112. Memorandum From Robert B. Plowden, Jr. of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft)1


  • Senior Review Group Meeting on MAAG
  • Requirements: Monday, November 29, 1976, 3:00 p.m.

Purpose of This Meeting

To determine what structure should be proposed to perform security assistance functions in Fiscal Year 1978.

The following issues are in contention and should be addressed:

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1. What MAAG-type organizations should be proposed for retention in Latin America?

2. In countries such as Ethiopia, Spain, and Turkey, where there is disagreement only as to the number of personnel to be assigned to the MAAG-type organization (Defense Field Office), what number of personnel should be proposed?

3. In what form should an amendment be proposed which would permit continued Defense Attaché Office participation in security assistance functions? Should a general repeal of the current restriction be requested, or should authorization be requested for specified countries?

4. Should the security assistance organization in Jordan be an augmentation to the Defense Attaché Office, or a separate Defense Field Office?

5. Should legislation be requested which would permit, without specific congressional approval, assignment to each U.S. diplomatic mission of up to six (instead of the current three) military personnel to perform security assistance functions?


The International Security Assistance and Arms Export Control Act of 1976 required a reduction to 34 MAAGs by September 30, 1976; in addition, the Act requires specific congressional authorization for MAAGs existing after September 30, 1977.2 The reduction has been completed, and the study on MAAG requirements prepared by the Interdepartmental Group for Political-Military Affairs in response to NSSM 2433 has resulted in four options for MAAG presence after September 30, 1977.

The agencies involved in this review were Defense, State, OMB, CIA, and ACDA, and their study comments are at Tabs B through F,4 respectively. Defense and State recommended specific options in their study comments, while CIA and ACDA comments were generally supportive of these options. In addition, the NSC Staff and OMB have recommended third and fourth options based on their evaluation of the study comment options. Before addressing the differences in the four options, some elements of commonality should be mentioned.

Common Positions

Each of the four options recommends that security assistance functions be performed by Foreign Service Officers in countries with the [Page 473] very smallest programs; by Defense Attaché Offices (DAOs) in some countries; by the newly-established, three-person Offices of Defense Cooperation (ODCs) in most countries (ODCs do not require specific congressional approval); and by congressionally-approved, MAAG-type organizations—Defense Field Offices (DEFOs)—with reduced staffing and functions in countries where U.S. foreign policy interests necessitate a group of more than three members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

There is also general agreement on three particular aspects of the MAAG issue:

• Three former MAAGs—Iran, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia—will be designated ODCs, with personnel in excess of those three funded under FMS contracts. These contracts have not yet been signed, so Defense has included those country figures in its alternative, while State and OMB, assuming the contracts will be signed, have not included the excess personnel or costs in their alternatives.

• It will be necessary to rely on temporary duty teams of experts to perform security assistance on one-time bases as manpower levels in MAAG-type organizations are reduced.

• The law (which now prohibits use of DAOs for security assistance functions) should be amended to allow DAOs to continue performing security assistance functions in countries where political sensitivities are paramount or manpower savings are effected by not establishing separate ODCs. (As discussed below, the NSC Staff option recommends that DAO augmentation be requested only in those countries where manpower savings are effected.) The provision of the law which prohibits DAO involvement resulted in part from the efforts of a House International Relations Committee staff member who had served in a DAO while on active duty, and who thought that security assistance functions he had to perform detracted from performance of his intelligence functions. While such an allegation may have been true in his case and isolated others, the proposed change to the law is supported by all agencies involved, including strong support from the CIA and JCS.

Aside from these broad areas of agreement, distinct positions have emerged on the number of MAAG-type organizations/DEFOs to be retained, the manning levels needed in various countries, and the costs involved to support the recommended positions. A summary of the key features of the four options is at Tab G.

Defense Option

The Defense option recommends that 31 MAAG-type organizations be retained in FY 1978. While the Defense proposal substantially reduces manpower in many cases and represents some cost reduction [Page 474] from the FY 1977 program cost, the proposal represents a reduction of only three MAAG-type organizations from the 34 authorized for FY 1977.

Fourteen of the 31 organizations proposed are the traditional Latin American military groups, which, quoting Defense, are recommended for continuation to “perform the traditional role of representation and essential security assistance functions on an as-required basis.” Because the clear intent of the law is to authorize only those personnel performing “essential security assistance functions,” the traditional representation argument will carry little weight absent more compelling evidence of need. To request approval of 31 MAAG-type organizations, therefore, even with some reductions in manpower, quite probably would be regarded as unresponsive by Congress and might lead to enactment of more restrictive legislation.

State Option5

The State option proposes the retention of 20 DEFOs in FY 1978, although for reasons discussed below, the proposed cost and total number of personnel are virtually identical to the Defense proposal’s figures. State proposes retaining four of the 14 Latin American military groups as DEFOs, but offers somewhat more convincing reasons for the four than Defense did for the 14: Panama, because of the on-going negotiations leading to a new defense relationship; Brazil, because of its geo-political importance; Argentina, because of the need to not appear as unduly favoring Brazil; and Bolivia, through FY 1978 only, because of our undertaking for a military modernization there.

