15. National Security Decision Memorandum 1491


  • The Secretary of Defense


  • Additional Authorities for Southeast Asia

As a result of the February 2, 1972 meeting of the National Security Council2 during which options designed to establish maximum readiness in Southeast Asia during the period February–June 1972 were considered, the President has directed that the Secretary of Defense undertake the following actions:

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Add, as soon as possible, one additional carrier to the three currently available for operations in Southeast Asia.
Deploy additional B–52s to permit a sustained sortie rate of about 1500 per month.
Deploy additional fighter bomber squadrons to Southeast Asian bases. These deployments will be maintained in Southeast Asia until the enemy offensive terminates. You are authorized to exceed the current Thai manpower ceiling during this temporary deployment period.
Remove all existing sortie restrictions for both B–52 and tactical air missions during the current dry season in South Vietnam.3

The President has again reviewed the operating authorities requested by General Abrams, and those which you authorized on January 26, 1972.4 He wishes to give the field commander freedom of action in dealing with the growing surface-to-air missile threat, and therefore has decided that you should authorize fighter aircraft, including Iron Hand, to strike any occupied SAM site and associated equipment in North Vietnam that is located within 19 nautical miles of the PMDL, and within 19 nautical miles of the North Vietnam/Laotian border as far north as 19 nautical miles above the Mugia Pass. This authority should become effective as soon as the enemy offensive commences but not prior to March 1, 1972 and only after final clearance with the President. Further, to insure that the enemy is not permitted to build up his logistical or military posture in the DMZ north of the PMDL, you should authorize air strikes into the northern portion of the DMZ whenever the field commander determines that the enemy is using the area in preparation for attack in the south.

The President has asked that you provide him with an updated report of the specific actions taken or underway in response to this decision memorandum. In addition, the President requests that you provide him with a detailed report on authorities which have already been given to General Abrams and which should be subsequently considered for his approval. Finally, the President requests that you provide for his review outline plans for the conduct of air operations against North Vietnam as discussed during the February 2 meeting of the National Security Council.

Henry A. Kissinger
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–230, National Security Council Decision Memoranda, NSDM 149. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. A copy was sent to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  2. See Document 13.
  3. In message 3927 to McCain and Abrams, February 5, Moorer informed them of the detailed directives he had issued to carry out NSDM 149. In addition, Moorer wrote the following: “I assure you that your requirements, evaluations and recommendations are being brought to the attention of our commander-in-chief who is giving Southeast Asia much personal attention despite his many activities elsewhere.” (National Archives, RG 218, Records of the Chairman, Records of Thomas Moorer, Box 68, JCS Out General Service Messages, January 1972)
  4. See Document 10 and footnote 2 thereto.