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South Vietnam - Rural Development Cadre (RDC)

Pacification is the process of establishing or reestablishing effective local self-government within the political framework of the legitimate central government and its constitution. It includes the provision of sustained and credible territorial security and the genuine, voluntary involvement of the people as well as the initiation of self-sustaining and expanding economic and social activity. Some obvious areas where military forces can assist the pacification effort are the opening of roads and waterways and the maintaining of lines of communication, important to both economic and military activity. The objectives of pacification are not difficult to describe but the attainment of those objectives involves cultural and social forces not so easy to understand and certainly not easy to manage.

The Republic of Vietnam relied heavily on the Rural Development Cadre (RDC) to assist in carrying out the local self-development programs. The RDC, formed in 1965 and organized into paramilitary groups, was charged with motivating and organizing the local population to assume their own self-defense and to raise the living standards of the villages. The RD Cadre, the Rural Development Cadre, were young men who were probably better educated than the soldiers and were supposed to be idealistic. They were in platoon-sized units and they were supposed to go out and bring security and development to the people. It was a way they could get out of being in the army.

On several occasions the war in Southeast Asia brought the CIA problems that demonstrated the advantages of collaborative ties between CIA and Congress. From almost the beginning of Richard Helms's term as DCI, Agency officers worried about the demands placed upon CIA resources by several large-scale covert operations in Indochina. In mid-1966, the administration ordered a doubling of the Rural Development Cadre (RDC) program. a key element in the campaign to improve social, medical, and economic conditions in the South Vietnamese countryside.

The counterinsurgency war in South Vietnam was waged against the Communist political leadership, referred to as the Viet Cong Infra-structure, or VCI. In late 1966, the National Police, Special Branch, Rural Development Cadre, PRU, Military Security Service, and Sector and Sub-sector G-2s were all running operations against the VCI, but therewas little coordination or cooperation. Besides, delays in reaching province often rendered information totally useless.

On 21 and 22 September 1966. Helms discussed with the Senate CIA subcommittees the difficulties this expansion would create for the Agency. Russell, observing that these political action teams had little connection to CIA'S intelligence functions but represented a large drain on the Agency's budget, voiced his hope that Helms could disengage the Agency from such operations. The DCI made it clear that this matched his own preferences. Russell's admonitions reflected a conviction held by most members of the four Congressional subcommittees that the CIA budget should be as small as possible in order to avoid attracting unwanted attention.

Helms met with the director of the Bureau of the Budget on 4 October 1966, in an unsuccessful effort to convince him that some other government agency might better carry out the RDC program. Instead, Helms got new White House orders not only to maintain the current level of activities, but also to request a supplementary $38 million from Congress to expand Agency RDC operations. Although with Senator Russell's permission CIA provided some residual support for 15 months after the 01 April 1968 funding cutoff, firm Congressional backing allowed the Agency to escape a burden that threatened its ability to perform other more important missions. Moreover, it managed this in spite of administration wishes that the Agency continue running the RDC program.

Logistic support of the Rural Development Cadre was generally funded through the U.S. Agency for International Development system in accordance with the Agency for International Development and Department of Defense Realignment Program. Except for ammunition, petroleum, oils, and lubricants and maintenance support which was provided by the South Vietnamese Army, support was generally provided through provincial warehouses operated by the Agency for International Development. However, at times U.S. Army Vietnam provided requested support on a reimbursable basis.

On 9 May 1967, National Security Action Memorandum 362, "Responsibility for U.S. Role in Pacification (RevolutionaryDevelopment)," established Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support, or CORDS. Almost all pacification programs eventually came under CORDS. From USAID, CORDS took control of "new life development" (the catch-all term for an attempt to improve government responsiveness to villagers' needs), refugees, national Police, and the Chieu Hoi program (the "Open arms" campaign to encourage Communist personnel in south Vietnam to defect). The CIA's Rural Development Cadre, MACV's civic action and civil affairs, and the Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office's field psychological operations also fell under the CORDS aegis. CORDS assumed responsibility for reports, evaluations, and field inspections from all agencies.

The Government placed control of Rural Development Cadre under the village government in 1969. The RD Cadre in prior years had been used, with some effectiveness, as a substitute for local government. Placing them under village government prevented a conflict of control at the village and hamlet level and gave village councils additional manpower to carry out new programs delegated to the councils. With the improved security in the rural areas attained by 1971, the Republic of Vietnam reorganized the RDC into smaller groups of ten persons and decreed that 50 percent of all the villages of South Vietnam would have such groups. Under the guidance of the village chief, these smaller groups assisted in local administration and development projects.



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