312. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Issues for the May 31 Meeting

I have enclosed three papers addressing issues for discussion at the meeting on 31 May 1970.2

1. Troop Withdrawals (Tab A)

  • —The issue is whether we should speed up troop withdrawals. —Secretary Laird’s position is that there should be withdrawals in addition to the 50,000 presently scheduled by October 15.
  • General Abrams prefers to limit withdrawals this year to 50,000 and has agreed to complete that withdrawal by October 15.
  • —My view is that the risks more than outweigh whatever small advantage could be gained by a speed-up of withdrawals. Since no timetable has been announced a speed-up would have little impact.3 We should withdraw enough forces to calm public opinion but we should do so slowly enough to give Hanoi an incentive to negotiate and to avoid risks to our forces.
  • —I recommend that you support General Abrams’ recommendation that withdrawals this year be limited to 50,000 to be accomplished by October 15. I also recommend that you approve phased withdrawal of 100,000 after January 1 with the terminal date for the withdrawal to be determined at a later date based on your assessment of the situation and enemy reactions.

2. ARVN Operations (Tab B)

  • —The issues are what limits we should try to put on ARVN operations in Cambodia and what support we should give to such operations.
  • —This question you will recall has already been discussed in the NSC4 and the following four principles for continued support have been established: [Page 1015]
    withdrawal of most ARVN forces by June 30 without precluding their reentry;
    continued ARVN operations in the sanctuaries after June 30 to (a) remove supplies and (b) help prevent the re-establishment of caches;
    a flexible ARVN posture which would deter but not serve as a pretext for wider enemy attacks in Cambodia; and
    U.S. logistic and artillery from the South Vietnamese side of the border and tactical air support where necessary for ARVN operations in Cambodia.5

3. Air Activity Rates in Southeast Asia (Tab C)

  • —The issue is the level which should be established for air activity rates.
  • Laird is pressing for the reduction of air operations on the basis of the following chart:
Current Sorties 7/70–12/70 JCS Proposal 1/71–6/71 7/71–12/71
B–52 1,400 1,000 1,000 900
7th AF 14,000 10,000 10,000 8,750
FWF 6,000 6,000 6,000 6,000
Navy 3,600 2,700 2,700 1,800
Marines 3,300 3,300 3,300 0

His major arguments are budgetary and cost-effectiveness.

  • —My view is that maintenance of the rate at least at present levels for the next few months will be important. We want to take advantage of the success of our Cambodian operations to keep the enemy’s bases and logistic routes disrupted, and to attack his units in South Vietnam. We have authorized tactical air in Cambodia, are using it importantly in Laos and may provide some support to ARVN operations in Cambodia. Moreover, we should not decrease air activity in a way which could have the effect of lessening Hanoi’s incentive to negotiate.
  • —We need to take a hard look, however, at where the money will come from to support the air activity rates and the effectiveness of our air activity.
  • —I recommend that air activity rates be maintained at present levels pending your review of a study to be done on an urgent basis of the financial aspects and effectiveness of air activity in Southeast Asia.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–074, WSAG Meeting, 5/22/70. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only.
  2. Attached but not printed.
  3. Nixon underlined this sentence.
  4. At the restricted meeting of May 22; see Document 302.
  5. The President underlined “tactical air support where necessary” in this sentence and placed a question mark in the margin.