155. National Intelligence Estimate1

NIE 53/14.3–2–74



  • —Communist military forces in South Vietnam are more powerful than ever before.
  • —The South Vietnamese Armed Forces (RVNAF) are still strong and resilient and have generally acquitted themselves well since the ceasefire, but the decline to the present level of US military aid threatens to place them in a significantly weaker logistic posture than the Communists.
  • —Hanoi has a variety of military options, but the evidence points toward a marked increase in military action between now and mid-1975 designed to:
    • —defeat the GVN pacification program;
    • —inflict heavy casualties on the RVNAF;
    • —gain control of many more South Vietnamese; and
    • —force the GVN into new negotiations at disadvantage.
  • —At a minimum the Communists will sharply increase the tempo of fighting by making greater use of their in-country forces and firepower.
  • —In this case, their gains would be limited, but RVNAF stockpiles of ammunition and other critical supplies would probably be depleted by April or May below the 30-day reserve required for intensive combat.
  • —We believe that the Communists will commit part of their strategic reserve to exploit major vulnerabilities in the South Vietnamese position or to maintain the momentum of their military effort.
  • —Such a commitment would carry a greater risk of major defeats for top RVNAF units and a further compounding of GVN manpower and logistic problems.
  • —Without an immediate increase in US military assistance, the GVN’s military situation would be parlous, and Saigon might explore the possibility of new negotiations with the Communists.
  • —It is even possible—in response to a major opportunity—that the Communists would move to an all-out offensive by committing all or most of their strategic reserve. But our best judgment now is that they will not do so.
  • —Hanoi prefers to achieve its dry season goals through a military-political campaign that avoids the risks and losses of an all-out offensive.
  • —Hanoi probably hopes that by setting limits on its military operations there would be less likelihood of a strong reaction from Washington and that frictions with Moscow and Peking would be minimized.
  • —At currently appropriated levels of US military assistance, however, the level of combat that we do anticipate in the next six months will place the Communists in a position of significant advantage over RVNAF in subsequent fighting.

[Omitted here is the Discussion section.]

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Executive Registry Subject Files, Job 80–M01066A, Box 11, Vietnam (9). Secret. The Central Intelligence Agency and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State, Defense, and Treasury and the National Security Agency participated in the preparation of this estimate. The Director of Central Intelligence submitted the estimate with the concurrence of all members of the USIB except the FBI representative, who abstained on the ground that it was outside FBI jurisdiction. For the full text of the estimate, see National Intelligence Council, Estimative Products on Vietnam, 1948–1975 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2005), pp. 633–643.