170. Memorandum From the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Rush)1
- The Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
- The Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
- The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
- The Deputy Director for Plans, CIA
- General Praphat’s Plans to Expand the Thai Volunteer Program and to Use Thai
- Volunteers to Conduct Operations Throughout Laos
Mr. Karamessines’ WSAG paper of 3 July2 was most informative and reassuring about the Thai volunteer program and RTG intentions for the program. I agree that recruitment should be emphasized in order to bring deployed forces and replacement units up to full strength and keep them at that level. Additionally, the deployment plans voiced by General Praphat accord with our view, although the priorities among the areas mentioned by General Praphat are not clear. Of greatest interest as a potential problem area, however, were the comments on equipping the volunteers and sustaining them outside Laos temporarily should a ceasefire occur.
As you know, assistance to the Thai volunteers has been provided under the authority which permits military department appropriations to be utilized for military assistance to Vietnam and Laos. We have argued that the Thai volunteers are “local forces in Laos” as the words are used in the Defense Procurement Act. With assistance to Thailand now in the Military Assistance Program, the opportunity to mingle assistance to Laos and Thailand is further reduced. The points I wish to make are that:
- —Equipment provided to the Thai volunteers is provided for the purpose of assisting Laos. This equipment may not be transferred by Laos to other governments or to persons not its officers or agents without US consent. This consent must be reported to Congress 15 days before given under Section 502, PL 91–441.
- —Authority does not now exist to assist Thailand with military equipment other than by MAP. —Under circumstances of ceasefire, it is doubtful that maintenance of the volunteer force in Thailand could be justified as assistance to Laos. Further, unless the forces under redeployment to Thailand were either part of the RTA or under control of Thai MOD, they would not be eligible for support under Thai MAP.
These constraints should be considered in our dealings with the RTG concerning the volunteer program. In particular, a review of the above assistance problems—especially the effect on Laos-related projects of MAP funding for assistance to Thailand—should be dispatched to the Embassies in Bangkok and Vientiane to apprise them of the situation.
Finally, the comments by General Praphat about the build-up to 36 volunteer battalions, together with the recent surge in recruitment, indicate that the RTG is making a determined movement toward the [Page 371]36 battalion objective. I wish in this connection to draw attention to the agreed criteria that battalions should be deployed at 100% of authorized strength and maintained at a minimum of 80% of authorized strength. These criteria have not been met. Before supporting added units beyond the existing 25 numbered battalions, we should assure that these manning criteria are met. In pursuit of this goal I am directing CINCPAC to provide support appropriate for additional battalions when new battalions are at 100% strength and all existing deployed units are at 80% strength. I hope you will agree that this action is appropriate to provide field activities with the leverage needed to assure that our manning goals are met.