56. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1
- Secretary Rogers’ Proposal for the Establishment of Working Groups on Vietnam
At Tab A is a memorandum from Bill Rogers2 forwarding the proposal he mentioned to you on June 24, which would establish a policy [Page 119] level US/Vietnamese working group presided over by yourself and including Bill Rogers, Mel Laird, General Wheeler and myself.
While I agree with Bill’s proposal to establish a compact Cabinet level policy group, I fear the organizational lines he proposes would have the practical effect of placing control over both Vietnam policy and operational matters in the hands of the Secretary of State by (a) establishing a Cabinet level working group under your titular chairmanship outside of the National Security Council framework and, (b) by placing the current Ad Hoc Committee on Vietnam chaired by Bill Sullivan under this group as staff support.
In practice it is not likely that you would have the time nor the inclination to meet weekly on operational matters associated with Vietnam. Thus, State would, at the departmental level, assume a predominant role in the conduct of Vietnam affairs. Further, on the occasions when the Cabinet level committee did meet to determine important policy issues, agendas, working papers and interdepartmental coordination would be prepared by a committee chaired by State and divorced entirely from the NSC machinery, which now gives equal weight to the views of all the departments concerned. Also, in the conduct of day-to-day affairs, it is probable that White House clearances could then be effectively circumvented because of the special role assigned to the interdepartmental ad hoc committee. The overall impact of this special arrangement would greatly diminish your control over the conduct of Vietnam affairs now afforded by the NSC system. In other words, the proposal is, in effect, the SIG system which State tried so hard to implement last January and which you rejected.
I am sure Mel Laird and General Wheeler would be equally disturbed at the prospect of giving State predominant control over the conduct of Vietnam business. General Goodpaster shares these views. John Mitchell also feels that it would be a grave mistake to take this road.
It therefore seems to me that if there is to be a working group, it should (a) be part of the NSC system, (b) be ad hoc so that your schedule is protected, (c) be served by the NSC staff, and (d) meet only at your request. The action would be completely consistent with the charter of the National Security Council as approved by you in January and would enable you to assemble a more manageable Cabinet level group under your chairmanship to consider issues related to Vietnam. This may prove especially timely during the coming weeks when so many sensitive Vietnam-related issues must be addressed. The Cabinet level working group would receive its support as does the full NSC—by the NSC staff—thereby ensuring the same kind of Presidential control as is currently exercised.[Page 120]
I recommend you sign the memorandum at Tab B to Bill which approves the establishment of a Cabinet level working group on Vietnam but which modifies his proposal by keeping the group within the NSC framework.3