131. Letter From the President’s Special Assistant (Komer) to the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Vance)1

Dear Cy:

Any mention of force increases beyond US Program Four2 level simply underlines the urgency of getting more for our money out of ARVN. This is not my business, but I want to suggest that nothing could be more useful than giving Creighton Abrams a healthy charge on this before he goes to Saigon.3

Under our prodding, MACV has paid more attention to revamping ARVN in the last six months than in the previous eighteen. As reported after my February trip, progress is being made. But it is still far short of what could be achieved if we really set our minds to it. Porter and the knowledgeable civilians in Saigon (e.g. Dan Ellsberg)4 insist that, while 50 ARVN battalions have been transferred to pacification on paper, there has not in most cases been much real change. Nor will a two-week retraining course by a JGS/MACV mobile training team do more than start the process of retraining ARVN battalions. I am also surprised to find that according to MACV’s own figures only about 40% of the RF and PF (at a quick calculation) are engaged in what MACV calls “direct support of RD,” i.e. pacification.

The recent VC attack on Saigon police station and the raid on Quang Tri city are good examples of ARVN inadequacy. I am personally convinced that nothing would give us a quicker and cheaper increase in effectiveness than an all-out effort to revamp, re-inspire, and revivify ARVN, RF, and PF. These assets are already largely bought and paid for. The US advisory structure is already in place. The chief added input needed is more top management attention. Westy confessed to me just after Guam that he had been forced to neglect the ARVN advisory role because he had to shift to managing growing US forces.

Hence a respectful suggestion—why not do up for Abrams to take out with him say a ten-point program for revamping ARVN which he [Page 312]could sell to Westy and then the JGS? I would be happy to contribute discreetly to any such exercise. The basic proposition is that with about one million Vietnamese military and civilians already being supported by us, there would be far less need for major added US forces if only we could get a marginal increase in the effectiveness of the GVN’s military, pacification, and civil side assets.

Sincerely,

Bob
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 72 A 2468, Vietnam 380 Pacification 1967. Secret; Eyes Only. An attached note indicates that Komer sent the letter through McNaughton with the following warning: “Don’t let this get around, or I’ll be in trouble.” A notation on the letter reads: “Discuss with Mr. McNamara.”
  2. Program Four was the planned deployment to bring the strength of U.S. forces in Vietnam up to 87 battalions and 469,000 troops by mid-1968.
  3. General Abrams was the incoming Deputy Commander of MACV, a position whose duties included the military aspects of the pacification program.
  4. Daniel Ellsberg was detailed to the Mission’s Office of Civil Operations.