185. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1

    • Military Manpower and the Congress

Congress has or may shortly enact a number of measures that will adversely affect our military capabilities and the foreign policies dependent upon them.

The Congressional Problem

As you know, the Administration’s military manpower program, including the all-volunteer package, was passed by the House with only one significant change—the provision of about $1.2 billion more in pay increases than you requested.2 However, the Senate is now considering a number of significant modifications, including: [Page 776]

  • A one-year limit to the draft extension. The two-year extension passed the House by only a two vote margin and it may not survive on the floor in the Senate.3
  • A substantial reduction in U.S. forces in Europe. Senator Mansfield has introduced a resolution calling for a ceiling of 150,000 on U.S. forces in Europe. If passed, this would mean cutting our forces there by 50 percent.4
  • An across-the-board reduction in manpower levels. The Senate Armed Services Committee has reported out a 56,000 man year reduction in average FY 1972 force levels with a 50,000 man cut in the Army alone.

At this moment, however, the only serious manpower measure that seems certain to pass is the across-the-board reduction in our manpower levels approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Apparently, its justification was that:

  • —Given the planned withdrawals from Vietnam, many believed this cut did not represent a net reduction in our planned forces. In fact, it does since the forces we plan to withdraw would not be disbanded.
  • —Senator Stennis believed that a reduction in overall manpower levels by his Committee was essential to get the Administration’s program approved by the Senate without either a one-year extension or cuts in Europe.

Regardless of this reasoning, however, you should realize that even this apparently small reduction in our manpower will have important effects on our military capabilities.

  • —To reduce its FY 72 strength by 50,000 man years, the Army will have to reduce its planned strengths in June 1972 by as much as 80,000 men.
  • —To accommodate this manpower reduction, our combat forces may have to be reduced by as much as two full divisions with their support. This could result in a U.S. ground force of only 11 divisions compared to the 16 divisions we had in 1964 and the 13 now planned for FY 1973. A smaller one division reduction in our combat force would be possible with greater reduction in support and non-divisional forces.

A reduction in our ground combat forces of this magnitude would have very serious strategic repercussions:

  • —It would severely limit our ability to carry out an initial conventional defense of Western Europe against a Warsaw Pact attack unless we received prior warning and reacted immediately to it. There will be no margin for error.
  • —It would greatly reduce our present capability to assist our Allies in Asia without substantial drawdowns in the forces committed to NATO.

Unless you are prepared to make major revisions in strategy, I believe that it is critical to preserve the capability of our ground forces at about currently-planned levels. Defeat of the Senate’s 50,000 man reduction is essential to that end. This will not be easy since:

  • Senator Stennis apparently believes that this reduction is the best we can do in the Senate. In turn, he is probably correct that a one-year extension or a substantial cut in Europe would be even more injurious than the across-the-board reduction already approved.
  • Secretary Laird and the JCS probably do not now plan to fight the reduction. Besides agreeing with Stennis’ political judgment, Secretary Laird may believe that this reduction is beneficial since it is consistent with his strategy proposal that we not support our Asian Allies with ground forces after 1975.5 While the Air Force and Navy were not substantially reduced, and, therefore, have few objections to the Senate action. General Westmoreland is, I understand, strongly opposed to such a cut in capabilities.

In my opinion, the first essential step toward preserving our ground force capabilities is to ensure that the Administration takes a strong and unified stand against the Senate reduction. To start this process, I have prepared a memorandum to Secretary Laird (Tab A)6 that: [Page 778]

  • —Points out your concern that our ground forces are now at a relatively low level.
  • —Enlists his active support in defeating this reduction or any other Senate action that will seriously reduce our ground force capability below planned levels.
  • —Asks him to investigate alternative ways in which the impact of manpower reductions could be lessened, such as spreading them more evenly among the Services or reducing support rather than combat forces.


That you sign the memorandum at Tab A.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 320, Subject Files, Draft Reform—1971. Top Secret. Sent for action. A stamped note on the memorandum reads: “The President has seen.” Wayne Smith forwarded the memorandum on May 12 to Kissinger.
  2. On April 1, the House of Representatives passed House Resolution (H.R.) 6531, which approved a two-year extension of the military draft. The full Congress passed the military draft bill (P.L. 92–129) on September 21. In addition to extending the draft for two years, through June 30, 1973, the legislation authorized pay raises and improved benefits for armed service personnel totaling $2.4 billion a year and created a national lottery call that replaced the local board quota system of selecting draftees. (Congressional Quarterly Almanac, Vol. XXVII (1971), pp. 257–296)
  3. Nixon discussed the two-year draft extension during a May 11 telephone conversation with Haig. The transcript of the conversation reads in part as follows:

    [President:] “Let’s have a little gab fest on this, or a reassessment of the Volunteer Army thing. It may be that it won’t float, but at any rate, we’ve got to get a two-year extension.

    Haig: Oh yes. If we don’t have the two-year draft, you won’t ever get the all-volunteer. We have been working intensively on this. We’ve got the picture on where everyone stands. There are about 10 or 12 floaters.

    “President: I think we better have the NSC make another study on the Volunteer Army thing.

    Haig: It’s difficult because of the way—

    “President: But even with it [the Vietnam conflict] over it may not float. But maybe … of course with high unemployment maybe it will be better. It’s tough to get people into the service, even though it gives a lot of people good lives.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 998, Haig Chronological Files, Haig Telcons—1971)

  4. On May 11, Mansfield introduced an amendment to the military draft extension bill (H.R. 6531) that sought to impose a limit of 150,000 U.S. troops stationed in Europe. The Senate defeated the amendment by a 36–61 vote on May 19.
  5. See Document 184.
  6. Attached but not printed is a draft memorandum from Nixon to Laird informing him that the force reductions recommended by the Senate Armed Services Committee “would almost certainly affect our capability to meet our responsibilities and treaty commitments in both Europe and Asia.” Nixon signed the memorandum on May 24 and sent it to Laird instructing him to “lead an Administration-wide effort aimed at preventing any substantial reduction by the Congress in the levels of our ground force capabilities.” A copy of the memorandum was sent to Moorer.