107. Memorandum From Director of Central Intelligence Helms to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Intelligence Production Activities of the Vietnam Special Studies Group (VSSG)
Ever since its inception in September 1969, I have followed the activities of the VSSG and its associated Working Group with close personal interest. This continuing interest in the activities of the Working Group and its panels is a direct reflection of the importance I attach to providing the President with the best intelligence possible on the status of Vietnamization and other topics pertinent to his continuing concern for matters bearing on Vietnam policy decisions.
The intelligence product submitted to the VSSG so far reflects an impressive amount of innovative analysis and hard work on the part of all concerned. The subjects analyzed—security in the countryside and the enemy’s manpower capabilities—include some of the fundamental factors that will greatly affect the eventual outcome of the struggle and will shape the climate within which decisions must be made. As you are well aware, these papers presented some highly usable and frank evaluations of the situation in Vietnam. They will be of great value over the next few months and, in concert with other papers to be produced for the VSSG, will provide the policymakers of this Government with very useful background material.
I therefore believe that the members of the VSSG can take a lot of satisfaction in the progress made to date. At the same time, I am sure that we are all properly concerned at the extent to which key analytical talent of all the agencies involved has been tied up on these projects. The priority attached to these special projects has certainly warranted these intensive but somewhat disruptive efforts. With the issuance of NSDM 522 and its attendant requirement for a regular production cycle of quarterly reports, I think we should take a fresh look at the process through which Working Group support is provided to the VSSG. I am, therefore, suggesting for your consideration a few ideas that could meet the President’s requirements and at the same time [Page 235] lessen the disruption of normal intelligence support activities for which VSSG member agencies retain a continuing responsibility. My suggestions should also lighten the load of Dr. Lynn and his staff who must carry out other continuing and special responsibilities for you.
In order to effect a more equitable spread in the responsibility for overseeing the production of periodic VSSG reports, I suggest that primary responsibility for each of the main topics on which NSDM 52 calls for quarterly reports be assigned to separate designated project officers in the appropriate agencies and departments represented in the VSSG. For each report, once terms of reference had been approved by the VSSG Working Group and principals, the project officer would be charged with full responsibility for the production and coordination of the draft of the report assigned to him. Members of all VSSG components would participate in the preparation of every report and, when completed, each project officer’s draft would be submitted to the Working Group for review and referral to the VSSG principals for their final endorsement.
This manner of proceeding seems to have a number of basic advantages and should avoid a lot of the costly, though necessary, expenditure of time and resources that went into our first series of reports. As an illustration of a possible division of assignments, CIA could undertake primary responsibility for preparing the quarterly study of Enemy Capabilities, Strategy and Intentions called for in NSDM 52. I have not discussed these matters with the other principals of the VSSG, but, if they are agreeable, it would seem in order for the Department of Defense to undertake primary responsibility for the quarterly studies on the Main Force War. If this general approach strikes you as having merits, you might raise it at the next VSSG meeting and there decide the best allocation of primary responsibility for each of the three quarterly studies called for in NSDM 52.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–002, Vietnam Special Studies Group, VSSG Meeting 5–20–70. Secret; No Foreign Dissem.
  2. NSDM 52, “Quarterly Report on the State of the War and Vietnamization,” April 10, 1970. (Ibid., Box H–215, National Security Decision Memoranda, NSDM 52)