16. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Vietnam Troop Levels

I am not sure that you have any conception of the degree to which Laird has painted the President into a corner on our Vietnam troop levels. My discussions with the Army Staff and members of the Joint Staff confirm that Laird has under-funded the Army to a degree that it will no longer be possible to come anywhere near meeting the levels we had anticipated for the remainder of the fiscal year. Even worse, he established draft quotas of 10,000 a month which have already deprived the Army of the ability to provide the force levels necessary to meet the goals we were considering even if the funds were made available. This disastrous bit of management chicanery has resulted in General Westmoreland in desperation proposing new withdrawal schedules which can most seriously jeopardize the security of our remaining forces in Vietnam. It will involve an expedited withdrawal of forces not only between now and October, but more importantly, between now and December, and result in a drastically weakened U.S. force posture by the time of Tet in February. The picture is so much more gloomy than anything ever presented through channels to us that I suspect the President himself is not aware of the kinds of risks that Laird has already preordained.

I know that Laird has cushioned this upcoming catastrophe with you in passing in his usual indirect way and you may yourself be aware of what is in the wind. If you are not, however, I believe it is essential that you demand that Laird meet with you today or tomorrow and provide you with a detailed briefing of the order of magnitude of this problem which, in my view, cannot be overestimated.

Attached is a summary of the kinds of force level figures that are being considered and which are intimately affected and could be further complicated by the issue of: (a) the timing of withdrawals from Korea; (b) the timing and scope of air drawdowns from Thailand; and (c) the level of sortie rates for Southeast Asia.

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The most serious aspect of this problem is that we are no longer able to correct it even if the President decided to do so because of the insidious way in which Laird reduced draft calls and thereby has made it totally impossible for the Army to maintain approved force levels in Vietnam even if Laird had provided the money.



  • —As you know, only force levels currently approved by the President provided for a 50,000 man drawdown by October 15 and a total drawdown from the present authorized level of 150,000 spaces during the spring. (The Pentagon has been using April 30 as their target date.)
  • —Despite the foregoing, Laird directed the JCS to prepare alternate plans for more severe drawdowns. In response, the JCS developed two alternatives:
    Alternative A: 150,000 space reductions by April 30 with 50,000 by October 15; 10,000 more by December 31, and 90,000 between February 15 and April 30.
    Alternative B: 60,000 by October 15; 40,000 by December 31, and 50,000 by April 30.
    • —The JCS recommended Alternative A with supplemental funding.
    • —Subsequently, on the 23rd of July the Secretary of the Army pointed out that the Army would be unable to support Alternative A because of both funds and manpower short-falls resulting from reduced draft calls. The Secretary also pointed out that the Army can only meet Alternative B if draft calls are raised from the Laird recommended 10,000 a month to 12,500 a month, and even these considerations are fundamentally affected by the timing of our withdrawals from Korea, air sortie levels approved for Southeast Asia, and associated drawdown in strength in Thailand.
    • —An idea of the order of magnitude of the problem is gained from the realization that the JCS Plan A would cost the Army $90 million more in obligation authority than they have been given. The OMA portion of the request adds $370 million in obligations to the original FY 71 budget. Low draft calls and larger than expected personnel losses will result in personnel short-falls during the fall, winter and spring averaging 56,000 men. Even with short-falls worldwide of about ten percent this means that we will have short-falls of 10,000 to 15,000 spaces in Vietnam over the period.
    • —As a result of the foregoing, I understand that Laird has developed a new option which would provide for 120,000 forces being out of Vietnam by the end of December with a residual force level of 240,000 in Vietnam by July 1.
    • Laird’s monetary and draft call finagling has resulted in a period of most serious personnel turbulence in the Army. His management has resulted in significantly larger than programmed manpower losses in the Army as a whole and Vietnam in particular. It has caused an unprecedented rate of resignations among the officer corps and a drastically reduced rate of re-enlistments.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 95, Vietnam Subject Files, Vietnam Troop Replacement, 1970. No classification marking.