In some countries where State and Defense agree on the need for a DEFO, State has proposed a higher number of personnel, primarily military, to staff the DEFOs than has Defense: e.g., Ethiopia (59 as compared to 34); Spain (42 as compared to 30); and Turkey (127 as compared to 97). In each of these instances, Defense has requested the number of people it deems necessary to perform the essential security assistance functions, while State appears to be requesting additional personnel for “traditional representation” purposes. For this reason, the Defense position appears more acceptable because it better comports with legislative intent.

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The State alternative also recommends that legislation be proposed which seeks the authority to assign up to six, rather than three, military personnel to ODCs without congressional approval. Because an amendment already will be required to allow DAOs to perform security assistance functions, there is small chance that Congress will accept two simultaneous revisions to its recently enacted law.

NSC Staff Option

The NSC Staff option recommends combining the best features of the Defense and State options. It proposes retention of the 20 DEFOs recommended by State, plus one DEFO in Jordan (where State has requested a DAO augmentation of 10 military members, a request which I believe would seriously harm chances for legislative relief from the current DAO restriction, because it was Congress’ intent to identify and specifically authorize large security assistance operations such as this).6 To disguise a DEFO by integrating it into a large DAO clearly would subvert the legislative intent. In addition, it proposes acceptance of the lower Defense figures for those DEFOs where Defense and State disagree only as to numbers. Essentially, this proposal accepts the State option insofar as Latin America is concerned, and the lower Defense personnel figures in countries such as Ethiopia, Spain, and Turkey. The result of this combination is a proposal which provides for that number of missions and personnel needed to perform essential security assistance functions, a result totally consonant with legislative intent.

In addition, the NSC Staff option recommends that continued DAO participation in security assistance operations be requested only in those countries where personnel or cost savings are effected by not establishing separate ODCs.7 Defense, State, and OMB recommend continued DAO security assistance participation in some countries where personnel or cost savings are not effected, but where “political sensitivities are paramount.” The legislative history of the Act, however, is quite clear in its intent that security assistance organizations be used only for performance of essential security assistance functions, and not for “representative” or “politically sensitive” purposes. A proposed amendment requesting continued DAO security assistance participation in as few countries as possible, and then only where personnel and cost savings are effected, would appear to have the greatest chance of success in Congress.8

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OMB Option

The OMB option recommends retention of 14 DEFOs in FY 1978. From the list of 20 on which Defense, State, and the NSC Staff agree, it further recommends terminating MAAGs in Panama, Liberia, Tunisia, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Japan. No reason for this recommendation is given, other than OMB’s unsupported conclusion that “programs and functions in those countries do not warrant more than three military personnel.” Considering the political sensitivities involved in our relationships with these countries and the fact that the NSC Staff option results in significant reductions from FY 1977 MAAG totals, I believe that the NSC Staff option will satisfy the congressional desire for phasing down the MAAG presence, while avoiding the repercussions which OMB’s precipitous cuts would occasion. In addition, keeping in mind that a proposal similar to this now must be made to Congress each year, the NSC Staff option leaves the most flexibility for future years.

Approach at the Meeting

Your talking points for the meeting are at Tab A. I suggest that you open the meeting by underscoring the fact that the International Security Assistance and Arms Export Control Act marks a new day insofar as MAAGs are concerned, and attempts to maintain the status quo almost certainly will meet with congressional disapproval. Also, while there has been a considerable degree of agency agreement on this topic, a number of contentious issues require resolution prior to formula-tion and submission of the FY 1978 budget request for MAAG-type organizations.

Specifically, in view of the considerations and agency positions detailed above, you will want to:

—Determine which countries in Latin America should retain MAAG-type organizations.

—Determine what number of personnel should be proposed for assignment to Defense Field Offices in those countries (such as Ethiopia, Spain, and Turkey) where there is general agreement on the need for a DEFO, but differing views on the number of personnel needed to perform security assistance functions.

—Discuss the form in which an amendment should be proposed which would permit continued Defense Attaché Office participation in security assistance functions in FY 1978.

—Decide whether the security assistance organization in Jordan should be a DEFO or a DAO augmented by 10 members of the military.

—Discuss the desirability of requesting an increase from three to six in the number of military personnel which can be assigned, without [Page 477] prior congressional approval, to the Chief of each U.S. diplomatic mission to perform security assistance functions.

—Indicate that you will discuss with the President these and other points raised at the meeting and that a Presidential decision memorandum will be forthcoming.9

  1. Source: Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box 17, Senior Review Group Meeting, 11/29/76—MAAG Requirements (NSSM 243). Secret. Sent for information.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 103.
  3. NSSM 243 and the response to it are Documents 85 and 103, respectively.
  4. None of the attached tabs are printed.
  5. In an October 22 memorandum, Vest apprised Kissinger of the Department’s proposed position and recommended his approval. Kissinger, according to a handwritten note on the memorandum, “approved with [the] proviso that we seek legislation to amend the size of the ODCs from three to six.” Vest’s memorandum and Borg’s November 2 memorandum [also at Tab B] to Scowcroft officially conveying the Department’s position are in the National Archives, RG 59, S/S–I Files, Lot File 80D212, NSSM 243.
  6. Scowcroft wrote, “Who knows about this?” in the margin next to this sentence.
  7. Scowcroft highlighted this sentence and wrote, “Meaning?” in the margin next to it.
  8. Scowcroft wrote, “Why?” in the margin next to this sentence.
  9. A handwritten and mostly illegible record of the SRG meeting is in the Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box 30, Meeting Materials—Senior Review Group—MAAG Requirements, 11/29/76.