19. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Laird to the President Nixon1


  • FY 1971 Military Assistance

Recently you approved a Military Assistance Program authorization request for FY 1971 of $400 million. The two-year (FY 1970-71) authorization bill subsequently passed by Congress, however, contains an authorization of $350 million for each year. The Departments of State and Defense recommend that, despite the current authorization limit, the budget request remain at $400 million.

We reaffirm our belief that a level of $400 million is barely enough to maintain the MAP in a viable state until the FY 1972 programs can be formulated to implement the “Nixon Doctrine”2 on a comprehensive basis. We consider this amount essential to insure our ability to implement such courses of action as may emerge from your decisions on NSC studies currently underway.

The FY 1970-71 authorization level of $350 million does not take into account our need to anticipate an upswing in MAP if we are to find a way to accomplish major U.S. defense savings by judicious and timely reductions in our forces overseas. It may raise serious doubts among our more exposed allies as to the aims and real intentions of this Administration’s foreign policy.

U.S. reductions must be balanced by modest but effective and believable military assistance programs for those allied forces which are to assume an increased defense role. Service long supply and excess stocks and the Foreign Military Sales Program cannot compensate in the major MAP countries for an excessively low $350 million level. In Greece, Turkey and Korea, force modernization on a major scale is necessary and even a $400 million figure will barely start to meet these needs; because of inadequate MAP levels over the past several years, the forces of these countries have slipped slowly into obsolescence. In some countries, access to bases important to U.S. strategy has been and continues to be placed in jeopardy. Finally, the need continues for grant military assistance to developing countries in order to help them improve, without undue adverse effect on economic growth, forces sufficient [Page 48] to maintain internal stability, and thus providing an environment for orderly economic and social progress.

An adequate military assistance program is necessary if we are to reduce our presence, retain our allies, and maintain a foreign policy that is understandable and supported by them. I therefore recommend that you retain the $400 million MAP level for FY 1971 with the knowledge that, as our foreign policy requirements unfold, it probably will be necessary to support an even larger request.

Melvin R. Laird
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Agency Files, Box 223, Department of Defense, Volume V 12/1/69-1/31/70. Secret.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. I, Documents 29 and 30.