101. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Laird to President Nixon1


  • Security Assistance

The Secretary of State has forwarded to you a memorandum outlining certain proposals to reorganize and restructure the Security Assistance Program in FY 1974.2 The purpose of these initiatives is to strengthen the rationale for the program and to permit Congress to concentrate on priority Security Assistance requirements.

[Page 243]

I support the Secretary of State in his objectives. I am convinced, however, that more sweeping changes are required in order to carry out the concepts of the new course in foreign policy upon which we have embarked under your leadership. I remain convinced of the need to transfer Security Assistance to the Defense Budget and consider that now is the time to act. Our experience with the 1973 program is further evidence of the continued hostility in Congress to this program, particularly in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I believe that we must make the attempt to change the initial referral of the authorizing legislation to the Armed Services Committee and place the burden to change the initial referral on the Foreign Relations Committee. I refer you to my memorandum of 23 December 1971 which outlines the details and rationale of my proposed approach.3

In the event of a negotiated settlement in Southeast Asia, Congress has clearly indicated the Military Assistance Service Funded (MASF) for Southeast Asian countries will not be authorized beyond FY 1973. This makes it even more critical to secure an adequate level of funding and a more flexible Security Assistance Program in the next few years. A piecemeal approach, such as moving two of the most controversial elements—aid to Spain and Portugal—to the Defense Budget as proposed by the Secretary of State, will probably incur as much opposition as a total reformation of the program. The potential for successfully moving and restructuring Security Assistance is better in the coming Congressional session than it would appear to be in subsequent years of your Administration.

The Secretary of State proposes to reduce the number of nations receiving grant military aid. I cannot agree that our grant aid programs to Greece and the Republic of China should be terminated as of FY 1974. Neither can I agree with the proposal to strike six of ten recommended recipients in Latin America. The abruptness of terminating materiel grant aid in FY 1974 could cause the Chinese severe problems for support of their armed forces and could well endanger our military relationships with the Chinese, thus affecting our military posture in the Western Pacific. Greek reaction to the abrupt elimination of grant aid could imperil support of our CVA home-porting initiatives in Greece, as well as overflight and base rights in that country. Further, in consideration of Greek contributions to NATO and Greek assistance to the maintenance of our military posture in the Mediterranean, I feel that we will need to continue a modest grant aid program to Greece for the next several years. Similarly, in Latin America I believe that we should continue to provide modest programs consistent with your decision concerning [Page 244] FY 1972 grant materiel assistance and the considerations raised in the Military Presence Study of which you are aware. Such programs advance our ability to pre-empt third power military influence in Latin America and, by establishment of contact with important military leaders, favorably influence achievement of US foreign policy objectives.

I have forwarded to Cap Weinberger my proposals for continued assistance to Greece and the Republic of China, together with other specific recommendations on the funding levels for various recipients of Security Assistance during FY 1974.4 I have also recommended to him that we restructure the FY 1974 Security Assistance Program into the Defense Appropriations Bill and that we include a request for increased Security Assistance funds in an FY 1973 Defense supplemental appropriations request.

Melvin R. Laird
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Subject Files, Box 324, Foreign Aid, Volume II 1972. Secret. Attached to a January 4, 1973, memorandum from Kissinger to Laird informing him that the President had decided not to pursue Laird’s proposal to transfer security assistance to the Defense Department budget at that time.
  2. Document 98.
  3. See Document 88 for the disposition of Laird’s earlier proposal.
  4. Not found.