34. National Security Action Memorandum No. 57

Secretary of State, Dept. of Defense- CIA Seals
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John F. Kennedy’s National Security Action Memoranda number 57 (NSAM 57) is titled, “Responsibility for Paramilitary Operations.” It was sent to Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Allen Dulles from McGeorge Bundy, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.

Washington, June 28, 1961.

TO

  • The Secretary of State
  • The Secretary of Defense
  • The Director, CIA

The President has approved the attached recommendation.1

The Special Group (5412 Committee) will perform the functions assigned in the recommendation to the Strategic Resources Group.2

McGeorge Bundy3

Attachment

RESPONSIBILITY FOR PARAMILITARY OPERATIONS1.For the purpose of this study, a paramilitary operation is considered to be one which by its tactics and its requirements in military-type personnel, equipment and training approximates a conventional military operation. It may be undertaken in support of an existing government friendly to the U.S. or in support of a rebel group seeking to overthrow a government hostile to us. The U.S. may render assistance to such operations overtly, covertly or by a combination of both methods. In size these operations may vary from the infiltration of a squad of guerrillas to a military operation such as the Cuban invasion. The small operations will often fall completely within the normal capability of one [Page 113] agency; the large ones may affect State, Defense, CIA, USIA and possibly other departments and agencies.2.

In order to conduct paramilitary operations with maximum effectiveness and flexibility within the context of the Cold War, it is recommended that current directives and procedures be modified to effect the following:

a. Any proposed paramilitary operation in the concept stage will be presented to the Strategic Resources Group for initial consideration and for approval as necessary by the President. Thereafter, the SRG will assign primary responsibility for planning, for interdepartment coordination and for execution to the Task Force, department or individual best qualified to carry forward the operation to success, and will indicate supporting responsibilities. Under this principle, the Department of Defense will normally receive responsibility for overt paramilitary operations. Where such an operation is to be wholly covert or disavowable, it may be assigned to CIA, provided that it is within the normal capabilities of the agency. Any large paramilitary operation wholly or partly covert which requires significant numbers of militarily trained personnel, amounts of military equipment which exceed normal CIA-controlled stocks and/or military experiences of a kind and level peculiar to the Armed Services is properly the primary responsibility of the Department of Defense with the CIA in a supporting role.

0. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, NSAM 57. Secret. A copy was sent to General Taylor.

  1. The text printed below is identical to Recommendation No. 2 of the Taylor Report (see footnote 2, Document 32 below).
  2. Recommendation No. 1 of the Taylor Report called for creation of a Strategic Resources Group (SRG), with its own permanent staff, as a mechanism for planning, development, and coordination of Cold War strategy and individual operations. According to a memorandum for the record by Burke, a member of the Cuban Study Group, of a meeting the President held with the Group on June 13, the President “was quite taken with” the SRG proposal as outlined to him by Taylor, while Burke warned the President of “great danger” because if the SRG Chairman “became an assistant President, it would be very difficult to operate with State and Defense.” He noted that the President listened to this, but he concluded: “I think he discounted the difficulties a great deal.” (Naval Historical Center, Area Files, Bumpy Road Materials)
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
JFKNSF-330-007-p0002
JFKNSF-330-007-p0003

Source: JFKLibrary.org

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