11. Memorandum From John H. Holdridge of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Secretary Laird Suggests Some Contingencies for Laos

Secretary Laird has sent you a memorandum informing you that he plans to undertake some “precautionary actions” in view of the current situation in Laos (Tab B).2

He declares that current North Vietnamese efforts may be intended to force the RLG to call for a halt in U.S. and ARVN activity in Laos or, failing that, to bring about a change of government in Laos. Hence, he concludes that the following actions be taken now:

  • —Careful development of the theme in public affairs channels that the interdiction of the Ho Chi Minh Trail relates to an area not under RLG control and therefore not dependent upon RLG approval.
  • —New contingency studies to replace the unacceptable Taksin planning (a controversial contingency plan involving the use of U.S. and Thai ground forces should Laos fall to the Communists).
  • —Development of plans to support a legitimate Lao government should the present one be overthrown by Hanoi.
  • —Updating our negotiating scenario for a military standstill in north Laos.

Mr. Laird concludes that DOD will initiate “its portion” of these actions and he asks for your support and participation as needed.

Comment. Mr. Laird does not define “DOD’s portion” of these various actions. Presumably the military contingency plan to replace Taksin would be undertaken by DOD, while the other measures would at least involve coordination with State.

Of immediate concern is the possibility that Mr. Laird may begin to take the line publicly that our air interdiction of the Ho Chi Minh Trail can and will be carried out independently of any RLG decision. In our view, this would not serve any useful purpose; it would only arouse a controversy and undercut Souvanna at a time when he is under considerable pressure.

We have drafted a memorandum from you to Mr. Laird which requests that he not take this line and which further suggests that he coordinate the contingency studies with appropriate departments (Tab A).3 Col. Kennedy concurs.


That you forward the memorandum at Tab A to Secretary Laird.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 550, Country Files, Far East, Laos, Vol. 9, Jan–Sep 1972. Top Secret. Sent for action. Haig initialed for Holdridge.
  2. Attached but not printed; dated January 29.
  3. Attached but not printed; dated and sent on February 8.