214. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (Weinberger) to President Nixon1

    • DOD FY 73 Budget Amendment

On June 9, Secretary Laird submitted a budget request for about $3.6 billion in added FY 73 funds.2 It included $4.2 billion to cover the additional costs resulting from increased Allied and U.S. operations in SEA. These added requirements were offset by a net reduction of about $550 million to reflect the SALT agreements.3 The SALT changes include cutting back Safeguard to two sites and adding some new strategic program initiatives.

The added SEA requirements assumed the intensified activity levels and operations would continue at current rates through December. At our request DOD developed a revised budget requirement which assumes a September 30 cutoff date. This reduced the SEA totals to about $2.8 billion, and the net requirement to $2.25 billion. The two requests are summarized in the enclosed table.4

The issues that remain to be decided are discussed below.

SEA Timing Assumptions

The first issue is how long we should assume the intense combat activity as well as our augmented forces will continue at current levels. Assuming the effort will continue through the end of December has clear advantages. It provides a hedge to let us maintain the current effort another six months without going back to the Congress for [Page 951] more funds. It also signals the firmness of our intentions to NVN and its allies. However, the drawbacks are significant.

  • —It may appear to the Congress and public that we have doubts about the success of our efforts.
  • —The cost of the amendment is increased by about $1.3 billion.
  • —These funds may not be needed since the intensity of the conflict is most unlikely to continue at recent levels more than a few months, given weather patterns and limitations on NVN staying power.

Assuming a September 30 cutoff date would not force us to stop our intensified operations at that date. Another supplemental request could be submitted to the Congress or we could operate on the assumption added funds would be requested either after the election or early next year. Moreover, there is some hedge built into the request, especially for ground combat operations since activity levels are unlikely to continue at the high April rates assumed in developing the budget request.

Secretary Laird still supports the December cutoff, but I understand he will not strongly object to a September 30 cutoff date. We believe this shorter timeframe makes sense. Chuck Colson and Clark Mac-Gregor concur.

Your decision:

September 305

December 31

Offsetting Reductions to the DOD Program

The remaining issue is whether DOD should be directed to submit offsetting reductions in the baseline budget now before Congress to cover the added SEA costs. You have directed other agencies to submit offsets for any increased programs, even those forced on them by the Congress, in order to live within your spending ceiling. Director Weinberger believes DOD should agree to offsets because he believes some reductions can be made without serious risk by recognizing what Congress is almost certain to do, and by deferring some low priority programs. He also believes that if we do not adhere to your policy of offsets, we would set a bad precedent for other agencies and could not maintain our posture that neither spending increases nor additional taxes will be tolerated. He also feels that asking a big increase in spending for the escalated Vietnam activity may upset a currently reasonably positive state of public opinion. He is worried that submission of [Page 952] a large budget amendment may undercut a long-range veto strategy for big spending bills.

Dr. Kissinger feels it would be most inappropriate to apply this policy to DOD in this case. The added SEA effort was largely forced on the Department by the White House and it would be unjust to expect Defense to absorb the costs. Also it will lead DOD to make renewed efforts to reduce the scope of operations in SEA and cut back on our support to the RVNAF.

An illustrative list of offsets is shown on the enclosed table.6 The list contains two types of items.

  • —Programs that the Congress has already indicated it will cut or, based on known Congressional views, are likely to be cut. The danger in accepting likely Congressional actions and reducing the Defense budget requests accordingly is that the Committees will then look for other areas to cut and these reductions could have a serious impact on our military posture.
  • —Reductions in low priority programs which we do not expect Congress to cut. The examples on the illustrative list are in weapons procurement programs, not cuts in current forces or their readiness; DOD would of course be free to make substitutes. These reductions would have some future impact on our forces and their ability to support your foreign policy.

Secretary Laird is strongly opposed to DOD being forced to make offsetting reductions. Dr. Kissinger fully supports the Secretary on this matter. Director Weinberger recommends that you affirm your policy on offsets and direct DOD, the NSC and OMB to arrive at an agreed upon list of offsets in the total amount you direct.

Your decision:

No offsets7 (MacGregor recommends)

Direct offsetting cuts (Colson recommends)



Two draft NSDMs are enclosed for your approval. Both direct DOD to assume a September 30 cut-off date for intensified SEA operations. They also cover some minor aspects of the request that we have agreed on and will not be objected to strongly by DOD.

[Page 953]

The first NSDM (Tab A)8 does not direct offsetting reductions to cover the added SEA costs. Dr. Kissinger recommends this decision.

The second NSDM (Tab B)9 directs DOD to submit offsetting reductions. Director Weinberger recommends this decision.

Your decision:

No offsets10 (Dr. Kissinger’s recommendation) (MacGregor concurs)

Require offsets (Director Weinberger’s recommendation) (Colson concurs)

Henry A. Kissinger
Caspar W. Weinberger
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 237, Agency Files, DPRC & Defense Budget, Chronological File. Secret. Sent for urgent action. The memorandum bears a note indicating that the President saw it. Nixon added a handwritten note on the first page that reads: “Be sure K[issinger] concurs.” Odeen of the NSC Staff sent a draft to Kissinger on June 24 under a covering memorandum. (Ibid.)
  2. Not found.
  3. See Document 211.
  4. The table, entitled “DOD FY 73 Budget Amendment,” is enclosed but not printed. It itemized the savings resulting from the SALT agreement, funding for Laird’s proposed strategic program initiatives, and the two proposed additions to cover costs incurred in Southeast Asia. The new strategic programs envisioned by the Secretary of Defense included bomber rebasing; additional intelligence resources to enhance SALT verification capabilities; improved command and control; and the development of hardened missile sites, a new SLCM, and RVs with greater yield and better accuracy.
  5. Nixon initialed the September 30 option. He added the following handwritten notation: “(if K[issinger] concurs)”.
  6. The table, entitled “Offsets to Achieve a Zero Budget Amendment,” is enclosed but not printed.
  7. The President initialed this option.
  8. Document 215.
  9. Not printed.
  10. Nixon initialed this option. He added the following handwritten notation: “But Laird while not directed to submit offsets is to submit a list of those cuts which he would consider least damaging to our security. We must have this ready on a confidential basis—since Congressional action on our budget may require this.” Accordingly, Kissinger sent Laird a memorandum on June 28 directing him to “prepare a list of items which if cut from the DOD budget, you would consider least damaging to our security posture. In your consideration of these items, every effort should be made to assure that our current forces and their readiness are maintained.” (Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–77–0094, 337, White House) On July 12, Laird sent a memorandum to Kissinger declining to list the requested items as any additional cuts would have a harmful “impact on essential forces and readiness.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 237, Agency Files, DPRC & Defense Budget, Jan–Jul, 1972)