127. Editorial Note

At the beginning of 1974, the continuation of the Overseas Personnel Reduction program (OPRED), designed to reduce the U.S. civilian and military presence abroad, was debated by the Departments of State and Defense. The program, implemented in July 1970 and renewed in August 1972, was due to expire on June 30, 1974. In a letter to Deputy Secretary of State Kenneth Rush on March 1, Deputy Secretary of Defense William P. Clements argued “the reduction aspects of OPRED have outlived their usefulness and have now become a costly and inappropriate impediment to the efficient and economical management of DoD personnel overseas. Moreover, given the dramatic changes in the world situation of late, they may now run counter to our national interests insofar as those interests may dictate variously expansion, stabilization or contraction of USG representation overseas depending upon the prevailing circumstances.” Clements wrote that OPRED had “degenerated into a vehicle whereby one department engages in undue and inappropriate interference in the internal management decisions of another,” recommended that the program “should now be allowed to lapse at the expiration of its current term, i.e., at the end of FY 1974, and that no action should be taken thereafter to reinstate it.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–263, Under Secretaries Study Memoranda, U/SM 115–119 [2 of 4])

Rush, as Chairman of the National Security Council Under Secretaries Committee, recommended in a March 27 memorandum to the Committee that OPRED’s mandate be extended “indefinitely.” OPRED, he maintained in an attached draft memorandum for President Nixon, had “significantly reduced and adjusted the US Government profile abroad consistent with national policy requirements.” Rush pointed out that between early 1969 and mid-1973, the official U.S. presence abroad had been reduced by 53 percent (985,000) and that 28 percent (278,000) of that decrease had occurred outside Vietnam. [Page 445] “The Defense Department, representing over 93% of the total presence overseas decreased an estimated 53.3%, accounting for the lion’s share (94%) of this reduction. The civilian agencies decreased their overseas complements by 49% (down 54,600 from a 1969 base of 111,000). Diplomatic missions have been pruned by 22%, despite the fact that staffs for certain priority functions have been expanded. If one excludes 7,164 Defense personnel in Vietnam newly added to the diplomatic missions category, the decrease in diplomatic missions in 32.5%.

“The Committee is satisfied that overseas employment has decreased significantly over the last four years. Priorities have been met without resorting to the large-scale, community-wide percentage reductions efforts which are operationally disruptive.

“Questions have arisen within the Committee as to the utility of continuing the present arrangements. In our judgment the OPRED process has been responsive to your clearly stated intention to control the official US presence abroad.” (Ibid.)

While OPRED was allowed to expire on June 30, in October the program was reconstituted and renamed Monitoring Overseas Direct Employment (MODE) and given the mandate to cut further the size of U.S. overseas posts. See Document 140.