327. Memorandum From the Director of the Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs (Spiers) to the Under Secretary of State (Irwin)1


  • Military Representation Abroad Action Memorandum

In January 1970, at the suggestion of PM, Under Secretary Richardson asked the Interdepartmental Political Military Group (IPMG) to prepare a study for the Under Secretaries Committee on the role of the military in the overseas diplomatic missions. The study was one of a [Page 725] number of on-going actions resulting from the Overseas Personnel Reductions (OPRED) ordered by the President. We have now reached a point in this study process where we should brief you and solicit your views on how best to proceed. What follows is a brief explanation of the purpose of the study, issues which have been settled, and the one outstanding issue which is unresolved.

Under Secretary Richardson, in his directive ordering the study, indicated that we should examine specifically the possibility of reorganizing the military representation in the overseas diplomatic mission as a single section, parallel to the political or economic sections, headed by a senior military officer reporting directly to the Ambassador. In the course of the IPMG study, in which DOD/ISA and JCS have played an active role, we have resolved a number of subsidiary issues including a realignment of military communications channels in the diplomatic mission, administrative support arrangements more closely integrated with the Embassy, and a means for implementing any reorganization proposals through the regional interdepartmental groups on a phased and orderly basis. The IPMG, however, has not resolved the major outstanding problem—the type of organizational arrangements to be instituted for the military.

The Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff remain firmly convinced that no change is warranted in the present Military Assistance Advisory Groups and Defense Attaché Sections of our Embassies. They believe that MAAG and Attaché offices perform separate, unrelated, and unblendable functions which must, in order to carry out our military responsibilities overseas, remain as separate organizations. They believe any attempt to provide for unified control under the Ambassador of these and other overseas military bodies—mapping missions, ship repair units, medical research detachments and similar bodies would be unworkable and severely impinge upon the ability of these officers and men to do their assigned tasks.

The Department of State staff believes that a single military section would provide the Ambassador with a new tool better to perform the military aspects of his overseas mission for the President. Part of this belief is based on the need for enhanced and more simplified means of staying in touch with and exerting control over the military elements of the mission in so far as this is required to carry out the Ambassador’s foreign policy mandate from the President. Another factor, is the encouragement of the military through a single section to provide broader gauge officers to carry out a more broadly conceived role for the military overseas. The Nixon Doctrine, we believe, will require more military-to-military advice and consultation with our close allies overseas. The increasing role of the military in many overseas governments requires a well-rounded U.S. military officer to improve and maintain across-the-board contacts for the Ambassador. Single military sections [Page 726] have worked well in Jordan, the United Kingdom, and in other areas where attachés have handled some or all of the military assistance duties. In many other countries, military assistance officers do contribute in important ways to representational contacts with foreign military officers and to our intelligence reporting.

Meshed with the problem of the apparent impasse at the IPMG level on the organization of the military is the leftover question of the future of MAAGs in Belgium, Denmark, France and the Netherlands. The decision by the Chairman of the Under Secretaries Committee that these MAAGs should be abolished in countries in Europe in which we no longer have military assistance programs has brought a strong reclama from the Secretary of Defense.2 The USC decision envisaged the future settlement of the organizational problem of their disestablishment and the assumption of any necessary remaining duties within the Embassy in the on-going IPMG study discussed above.

Before moving to the Under Secretaries Committee to discuss the IPMG report on this subject, we need to have a review of the problem with you. We have at least one pending Defense Department suggestion on how to proceed further to raise with you as well as a number of interrelated problems which we believe could be best handled in a discussion session. (The Department of Defense has suggested a traveling joint State–Defense study mission visit a number of posts where there may be problems, possibly including the European Embassies mentioned above. We are reluctant to proceed along these lines until we have your own views.)


That you agree to meet with Ambassador Johnson, Mr. Hartman, and myself at an early convenient time for a briefing on and discussion of these issues.3

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 1 US. Confidential. Sent through Johnson who initialed the memorandum. Drafted by Thomas Pickering (PM).
  2. Haig briefed Kissinger on this “interdepartmental brawl” in a July 31 memorandum and then expressed his own strong opposition to abolishing the four MAAGs in an August 28 memorandum to Kissinger. Both are ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Agency Files, Box 225, Dept of Defense, Vol. VIII.
  3. Irwin approved a meeting for November 16 at 11 a.m.