96. Report by the Joint Chiefs of Staff1

ANALYSIS OF COMUSMACV FORCE REQUIREMENTS
AND ALTERNATIVES

Section I—Purpose

A.
The Problem. To provide military advice on the military implications of several courses of action to defeat the enemy offensive and to regain the initiative in Vietnam.
B.
Study Objectives. The study examines five alternative military courses of action. Each is examined as to its ability to attain the following military objectives:
1.
First, to counter the enemy offensive and to destroy or neutralize the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) invasion force in the north.
2.
Second, to restore security in the cities and towns.
3.
Third, to restore security in the heavily populated area of the countryside.
4.
Fourth, to regain the initiative through offensive operations.
C.
Examination of the Options. The following questions are posed which bring out the significance of each of the options examined:
5.
What military objectives are advanced by the option (in six months; 12 months)?
6.
What specific dangers is the option designed to avoid (in six months; 12 months)?
7.
What specific goals does the option achieve (in six months; 12 months)?
8.
Does it achieve the objectives? If not, where does it fall short? What modifications of strategy and/or objectives are indicated?
9.
What personnel and procurement actions are required to support the option?
10.
What specific units will be deployed and what time schedule?
11.
How are these forces generated, and what combat forces remain in the CONUS?
12.
What are the estimated dollar costs?
D.
Conclusion. After this examination (of the pros and cons), the options are compared in order to provide a conclusion as to which of the options is the most advantageous from the military viewpoint.

Section II

Summary

1.
The enemy, since November, has increased his forces in South Vietnam by at least 41 maneuver battalions, some armored elements, a large number of rockets, and additional artillery. There are indications he is preparing for the use of limited air support, including logistical air drops and bombing missions.
2.
In the MACV proposal (options 1 and 1A), the number of maneuver battalions provided roughly offsets the increase in enemy forces. In the lesser options, the enemy buildup is not matched. Furthermore, there are indications now that additional enemy forces are on the move to RVN.
3.
The basic strategy which must be followed by MACV in any circumstance is to defeat the current enemy offensive both in Northern I Corps Tactical Zone where it is the most formidable, in the Highlands where it is highly dangerous, and throughout South Vietnam in defense of the government and the cities and towns. In many places, allied forces have lost the initiative to the enemy. They are meeting the threat in the I Corps Tactical Zone, are in a marginal position in II CTZ, and elsewhere are committing the bulk of the South Vietnamese forces to the defense of cities and towns. Allied forces are not conducting offensive operations of any great magnitude or frequency and therefore they are not wresting control of the countryside from the enemy.
4.
Under the smaller options, that is the current force plus 6 battalions already deployed (Option 2), or Option 3 which provides an additional 6 battalions within the 50,000 strength add on, the capability to meet the enemy offensive is definitely increased; however, this added capability may well be required in the II Corps Tactical Zone alone. It may permit MACV to break loose a small airborne or air cavalry reserve to conduct reaction or limited offensive operations. The intermediate Option 4 of 100,000 additional troops should permit the constitution of about a one-division reserve which could reinforce in any threatened area such as Khe Sanh or the Highlands or could undertake slightly expanded offensive operations. As long as the enemy employs the forces now available to him in synchronized attacks, it is not realistic to [Page 294] believe that this size force can guarantee security throughout South Vietnam’s rural areas. However, the accomplishment of this mission of providing security in the populated countryside also depends very heavily on the speed with which Vietnamese forces recover and the effectiveness with which they are able to operate.
5.
If the enemy offensive can be broken with sustained heavy casualties, then, and only then, will the cities be secure and the countryside reentered. Even with the largest force contemplated (Option 1) it will not be possible to perform adequately all of the tasks unless the current enemy offensive is decisively defeated. This, therefore, is the first and most important task upon which all else depends. If the offensive can be broken, then all of the other tasks become possible with the forces in Option 1.
6.
It is not possible to predict whether the forces now available in Vietnam will be able to break the offensive without additional help, considering the magnitude of the enemy buildup and his clear willingness to expend forces with small regard for casualties. Military prudence requires that we react and respond to his escalation and initiative. The larger and faster our response the better. It is not possible to draw clear and compelling distinctions between the effects to be expected from the incremental differences in the various options.
7.
If the forces now in Vietnam or the forces under any of the options prove to be inadequate to break the enemy offensive, or if, conversely, the enemy sustained offensive breaks the Vietnamese armed forces (even short of destroying the GVN), then our objectives in South Vietnam and the tasks associated with them will be unobtainable. Specifically, we would be unable to regain the initiative, that is, we would not be able to conduct offensive operations at the scope and pace required either to prevent further enemy buildup or to reenter the countryside. This would force US and allied forces into a defensive posture around the major population centers.
8.
The major risks involved in such circumstances are:
a.
Enemy forces would retain the initiative and could move a number of divisions now tied down along the borders and around the Khe Sanh against the populated areas where their attacks by fire would be demoralizing.
b.
By holding the countryside, enemy (particularly VC) strength would increase.
c.
The enemy could consolidate both geographic areas and segments of the population and probably could establish a credible Revolutionary Government which, as a minimum, would be a strong position for a negotiated settlement, but more importantly might bring about the collapse of the GVN and the removal of any reason for US troops to remain in South Vietnam.
9.
Therefore, immediate action to break the enemy’s current offensive is not only the first but the decisive requirement.
10.
In each of the options discussed in the following sections, sizeable support forces are included which will provide support not only for the additional combat troops but also for those of the recent (Feb ’68) emergency deployments and the additional light ROK division soon to be deployed.

