52. Memorandum From the President’s Military Assistant (Haig) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Items to Discuss with the President, Wednesday, June 25
Although you are not scheduled to see the President this morning it is probably essential that you do so, in which case you should discuss Secretary Rogers’ proposal for an informal working group on Vietnam.2
  • —I discussed this with Dick Sneider last night and was told that this was an effort by the Secretary of State to avoid a showdown with you and to pose a compromise solution to his long-standing problems on Vietnam. Sneider said that the President had been aware of the proposal and had approved it, and that it had been formulated in the last day or so after receipt of the President’s memorandum on cables.3 Then, as a result of a little plumbing on my part, he stated that the problem had been in the hopper for some time and that the memorandum from the President merely added salt to the wound. Sneider concluded his comments to me with a statement to the effect that you had better accept this one rather than lose the whole ball game. I can only conclude from that that Sneider has been well versed on the evolution of this proposal as well as on many of our other problems with State.
  • —One additional point that Dick Sneider made when I asked him whether or not the proposal was visualized as being in the framework of the NSC—Dick stated, “of course not. The NSC system is dead, Henry killed it long ago.”
  • —Despite the foregoing, I cannot help but feel that there is some blackmail being exercised by State in an effort to kill the NSC system, to reassert the vicarship of the Secretary and to defuse your power while at the same time avoiding a direct confrontation with the President, which Rogers may not be sure he can win. This has all the earmarks of a State Department ploy to achieve maximum benefits with minimum risks. I do not believe you should roll over on this one.
  • —Consequently, I recommend you discuss the Rogers’ memo with the President, informing him:
    of how it was delivered to you and state that the proposed organization might ensure some concentrated attention to the Vietnam situation which is in dire need of thoughtful attention;
    you have assumed that the organization would be within the framework of the NSC system, which were it to be otherwise it would emasculate the system and could not but lead to its downfall;
    if it is the President’s intention to let the system fall of its own weight then you will, of course, accede to the proposal. If not, then you should recommend that the President only adopt this organization within the framework of the NSC system.
As I look back over the main failures of the NSC system, if in fact they be failures, the only area with which we have failed to achieve our objectives is that of security. I am personally convinced that the President’s confidence has been shaken in the entire system because of inexcusable pattern of leaks which have emanated from State and Defense and perhaps your own staff. The solution that Rogers has proposed is to return to a breakfast group pattern in which a handful of advisers move on policy deliberations which affect the entire country and which will only increase the risk of a lack of bureaucracy consensus for courses of action which might be undertaken. I am personally strongly opposed to this type of government, which cannot but have dire effects for the Nation. If we are afraid to bite the bullet and establish the kind of bureaucratic discipline so essential to the conduct of NSC affairs, then the bypassing of the structure and the designation of a handful of individuals to deal with our policy issues will only enable the Secretaries of State and Defense to overlook a basic deficiency in their organizations (and perhaps you in our own), which will arise again in the future to scuttle the President’s programs in another form.
On balance, I am convinced that the President should think very hard about discarding the NSC system after such a brief period. A circumventing of the bureaucracy will not solve the basic ills which the shortcomings in the NSC system have uncovered. These ills are a lack of discipline and loyalty to the President himself and a failure on the part of key principals in the Administration to adhere to the policy guidance which I feel he has clearly enunciated on issue after issue. The list of breakdowns is long and frightening and rests primarily on the shoulders of the Secretary of State, whose department, in my view, has frequently4 been the source of disloyalty to policy guidance enunciated by the President. As examples, I cite: [Page 115]
  • —The President’s guidance on SALT.
  • —The President’s guidance on the broad relationship of all ongoing areas of interest to the Soviets as they affect Soviet actions which might lead toward progress in Vietnam.
  • —Spanish negotiations.
  • —Recognition of Mongolia, etc.
In my view, the time has come for some tough talk and some meaningful action with respect to loyalty to the President’s programs. Bureaucratic in-fighting can no longer be tolerated. Unless the President recognizes5 these issues,6 ad hoc kitchen cabinets, breakfast groups or any other organizational gimmick will sooner or later suffer the same fate. You may wish to draw upon the above rationale in discussing this issue with the President. If despite your objections, he desires to try the Rogers’ proposal I recommend that you agree to do your best to make them work and then sit down with Secretary Rogers face-to-face and set about establishing the procedures for doing so.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, President’s Daily Briefs, Box 8, June 17–30, 1969. Top Secret; Sensitive.
  2. Document 51.
  3. See Document 50. A transcript of Kissinger’s telephone conversation with Sneider on June 24 at 7:20 p.m., is in the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 360, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File.
  4. “Frequently” is handwritten above “invariably,” which was crossed out.
  5. “recognizes” is handwritten above “views,” which was crossed out.
  6. The words “and finds a solution to them” were typed after the word “issues” but then crossed out.