49. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rogers to President Nixon 1


  • International Security Assistance

The report of the Under Secretaries Committee on the new International Security Assistance Program was transmitted to you on February 5.2 Since that time the Office of Management and Budget has been working with an Interdepartmental Group on the preparation of the implementing legislation. There appear still to be major points of [Page 117] disagreement between ourselves and the Department of Defense on some of the key issues involved. Because these issues go to the heart of the way responsibilities are handled in the foreign policy field, I wish to give you my views on them, supplementing those I sent you on August 4 of last year.3

The position of the Department of Defense, as I understand it, is that all elements of security assistance should be funded in the DOD budget, and, accordingly, that jurisdiction over the program should reside in the Armed Services Committees of the House and Senate.

Originally the Department of Defense desired a change in the pres-ent statutory authorities to give the Secretary of Defense more and the Secretary of State less authority over policy. Now Defense apparently believes that if the new program were shifted to the Defense Department budget it would not press for change in the present division of statutory authority between the Secretaries of State and Defense. Defense appears not to have made a judgment as to whether the responsibility for the administration of supporting assistance (presently administered by AID) should be placed in Defense or State, or in some new body outside the jurisdiction of either. State and Defense concur that the basic guidance for program planning should continue to come from an annual State-Defense memorandum.

The major rationale expressed by the Department of Defense for its position is that security assistance finds its primary justification as a “trade off” for the maintenance of U.S. forces overseas. Thus, its approach to the Nixon Doctrine stresses higher local force improvement goals and accelerated local force modernization. These are viewed as replacements for U.S. forces which would be withdrawn or as ways to decrease U.S. base line forces to the virtual exclusion of the other significant military-security, political and economic considerations. In this, I believe, lies the heart of our difference.

I believe that there should be no change in the present division of statutory authority between the Secretaries of State and Defense and that there should be no change in the present Congressional Committee jurisdiction for the new program.

In my view, security assistance is primarily an instrument of our foreign policy. As I stated in my memorandum of August 4, it should be “tied firmly to our foreign policy objectives and priorities.” I have no differences with Mel Laird over the use of this program to build up self-reliant security forces for our allies, but I believe that the program must be broadly enough conceived, directed, and administered to ensure that the necessary technical capability and economic underpinning are [Page 118] available to our allies to support the security forces required and at the same time to allow our allies to continue on the road toward healthy economic development.

The guidance which you have provided for the Nixon Doctrine in your speeches and statements has always drawn a careful balance between the strengthening of local force capabilities and political and economic considerations. The Nixon Doctrine has not been and should not be presented in exclusively military terms—a course which would impair its acceptance by significant sections of the Congress and the public and would erode its great potential for providing the basis of a new consensus on America’s role in the world. Of course, the military portion of the program and its contribution to the security of ourselves and our allies will remain a principal factor in establishing our broad foreign policy objectives under the Nixon Doctrine.

For the bulk of the security assistance recipients, the “trade off” is not the principal consideration, and linkages to U.S. defense programs are of secondary importance. Only in Vietnam, which would remain in the Defense budget as at present and would not be incorporated in the new Security Assistance Program, is the “trade off” for U.S. forces a principal consideration. While it is true to a lesser degree in Thailand and Korea that U.S. forces can be withdrawn through replacement by local forces built up through the new Security Assistance Program, even in these two instances such foreign policy considerations as the economic viability of the country concerned and its technical capability to undertake the defense program required are at least of equal importance with the question of the “trade off” for U.S. forces.

In all other cases, from Latin America, through Liberia and Ethiopia, to Turkey, Greece and Taiwan, “trade offs” between security assistance and the presence of U.S. forces are either negligible or nil. Accordingly, I believe that the “trade off” rationale will not be persuasive with the Congress, whose full support will be required if we are to initiate the reforms embodied in the new Security Assistance Program approach.

An important new element in the Security Assistance Program is the integration of military and economic assistance. It is important that the various facets of the new program be developed together and in a manner that is mutually supporting. There now exist the materials for a freshly conceived International Security Assistance Program, distinct in purpose and organization, as announced in your September 15 message on foreign aid in the seventies. The new program, for the first time, will bring together in a separate framework foreign aid with a predominant rationale related to our overall foreign and security policy objectives, thus providing a basis for a better public understanding of these programs.

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As regards the issue of Committee jurisdiction, I understand the Defense Department arguments in favor of transferring the security assistance programs to the DOD budget and Armed Services Committee jurisdiction. I personally do not agree with the reasoning. Moreover, it appears that this is not a practical suggestion. It is my judgment that there is no way to achieve a change in Committee jurisdiction at an acceptable political cost. This view is apparently shared by all agencies except Defense, and Defense itself has not been able to suggest a practical means for making the change.

In sum, I believe it essential to retain the present language of the Foreign Assistance Act (Sections 622 and 623) as it governs the respective jurisdiction of the Secretaries of State and Defense. As stated above, I am also in favor of using the annual joint State-Defense memorandum as the basic policy document in this field. The administration of supporting assistance should be located within the State Department because this will be largely civilian staffed and will in effect handle residual functions of AID. The administration of military assistance and sales should remain in Defense. We should not attempt to change Congressional Committee jurisdictions and the funds for the Security Assistance Program should be appropriated to the President, as at present, not to the Department of Defense.

William P. Rogers
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, AID (US) 1. Secret. Drafted by Ronald I. Spiers (PM) on February 18 and forwarded to Rogers under cover of a February 19 memorandum from Under Secretary Irwin indicating that the memorandum had been prepared at Rogers’ suggestion. (Ibid.)
  2. Not found.
  3. Document 30.