87. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1
- Vietnamizing the War (NSSM 36)
Secretary Laird has forwarded to you the outline plan (Tab A) prepared by the Joint Chiefs for Vietnamizing the war.2 This plan has been [Page 262] coordinated with the Department of State and the Central Intelligence Agency. The plan covers two areas:
- Alternatives for U.S. force reductions during the period July 1, 1969–December 31, 1969;
- An outline for the final report on longer-term Vietnamization which you are requested to approve.
Five options for 1969 redeployments are offered in NSSM 36, ranging from withdrawals of 50 to 100,000. The first increment has already been decided at Midway and Secretary Laird recommends in his report an additional increment, with a total up to 50,000 for 1969 depending upon evaluation of the reaction to the first withdrawal. In a separate memorandum, the Secretary of State expresses a preference for an alternative involving a total of 85,000, but again depending upon further consideration after the initial withdrawal.3
The longer-term plans on Vietnamization provide a series of alternatives for U.S. troop reductions with varying timetables from 18 months to 42 months, and varying ceilings for the residual American troops in South Vietnam ranging from 260,000 to 306,000. Secretary Laird feels that even a 42 month timetable with withdrawals up to 290,000 forces would probably result in interruption of pacification progress. A much faster withdrawal could result in more serious problems for pacification and allied military capabilities, as well as possible adverse effects on the GVN, in the absence of reciprocal North Vietnamese withdrawals.
The problem now facing us is a decision on procedures for consideration of Secretary Laird’s report. There are two principal options open:
- Circulating the paper as a normal NSC document for regular NSC consideration (which has not yet been done); this would involve increased risks of leakage.4
- Treating the paper in a meeting of NSC principals only; in this case my staff would prepare an issues paper for consideration of the principals only.
Secretary Laird would prefer the paper be handled on a tight-hold basis and, therefore, would probably prefer the second option. I would concur.5[Page 263]
That NSSM 36 be considered at a meeting of NSC principals only
That NSSM 36 be circulated as a normal NSC document for regular NSC consideration
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–142, NSSM Files, NSSM 36. Top Secret; Sensitive. Sent for action. Sneider sent this memorandum to Kissinger under an attached June 19 covering memorandum recommending that Kissinger sign it and send it to the President.↩
- Tab A, attached but not printed, was an undated 57-page JCS report entitled, “Plans For Vietnamizing the War.”↩
- Attached but not printed was a June 2 memorandum from Under Secretary of State Richardson to Laird in which Richardson stated that Rogers favored this figure “for reasons of political impact in this country, in North Vietnam, and on the negotiations in Paris.”↩
- Nixon wrote “No” next to this paragraph.↩
- Nixon wrote “Yes” next to this paragraph.↩
- None of the options is checked.↩
- See footnote 2 above.↩
- Alternatives A, B and D correspond to those in the JCS plan. Alternative C (3⅓Division) of the JCS plan is not recommended; a revised C has been substituted. Within each alternative the actual mix of units may vary somewhat in final implementation. [Footnote in the source text.]↩
- Alternative B1 is in Appendix C of the JCS plan. [Footnote in the source text.]↩
- Support spaces have been removed from each Army support slice to provide support to RVNAF. [Footnote in the source text.]↩