21. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Laird to President Nixon1


  • FY 1970 Military Assistance Program

In mid-December 1969, we discussed FY 1971 funding requirements for military assistance (MAP) and you decided that $400 million would be included in the budget request for this purpose.2 I was quite surprised to learn informally last week that the Bureau of the Budget, with no Department of Defense representative present to discuss implications, succeeded in lowering this figure to $350 million.3 I do not question the decision which, I am sure, resulted from overriding budgetary pressures as well as the legislative situation. I am, however, concerned that the Bureau’s procedure, if followed in the future, might result in defense decisions that do not take fully into account all pertinent considerations and implications.

I wish to reaffirm my belief that a level of $350 million takes the Military Assistance Program too low for you to have the flexibility and options you will need in FY 1971 to take the initial steps in implementing the “Nixon Doctrine.” I am convinced that steps in this direction must be taken before we formulate our FY 1972 programs on the basis of new strategy. A marked increase in MAP must be assumed if we are to proceed with major U.S. defense savings by selected reductions in our overseas forces. If our strategy is to remain credible, U.S. force reductions must be counterbalanced by effective military assistance programs for certain allied forces which would assume an increased defense role.

It seems clear to me that we must start laying the groundwork now for an FY 1971 supplemental MAP authorization and appropriation. We are also examining the possible need for a supplemental request in FY 1970 but we do not yet have a fully fleshed-out rationale and supporting detail upon which it might be justified. A supplemental for FY 1971 would, on the other hand, embody those NSC decisions that would have been made, would provide a more thorough and orderly evaluation of important requirements, could include such recommendations [Page 51] from the “Peterson Committee” as may be necessary, and hopefully would be more acceptable to the Congress.

To set the stage with Congress, the public, and other elements of the Executive Branch, I recommend that you include in your forthcoming budget message a brief statement of your intent to seek a supplemental MAP appropriation for FY 1971 together with the reasons why this will be necessary. A suggested statement is attached.4

The Department of State concurs in my views as indicated above.

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. The mid-December discussion and the President’s decision have not been further identified.
  3. See Document 20.
  4. Not printed. Also attached is a January 22 note from William Watts to Kissinger indicating that alternative language was forwarded to cover Laird’s request and that a fuller, explanatory memorandum would be coming (not found). The President’s remarks in his message to Congress fell short of sending a clear signal that he would request a supplemental. See Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon, 1970, pp. 60-61.