344. Letter From Secretary of State Rogers to Secretary of Defense Laird 1

Dear Mel:

I am enclosing for your information a copy of instructions2 that I have directed be sent to all of our diplomatic posts, clarifying the question of the responsibilities of our Ambassadors for the military components of our diplomatic missions overseas.

[Page 765]

There has been some recent misunderstanding at the working levels of the Department of Defense, and among some of the personnel of our missions, about the relationship between Military Assistance Advisory Groups, Service Attachés and our Ambassadors. The fact that President Kennedy’s letter of May 29, 1961,3 regarding Ambassadorial responsibilities explicitly mentioned these military elements as subordinate to the Ambassadors, and that President Nixon’s letter of December 9, 1969,4 dealt with this subject in lesser detail seems to have led to the false conclusion on the part of some that there was a deliberate, though unstated, intent to change the traditional relationships.5

Having participated in the drafting of the President’s letter of December 9, 1969, I know that the intent was quite the opposite and that it was felt that it was not necessary specifically to mention Military Assistance Advisory Groups and Service Attachés, because they were so clearly not “military forces under the command of the United States area military commander.”

Apart from whatever channels of communication and responsibility DOD desires to establish with MAAGs with respect to DOD responsibilities, MAAGs, and similar elements of our diplomatic missions, are obviously so closely related to the conduct of our foreign relations that they must continue to be a part of our diplomatic missions and responsible to the Chiefs of Mission. This is also required by my own statutory responsibilities for providing “continuous supervision and general direction” of military assistance programs.

I would appreciate your bringing this letter to the attention of the concerned areas of the Department of Defense.

With best personal regards,


  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, ORG 1. Confidential. Drafted by Thomas Pickering, Deputy Director of PM, on May 8 and redrafted by Johnson on May 15. Cleared by Springsteen, Moore, Green, Sisco, Meyer, and Nelson.
  2. Attached but not printed.
  3. For text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1961, pp. 1345–1347.
  4. Document 310.
  5. In a May 9 memorandum to Rogers, Spiers stated that “while we understand informally that there is some difference of view within the Department of Defense, one apparently increasingly predominant view does contend that the MAAGs are not subject to Ambassadorial control” and that the difference arises over the interpretation of Rogers’ letter of December 9, 1969. Spiers added that “the issue has arisen enough times to as to make difficult State–Defense relations on a number of points, such as who sends instructions to the field on policy questions dealing with the MAAGs, what channels of communication are to be used, and whose clearance is required.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, ORG 1)