The Second Reorganization

Following several months in charge of Washington support for pacification, Special Assistant Komer set in motion events that were destined to lead to a second reorganization of American support when in August 1966 he circulated a paper entitled, "Giving a New Thrust to Pacification: Analysis, Concept, and Management."1 No other document so accurately forecast the future course of the U.S. pacification advisory program.

Komer divided the problem of pacification into three main parts: local security, breaking the hold of the Viet Cong over the people, and programs to win active popular support. He felt that because of recent victories over the enemy's large units, the time was propitious to step up work in all three fields. "As pacification is a multifaceted civil/military problem,"' he noted, "it demands a multifaceted civil/military response." No single program would provide a breakthrough. "The path to both quick impact and accelerated progress is through better management and coordination of the host of contributory programs--most of them already in existence."

Komer then proposed a system of priorities: continuous local security to include improving local defense forces and diverting regular South Vietnamese Army units not "gainfully employed" against the enemy's main forces to local security missions; breaking the hold of the Viet Cong over the people; positive development programs to win popular support; functional priorities for field pacification operations with work proceeding first in locales where the most progress was feasible; additional human and material resources for pacification; more performance goals with adequate criteria to measure progress and a system to monitor it; better security for key roads; using the flow of refugees as an asset in pacification; and better control over the rice supply.

Implicit throughout the paper was a concept of mass. Korner saw the road to success--or at least visible results-to be through a massive


application and better management of South Vietnamese manpower and American material. He also felt that pacification had to be pressed throughout the country, not just in priority areas or specialized local programs. Only with a truly massive effort could a turn-around be achieved, and that was what the president required if he were to maintain public support for the war. Throughout Komer's association with pacification, he would constantly strive to get more and more people and more and more material involved in the effort. That was what lay behind his desire, almost from the first, to give responsibility for pacification to the military, for only the military-both American and South Vietnamese­had the men and resources to do the job on a large scale.

Although Komer proposed three possible organizations, he had enthusiasm only for one. The first would give Ambassador Porter full operational control over all US pacification activities, including those of the military, and merge field staffs and advisers at all levels into coordinated teams with a designated chief and a channel of communications direct from the district to Porter. The second would retain separate civil and military command channels but strengthen the management structure of MACV and the mission by appointing a senior deputy for pacification in MACV and giving Porter control of all civilian pacification personnel at all levels. The third-which Komer favored-would assign responsibility for both civil and military pacification programs to General Westmoreland, whose MACV staff would be partially restructured to provide an integrated civil-military staff under a civilian deputy (Komer recommended the deputy ambassador for the position) while at lower echelons there would be a single manager for pacification at each level.

Despite the forcefulness of Komer's presentation, the paper had little immediate impact. Although Komer sent a copy to the president, he received no reaction from him. However, Secretary McNamara and his Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs, John T. McNaughton saw it as a means to give new life to pacification. Komer's deputy, Ambassador Leonhart, carried a copy to Saigon, but Ambassadors Lodge and Porter cared for none of the proposed changes. Preoccupied with the war against the enemy's big units, General Westmoreland displayed no enthusiasm for any change, although as Komer later recalled, Westmoreland told Leonhart, in effect, "I'm not asking for it, but if I'm told to manage pacification, I will do it."2

Just a few weeks later, aware of various proposals and counter­proposals then floating about Washington, Westmoreland saw pacifica­


tion in a more positive light: "I'm not asking for the responsibility, but I believe that my headquarters could take it in stride and perhaps carry out this important function more economically and efficiently than 1 under] the present complex arrangement."3

Nk'hen Westmoreland turned Konier's paper over to his planning staff for study, the reaction was quite the opposite. The planners saw in it no approaches to pacification not already recognized by the US mission, deemed none of the three alternate organizational concepts capable of achieving the desired results, and maintained that the current organizational structure was adequate.4

Charged further with preparing a plan for possible assumption of the responsibility for pacification by Westmoreland, the staff came up with a two-stage variant on Komer"s third alternative. In both stages there would be both civil and military pacification officers on the MACV staff; but in a first stage, there would be a civilian chain of command to the districts, and in a second, to be put into effect if the first failed to work, the entire field program would be unified under a military officer at each level.5

