119. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to President Ford1


  • Military Assistance Advisory Groups

The International Security Assistance and Arms Export Control Act of 19762 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. In response to this requirement, an NSC review of the worldwide requirement for the continuation of MAAGs was initiated.3 At this time, the required reduction for FY 1977 has been made, and the study on MAAG requirements has been completed. The study contains two options for MAAG presence after September 30, 1977.

Both options recommend that security assistance functions be performed:

—by Foreign Service Officers in countries with the very smallest programs;

—by Defense Attaché Offices (DAOs) in countries where programs are small but require occasional in-country military expertise;

—by three-person Offices of Defense Cooperation (ODCs—which do not require specific Congressional approval) in countries with small programs which nonetheless require full-time attention;

—by Congressionally-approved, MAAG-type organizations (Defense Field Offices (DEFOs) or Military Groups) in countries with large programs and where U.S. foreign policy interests necessitate a group of more than three members of the U.S. armed forces.

In addition, both options recommend that the law (which now prohibits use of DAOs in a security assistance role) be amended to allow DAOs to perform this function.

Beyond these broad areas of agreement, there are differing positions on the number of MAAG-type organizations to be retained, the [Page 564] manning levels needed in various countries, and the costs involved to support the recommended positions. A summary of the key features of the two options is at Tab C.

State/Defense Option4

The State/Defense option recommends that 34 MAAG-type organizations be proposed to the Congress for FY 1978. Although this represents no reduction in the number of organizations from the FY 1977 level, the option does reflect significant manpower and cost savings. State and Defense believe the resulting structure permits efficient management of our security assistance programs, and retains sufficient flexibility to meet intelligence and diplomatic responsibilities.

Twenty of the organizations proposed for retention would be redesignated Defense Field Offices and both the size and function of each office would be reduced. The remaining 14 organizations are the traditional military groups in Latin America, many of them going back to World War II days. State and Defense propose that these offices continue to operate as they have, in a primarily representational capacity, with security assistance functions performed as a collateral duty. This traditional representative role has fostered interservice ties and closer relations between the host country military and the United States, and State and Defense believe the resulting relationship has made, and should continue to make, a significant contribution to U.S. policy interests in these countries. Therefore, they propose that specific legislation be sought to retain all 14 offices, although many would be reduced in size.

State and Defense also believe that the current ceiling of three military personnel who may be assigned to chiefs of U. S. diplomatic missions for security assistance tasks without further congressional approval is too restrictive and inflexible. They propose that authority be sought to increase this number to six, where there is a clear need to do so. If accepted by Congress, this proposal would reduce the number of MAAGs requiring specific congressional approval by eight, leaving 26 MAAG-type organizations in FY 1978, six of which would be in Latin America.

OMB Option

OMB proposes to reduce the number of MAAG-type organizations to 20 in FY 1978, continuing them only where (1) major security assistance programs exist, (2) U.S. forces are present and a repre [Page 565] sentational function is required for the MAAGs, or (3) major U.S. foreign policy interests would be significantly damaged by elimination. The remainder of the countries would be served by Offices of Defense Cooperation with up to three military personnel, or existing DAO arrangements.

OMB’s alternative is based on the following considerations:

• The original mission of the MAAGs was heavily oriented toward implementation of the grant materiel program and field level training and advisory functions, which have become less relevant, given the shift in our military assistance program from grants to sales.

• The need for a military-to-military representational function for MAAGs has decreased because foreign governments rely more on direct contacts with Washington concerning sales cases and training programs.

• Because of the congressional requirement to terminate MAAGs except where specifically authorized, requesting continuation of virtually all the existing MAAGs carries the risk that the Congress will take arbitrary actions restricting the Administration’s flexibility and effective management of the security assistance and sales programs.

OMB’s option would eliminate a number of small MAAGs and several Latin American MILGROUPs, which State and Defense propose to retain. OMB believes that ODCs of three military personnel, augmented where necessary by additional civilians and periodic visits by mobile training teams, can adequately perform the necessary in-country security assistance functions.

I believe the State/Defense option will satisfy the congressional desire to phase down the worldwide MAAG presence, while avoiding the repercussions which could result from OMB’s sharper cuts. In addition, bearing in mind that a proposal similar to this must be made to Congress each year, the State/Defense option leaves considerably greater flexibility for subsequent years.


That you authorize me to issue the NSDM at Tab A,5 establishing organizations to perform security assistance functions according to the State/Defense option. (ACDA and CIA concur)6

Alternatively, that you authorize me to issue the NSDM at Tab B,7 establishing organizations to perform security assistance functions according to the OMB option.8

[Page 566]

Tab C

Tables Prepared by the National Security Council9


1976/TQ 1977 1978
Actual Budget State/Defense OMB
Number of MAAG-type Organizations Proposed for Retention 44 33 3410 20
Military Personnel Required 1455 1296 791 613
Cost of Military Assistance Organizations (millions of dollars) 72.4 56.3 43.7 34.4
[Page 567]


FY 1978
FY 1977 State/Defense OMB
Argentina Argentina Argentina
Bolivia Bolivia Bolivia
Brazil Brazil Brazil
Chile Chile11
Colombia Colombia Colombia
Dominican Republic Dominican Republic
Ecuador Ecuador
El Salvador El Salvador
Guatemala Guatemala
Honduras Honduras
Nicaragua Nicaragua
Panama Panama
Peru Peru
Venezuela Venezuela Venezuela
Greece Greece Greece
Portugal Portugal Portugal
Spain Spain Spain
Turkey Turkey Turkey
Ethiopia Ethiopia Ethiopia
Liberia Liberia
Zaire Zaire Zaire
Republic of China Republic of China Republic of China
Indonesia Indonesia Indonesia
Japan Japan
Korea Korea Korea
Philippines Philippines Philippines
Thailand Thailand Thailand
Iran Iran Iran
Kuwait Kuwait Kuwait
Morocco Morocco Morocco
Pakistan Pakistan
Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia
Tunisia Tunisia
  1. Source: Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box 68, NSDM 342. Secret. Sent for action. A note at the top of the memorandum reads: “The President Has Seen.” Although no drafting information appears on the memorandum, Robert B. Plowden, Jr. of the NSC Staff sent it to Scowcroft under a covering memorandum, December 10, with the recommendation that he sign it. (Ibid.)
  2. See footnote 3, Document 103.
  3. NSSM 243 and the study completed in response to it are Documents 85 and 103, respectively.
  4. The Departments of State and Defense reached agreement on this option following the SRG meeting of November 29, according to Holcomb’s December 6 memorandum conveying the joint recommendation to Scowcroft. (Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box 44, NSSM 243 (5))
  5. Tab A, as signed, is Document 122.
  6. Ford initialed his approval.
  7. Attached but not printed.
  8. Ford disapproved this option.
  9. No classification markings appear on the tables.
  10. This number would decrease to 26 if the proposed six-person security assistance organizations are accepted by Congress. [Footnote in the original.]
  11. Will not require specific congressional authorization if proposed six-person security assistance organizations are approved. [Footnote in the original. The same footnote appeared in the “State/Defense” column next to the following countries: Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Peru, Iran, and Tunisia.]