239. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense Clifford1

JCSM–315–68

SUBJECT

  • Adequacy of the Strategic Reserve and Related Matters
1.
Reference is made to your memorandum, dated 13 May 1968, in which you requested answers to five specific questions concerning the adequacy and readiness of our strategic reserve and the status of plans for the expansion and modernization of the Armed Forces of the Government of South Vietnam.2
2.
The answers to the questions posed in the reference are contained in the Appendix hereto and, for the most part, represent a compilation of information previously provided, updated to insure currency. More detailed answers to questions 3 and 4 will be provided in the response to a memorandum by the Deputy Secretary of Defense, dated 16 April 1968, subject: “RVNAF Improvement and Modernization (U).”3 The reply by the Joint Chiefs of Staff is expected to be forwarded during the week of 20 May 1968.
3.
This memorandum will serve to confirm the position of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on these matters, as presented during their meeting with you on 20 May.4 A more detailed overview of the entire worldwide US military posture is contained in JCSM–221–68, dated 10 April 1968.5
4.
Without attachment, this memorandum is Unclassified.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Earle G. Wheeler6
Chairman
Joint Chiefs of Staff
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Appendix

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS RELATED TO THE STRATEGIC RESERVE AND CURRENT CAPABILITIES

Question 1. What can we do to get help to Westmoreland if he becomes involved in another major enemy offensive?

Answer

1.
(TS) Army. There are currently no CONUS-based Army forces that are deployable. Under emergency conditions, four brigades above Program 6, totaling about 17,000 personnel, could be provided during May–August by drawing down other units of the Strategic Army Force (STRAF), but these brigades could not be sustained on a permanent basis. This would then leave the STRAF no combat-ready Army forces available to reinforce Europe—or to meet possible contingencies elsewhere in the world.
2.
(TS) Navy. At the present time, Seventh Fleet Navy forces are heavily committed to operations in Southeast Asia. In the event of another major enemy offensive, all Seventh Fleet units could be provided to Southeast Asia for a surge effort of about 30 days duration. After notification and transit time, on-line CVAs could be increased from three to five, cruisers from one to three, and destroyers providing naval gunfire support from seven to thirteen. To continue the surge effort beyond this would require redeployment of naval units from other worldwide assets. As an example, to maintain more than 3 CVAs on Yankee Station would necessitate reduction of CVA deployments to the Mediterranean.
3.
(TS) Air Force. Following the deployments approved under Programs 5 and 6, the only Air Force tactical fighter and reconnaissance units which will be available for immediate deployment are two F–100 tactical fighter squadrons and two reconnaissance squadrons ordered to active duty from the Air National Guard. In addition, 32 AC–119 gunships can be provided between July and December, eight AC–130 gunships provided in September, and 50 A–1 aircraft between July and November.
4.
(TS) Marine Corps. One and one-ninth Marine division/wing team (MEF) is available but could be deployed only by revision of current tour/rotation policies and involuntary extension of terms of service and could not be sustained without mobilization. One F–4 squadron at Iwakuni, Japan, can be deployed and sustained. There are no Marine Corps forces included in the approved Reserve callup.
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Question 2. What is the status of our plans to strengthen the strategic reserve? How can they be further expedited? When do we need to call up additional reserves? Will anything more be required in the way of Congressional action?

1.
(TS) Status of Plans to Strengthen Strategic Reserve
a.
On 2 April 1968, a three-increment Reserve callup totaling 56,877 was recommended for the period April through May for support of Southeast Asia deployments and for the initial rebuilding of the strategic reserve. This force included five infantry brigades and two tactical fighter squadrons (see DJSM–380–68, dated 2 April 1968).
b.
On 6 April 1968, the Joint Chiefs of Staff reaffirmed the above position in response to an OSD alternative proposal and recommended that the decision on subsequent Reserve callup be reviewed in 30 days and that inactivation of the 6th Infantry Division be delayed pending this review. Actual callup authorized on 11 April 1968 was 24,550, which included two infantry brigades and two tactical fighter squadrons (see JCSM–215–68, dated 6 April 1968).7 On 7 May 1968 this number was reduced by 1262 personnel when the callup of selected Air Force units was cancelled.
c.

