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74. Memorandum From Dean Moor of the Operations Staff of the National Security Council to the President's Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

SUBJECT

  • Status of the Phoenix and PRU Programs in Vietnam and the Thai Border Police

Currently, changes in management control are underway in all three forces. These changes will substantially reduce the CIA role. To a large extent, the shift will be to the U.S. military in Vietnam and to the U.S. operations mission in Thailand. In my judgment, the shifts are reasonably sound in concept and should not necessarily result in a drop in the effectiveness of the concerned forces. Following is the present status and the nature of the shifts proposed for each group:

The Phoenix Program2

This is the basic anti-VC infrastructure (VCI) program in Vietnam. It functions through a country-wide system of committees and centers down to the district level which supply the intelligence and direct anti-infrastructure operations by the police, the regional forces, the PRU, and the military security service. The TO and E of the Phoenix organization is around 6,000 with approximately 500 additional U.S. advisors.

In 1968, the Phoenix program accounted for between 10 and 20 percent of the VCI “neutralized”. The bulk of the rest were accounted for in the course of regular military operations. The concept of the Phoenix program is considered sound, but its operation still leaves much to be desired. Problems are Vietnamese manpower shortages, lack of qualified Vietnamese, etc.

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Coming Changes in Phoenix

The CIA is currently in the course of withdrawing from the field management of the Phoenix program. The Agency considers its principal role fulfilled by the organization and start-up of the operation and believes its officers can be used more profitably elsewhere. MACV will take up the slack and the management role will be put under regular army personnel. MACV is slotting 450 personnel for this task. The switchover is already underway and will be largely completed by 1 July 1969. The top CORDS/Phoenix slot will continue to be held by a CIA man in Saigon.

Present Status of the Provincial Reconnaissance Units (PRU)

This is a covert program in which teams (companies) of 2 to 20 Vietnamese operate in the field to collect intelligence and as a quick reaction force to kill or capture specifically targeted VCI. Total force strength is over 5,000. The PRU is organized under joint MACV/GVN sponsorship [1 line of source text not declassified]. CIA province officers direct and supervise the targeting of the PRU. There is normally a U.S. NCO with each PRU element.

The PRUs have been effective in eliminating VCI. Each month, they account for about 10 to 20 percent of VCI neutralized. Since the VCI are individually targeted, they are often key enemy personnel.

Coming Changes in the PRU

The CIA is also divorcing itself of the management of the PRU and turning it over to the military, while urging the Vietnamese to increase their management cadre and directive role. In so far as the U.S. military are concerned, this will be largely a paper change, since the bulk of the advisory personnel are already military, while detailed to the CIA. The Vietnamese have agreed to take over more of the management duties, but this awaits the proper training of personnel. The Agency is pushing this now. Completion of the CIA/MACV switchover is set for 1 July 1969.

Status of the Thai Border Police

This is a 7,100 man force whose regular mission is border security, but which has also participated actively in the suppression of the Thai insurgents. Until about two years ago, its role in their latter operation was fairly extensive. Then, however, the Thai regular army moved in and the BPP role was considerably reduced.

The CIA at one time contributed over a million dollars a year to the BPP and was heavily involved in training and advising the force. Its contribution has been cut back during the past several years to the neighborhood of some $200,000 a year. The additional funds are largely still going to the BPP, but are funded through other elements of the [Page 232]U.S. operations mission in Thailand. The Agency would like to further reduce its financial input as this is largely now the provision of equipment. The Agency believes that other U.S. elements can provide this. It is seeking to retain its present relatively small role in the training of elements of the BPP, mainly its para-military arm, the PARU. [1½ lines of source text not declassified]

So far as I can ascertain, the decisions on the CIA role with the BPP are not as fully set as are those in connection with the PRU and the Phoenix programs.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 69, Vietnam Subject Files, Vietnam, The Phoenix Program. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information.
  2. Kissinger wrote the following note at the top of the first page: “Why the change?” and in the margin next to the Phoenix Program description: “What do they do? How do they neutralize them?” Moor answered these questions in a June 4 memorandum to Kissinger. Moor stated that CIA considered its role in starting up the programs was done and wanted to use its limited manpower in more productive work. He described how the anti-Viet Cong infrastructure program worked in Vietnam, and stated that the Phoenix committees tabulated what percentage of Viet Cong were killed or captured as a result of operations based on their intelligence (10 to 20 percent in 1968). The bulk of the Viet Cong killed or captured, however, were done so through regular military sweeps. (Ibid.)