That was strictly a planning exercise, for there was no move or conspiracy by MACV to take control of pacification. Although Westmoreland himself believed that military management was inevitable, he thought the logic of that solution would eventually sell itself on its own merits. He was also conscious that even the slightest indication that he was seeking the responsibility would. provoke strong adverse reactions from the civilian agencies both in Saigon and Washington.6 The civilian agencies, meanwhile, made no proposals of their own to counter those in Komer's paper, simply letting the paper go with a flat no as if nothing further would come of it.

In September, Komer began an active campaign to transfer responsibility for pacification to the military. Since the military provided 90 percent of the resources and the civilian agencies only 10 percent, putting pacification tinder the military was to Komer "obvious." He also considered that General Westmoreland "had the clout."' with the South Vietnamese government and armed forces that was needed, and "the men in Washington who were really pushing hardest on Vietnam were Robert McNarnara and his people, like McNaughton if paci­


fication was to work, there had to be "strong auspices" behind it; Komer was convinced the Defense Department was "far stronger behind pacification" than was the State Department, "not that State didn't understand it but the State people just weren't doing anything." In getting programs moving, he believed, the Defense Department was "infinitely more dynamic and influential."7

Working with Assistant Secretary McNaughton, Komer arranged for Secretary McNamara to make the official proposal for the military to assume responsibility for pacification. Details worked out in McNaughton's office were not exactly what Komer wanted, but he and his staff saw that as no disadvantage since those could be changed once the secretary's proposal had drawn the first fire from the civilian agencies.8

The McNamara proposal provided a strong concept but one unfinished in details, possibly deliberately so. Under the proposal, all pacification personnel and activities were to be placed within MACV under a deputy for pacification who would also be in charge of all pacification staffs in Saigon and the field. Whether the deputy would be military or civilian and which activities would be classified as part of pacification were left unanswered, matters so obviously requiring decision that their omission may have been deliberate in order to be available to be used with the civilian agencies as carrots.9

Although Secretary McNamara never formally submitted his memorandum to President Johnson, he discussed the concept with him and obtained his agreement.10 The memorandum then was staffed out to the State Department, the Agency for International Development, the Central Intelligence Agency, the United States Information Agency, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Komer. The reactions were predictable; only Komer and the Joint Chiefs concurred.

The State Department cited the political nature of pacification, the alleged failure of the 1964 Hop TAC pacification operation that the military had managed, and a need to emphasize civilianization of the war. The State Department also wanted the views of the US mission in Saigon solicited. Indirectly providing comment on the efficacy of , Ambassador Porter's efforts to manage pacification, Deputy Assistant Secretary Unger stated that "the problem of management" would be better


solved by putting Ambassador Porter in a position to carry out his full responsibilities "as originally envisaged.11

The Agency for International Development's Assistant Administrator for the Far East, Rutherford Poats, proposed like Unger a strengthening of Porter's position, noting that "Porter should be given the job originally conceived for him."12 Poats wanted a pacification command structure with Porter directing the agency staffs in Saigon and with committees at the corps and province levels chaired, in the main, by military officers. The results would have been a deputy ambassador with a small staff, four powerful deputies at corps level, and a hierarchy of small committees at lower administrative levels, a solution putting a high premium on coordination and not providing truly integrated management.

At the Central Intelligence Agency, one official saw McNamara's proposal raising the basic pacification issue of military security versus popular involvement, i.e., should pacification aim at inspiring the local populace to resist the insurgents or should pacification be imposed by military power? Another CIA official raised doubts about the military's ability to handle pacification by expressing undisguised scorn for MACV's efforts to train and motivate the South Vietnamese Army and local defense forces and their leaders. He proposed a joint pacification staff under the ambassador, stressing unified direction rather than unified management. Although he envisaged a staff large enough to supervise and direct the contributing agencies, lie did not advocate melding the personnel and resources of the agencies into a unified organization at all command and operational levels.13

