69. Letter From the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Packard) to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson)1
This responds to your letter of May 212 regarding troop withdrawals from Thailand.
As you probably know the FY 71 Department of Defense budget is facing serious pressure from both the Congress and inflation. We anticipate that these difficulties will increase sharply in FY 72. For this reason it is essential that we reevaluate the essentiality of each SEA program. As part of this review Secretary Laird asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff to assess the relative priorities of all Department of Defense programs. In their response they found that, in the absence of supplemental FY 71 funding from Congress, reductions in SEA air operations must be made if we are to support other essential SEA and non-SEA Department of Defense programs. Since the mood of the Congress, in our judgment, prevents consideration of supplemental funding at this time, Secretary Laird has approved the proposed air reductions in Thailand.
The decisions on this matter, which have been provided to the President for review and final approval, are attached as in the schedule for force reductions in Thailand3 as developed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. These decisions will result in only slight modifications of this very excellent plan which I believe goes as far as possible toward meeting legitimate political concerns within budget constraints.[Page 143]
At the juncture, it is essential that we initiate the discussions with the RTG as soon as possible. On June 5, Secretary Laird emphasized the urgency of this step. I believe that the appropriate next step is for our staffs to prepare negotiating instructions covering some of the questions in your letter and, consequently, I have not included detailed answers in this reply. However, I am satisfied that planned air resources will be adequate to continue Vietnamization progress and provide air support to the RLG forces.4