Managing the "Right to Lie"
Early on March 2, 1966, the U.S. Department of Defense alerted the Washington press corps that a major announcement would be made at a secretarial press conference later that day.
The briefing room was filled, with overflow connected by intercom in an adjoining room. The reporters were handed one of the most remarkable documents ever released by a government at war -- nothing less than the entire troop deployment schedule for U.S. forces being sent to fight in Vietnam, as well as what was available, down to the last battalion, for worldwide contingencies, not least of them a possible Soviet offensive into Western Europe. 1
"Recently articles have appeared in the press," the announcement began, "which give the impression that because of the major deployments of U.S. military forces to Southeast Asia the United States is now militarily overextended and would not be able to meet other contingencies. . . ."
The recent articles were reports by Hanson W. Baldwin of the New York Times that Senate Armed Services Committee investigators had concluded U.S. forces worldwide had, indeed, been gutted to support the deployments to Vietnam. The press conference was designed to refute that charge.
A quick scan of the seven-page, closely typed statement revealed something else: The deployment schedule described could not be achieved without fifteen National Guard divisions that Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara had been proclaiming for at least a year to be "excess to military requirements." That was part of an elaborate effort to demonstrate that, while conducting the war in Vietnam, the administration was achieving large savings in overall defense management.
Sitting in front of McNamara as he presented the written statement and