41. Memorandum From the Secretary of Defense’s Military Assistant (Pursley) to the Special Assistant for Vietnamese Affairs, Central Intelligence Agency (Carver)1


  • Study Parameters for Net Assessment of DRV/RVNAF Forces

Secretary Laird’s requested comparative analysis and net assessment of the DRV armed forces and the RVNAF hopefully could cover the following parameters:

  • • troop levels (quantity and quality)
  • • equipment
  • • training
  • • leadership
  • • morale.

In addition, the Secretary would like an assessment of the overall capability of each force to

  • • defend its own territory, and
  • • project its military power across national boundaries.

The Secretary would appreciate the net assessment to be based upon:

  • • The status as of 1 January 1972, and separately,
  • • The projected status as of 1 January 1973.

You may assume that the projected military assistance to the DRV will be at those levels of the recent past. The projected assistance to the RVNAF can likewise be assumed to be at levels which, in essence, are projected from the trends of the recent past. You may treat US air and naval support parametrically; but it would be reasonable to assume declining levels of direct US military support.

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In addition to the net assessments outlined above, Secretary Laird is interested, as you know, in the quantitative and qualitative arms limitations imposed on the DRV by Moscow and Peking. In particular, he would appreciate your judgments on:

  • • What accounts for the current levels of USSR/PRC military aid, which, by reports we have seen, are lower than levels provided in the late 1960s?
  • • What operating limitations, if any, do the lower military aid levels put on the DRV?
  • • What accounts for the qualitative arms limitations, if any, imposed by Moscow and/or Peking (e.g., why haven’t the Soviets provided SA–3s etc.)?
  • • What operating limitations have qualitative limitations put on the DRV forces?
  • • What would be the impact on the military situation in SEA if Moscow and/or Peking were to increase substantially the quantitative, and/or qualitative military assistance levels? to decrease, say cut in half, the military assistance levels?2

Robert E. Pursley 3
Major General, USAF
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Files of the Deputy Director for Intelligence, Job 80–R01720R, Box 7, GAC [George A. Carver] Chronology, March 1972. Secret; Sensitive. Carver sent Pursley’s memorandum to members of the CIA Ad Hoc Indochina Group, informally called “the brethren,” to obtain their views on the scope of the study as defined by Pursley. In his March 15 transmittal memorandum, Carver wrote: “My intent is to see if we can arrive at a consensus view on what we are prepared to undertake, a view I would then present to the Director for his approval and subsequently communicate to Secretary Laird.” (Ibid.)
  2. The brethren met on March 16 and Carver reported to Helms the next day. While directing his staff to move ahead on the analysis and assessment Pursley had requested, Carver told Helms that three issues needed clarification: (1) the wisdom and feasibility of the CIA undertaking a project typically carried out by the military; (2) the anger of the military once the CIA’s involvement became clear (as it would since Carver’s staff would have to obtain information from the military); and (3) the military’s understandable desire that the project’s result should reach Laird as a joint, coordinated paper. On this point, Carver noted: “This, however, is precisely what Laird has explicitly told me he does not want, expressing his thoughts forcefully in statements interlarded with impolitic and very unflattering aspersions on the services in general and DIA in particular.” (Memorandum from Carver to Helms, March 17; ibid.)
  3. Pursley signed “Bob” above his typed signature.