152. Interagency Intelligence Memorandum1

DCI/NIO 2423

SUBJECT

  • Response to Part I of NSSM 213: An Intelligence Appraisal of Factors Influencing the Course of Events in the Republic of Vietnam Over the Next Five Years

Key Points

There are major differences of view within the intelligence community concerning the seriousness of the problems facing the South Vietnamese armed forces and the likely course of North Vietnamese policy toward the South over the next five years.

  • —The military performance of the RVNAF has been reasonably effective since the January 1973 ceasefire agreement. There has been some decline in recent months in RVNAF capabilities and effectiveness, but this decline has not yet reached significant levels.
  • —All intelligence agencies generally agree that Hanoi probably will not choose to mount a new 1972-style offensive in the current dry season (i.e., between now and June 1, 1975), although some escalation of NVA/VC military activity is likely.
  • —The Communists would probably emerge from such a limited campaign in the present dry season relatively stronger than they are now. Such a campaign would force the RVNAF to draw down its [Page 576]military stocks and put the RVNAF in a more vulnerable position, but all agencies agree that it would not lead to a critical military situation during this dry season.
  • —There are varying interpretations as to how such a campaign would affect the future military balance in Vietnam. DIA, and the US Army and Air Force intelligence representatives believe that a campaign of this scope would significantly erode RVNAF capabilities to withstand future Communist military pressure. CIA and State/INR do not believe that such a campaign would significantly change the present military balance.
  • —Looking beyond this dry season, it is only prudent to assume that the North Vietnamese may launch an all-out offensive within the next few years, although one office, CIA/OCI, believes there are certain emerging factors that could restrain the North Vietnamese from all-out action during the five-year period of this NSSM.
  • —All the other intelligence agencies see few constraints that would limit North Vietnam’s military options, at least for the next several years.
  • —If there is an all-out North Vietnamese offensive—one to which a major part of Hanoi’s strategic reserve is committed—the whole intelligence community believes that the South Vietnamese would suffer heavy reverses.
  • —At a minimum, massive US logistic support would be required to prevent a decisive GVN defeat. At least a symbolic use of US combat air support would probably also be required.
  • —Even if there is no all-out offensive, most of the intelligence community believes that the process of decline in RVNAF effectiveness will accelerate after the current dry season, unless there is a major increase in US military aid above present levels.
  • CIA/OCI and the NIO/SSEA, however, believe that the RVNAF can hold its own in a strategic sense so long as military aid to both sides remains in the same relative balance as at present.
  • —In the political area, all intelligence agencies agree that the current political agitation in South Vietnam poses no immediate threat to the Thieu government. Over the longer term, an indefinite continuation of hostilities and economic decline would cause pressure to mount for Thieu to step aside in favor of a new government which would be prepared to make negotiating concessions to the Communists.

Note: The economic prospects of South Vietnam over the next five years, and the impact of various US aid levels on these prospects, are not discussed herein, but will be considered in another memorandum to be produced shortly.2

[Omitted here is the detailed Discussion section of the paper.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box 33, NSSM 213. Secret; Sensitive. The intelligence community generated this report in response to NSSM 213, Document 150. On the same day, the Central Intelligence Agency issued an independent survey of political unrest in South Vietnam, “Political Discontent in South Vietnam,” 1147/74, November 18, which concluded: “In the final analysis, political stability in Saigon will depend on things over which the present political opposition [to Thieu] has little control—the course of the war, economic developments, and future U.S. aid levels.” (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for East Asia and the Pacific, Box 18, Vietnam, 3)
  2. Document 157.