25. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1


  • Secretary of State
  • Secretary of Defense
  • Administrator, Agency for International Development


  • Study of U.S. Policy Toward Latin American Military Forces

The report of September 2, 1964 on NSAM 297 has been reviewed.2 The Department of Defense is requested to undertake to draft a new U.S. strategy for dealing with Latin American military forces.

Specific proposals should be studied for such changes in U.S. policies and programs of military assistance and other military-associated programs, projected over the next five years, as may be necessary to carry out the new strategy. The basic strategy objective should be the restructuring of Latin American military establishments to relate country force levels, defense budgets and military capabilities as closely as possible to the domestic resources available for military purposes and [Page 71] to realistic current and potential security threats, with dominant emphasis on the internal security threat. The study should assess the political feasibility of achieving any such restructure in the context of the Latin American political scene and the possible contribution which might be made to achieving the strategy objectives by regional institutions, such as the OAS or IADB.

The study should include, but not be limited to, an examination of the following points:

A critical analysis of how Latin American military forces should be restructured in order to provide them with an increased capability to respond more effectively to internal security threats.
Whether, and the extent to which, the concept of hemispheric defense remains valid as a mission for Latin American forces and as a basis for U.S. military assistance in Latin America.
The current role of Latin American military forces in civic action with a view to determining whether military or civilian organizations provide the better channel for socially and economically desirable projects.
The utility of the Latin American military conscription system as a means of providing security forces and of absorbing excess labor.
How to identify, develop, equip, train and insure the availability of select units for OAS/UN peacekeeping assignments.
The proper balance between the roles of military and police units in maintaining internal security.
The feasibility of a shift in U.S. military assistance to increasing reliance upon credit sales instead of grants.
The feasibility of developing cooperative logistic arrangements and common-use training facilities on either a bi-lateral or regional basis among Latin American countries, including possible U.S. participation.
The contribution of U.S. military training programs to the education of Latin American military officers on the role of the military in a democratic society, on the effect of military expenditures on economic and social programs of the country, and on the need for continuing adjustment and reorganizations of military forces to meet current security threats.

The study should analyze disproportionate military expenditures, identified in the report of September 2, 1964 on NSAM 297, and the reasons for them, and propose specific measures for their reduction which are likely both to be politically feasible and to increase the effective utilization of available resources.

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It is requested that the study and your recommendations, which should be drawn up in consultation with the Department of State and the NSC staff, be submitted by 1 February 1965.3

McGeorge Bundy
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, National Security Action Memorandums, NSAM No. 297. Secret.
  2. The report, prepared by the Department of State, is ibid. Bundy evidently chaired an interagency meeting to review the report on October 19. In an October 19 memorandum Sayre briefed Bundy on the meeting, explaining that the agencies could not agree on the proper use of military assistance for internal security. (Ibid.) No substantive record of the meeting has been found.
  3. DOD submitted a draft report on January 12, 1965. (Washington National Records Center, OSD/ISA Files: FRC 330 70 A 3717, Latin America 1965, 320.2) Sayre later explained that there was disagreement on the utility of the draft report. According to Sayre, the report was “directed at how our military policy should be financed and not at what the military policy should be,” leading JCS and State to take “sharp issue” with its conclusions. Rostow considered the report a “pedestrian” effort. While trying to remain neutral, Sayre insisted that the NSC “wanted a study which outlined a policy, not a financing arrangement.” (Memorandum from Sayre to Bundy, March 8, 1965; Johnson Library, National Security File, Name File, Sayre Memos) For a summary of the final report, see Document 29.