108. Memorandum From the Director of the Program Analysis Staff, National Security Council (Lynn) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Director Helms’ Memorandum on VSSG Activities2

CIA Director Helms has written you a lengthy memorandum on the activities of the VSSG, in particular the Quarterly Report (QR) on the War (NSDM 52). You should be familiar with his views in case he raises them at Wednesday’s VSSG meeting.

Helms is generous in his praise for the VSSG’s “innovative analysis and hard work” thus far. However, his main point seems to be that the NSDM 52 should signal an end to his “intensive but somewhat disruptive efforts” to support the VSSG as well as “lighten the load on Dr. Lynn and his staff.”

He believes the responsibility for preparing the QR can be divided among State, DOD, and CIA with each taking primary responsibility for that part closest to its traditional interest. Each agency’s working group would include members from other agencies and receive guidance from the VSSG working group in the preparation of its report.

At close inspection Helms’ proposal, if accepted, would subvert the process that has produced the only innovative and objective analysis we have had on Vietnam for several years.

Our approach has been to draw on the best talent in the government to prepare the countryside and manpower papers. This has resulted in high-quality contribution from low-level talent in all agencies. Most of the creative analysis was done or directly stimulated by my staff. We obtained good analysis because:

  • —we disrupted the cozy accommodation between George Carver and his friends around town,
  • —we by-passed tired philosophers like Carver and Lou Sarris to tap those with analytical talent and an intimate knowledge of Vietnam,
  • —we were able to provide firm direction from the NSC for the analysis and obtain a non-bureaucratic response.

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Helms’ recommendation would wreck these arrangements. If implemented it would mean:

  • —On enemy strategy, we will get a CIA rendition of the latest COSVN directive and their assessments of recent changes in Hanoi’s pecking order rather than an analysis of the enemy’s activities by-type, his manpower and force structure, and his logistic efforts in terms of what they imply for alternative enemy strategies. Issues such as the use of Phnom Penh as a supply conduit will not get aired.
  • —On the main force war, we will get DOD’s officially blessed view backed by whatever off-the-shelf analysis supports it.
  • —I am not sure what we will get from the State Department, but State’s failure to do anything on the political analysis of the country-side—for which they were assigned primary responsibility at the last VSSG meeting—is no basis for confidence that Helms’ approach will result in a State contribution.

Helms’ proposal can be handled by reminding him of the logic of the VSSG process:

  • —to obtain a high-quality product, we need to draw the best talent from all agencies to work on a subject,
  • —after the basic intellectual capital is built up by the VSSG, it can be drawn on by the reporting process, for example the QR. We are at this point with the countryside and manpower analyses. The community, with the exception of INR, has accepted the techniques used—although CIA and DOD strongly opposed them at first—and I plan to ask DOD to assume primary responsibility for the countryside portion of the QR.

The VSSG’s main force, enemy strategy, and political analyses are not yet developed to the point that we can turn them over to the community. If we assign primary responsibility for these studies to the agencies, the NSC will lose direction of the best talent in the government, which will continue to be stifled as it has been thus far.

I met with the VSSG Working Group on Monday and went over these points. They seemed to accept the idea that:

  • —the first innovative phase of the analysis is carried out under close supervision of the VSSG Working Group,
  • —after we have obtained an agreed framework for analysis, the most capable agency will be responsible for preparing that portion of the QR under the direction of the VSSG Working Group with continued interagency participation.

If this subject comes up at Wednesday’s meeting, I suggest you make these same points.

Another approach you might use to respond to Helms’ views would be to say that you believe the VSSG process has worked successfully thus far and that you are not inclined to change it. You might note that you prefer to leave the exact allocation of work to the VSSG Working Group, and that you understand the Working Group intends [Page 238] to “spin-off” responsibility for the direction of analysis as soon as the basic and innovative work is done.

Finally, this talk about my staff being over-worked is rubbish. Everytime the VSSG analysis has bogged down it has been because of a lack of support from the agencies, particularly DOD. My staff has always been further ahead in their portion of the analysis, and done a greater share of the total work than CIA.

  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.
  2. Document 107.