The Joint Chiefs of Staff agreed to the "McNamara'' proposal with marked enthusiasm. Recognizing that the new organization would re­
quire increased help from US combat and combat support forces, they nevertheless suggested, among several small changes in the text, one that


was intended to prevent interference with General Westmoreland's authority to employ his combat units.14

Stressing the primacy of local security and the need for resources, Komer asserted that coordination was no longer sufficient and that the military was better set up to manage the large support effort that was required. While expressing no view as to whether the deputy for pacification in MACV should be civilian or military, he noted that the ambassador and deputy ambassador should retain their authority in overall supervision of pacification support. The new deputy in MACV, he observed, should control field activities and the Saigon staff that would direct field operations but should be excluded from overall economic policy, anti-inflationary programs, CIA programs other than police and pacification cadre, and such programs of the Agency for International Development as medicine and education. Logistical support for pacification, he believed, should remain with the parent agencies along with administrative responsibilities for their personnel. "To be perfectly candid," Komer concluded, "I regard your proposal as basically a means of bringing the military fully into the pacification process rather than of putting civilians under the military."15

While discussions were proceeding, Deputy Ambassador Porter arrived in Washington, expressed strong opposition to McNamara's proposal, and warned against a possible "serious reaction" from Ambassador Lodge if Washington officials made a quick decision on the issue. He cabled Lodge to alert him about the proposal and to recommend that the US mission form a study group to evaluate various reorganization possibilities.16

The Agency for International Development and the State Department meanwhile solidified their positions. The administrator of the Agency for International Development, William Gaud, proposed a second deputy ambassador whose only function would be directing the US pacification program. The deputy would have an interagency staff and would chair a Revolutionary Development Council made up of deputy directors of all agencies, while similar structures would be set up at subordinate advisory levels. The State Department's solution was much the


same : a strengthened deputy ambassador directing pacification at all levels but leaving execution to the agencies. The deputy ambassador would have a military director who would command MACV's corps, province, and district advisers and would coordinate with a deputy for pacification within MACV.17

In the face of the unanimous opposition from the civilian agencies, President Johnson decided to defer a decision. By giving the civilians a short time to try to put their house in order, he intended to clef use the opposition. Like McNamara and Komer, the president had made up his mind that the management of pacification had to be unified under the military.18

In Saigon the civilian officials continued to misread the way the trend was developing in Washington. On 8 October, for example, Porter told Lodge that the pressure for a swift decision on reorganization had given way to "careful consideration." As events would soon demonstrate, that was not to be the case. On 10 October, Secretary McNamara, Chairman of the Joint. Chiefs of Staff General Earle G. Wheeler, Under Secretary of State Nicholas Katzenbach, and Komer arrived in Saigon for a, brief visit before joining a conference in Manila with the president and heads of several Asian states. Because Porter was still in the United States, the visitors received their briefing on pacification from Porter's deputy, Ambassador Henry Koren, who had only recently arrived in Saigon. Poorly prepared and weakly presented, the briefing did nothing to create an impression of efficient civilian leadership. To Komer it was a "'fiasco," and he was convinced that it confirmed Secretary McNamara's commitment to pacification under the military.19

Ambassador Koren himself was left with no doubt where McNamara's sentiments on organization for pacification lay. To the State Department he reported that the secretary "expressed himself as utterly dissatisfied with progress on pacification" and that the current US organization was "incompetent" to deal with the problem.20 Having had a, chance to tell McNamara privately that the 'lack of progress in pacification was attributable to inadequate security for the population,


which was the fault of the military, Ambassador Lodge thought that McNamara had changed his mind; but Koren failed to share that view.

