248. Memorandum From the Special Assistant for Vietnamese Affairs, Central Intelligence Agency (Carver) to Director of Central Intelligence Helms1


  • The Agencyʼs Position on the OSDʼs 22 September Draft Pacification Reorganization Proposal2

The 22 September OSD draft proposal raises and conflates two important but quite distinct questions:

Whether the U.S. pacification effort in Vietnam should be radically reorganized and placed under a single command authority—i.e., pacification czar.
Whether this pacification czar should be a civilian U.S. official directly subordinate to the Ambassador (or Deputy Ambassador) or a U.S. military officer subordinate to COMUSMACV.

Our position on (1) should be affirmative. If such a czar is created, we should be willing to turn over to his control, under a suitable administrative agreement, the Cadre Operations Division of the Saigon Station. Our position on (2) should be diplomatically but firmly negative, since we feel strongly that it is neither in the Agencyʼs parochial interests nor in the larger interests of the pacification program and the U.S. Governmentʼs objectives that program is intended to further, for pacification (“the other war”) to be under direct military control.

Leaving the military versus civilian question momentarily aside, we have serious problems with the particular pacification organization structure proposed in the 22 September OSD memorandum. The “pacification staff” it advocates incorporates not only the Stationʼs Cadre Operations Division, which we are prepared to surrender, but also key elements of the Intelligence Division which we feel should not be removed from our Chief of Stationʼs command jurisdiction. Specifically, the DOD proposal would incorporate our liaison with the Police Special Branch at regional, province and district levels into the command authority of the pacification czar. This would complicate our continuing responsibility for liaison with the South Vietnamese police apparatus at the national level through the Director General of the National Police and with the Central Intelligence Organization at national, regional and local levels. It would splinter the internal intelligence collection capabilities of the CIA Station in a way that would make it difficult if not impossible to discharge our continuing overall responsibilities in this field. The takeover of our Stationʼs Intelligence Division assets implicit in the DOD proposal, therefore, is something we cannot accept and should resist.
Actually, if the pacification czar were a civilian, we probably could work out a satisfactory arrangement with regard to provincial and district Special Branch liaison. If he is a military subordinate of COMUS–MACV, however, we should stonewall on this point. DOD will not be able to budge us here since the same arguments for bringing our intelligence activities at province and district levels under the pacification command also apply to military intelligence activities at those levels.
Any assignment of Station functions, programs or personnel to a non-CIA command structure will generate serious support and, in some instances, legal problems. It will fracture the unified integrity of the present Station support structure and break up an intricate, interlocked cycle through which we presently supply funds, people and management to all CIA Vietnam programs. The administrative mechanisms of such a detailing of assets would have to be very carefully structured to avoid impinging unacceptably on the Directorʼs responsibilities to Congress for funds expended by this Agency on his personal accountability. The funding and support of the activities of the Cadre Operations Division are currently being organized so that these activities can be turned over to someone else to operate at some future time without major administrative or legal problems. The support of Intelligence Division activities, however, is not so structured. It is an integral piece of the total support for the Saigon Station. Though it could be factored out as a separate entity, doing so would be very difficult.
On the major issue, we agree that the pacification effort needs to be better managed on the U.S. side (and, for that matter, on the Vietnamese side as well). We cannot agree, however, that the road to progress lies [Page 670] through subordinating pacification to the U.S. military. Bureaucratically there are several major objections to the philosophy behind the DOD proposal. For one thing, what it does is implement much of the Command Relationships Agreement even though Vietnam has not been (and under President Johnson is never likely to be) formally and legally declared an “active theater of war”. The DOD proposal guts the present pacification arrangement, including Deputy Ambassador Porterʼs role and functions. General Westmoreland becomes, in effect if not in title, the U.S.proconsul or High Commissioner, with the other senior members of the country team being relegated to largely ceremonial functions and their assets and functions placed under the command of one of their peers.
As we know from private soundings, the Department of State is going to argue strongly against the DOD proposal. A central element of Stateʼs argument will be that the optics are all wrong. The U.S. Government is strongly encouraging, indeed pressuring, the Vietnamese to civilianize their pacification effort. Making our support of pacification a military endeavor would go directly against the grain of this policy. Stateʼs point is valid and we endorse it, but we feel it is a consideration we should let them argue.
