144. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Ford
  • Bipartisan Congressional Leadership
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Major General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs


  • Foreign Aid

President: I appreciate your coming and the cooperation you have given me. I was thinking last night of the many meetings I have been to, going back to LBJ, in this room on this problem. I want to talk on this problem for a minute and then Henry will talk. I meet with Henry every morning for over an hour. We face a number of difficult problems over the world. Whether it is Southeast Asia, the Middle East, or another part of the Mediterranean—Greece and Turkey, where Henry [Page 562]is in daily contact with Greece and Turkey—or the relationship with the Soviet Union where we are laying the groundwork for SALT and trade, or with Western Europe where we’re trying to bring close cooperation, we are faced with problems and tough decisions. I wanted to get the Leadership together to lay out the problems with you.

That gets to legislation—we must have what we need. On the defense appropriation, I appreciate what you have been able to do. In aid assistance there is a problem. We must assure that what we are trying to do in Vietnam is not destroyed through lack of funding or that our hands are not tied in using those funds. There are amendments which would limit me in emergencies. We need flexibility and an adequate amount of money.

There is a prospect of increased military activity in Vietnam, and also in the Mideast. We went through a crisis in Cyprus. We hope there won’t be anything else, but we must be prepared in case there is. Now let me turn it over to Henry and then I hope for a frank discussion.

Kissinger: I strongly support the President’s statement about the opportunities we face in foreign policy. There is new leadership in Europe, and with our new situation, it has created a new atmosphere. The Soviet Union has gone out of its way to create a good atmosphere. In SALT we are facing the best prospects we have faced in some time. In the Mideast we are facing a difficult negotiation. It is difficult to phase them to show progress and prevent a blowup. We are pursuing a low profile with Greece and Turkey because passions run so high; we want to nudge them to negotiate so we will not be blamed for a collapse. We are making progress though. This is by way of background:

In Southeast Asia, there is a problem of money and restrictions. If we bug out of Vietnam, it would affect our whole foreign policy and the reliance that countries can place on us. If the amounts are too small, it matters little whether it is barely too little or much too little. In MAP, you know the requests and the appropriation.

President: I was discussing this a day or so ago. A soldier on patrol normally carries 8 grenades. Now they carry two. What does that do to the soldier’s morale. Their morale inevitably sags and that at the least unsettles the situation in South Vietnam.

Kissinger: It is a vicious cycle. The psychology is as important as the military situation. Until June they felt good. Then their ammunition was reduced and their morale sagged. Then they gave up some outposts and their morale dropped more.

We think North Vietnam is on the brink of deciding whether or not to go the military route. To the extent we cut back, we encourage military action.

It is not a matter of economizing—we don’t have enough. We have done what we can. Unused equipment disintegrates rapidly.

[Page 563]

We realize the funds are agreed.

Mahon: There is one area, though. There is $77 million for the F–5’s which can be used.

Kissinger: We agree, but we will still have to come in for a supplemental. It’s not enough.

On the economic side, the funds are totally inadequate. We gave a 5-year program and we said the worst way is to give just too little because you can never get a process of growth. $600 million is the minimum to stabilize the situation. At the levels now the situation will be seriously jeopardized. Food and fuel costs have risen tremendously. This has to do with political stability. In June we were impressed with Ambassador Martin’s report of progress. Now the impact of these cutbacks is turning the situation around. The situation is a disaster.

Stennis: The actual facts as I understand. The money until now has come out of Defense without a method to let it be traced. This year there are requirements for proper accounting. I suggested a personal Presidential representative to watch the spending. I think we should try it and we should give $800–900 million. With tightening up it should be enough. They were firing like we did. They have reduced that. I think we should try this.

President: Do you recommend a military man?

Stennis: He must have military knowledge.

Aiken: One reason for the cut is they still have a million men under arms.

President: I would assume they have kept the levels up because there has been no reduction in the opposition.

Kissinger: On the contrary, North Vietnamese forces have tripled since the Agreement. North Vietnam has built a whole system of roads so that equipment can come in in a day or so. They [the ARVN] were doing OK until these cuts.

We maybe shouldn’t have trained them in our tactics, but we have and it is now their own and it would be disastrous to change.

McClellan: How much more do you need?

Kissinger: $200 million in military and $150 in economic.

Mahon: We can provide Kissinger with this money right now. We have to try to hold the line now and try in the new session for more.

McClellan: So how much more are you going to ask for?

Hays: I have never seen the Vietnam aid debate more acrimonious. This is an election year. Fertilizer is a sore point here—you can’t get it here. To talk two months before elections about more aid and more fertilizer is dreaming. Try to hold the line and come back after the elections. I think these are the facts.

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President: I understand, but we are trying to lay things out frankly.

Hays: We could have done it earlier, but to reopen it now is really impossible.

Cederberg: I think we will not get a bill before the elections and will be working on a CR. The problem is the CR is low and doesn’t include the Middle East.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Vietnam.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, Box 5, 9/12/1974. Confidential. The meeting was held in the White House Cabinet Room. All brackets, with the exception of those describing omitted material, are in the original. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the meeting ended at 8:55 a.m. (Ibid., Staff Secretary’s Office File)