Remarks at a Press Briefing Following the Return From Vietnam of Secretary McNamara and Under Secretary Katzenbach
SECRETARY McNAMARA. One of the particular objectives of my visit was to examine the troop deployment.
I saw no indication for any need for the substantial increase in the rate of deployment, no indication of any substantial increase in the level of operations or the tempo of operations that might be translated into need for a change in the rate of deployment.
This means that these wild--and I can only characterize them as wild--guesses that have been appearing in the press, and that have been spoken of by various uninformed individuals, are absolutely without foundation.
Unless the situation changes dramatically in some other part of the world, I see no need to call up Reserve personnel, no need for increases in draft calls. As a matter of fact, we are decreasing the draft calls. The November call was set, if I remember correctly, for around 47,000 and we have cut it to 37,000.
The December call will be about 12,000. The speculation leading to the conclusion that there would be a call of Reserves, a substantial increase in the draft, rapid increase in the rate of deployment, is without foundation as far as I can see, based on my observation on the ground. I so reported to the President this afternoon.
THE PRESIDENT. No one can really tell you how many people we are going to have in Vietnam during the months of December, November, or January. We generally know that we have "X" number coming out. When General Westmoreland makes his requests to us, we generally know that we would like to act favorably on them, and we generally do.
There is an addition taking place as time goes on. When that addition will stop, and start declining, I don't know and he doesn't know. That is largely determined by the other side, because it depends on how many they move in. If they quit sending men, you could have an entirely different situation.
But these "Andrew H. Brown Fresh Air Taxicab" figures of 500, 600, or 700 are not credible enough for a press that is always talking about other people's credibility. You ought to remember a man's judgment is no better than his information and knowledge.
If Mr. McNamara doesn't have it, the Joint Chiefs don't have it, and the President doesn't have it, it is unlikely that "Mr. Glutz" would have it.
Q. What about "Senator Glutz"?
THE PRESIDENT. I would prefer not to get personal because Presidents have done that in the past and have been charged with various things.
I know you don't want to get me into those things. I saw that yesterday at the conference. I just want to caution you that these are not Government figures. These are not Defense Department figures. They are not Johnson administration or the President's figures.
Mr. Katzenbach, have you anything you want to say about your trip?
MR. KATZENBACH. No, Mr. President. I learned a lot by going out there, I think, by seeing things on the spot. I was concerned, as you had been, sir, about the progress with respect to the pacification program. I spent a good deal of my time observing that and discussing it with people, seeing it working on the spot.
I think we have to do a good deal more to get the other war moving. I think we can.
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Komer? 1
MR. KOMER. I have nothing to add, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. I do think that we have a little clearer picture of the activity and the present cost of the war. In the next few hours and few days we will be meeting with the Budget and with the Treasury in an attempt to make a "guesstimate" as to the expenditures of the next quarter and the last part of this fiscal year.
We don't have anything you could put your feet into now and make it solid. Secretary McNamara and the staff people are working on that. As soon as we can get anything that is an approximation, more or less, I will be glad to give it to you. I don't know just when that will be.
I don't want to have a press conference, but I don't want to preclude any questions if you have any. I don't want to interfere with George's 2 briefing, either.
Q. Mr. President, where did your off-the-record stop?
THE PRESIDENT. When I finished talking about the prognostications.
Q. The fresh-air taxi?
Q. Mr. President, have you decided what delegation you are taking with you to the Manila Conference?
THE PRESIDENT. No. There will be two groups. I think I made clear the leaders of these countries I am visiting have called on me in recent months. I am (a) returning their visit; and I am (b) going back to the scenes of my childhood, so to speak, at least in two or three of the countries involved.
After that I will be going on to the Manila Conference. Both Secretary Rusk and Secretary McNamara will go, probably, direct to Manila, and the staff people accompanying them.
I will go, as you have been told, first to Honolulu, then to New Zealand, then Australia, to meet with the leaders of those countries.
Secretary McNamara will take whomever he chooses for his staff; Secretary Rusk the same way. Mr. Komer will join us there. Mr. Rostow 3 will be going the whole trip with me.
Q. Mr. President, you said you might be meeting with Budget people within hours or days. Are you expecting to have them in over the weekend?
THE PRESIDENT. On what?
Q. I thought I understood you to say you would be meeting with the Budget people for hours and days.
THE PRESIDENT. As he feeds in the figures to us, we will be reviewing them with them.
Q. Will you have time to do that before you go to Manila?
THE PRESIDENT. I haven't a schedule on it. I think there has been some progress in the Congress. I asked the Director this morning to give me another review of the appropriation and authorization bills.
Q. Mr. President, some of us have looked on Mr. McNamara's trip and this trip as kind of a prelude to your trip in the sense that they are reporting to you on what will be passed on by the other people. Is that so?
THE PRESIDENT. No. The trips are independent of each other. He would have gone if we had not had the Manila Conference, or if we had had one in November. But what he brought back is not off limits. We will consider it and evaluate it.
Q. I was wondering, does it add up to a favorable background of developments as the basis for the Manila Conference?
THE PRESIDENT. I think that he brought us a pretty objective review of what has taken place there. There are some things we are very pleased with, some things that we want very much to improve.
As I say, our military effort, we think, is going very well. We think our pacification effort can stand a great deal of improvement. Is that a fair statement to make?
MR. KATZENBACH. Yes, sir; and I think it has to be improved.
Q. What has gone wrong with the pacification, Mr. President? What has gone wrong with pacification? Why has it taken a turn for the worse? Some months ago there seemed to be some bright hopes about how it was proceeding.
MR. KATZENBACH. The concept of pacification is absolutely a sound concept. I have no question about that. It is difficult to execute.
One of the things that I learned out there was how difficult it was to do it because of just the peculiar nature of this war. We have to make much better efforts to get security into more areas and to get it effectively in there in order to make your programs of education, medical care, improved farming methods, and so forth, work.
But we have the prime problem of getting more effective security into these areas. That is primarily a Vietnamese responsibility. It has to be organized so that we can get it.
THE PRESIDENT. The big problem is to get it and to keep it. You can get it today and it will be gone next week. That is the problem. You have to have enough people to clear it one and enough people to preserve what you have done. That is the $64 problem.
MR. KATZENBACH. It is to make it possible for people to sleep safely.
Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.
1 Robert W, Komer, Special Assistant to the President.
2 George Christian, an assistant press secretary.
3 Walt W. Rostow, Special Assistant to the President.
Note: The briefing was already in progress in the President's office when the stenographic reporter arrived at 4 p.m. As printed, this item follows the text released by the White House Press Office.
During 1966 the White House made public the following items relating to the "other war" in Vietnam: July 2, summary of a report by Robert W. Komer on the revolutionary development program; September 14, letter to the President from Mr. Komer transmitting a progress report on civil side programs; November 7, report to the President by Mr. Komer on his trip to Vietnam following the Manila Conference. They are printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 2, pp. 890, 1289, 1673).
Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at a Press Briefing Following the Return From Vietnam of Secretary McNamara and Under Secretary Katzenbach Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/238162