218. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • The Symington Ceiling and Military Activity in Laos

Last year we were able to live within the Symington ceiling on expenditures in Laos by restricting certain military activities, establishing a special accounting system, and a great deal of effort both in Washington and the field.2

I believe that this year we should try to avoid a ceiling altogether. However, if a ceiling is unavoidable, it should be at a level high enough to prevent arbitrary financial restrictions upon our military activity. If we are to be successful in either avoiding a ceiling entirely or in achieving a satisfactory amount, clear, firm guidance is required.

Partially because of concern with the impact of military expenditures on the Symington ceiling and partially due to the distraction of critical events elsewhere, there has been a tendency not to focus on military opportunities in North Laos. I believe there is a potential in the Plaine des Jarres (PDJ) area to take advantage of the current NVA drawdown, which is both a reflection of normal rainy season procedures and a move to strengthen NVA forces in MR–1 of South Vietnam. Effective military action could (1) reduce the North Vietnamese freedom to transfer additional forces to the key battlefields in SVN, (2) improve Vang Pao’s military position for the next dry season, and (3) improve our situation in the event of a ceasefire in place. Here again, I believe clear guidance is required.

With your approval, I propose to send the memorandum at Tab A3 to State, Defense, and CIA. The memorandum reaffirms your position that preferably there should be no Laotian ceiling, but that—if we must accept one—it should be high enough not to impinge on military strategy. The memorandum also expresses your desire that appropriate measures be taken to regain the PDJ. Such measures would, of course, include provision of adequate tacair and B–52 support.

[Page 764]


That you approve my forwarding the memorandum at Tab A.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 550, Country Files, Far East, Laos, Vol. 9. Top Secret; Sensitive. Sent for action. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. See footnote 6, Document 40, and footnote 4, Document 210.
  3. Attached but not printed is the July 27 memorandum.
  4. The President initialed his approval.