26. Editorial Note

The escalating war in Vietnam continued to require supplemental appropriations from the Congress. President Johnson formalized his request for additional funding for the war and his Great Society programs in his Budget Message on January 24, 1967. In the message, he asked for a supplemental amount of $12.275 billion for the remainder of fiscal year 1967 (of which $4.5 billion needed new authorization) and $21.9 billion for fiscal year 1968, an increase of $5.8 billion over the previous year. As a means of underwriting these costs, he also requested that a 6 percent surcharge on incomes be levied beginning on July 1, 1967. “The tax should remain in effect for two years or for such period as may be warranted by our unusual expenditures in Vietnam,” the President stated in the speech. “I will not hesitate to recommend [Page 60] an earlier expiration date, however, if the fiscal requirements of our commitments in Vietnam permit such action.” For the full text of the address, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book I, pages 39–61.

Hearings in joint meetings of the Senate’s Armed Services Committee and the Department of Defense Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Senator Richard Russell (D–GA), on the request for supplemental appropriations for fiscal year 1967 began the day prior to the President’s speech. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara testified on the first day of Russell’s hearings. McNamara submitted a 33-page statement that discussed various military aspects of the war, including an estimate of enemy strength in the range of 275,000–280,000. For an excerpt of the statement, see Congressional Record, Volume 113, pages 1847–1848. In response to questioning on his prepared remarks from members of the committees, McNamara replied, “I don’t believe that the bombing up to the present has significantly reduced, nor would any bombing that I could contemplate in the future would significantly reduce, the actual flow of men and matériel to the South.” In his view, the bombing served solely to punish the North Vietnamese in an effort to make them cease their infiltration. In contrast, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Earle Wheeler, who also testified at the hearings, stated that the bombings did in fact reduce infiltration by limiting the overall number of people that the North Vietnamese could send southward. See American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pages 835–841; and Congressional Quarterly Almanac, Volume 23, 1967, pages 205–206.