175. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Laird to President Nixon 1


  • Thai Volunteers and FY 73 Legislative Ceiling

During FY 1972, a number of US-supported Thai volunteer units provided valuable assistance in resisting the North Vietnamese dry season offensive in Laos. By June, 22 such battalions had been deployed in Laos. However, these units were manned at only 59 percent of their authorized strength, in violation of the Thai agreement to maintain deployed units at a minimum strength of 80 percent.

During the past three months, exceptional recruiting efforts have taken place in Thailand. The Thai volunteer force has expanded from 9,000 to over 19,000 men during this time, and three additional battalions have been formed.

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On 28 August 1972, Ambassadors Unger and Godley jointly requested that the number of Thai volunteer units be increased from 25 to 30 battalions. This would represent an increase in FY 1973 expenditures of at least $16 million. Interagency plans envisage a maximum force of 36 battalions at a cost of $134 million per year. The 30 battalions requested by the Ambassadors would cost $126 million.

You will recall that your 8 August 1972 letters to Chairmen Hebert and Stennis, as well as Department of Defense representations to the conferees, were all aimed at eliminating any ceiling on Laos expenditures. These efforts were successful only in raising the FY 1973 ceiling level from $350 million to $375 million. This ceiling is on total US assistance to Laos for FY 1973 and includes Defense, CIA and AID funding. We will incur at least a $55 million overrun if spending continues at the planned rate.

In view of this new ceiling, we have tried repeatedly to get interagency agreement to scale down the Laos program to get within the $375 million limitation. We have not been successful.

I view this new legislative ceiling as a serious matter and will assure that Defense operations are carried out at a level consistent with the $375 million limit. As a first step, unless you direct otherwise, I am issuing orders which will prevent expansion of the Thai volunteer force beyond the present 25 battalions—at least until fiscal pressures abate.

Melvin R. Laird
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 565, Country Files, Far East, Thailand, Vol. IX. Secret; Sensitive.