On 10 April 1968, the Joint Chiefs of Staff concluded that measures should be taken to improve the military posture in order to:

(1)
Sustain and permit more effective use of forces already in Southeast Asia.
(2)
Provide and sustain the additional forces approved for deployment to Southeast Asia.
(3)
Restore and maintain NATO-deployed and augmentation forces.
(4)
Restore and maintain other deployed forces.
(5)
Respond effectively to other contingencies.
(6)
Establish and maintain a high state of readiness in the Reserve component forces in order to augment Active Forces rapidly, when required.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff also stated that the level of forces necessary to achieve the required posture was set forth in JSOP 70–77, emphasized the urgency in attaining these levels, and pointed out that the need to move ahead quickly on reequipping and modernizing our forces was of the utmost importance (see JCSM–221–68, dated 10 April 1968)

d.
The Army has initiated planning based on a tentative OSD decision for a 4–1/3 division STRAF which, in fact, would reduce rather than increase the capability for strengthening the STRAF. Similarly, Air Force capability is being reduced by a directed inactivation of B–52 and [Page 685]F–101 squadrons and Navy ASW capability is being reduced by directed inactivation of CVS/CVSGs and VP squadrons.
2.
(TS) How Can the Plans for Strengthening the Strategic Reserve be Expedited?
a.
By prompt approval of the recommendations contained in JCSM–215–68, dated 6 April 1968. In that memorandum, the Joint Chiefs of Staff stated that without the full callup (56,877) it is unlikely that units of the strategic reserve could be brought to levels of training necessary for contingency deployments because of personnel turbulence imposed by the need to sustain Southeast Asia deployments. The principal need is to restore a deployment capability; this requires trained, deployable manpower. The only source, on a timely basis, is from callup of Reserve units and individuals, as well as extensions of terms of service. Alternatively, for the Army, continue to raise the level of readiness of the 6th Infantry Division force.
b.
By deferring programmed inactivation of units within the current active structure and by bringing to a high state of readiness certain portions of the Ready Reserve.
3.
(TS) When Do We Need to Call Up Additional Reserves?
a.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended that a total of 56,877 be alerted for callup prior to 29 May 1968.
b.
Without a congressional extension of the President’s authority, which expires on 30 June 1968, the decision to call up the additional forces recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff must be made by 30 May 1968, if the desired 30-day notice to the Reserve units is to be available. This means action should be initiated now to seek such a callup. It may be desirable to bring certain Air Force units of the Ready Reserve to a high state of readiness (Combat Beef) rather than to call them immediately to active duty.
c.
In addition to the Reserve recall of 58,877 personnel to sustain Southeast Asia deployments, Navy personnel deficiencies require the extension of terms of service and the recall of individual Reservists.
4.
(TS) Will Anything More be Required in the Way of Congressional Action?

Required actions are:

(1)
Supplemental appropriations.
(2)
Extension of Presidential authority for callup of Reserve units beyond 30 June 1968.
(3)
Authority to call individual reservists for periods of active duty up to 24 months.
(4)
Authority to extend terms of service for a period not to exceed 12 months.

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  • Question 3. What is the status of US/GVN plans for expanding the Armed Forces in South Vietnam? What are the target operational dates for the new units? How realistic are the forecasts of operational readiness?
  • Question 4. What are the critical equipment and personnel shortages which must be overcome if the foregoing plans are to be executed on time?

    Answer

    The answers to questions 3 and 4 are being developed in detail in response to a memorandum by the Deputy Secretary of Defense, dated 16 April 1968, subject: “RVNAF Improvement and Modernization (U).” The program now being prepared by the Joint Staff and the Services, is expected to cost approximately $1.5 billion over the next 5 years. It provides for the modernization of the existing FY 1968 force structure and for further expansion and modernization of the RVNAF structure to a strength of about 801,000. Additionally, it provides for the turnover of US equipment to the RVNAF if negotiations require a mutual US/North Vietnamese Army withdrawal of forces. While it appears that the strength goal of about 801,000 can be reached by end FY 1969, the complete expansion and modernization of the South Vietnamese Air Force and Navy will not be achieved prior to FY 1973, due to the time necessary to reach minimum required training levels for the relatively sophisticated equipment to be provided. The time to reach minimum training levels is the controlling factor in the rate of transfer for some equipments. There will be some adverse impact on the readiness of CONUS and non-Southeast Asia deployed US forces as a result of equipment being diverted to the RVNAF.

  • Question 5. Are the Joint Chiefs of Staff satisfied that we are running no unacceptable risks in this period of reduced strategic capabilities? What happens if the enemy were to increase pressures in Laos, Thailand, Korea, the Middle East or elsewhere?

