9. Draft Memorandum From President Nixon to Secretary of State Rogers, Secretary of Defense Richardson, the Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs (Timmons), and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1
I am sending this memorandum “Eyes Only” not because it has Top Secret information in it, but because it would not be helpful to have a memorandum of this type hit the press and thereby raise an issue with the Congress that we are trying to lobby the Congress on our Defense budget.
I see a massive problem developing within the Congress with regard to the Defense budget and the Foreign Assistance budget. Part of this problem is already showing itself insofar as the statements that have been made about aid to North Vietnam. The other part shows itself when Congressmen and Senators come in and say that they are for our ceiling on spending but they want to change the priorities.
We have the Congress in the hard place. They know they will be on the wrong side of the issue if they vote for spending above our ceiling which could lead to a price increase or a tax increase or both. Consequently, in order to support their pet domestic projects, they are going to have to take it out of the Defense and Foreign Assistance budgets.
Too often in the past four years, the primary responsibility for getting the votes on the ABM and the other tough issues has been left to the Congressional Liaison Office of the White House with, of course, very strong assistance from the State Department and the Defense Department. Both the Defense Department and the State Department have done a superb job over these past four years in working the members of the Committees who handle their affairs. What we need now is to have both State and Defense work on the entire Congress rather than concentrating primarily on their Committees. It means a great deal more to a congressman or a senator who is not on the Foreign Relations Committee, for example, to be talked to by the Secretary of State or one of the Under Secretaries or an Assistant Secretary, for that matter. By the same token, it means a great deal more to some congressman or senator who is not on the Armed Services Committee to have the Secretary of [Page 32] Defense or the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs or one of the Assistant Secretaries or Deputy Secretaries of Defense talk to him.
What is really involved here is the possible success or failure of our entire foreign policy and of our initiatives toward peace which have had such great momentum in 1972. Our SALT talks with the Russians and the MBFR talks later in the year will be disastrous if we have substantial cuts in the Defense budget prior to that time. And, of course, the whole peace settlement in Vietnam depends upon our ability to hold Foreign Assistance at its present level and to defeat any attempt to cut North Vietnam out of the Foreign Assistance recipients.
Timmons should make a thorough study, in cooperation with the Congressional Liaison people in both State and Defense, of every member of the House and Senate who could potentially be enlisted on our side in these issues. Then, on a man-to-man basis, it is essential that each one be covered, and covered soon. What is important is to keep them from making statements or writing letters which will commit them on making huge cuts in Defense or opposing aid to North Vietnam so that we will find it impossible to turn them around later.
The primary targets, of course, should be the Republicans and Southern Democrats. Then try to pick up as many Northern Democrats as possible, as well as some of the Liberal Republicans.
I think the best way to handle this is for the Secretary of State to chair a group made up of the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense and Bill Timmons, and whatever other people you want from these various offices. Let’s get a game plan and then see to it that it is followed up. Timmons will have the responsibility for doing the technical work. As far as the contacts are concerned, the primary burden must be borne by the State Department and the Defense Department.
Kissinger’s office can be helpful with several of the individuals involved but, generally speaking, we would like to have this effort carried on outside of the White House rather than from the White House alone.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, Staff Member and Offcie Files, President’s Personal File, Box 4, Memoranda from the President, Memos—March 1973. Eyes Only. Nixon departed Washington for Camp David the afternoon of March 9 and returned from the presidential retreat the evening of March 10. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary)↩