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.[Page 31]
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.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 95, Vietnam Subject Files, Vietnam Troop Replacement, 1970. No classification marking.↩