219. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1

SUBJECT

  • Improvement of RVNAF

On my memo of July 15 (Tab A)2 sending you Sir Robert Thompson’s latest Vietnam trip report, you asked that we follow up restructuring ARVN to increase the number of topflight and mobile national units. This memo summarizes how we are proceeding on this and other key problems identified during the recent visits of Sir Robert Thompson and General Haig to Vietnam.

Force Structure. I have asked Secretary Laird to examine the alternative ways of increasing the number of RVNAF mobile reserve units like the Marines and airborne which are capable of fighting anywhere in Vietnam. We shall probably have to apply pressure and equipment incentives to get the needed increase in the cutting edge of RVNAF forces. A Defense study providing alternative approaches together with the costs and a time-phasing of expected results, should be ready by early August.

Leadership. I am asking DOD to propose U.S. actions to improve RVNAF leadership based in part on a comprehensive evaluation of RVNAF leaders down to the regimental and province chief level. We should have a full range of alternative approaches for your review in about a month. In the meantime, we shall assure that the importance of continued leadership improvement is stressed in our Mission’s communications with President Thieu and his key aides.

[Page 765]

Vietnamese Air Force. Despite repeated efforts, DOD has still not satisfied me that we have adequately assessed the needs of the Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) over the next several years. Therefore, my staff has begun an interagency study to determine the priorities for expansion of the VNAF. This study will identify the shortcomings of VNAF in the absence of U.S. air assets and the constraints on rapid VNAF development. A full range of options in such fields as air defense, including providing the VNAF higher performance aircraft such as F–4s, is being developed. The study will also cover potential political and negotiation aspects of possible additions to the VNAF.

Other problem areas identified by Sir Robert Thompson and General Haig are being addressed in the normal channels.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 116, Vietnam Subject Files, Sir Robert Thompson (1972). Secret. Sent for information. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. Document 203.