General Westmoreland discerned the drift of events but continued to approach responsibility for pacification with caution and care. As he noted following the McNamara visit McNamara feels it is inevitable that I be given executive responsibility for American support of the Revolutionary Development program. He is convinced that the State Department officials do not have the executive and managerial abilities to handle a program of such magnitude and complexity. I told McNamara I was not volunteering for the job but I would undertake it if the President wished me to do so, and I felt we could make progress. He stated that he thought there would be an interim solution-that they were giving the civilian agencies another try. He stated that if this does not work after approximately three months, I could expect to take over.2l

Upon returning to Washington, McNamara and Katzenbach presented their findings to the president separately. Although admitting failure of the political and social aspects of pacification, Katzenbach labeled the lack of sustained security as the major stumbling block, for which he fixed blame on both the American and South Vietnamese military. He nevertheless proposed only a strengthening of the existing separate civilian and military pacification support channels with overall authority to remain with Porter but with a second deputy ambassador to relieve Porter of nonpacification duties. Under his proposal, administrative control of civilians working in pacification would remain with their parent agencies, but Porter would have operational control over them. Katzenbach also recommended that a senior general officer be assigned as Porter's principal deputy, one who could assist in administration and coordination and who might also increase the military focus on pacification. (Since the preceding August, a brigadier general, Willis D. Crittenberger, Jr., had been so serving.) He added the proviso-which indicated that he was aware of the drift of events-that should the civilian solution fail, the same general would be an ideal choice to head a single, unified command for pacification under Westmoreland.22

At the time undergoing a difficult personal reappraisal of the war, McNamara in his assessment for the president was highly pessimistic "I see no reasonable way to bring the war to an end soon . . . we find ourselves-from the point of view of the important war (for the com­


plicity of the people) -no better, and if anything worse off. This important war must be fought and won by the Vietnamese themselves. We have known this from the beginning. But the discouraging truth is that, as was the case in 1961 and 1963 and 1965, we have not found the formula, the catalyst; for training and inspiring them into effective action."

The solution, as McNamara saw it, lay in girding, openly, for a longer war and in taking actions immediately "which will in 12 to 18 months give clear evidence that the continuing costs and risks to the American people are acceptably limited, that the formula for success has been found, and that the end of the war is merely a matter of time."23

McNamara made five recommendations to implement that approach, but the one which he saw as the most important and the most difficult to achieve was a successful pacification program. As Korner later observed, the Secretary of Defense was markedly unhappy with what he saw as a failure of Lodge, Porter, and Westmoreland to do anything in pacification. "Pacification," he noted, "is a bad disappointment . . . [and] . . . has if anything gone backward . . . full security exists nowhere." Either directly or by implication, he attacked the lack of sustained local security, the lack of attention accorded local security by both the American and South Vietnamese military commands, the apathy and corruption of South Vietnamese officials, the weakness of the South Vietnamese in dedication, direction, and discipline, and "bad management" on the part of both Americans and South Vietnamese.24

Apparently aware of President Johnson's plan to afford the civilian agencies a period of grace, McNamara recommended leaving the military and civilian pacification channels separate and with all civilian pacification activities under Porter; but he warned that "we cannot tolerate continued failure. If it fails after a fair trial, the only alternative in my view is to place the entire pacification program--civilian and military--under General Westmoreland."25

Presented with those two reports, President Johnson on 15 October called together Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Secretary McNamara, Deputy Secretary of Defense Cyrus Vance, and General Wheeler and made clear his dissatisfaction with the current direction and execution of the pacification program. He was nevertheless unwilling at that point, he said, to override the strong civilian objections, particularly of Secre­


tary of State Rusk and Ambassador Lodge, to transferring the program to military control. He intended, he said, to give the civilian agencies a period of ninety days to produce acceptable results and implied that if the status of pacification were still unsatisfactory after that time, responsibility might be transferred. At a subsequent meeting of the National Security Council, the president made clear to all concerned the necessity to strengthen the pacification program.26

To General Wheeler it appeared that the pressure for results allowed little hope for a civilian solution. With this in mind, he recommended that Westmoreland name a senior member of his staff to he concerned solely with pacification. He wanted MACV to be ready with both a man and a functional organization when the seemingly inevitable call came to take over the entire pacification program.27

