338. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Thailand1

89594. For Ambassador from Bundy. Ref: A. Bangkok 6625; B. State 88130.2

On our press handling of stories alleging division between you and others, we have simply taken the position that there is no difference of view at either end on the question of U.S. involvement in combat in Thailand. Naturally, the press has not found this to be newsworthy. However, it is my long experience that if one protests too much on these [Page 750] matters it only builds up the story. I have therefore always taken a position (at some variance with immediately previous practice) of not commenting other than in the sense of unity on stories of division. I am sure that this attitude is shared at senior levels in other agencies, and that they are equally irate at whoever is leaking these stories. The only thing you and we can do is to sit tight and not let it bother us unduly.
Now let me clarify a bit what we are proposing to do re Thailand MAP and to reply to some of your specific points.
No one questions that in August 1965 we instructed you (a) to identify units of the Thai forces which do not make military sense and to extent politically feasible get them reduced or disbanded (still a priority goal with us, but one on which I gather little or no progress has been made); and (b) to get units which make a real military contribution up to at least 80% manning levels. On this basis, Stilwellʼs restudy of force levels was undertaken. What we are now saying is that, with the implications of the restudy in hand, and the first subsequent-year item content being formulated, we think a second look is indicated.
As we understand it from DOD, if the present MAP-supported units were all to be brought up to 80% manning and the planned new units activated, the RTA would be enlarged from the present 90,000 to nearly 120,000. Working within such a planning context, there is a grave risk that we will emerge at the end of the planning period with an RTA which cannot function either because of manning level or budgetary shortages. It is simply not realistic to plan on US funding of local currency budgetary costs to cure this dilemma. The only answer would seem to be a revised force structure.
It is for this reason that we think that budgetary and MAP implications of MACTHAI planning need another look before the FY 67 item content is finalized and the FY 68 and future year planning figures are established. As I said in Ref B, we are not prepared to accept the $37 million “O” costs foreseen in FY 72. We could not of course have known the “O” cost implications of the Stilwell restudy when Deptel 2593 was drafted since the study had at that time not yet been undertaken.
We are inclined to think that the new look at the force structure should be made on the assumption of MAP availabilities of about $45 million per year for what might be called, in an oversimplification, the “Project 22” element (although we of course recognize that this element has relevance to the CI problem which will increase as the Special Forces training and other projects go forward). As indicated in Ref B, this does not mean we are imposing MAP ceilings for FY 68 (we are holding to $60 [Page 751] million) or even FY 69, although it does not seem to me that at this point in time a planning level of $45 million for FY 69 would be too serious.
As for your 60–60–45–35–25 formula, this simply will not square with existing MACTHAI planning since it would barely cover “O” costs in FY 71 and would not cover them at all in FY 72. Frankly, it seems to me that this formula could only fit if planning guidelines something like those laid out above were enforced.
I wish you had let us know sooner that there was any active discussion on the Thai side of their FY 1968 military budget, and we could then have discussed whether a position should now be taken on our side. You may well turn out to be right in pressing them to go $50 million higher at that time, but I would have been happier if we had reflected together on this, in the light of the kind of thoughts we are now developing, before we took a position that might turn out to cut across the final kind of advice we all decide should be given to the Thai. We had of course noted your 5227 of October 234 indicating that you had mentioned the possible necessity of an increase to Thanom, but I repeat that it would be useful to review these matters before hitting precise figures. As it stands, it would help us to have your best reading of Thai thinking on their FY 1968 budget in all its aspects, including the military. We have virtually nothing on that now.
I of course delayed my meeting with McNaughton when Ref A received. However, both they and we are anxious to move ahead on this now.
As to your paragraph 12, I fully appreciate the strain you are under, particularly at this sad anniversary. But we must think this one through if we are to have a solid basis for better decisions.5
Warm regards.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF 19 THAI–US. Secret; Exdis; No Distribution Outside Department. Drafted by Bundy and Pickering and approved by Bundy.
  2. See Document 337 and footnote 3, thereto.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 302.
  4. Not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, DEF 19 US–THAI)
  5. In telegram 6817, November 25, Martin sought to explain why he believed he could not yield on a MAP level of $60 for Thailand in FY 68 and 69. He concluded, “we have thought through this problem of MAP thoroughly here. We have reviewed it again and are completely convinced the recommendations we made are reasonable, sound and in U.S. interests. It is only for this reason that I cannot again agree to a compromise which is not supportable by the facts that are clearly so evident.” (Ibid.)