(Note: The analysis of each of the options assumed the approval, by separate action, of deferral of the civilianization program as prescribed in Program 5. This provided an authorized base-point strength level of 537,500. (525,000 Program 5 troop level PLUS an additional 12,500 spaces provided by deferral of the civilianization program. Each of the force levels examined are additive to the amended Program 5 force level of 537,500.)

[Page 296]

SUMMARY OF PROPOSED OPTIONS

Action Program Option Strength Maneuver Battalions Tactical Fighter Sqdn
Old Total Add-On New Total Add-On New Total Add On New Total
1. None Program 5 525,000 525,000 106 32
2. Approve deferral of civilization programamend Program 5 authorized levels. Revised Program 5 525,000 12,500 537,500 - -
3. Emergency Deployment authorized on 12 Feb 68. Approve deployment of residual non-deployed Program 5 TFS. Option 2 537,500 10,700 548,200 6 112 3 35
4. Deploy an additional 50,000 personnel above Option 2. Option 3 548,200 50,000 598,200 6 118 3 38
5. Deploy an additional 100,000 personnel above Option 2. Option 4 548,200 100,000 648,200 12 124 8 43
6. Deploy an additional194,200 personnel above revised Program 5 (2 above). Option 1 537,500 194,200 731,700 27 133 15 47
[Page 297]

[Omitted here is another table, entitled “Spreadsheet Summary of Options—Effect of MACV Objectives,” in which the options were assessed in greater detail.]

Section III—Conclusions and Recommendations

A.
It is concluded that:
1.
Additional deployments to Southeast Asia should commence as soon as possible in order to defeat the present enemy offensive, improve the security of allied forces in South Vietnam, and regain the initiative.
2.
The larger forces of Option I and IA will greatly reduce risks to Free World forces in SVN and will accomplish US objectives more rapidly than the forces of the other options.
3.
Restrictions on military operations in Southeast Asia have prevented the most effective application of allied military power.
4.
The current capability to respond appropriately to additional force requirements is extremely limited.
5.
Deficiencies in personnel, equipment, and facilities cannot be overcome in time under present policies and procedures, and requires extraordinary measures to accelerate procurement and production.
B.
It is recommended that:
1.
Immediate actions be taken to provide forces of Option 1; specifically:
a.
Extension beyond 30 June 1968 of the authority to order to active duty units of the Ready Reserve for a period not to exceed 24 months;
b.
Authority to order to active duty individual members of the Ready Reserve for a period not to exceed 24 months;
c.
Authority to extend for a period not to exceed 12 months: enlistments, appointments, periods of active duty, periods of active duty for training, periods of obligated service, or other military status, in any component of the Armed Forces of the United States;
d.
Obtain selective industrial mobilization as required to accomplish production of material necessary to equip and sustain forces for the prosecution of the war;
e.
Immediately accelerate procurement, to include delegation of authority to the Services to negotiate non-competitive cost reimbursable contracts.
2.
Restraints on military operations in Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam be removed.

[Omitted here are Sections IV–IX, in which the options are separately explored, and Appendix A, “Detailed Threat Assessment.”]

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Nitze Papers, Vietnam War-Courses of Action-Post Paris Peace Talks, 1967–1968. Top Secret; Sensitive. The attached foreword reads: “At the direction of the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and under the supervision of the Director, Joint Staff, the Short Range Branch, Plans and Policy Directorate, Joint Staff, was directed to analyze the military implications of several military courses of action proposed to defeat the enemy offensive and regain the initiative in Vietnam. Representatives of each of the Services, other organizations of the OJCS, and other Joint Staff Directorates were made available and provided inputs to the study. This study has not been addressed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or by any of the Military Services individually.”