Our objections to placing pacification under U.S. military control are not emotional or even predominantly philosophical. We have in Switchback an historical indication of what is likely to happen to the RD program if the U.S. military takes it over as they did not CIDG.3 Undoubtedly the organization charts would be tidier. Without question RD cadre would be turned into good soldiers. But that is what they would become, soldiers. The spirit of revolutionary development and sense of movement towards an endogenously rooted political structure would be lost. Political aims would be subordinated to military objectives. Because of this, the pacification effort—however well managed—would almost certainly fail. The argument (Komerʼs argument, which we believe is in large measure responsible for the DOD proposal) that since the U.S. military organization in Vietnam is far larger than the civilian organization, it should be given control over all U.S. activities simply does not wash. This war can be lost by bad management but it cannot be won by good organization unless that organization serves as a vehicle for implementing non-charitable ingredients of spirit and attitude. It will not be won until a Saigon-directed civil structure takes hold of and roots in the countryside. Progress towards this essential goal will be impeded rather than facilitated by placing pacification under military direction.
As for the play of the Agencyʼs Washington hand in the immediate future, we believe your initial written reply to Secretary McNamara should address itself to the Agencyʼs difficulties with the details of the proposal submitted and should not address the larger considerations.4 We should let State be the first to table these. However, we recommend that you be prepared to support Stateʼs view in oral discussion. We also recommend that you support State in arguing that basic decisions on how the U.S. pacification effort is to be organized should not be made in undue haste. This is a very complicated problem to which an optimum solution is not going to be worked out in a few days. Furthermore, it is a decision which should not be made until the field components of the U.S. agencies involved or affected have had the chance to express their views on the proposals Washington is seriously weighing.
As indicated above, we agree that the U.S. pacification effort needs managerial improvement but we feel you should oppose carving up the Saigon Station and should oppose placing pacification under military command. However, your posture should not be purely negative. As a constructive contribution to the discussion, you should support the following alternative proposal which State will make in some form and you can endorse: The outlines of a sensible pacification structure already exist. Ambassador Porterʼs present position was established as a result of the Warrenton Conference in order to accomplish the very ends that the DOD proposal is designed to achieve. The problem is that Porter has operated as a committee chairman rather than as a director or commander. The easiest solution, the one most in keeping with overall U.S. policy objectives as well as the one most administratively feasible to institute, is to make some senior civilian (Porter himself, or possibly Ambassador Sullivan) what Porter was originally intended to be—i.e., the pacification czar. In order to play this role he should have a planning and coordinating staff equivalent in function (though not necessarily in size) to the staff which supports General Westmoreland as COMUSMACV. He will have to exercise operational control over those elements of the various components of the U.S. Mission which deal primarily with pacification problems. This could certainly include the Cadre Operations Division of the Saigon Station, provided suitable support and funding mechanisms were arranged, particularly if through such a device the cost of the RD [Page 672] program could be taken off the Agencyʼs account. Other Station elements would, of course, be responsive to the requirements of the pacification director.
Your initial discussion with Secretaries McNamara, Rusk, et al., should focus on the major issues (e.g., pacification czar under the Ambassador or under COMUSMACV; civilian or military) rather than the details, which can be most effectively ironed out once agreement is reached on the basic points. We have appended, however, a sketch organization chart which shows bureaucratically how our preferred alternative would look.5 In essence, it is an attempt to give the pacification czar the control and staff means for discharging his responsibilities without doing unnecessary violence to the organizational integrity of the components of the various U.S. Government agencies which, collectively, compose the present country team. It provides the pacification czar with an adequate staff, which Porter does not now have. This staff would be joint, its members drawn from the various components of the Mission Council, including our Station as well as the military. Our proposal would also include a military deputy which would insure ample representation of military views and facilitate integrated political-military planning.
George A. Carver, Jr.6
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DCI Executive Registry, Job 80–B01580R, McNamara Project. Secret/Sensitive.
  2. Document 245.
  3. Switchback was a program for transferring responsibility for advising and assisting ethnic tribal groups in South Vietnam from CIA to the U.S. Army.
  4. A draft reply to Mr. McNamara is appended as an attachment to this memorandum. [Footnote in the source text. The draft is attached but not printed. In the reply sent on September 30, Helms indicated that the proposal “would cause us some problems in its present form,” particularly by providing “for assumption of operational control by the pacification czar of some of our Stationʼs intelligence collection and intelligence liaison responsibilities and assets.” Helms also called for careful examination of the political ramifications of assigning primary operational responsibility to a “subordinate military officer within the COMUSMACV command structure.” (Central Intelligence Agency, DCI Executive Registry, Job 80–B01580R, McNamara Project)]
  5. Attached but not printed.
  6. Printed from a copy that indicates Carver signed the original.