94. Memorandum From Morton Halperin and Dean Moor of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Review Group Meeting July 10, SVN’s Internal Security Capabilities—The Basic Issues

The study2 prepared in response to NSSM 193 is the first done in the Government which takes a really hard look at the capability of the [Page 289] South Vietnamese to hold their own against the Communists at the grass roots level now and after the fighting has “officially” stopped.

By fully exploiting well-known data, the Study convincingly demonstrates that the present state of security is far from satisfactory and is unlikely to improve sufficiently to permit the GVN to counter fully the Communist para-military threat, if Saigon remains dependent on its present security apparatus. The basic difficulty is that the apparatus is badly organized, poorly manned, supplied, and trained, and has little real empathy with the GVN.

None of the participants in the Study takes serious exception to the finding on the situation.

The Study implies that, if the fighting ends soon, the GVN will probably gradually lose many of its gains in rural security over the past two years, particularly as the Communists rebuild their guerrilla, cadre, and underground organizations, which while badly battered remain as forces in being.

It is the need for drastic improvement now in the GVN security apparatus which underlies the recommendation in the Study that a wholesale reorganization of all the Vietnamese security forces be immediately undertaken with the U.S. mission developing the specific proposals for implementing this reorganization. The changes would be very drastic and would involve wholesale alterations in unit mission, manpower priorities, funding, and management.

The JCS, acting on the advice of MACV and CINCPAC, is totally opposed to any major reorganization at this point. They contend that it would create massive disarray and that the cut in the effectiveness so laboriously obtained over the past few years would greatly outweigh any presumed benefits. The JCS proposes working within the present framework of plans for Vietnamization of the war in what would be an evolutionary, rather than a revolutionary, manner.

Our View

We agree that the recommended changes are too drastic to be successfully carried out at this point in the war. Following are some of the problems:

  • —the GVN is trying to strengthen its security apparatus by working within the present framework. It has recently proposed a substantial strengthening of the present GVN security elements to MACV (Tab A).4 [Page 290] It would strongly resist the drastic changes recommended in the Study.
  • —The impact of pushing for such changes would probably be counterproductive on our overall relations with the GVN, especially on our efforts to get Thieu to take a forthcoming political stand.
  • —U.S. officials in Saigon, particularly MACV, would almost certainly drag their feet in implementing the suggested changes, and little would probably be done.

The urgency of the problem is such, however, that some middle ground is probably needed between the recommendation for a directive from Washington to go ahead with the plan and the JCS desire to shelve it. We believe that the U.S. mission in Saigon should be instructed to develop for Washington approval plans and programs based on the study for giving higher priority to internal security taking into account the possible disruptive political and administrative effects of such changes. This should result in some constructive thinking, if not action, on the problem in Saigon. It would also fit in acceptably with present GVN requests for additional help in the internal security field.

NSC consideration does not appear to be necessary at this time. The Review Group might be asked to agree to forward the study to the President. If the President accepts the need for further action the Saigon mission could be directed to prepare an implementing report. Further NSC action would then await the receipt of proposals from the U.S. mission in Saigon.

Washington Monitoring of Internal Security Operations

The other central finding of the Study is that there has been inadequate cooperation and integration of effort in Washington in support of security programs in South Vietnam. The study concludes that Washington responsibility is fractured among several agencies including Defense, CIA and AID. It recommends that a new organization be created, or that an existing one be delegated to monitor security programs and improve management and the use of resources.

Although the JCS opposes the creation of any new bureaucratic structure at the Washington level, there is clearly a need for greater Washington coordination in this field. The best solution would probably be to have a small group in the NSC system with representatives from all participating agencies. This group would be chartered to review ongoing programs and developments, suggesting where overlap could be eliminated. It would be empowered to report directly to the NSC on problems which could not be ironed out through normal consultation and coordination. Such a group probably could not function effectively if chaired by one of the agencies with an active stake in the current programs. Thus the choices are to assign the task to the NSC Ad Hoc Vietnam Working Group giving some staff to Sullivan for this [Page 291] purpose or creating a new group chaired by the NSC staff or BOB. We recommend the former.

Washington Monitoring of Other Non-Military Aspects of Vietnam

BOB feels and we agree that a study is needed of the implications of Vietnamization for the South Vietnamese economy, for U.S. AID and MAP programs and levels and for GVN revenue, exchange rate and tax policies. Our declining expenditures and likely inflation in SVN will probably create a need for far more AID than we are now programming. There is also a need for better continuing coordination in Washington on these issues. If Sullivan’s group is given responsibility for internal security it should also deal with these economic matters and be asked to do an initial study. If Sullivan is not given this mandate an ad hoc group should be created to examine these issues.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–039, SRG Meeting, 7/10/69. Secret.
  2. A summary of the response was attached; the full report is ibid., NSSM Files, NSSM 19.
  3. NSSM 19, February 11, directed the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State, and Director of Central Intelligence, to prepare for the President a “report on current plans and programs for the improvement of South Vietnam’s internal security capabilities.” The President was particularly interested in plans for developing indigenous police forces, how to improve them, and how to improve U.S. support of them. (Ibid.)
  4. Tab A, attached but not printed, was a July 1 memorandum from Rear Admiral Tazewell Shepard, Jr. (Director, East Asia & Pacific Region, DOD/ISA) to Moor that summarized GVN requested increases in military and paramilitary forces as presented at the Midway Island conference. The GVN requested support for 65,000 regular forces, 10,297 regional forces, 103,915 popular forces, and 15,000 additional National Police.