Answer

(TS) No. The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that we are running high risks in the current situation. In JCSM–221–68, dated 10 April 1968, the Joint Chiefs of Staff stated that the issue which most concerns them is the decreased readiness of US forces worldwide and the limited capability of the strategic reserve. Further, the risks associated with the current military posture and the possibility of communist-inspired diversionary contingencies erupting elsewhere increase as the commitment in Southeast Asia is prolonged. The current negotiations with North Vietnam provide no valid basis for a relaxation of efforts to improve our limited military capability. The following are of specific concern: [Page 687]

a.
There are no major Army combat forces ready to reinforce NATO on a timely basis without redeployment from Southeast Asia. Only 1–1/3 Marine division/wing teams are available to meet the M+60 commitment of 2 MEFs to NATO without redeployment from Southeast Asia and then they can be sustained only under conditions of mobilization. Naval reinforcement of NATO (10 CVAs and seven CVSs earmarked) would require substantial redeployment from Southeast Asia. Air Force augmentation to USCINCEUR of 37 tactical fighter squadrons can be provided by redeployment of forces from Southeast Asia and Korea and from the remaining Air National Guard
b.
Until the seizure of the USS Pueblo, the Air Force had no tactical air support forces in Korea; they now have five tactical fighter and one interceptor squadron there on a temporary basis. On 22 April 1968, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended that the Air Force posture in Korea be maintained, and they provided a plan to stabilize this posture through CY 1968 (see JCSM–215–68). Because personnel were deployed on temporary duty, decisions on replacements must be made immediately. The two US divisions deployed in Korea are both operating at reduced strength levels and, from a logistic standpoint, are inadequately supported. As an initial step in improving the level of combat readiness and consequently the defensive capabilities of US Eighth Army, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have recommended that 8,500 filler spaces be authorized in Korea. As of this time, approval has not been granted.
c.
Fighter/attack and B–52 sortie rates in the western Pacific and the additional deployment of aircraft to Korea have resulted in a SIOP degradation of about 250 alert weapons programmed against more than 200 targets.
d.
Twenty-eight ships of the Atlantic Fleet are now in caretaker/reduced manning status or were decommissioned earlier than planned because of personnel drawdowns to support Southeast Asia and other worldwide commitments. The inability to utilize these ships has worsened the already severely-taxed sustaining base. Additionally, the deficiencies in the material condition of certain ships and aircraft, including their logistic base, and the shortages in certain critical ratings contribute to the steady decline of the staying power of Navy forces.
e.
Simultaneous employment of Reserve forces to deal with civil disturbances in a number of different US cities or the prolonged use of Active Forces in this role would reduce further the limited capability to reinforce deployed forces and to respond to other contingencies.
f.
The current military posture of the US provides an exceedingly limited range of response options in the event the USSR or CPR and/or their allies choose to exert pressure in locations outside the immediate [Page 688]area of current operations in Southeast Asia. A case in point is Korea, currently the most volatile region outside Southeast Asia and one in which the United States would be directly involved from the outset. In the event of hostilities there, timely reinforcement would be extremely doubtful. The National Command Authority thus would be confronted with an early decision to employ nuclear weapons in order to avert disaster to US and ROK forces and the possible loss of South Korea to communist aggression.
g.
Increased procurement funds and production capacity must also be made available to resolve the many deficiencies in our worldwide logistic support forces, facilities, and materiel.
h.
Should increased pressures in any area result in a requirement to commit significant US forces, such forces could only be made available through immediate mobilization of Reserve component forces and/or by the redeployment of forces from Southeast Asia. In the former case, the most constraining factor is time, both to train and deploy Reserve component forces as well as production lead time required for essential items of equipment which have been withdrawn or diverted to higher priority active units. The redeployment of forces from Southeast Asia would require not only time but, perhaps more importantly, a reassessment of US priority interests with the possible loss of hard-won gains in Southeast Asia.

  1. Source: Department of Defense, Official Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 911/372 (13 May 68) IR 3945. Top Secret.
  2. Clifford transmitted the questions to Wheeler in this May 13 memorandum. The President had asked Clifford in a May 7 memorandum to ask the JCS to respond to these questions. (Both in Johnson Library, Clark Clifford Papers, Memos on Vietnam, February–August 1968)
  3. In this memorandum to Wheeler, April 16, Nitze argued that given the possibility that an agreement on mutual de-escalation might be achieved at Paris, the JCS needed to develop a plan to reorient the RVNAF toward self-sufficiency. (Department of Defense, Official Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, JMF 911/535 (16 Apr 68))
  4. See Document 238.
  5. Not found.
  6. Printed from a copy that indicates General Wheeler signed the original.
  7. Not printed. (Department of Defense, Official Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, JMF 911/372 (9 Mar 68))