Yet the civilian agencies were to have their chance. Thus was born what became known as the Office of Civil Operations. That it came to exist at all was due to strong civilian opposition to placing pacification under the military. To some it may have appeared as a common bureaucratic compromise, but the president clearly saw it as nothing more than a temporary step to deflate civilian objections to another plan to which he was already committed. As Korner recalled it: "I said they can't do it in [even] six months, but the President said: `That doesn't bother me.' He deliberately gave them a very short deadline . . . McNamara told him it wouldn't work. I told him . . . it wouldn't work. So he stacked the deck."28

As President Johnson left on an Asian tour that was to culminate in the Manila Conference, Komer made another trip to Saigon where he warned Porter that there would definitely be a reorganization and left behind two members of his staff, Richard Holbrooke and Lt. Col. Robert M. Montague, Jr., to help him plan for it. On 4 November, Secretary Rusk sent a message to Lodge, with input from McNamara and Komer, directing Lodge to reorganize the mission for pacification. It was to be, the message made clear, a "trial organization" and a final chance for civilian management. Lodge would be given a second deputy ambassador so that Porter, relieved of all other duties, could command a unified civilian pacification organization which would be strengthened by assignment of a two-or three-star general officer to assist in administration and in liaison with MACV, where Westmoreland was to have a


Deputy for Revolutionary Development. The arrangement was to he on trial for 90 to 120 Clays, "at the end of which we would take stock of progress and reconsider whether to assign all responsibility" for pacification to MACV.29

When Lodge replied two days later, he agreed that some reorganization was necessary but again blamed the military's failure to provide security for the lack of substantial progress. While agreeing to consolidate civilian lines of command under Porter, he wanted no second ambassador. Contrary to the judgments of many observers, Lodge maintained that "Ambassador Porter does not now absorb substantial other responsilbilities which distract his attention from revolutionary development."30

Although General Westmoreland promptly moved to upgrade the staff section in his headquarters that had been handling pacification, for more than a week little information reached Washington to indicate that Ambassador Lodge was moving on his reorganization. On 15 November Secretary Rusk told him tersely that the president "wished to emphasize that this represents final and considered decisions and . . . expressed hope that the indicated measures could he put into effect just as rapidly as possible."31

Two days later Lodge told Washington what the new organization would look like. Since Westmoreland, like Lodge, wanted no second deputy, there would be no Deputy for Pacification in MACV but instead a Special Assistant for Pacification. Rather than have a second deputy in the embassy, which Lodge felt would downgrade Porter's position within the American community and in the eyes of the South Vietnamese, Porter would he relieved of duties other than pacification by delegating responsibilities for running the mission to other officials of the mission. Under Porter's authority but not his administration, there would be a civilian Office of Operations, which would consist of the personnel and activities of those offices of the Agency for International Development dealing with Field Operations, Public Safety (Police), and Refugees; the Field Services of the Joint United States Public Affairs Office; and the Cadre Operations Division of the CIA. All civilians at the corps and province levels would have a single director, thus reducing to two (mili­


tary and civilian) the channels of American advice to South Vietnamese corps commanders and province chiefs.32

With sharply contrasting speed, General Westmoreland on 7 November had already created in his headquarters a Revolutionary Development Support Directorate and named as director his Secretary of the Joint Staff, Brig. Gen. William A. Knowlton, who would have direct access to Westmoreland on policy matters. Knowlton remembered that Westmoreland saw this step as temporary, a move to prepare for complete assumption of responsibility. When that time came, a more senior officer, possibly the commander of the 25th Infantry Division, Maj. Gen. Fred C. Weyand, whom both civilians and military men saw as an excel­lent choice to manage pacification, probably would replace Knowlton.33

After consulting Lodge and Porter, Westmoreland named a member of his staff, Maj. Gen. Paul Smith, to serve as principal deputy and executive officer to Porter, thus upgrading that slot, previously filled by a brigadier general. The impetus for upgrading the position had consistently come from the civilians, both Komer and Katzenbach having recommended it. Although Porter wanted General Smith to have a role in planning military operations, thus, in effect, giving Porter a voice in orienting military operations in support of pacification, General Westmoreland refused to accept such a plan or anything that might reduce his flexibility and ability to respond to enemy pressures. That Komer failed to back Porter on the issue was an indication of how transitory he deemed the Office of Civil Operations to be.34


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