56. Action Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1


  • New Security Assistance Program

Your new “security assistance” program will comprise grant military aid (MAP), foreign military sales (FMS), supporting economic assistance—which requires a home due to the dissolution of AID—service-funded military assistance (MASF), the public safety program and the contingency fund. In FY 1971 these amounted to $5.6 billion of which $3.4 billion go to Southeast Asia. At Tab C is the report of the Under Secretaries Committee on the program.2

At present, State has legislative responsibility for providing policy guidance for all security assistance programs except military assistance for Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand, which are in the Defense Department budget. AID presently administers the public safety and supporting assistance programs. Defense administers MAP and foreign military sales and, in fact, if not by law, has a large measure of policy control over both. All security assistance legislation, except that funded in the military budgets, goes through the Foreign Affairs and Foreign Relations Committees.

There are two major organizational issues which must be decided for the new program:

  • —Whether State or Defense will administer supporting economic assistance (now administered by AID under general policy direction of State).
  • —Whether State will retain its statutory authority to provide policy guidance and program direction for all aspects of security assistance.

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The decision on these issues will affect a third issue—which committees of the Congress will have responsibility for processing annual authorizations.

Option 1: Give DOD Policy Primacy

Defense wants to take over State’s present responsibilities for providing policy guidance and program direction for all security assistance, and wants to administer all aspects of security assistance including supporting economic assistance.3 This implies a shift of Congressional responsibility from the Foreign Affairs to the Armed Services Committees.

Option 2: Maintain State Policy Primacy

State wants to maintain its responsibility for providing policy guidance and program direction for all aspects of security assistance. It also wants to assume AID’s present responsibilities for the management of supporting economic assistance.4 Defense would continue to administer military assistance and exercise the same functions it does at present. This implies continued Foreign Affairs Committee responsibility in the Congress.


The choice among the options turns on the following issues:

1. The role of political and economic considerations in determining military and supporting economic assistance, versus the role of defense tradeoffs between friendly and U.S. forces.

Secretary Rogers contends that, in most countries, political considerations such as the possible role of military assistance in maintaining the power balance within a country (e.g. Brazil) or strengthening an alliance (e.g. Turkey) and economic considerations (e.g. the desire to achieve economic stability in Indonesia) should be weighed heavily in determining our security assistance. Secretary Laird, on the other hand, believes that in implementing the Nixon Doctrine DOD should have primacy in security assistance to enable DOD planning to emphasize the tradeoffs between U.S. forces and friendly forces.

Secretary Rogers is correct in contending that force tradeoffs are of major concern in only a few countries, whereas political and economic considerations bear most heavily on our policy choices in most countries. Moreover, DOD already has control over the MASF program (over [Page 136] half of our entire security assistance effort) for the Southeast Asian countries where the U.S./friendly force tradeoff issue is most important. These considerations argue against Option 1 (DOD primacy).

2. Congressional and Public Acceptability

Secretary Rogers, OMB, and your own legislative experts believe that you would be risking a major and futile confrontation with the Senate and House Foreign Affairs Committees if you sought to shift security assistance authorizing responsibility to the Armed Services Committees. They point out that, despite problems with Senator Fulbright, passage of last year’s supplemental showed that Congress (particularly the House) is willing to fund the Nixon Doctrine.

Secretary Laird, however, disagrees. He believes the Armed Services Committees will be more forthcoming and that, therefore, you should seek such a transfer and urge Senator Stennis to accept the additional responsibility he has indicated he does not want.

3. Presidential Flexibility

One of the strong points of our current program is that it gives you the option in most countries of relying on either Defense or State/AID funding for local forces. In Cambodia last year, it was of vital importance that we could use supporting assistance to fund the military assistance program before passage of the supplemental—and as a fall-back position in case the supplemental failed. Option 2 would preserve more flexibility for individual countries than any of the others, by maintaining the present division of authority between State and Defense.

These considerations on balance favor Option 2 (State primacy); only the force tradeoff issue supports DOD primacy (Option 1). The remote chance of shifting Congressional jurisdiction away from the Foreign Affairs Committees, and the high cost of even trying to do so, is perhaps the overriding point.

You need to decide now on the organization of security assistance for FY 1972, to be incorporated in the new aid legislation which will go up shortly. However, this need not be a decision for all time. I recommend that you authorize Option 2, with State picking up for now the supporting economic assistance and public safety programs handled at present by AID.

Based on an assessment over the coming year of State’s effectiveness in handling these responsibilities, and of possible Congressional receptivity to a later shift from the Foreign Relations to Armed Services Committees, you can then decide whether to continue this arrangement in the future or shift partial or full responsibility to Defense. Making this decision in effect a tentative one may in fact serve as an incentive to State to develop the needed analytical capacity to effectively discharge its responsibilities, and to the Foreign Relations Committees to give [Page 137] your programs better support. We could not of course indicate publicly that the decision was temporary, but conveying the word informally would achieve these objectives.


Subject to reservation covering the duration of the decision, I support Secretary Rogers’ proposal of Option 2: State primacy over security assistance policy and administrative responsibility for supporting economic assistance. OMB concurs.


Disapprove, prefer Option 1: DOD primacy as proposed by Secretary Laird

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Agency Files, Box 195, AID 1/1/71-12/31/71. Secret; Exdis. A copy was sent to Schlesinger on March 22, without the President’s comments (see footnote 5 below). This memorandum is attached to a March 19 memorandum from Kennedy to Kissinger calling his attention to Shultz’ concern about Secretary Laird’s Congressional testimony on March 24 before the foreign assistance legislation went to Congress. On the back of his memorandum Kennedy wrote the following note on March 20: “Schlesinger called to say that they have agreed to have Laird testify but only as to content of FY 72 budget. No mention will be made of organizational arrangements. If asked about new legislation answer is to be that it will be submitted in a few days.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Agency Files, Box 195, AID 1/1/71-12/31/71)
  2. Not found.
  3. See Documents 134 and 135.
  4. See Documents 30 and 49.
  5. President Nixon initialed this option and wrote at the bottom of the page: “The major concern is the political storm which would be raised in Congress if we changed—just isn’t worth it. I agree with MacGregor it would be a futile fight.”