program in order to underscore the predominant role of the GVN in the war against the Viet Cong. The installation for a GVN press center has been ready for use since mid-May, but despite continuous urgings, the GVN has yet to make use of this facility. Nor has the GVN responded to the critical need for an effective external information program.