57. Memorandum From the President’s Acting Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Komer) to President Johnson 1

Vietnam Czar. Without barging too far into a matter with which I’m largely unfamiliar, let me point out the possible contradiction between the Taylor plan you just approved and the Vietnam czar concept.

As Gen. Taylor wrote you, he feels that the VN director should be faired [merged?] into the new State structure by putting him under the Senior Interdepartmental group headed by the Under Secretary;2 in [Page 131]words, he’d function as an assistant secretary on the same level as Bill Bundy. To make an exception just at the time we’re laying down a new rule would be bothersome. Many at State would agree with Gen. Taylor.

On the other hand, the more we downgrade the civil czar, the more difficult it is for him to crack the whip as is intended. Moreover, the harder it will be to get the right kind of talent.

Gen. Taylor hopes that this issue could be decided before we publicize the broader NSAM, lest the contradiction later be exposed. I doubt that this is sufficient reason to press you for an early decision, which in the last analysis should probably depend on the calibre of man you pick.3

R.W. Komer
  1. Source: Johnson Library, White House Central Files, Confidential File, CO 312. Secret. A copy was sent to Moyers. According to a note attached to the memorandum the President told his secretary, Yolanda Boozer, at 9:45 p.m. on March 2: “Tell Bill Moyers to see me about this.”
  2. In a March 1 memorandum to the President, Taylor wrote the following regarding the appointment of a “Director of Viet-Nam Programs”: “I would think it most desirable to relate the action on this matter to my proposal since Viet-Nam is the most important ’interdepartmental activity’ we are conducting overseas. In my judgment, the designation of a Director can be made in consistence with the terms of the new interdepartmental organization but the two matters are so interrelated that they should be acted on at the same time.” (National Defense University, Taylor Papers, Report to President Johnson, 1/17/66, Box 63, Folder E)
  3. The issue of whether to place the “Vietnam czar” in the State Department or the White House was discussed further by Chester Cooper in a March 5 memorandum to the President. Cooper opposed locating the position in the State Department and argued that, if it were assigned to State, it be placed directly under Rusk and not incorporated into Taylor’s reorganization plan. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. IV, the attachment to Document 90. The issue was resolved with the issuance of NSAM 343, March 28, which located the position in the White House; see ibid., Document 102.