92. Letter From the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Green) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1
I am writing about the new Interagency Ad Hoc Group on Laos which was launched by your memorandum of December 6, 1969.2
Jonathan Moore, who chairs the Group, and I have both felt that there was a need for some mechanism for improving interagency coordination of our actions and programs in Laos. Otherwise there is danger of our examining and making decisions in fragmentary fashion without relating the various pieces which make up the whole in a way that will provide continuing cohesive control over our actions in Laos.
Our earlier practice of examining CIA-related proposals in a private session between State and Agency representatives can be improved upon, particularly by bringing in Defense representation and by enabling more coordinated analytical staff work. I appreciate that the Agency is reluctant to have some of its activities exposed too much, but the Defense Department is considerably more upset to be virtually excluded from deliberations which can affect them in a very material manner. The concept of the new Laos Interagency Group is welcomed by Defense representatives even though it does not go as far as they were proposing, and the Agency representatives on the Group are quite satisfied with its workings thus far. I am convinced that the Group can function in a discreet and controlled fashion.
The more recent guidance we have received from you raises in relevant fashion the relationship of the Ad Hoc Group to higher-level interagency bodies. I have two quick observations on it. First, in order to function effectively, the new Lao Group does require clarification on its relationship to other mechanisms such as the 303 Committee. Second, for the same reason, it needs to have some responsibility for [Page 204] preliminary screening, staffing, and drawing up recommendations. It is obvious that the new group should not try to do the job by itself, but unless it plays a meaningful staffing role it cannot be really useful to higher-level policy bodies, the memberships of which are not in continuous contact with developments and considerations relating to U.S. policy in Laos. Our current feeling is that the new Lao Group should be the core mechanism, monitoring comprehensively Laos developments and being competent to analyze proposals and develop positions on them for forwarding to the most appropriate higher policy body in the given instance.
The current practice of the members of the new Lao Group of keeping their respective principals fully informed and seeking guidance from them is a necessary one which insures better coordination and control. Given this, we feel the group should have the continuing responsibility of determining which matters to refer to higher authority and which parent mechanism is the most appropriate in a given instance. The nature of the decision being examined must be known before we can know which higher-level body is the most appropriate for referral. The WSAG, the 303 Committee, and units of the NSC system itself all have relevance, but being somewhat specialized, none has sole responsibility for formulating policy for Laos and none, it seems to me, can undertake the functions of the new Lao Group as I have described them herein. The 303 Committee, for instance, examines CIA operations, but on a broad conceptual basis rather than an operational one and it carries no strictly military representation.
There may be matters of ultra-sensitivity requiring special handling. Such matters will not be referred to the Group unless you or other higher authorities so direct. If such a matter first comes to the attention of the Chairman of the Group, he, recognizing its sensitivity, will take the initiative to consult you or other higher authority as to the best channel for handling.
I am taking the liberty of making these preliminary comments in this channel because you have been generous enough to invite it and because it has been so useful previously, and in the hope that they will be helpful to you in considering this matter. Perhaps you and I and Jonathan can chat about this when you find time now that you are back in Washington.3
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 546, Country Files, Far East, Laos, Vol. III, 11 Oct 69–31 Jan 70. Secret; Sensitive.↩
- In the memorandum to Rogers, Laird, and Helms, the President directed that the group was “to be similar to the Interagency Ad Hoc Group on Vietnam in both composition and function” and should perform the following functions: “1. Coordination and assessment of military planning and operations in Laos. 2. Discussion of interdepartmental issues concerning operational developments in Laos and decision on issues which could appropriately be settled by the Ad Hoc Group, with referral to Principals on those which cannot,” and determination of a public posture on military developments if required. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 LAOS)↩
- Kissinger responded in a January 14 letter: “I agree fully with the general procedures outlined and especially the view that only major intelligence issues be referred to 303.” (Ibid.)↩