National Defense Council Foundation
Last updated: January 9, 1989
Published by the International Relations Center / Interhemispheric Resource Center.
National Defense Council Foundation
Background: F. Andy Messing founded the National Defense Council Foundation (NDCF) in the U.S. in 1978 to help popularize the idea of low intensity conflict (LIC). (8,9) Since, as in many New Right Humanitarian groups, the founder is the main operative of the group, a description of Andy Messing’s background is pertinent to the background of the NDCF. Messing became involved in politics in the middle 1970s, when he served as the head of the American Conservative Union. He then became a congressional liaison for the army, and later joined the American Security Council, a lobby group for conservative causes such as protesting the Panama Canal treaties and Salt II. He also lobbied against the "abandonment" of the colonial regime of Ian Smith in Rhodesia. In 1979, Messing became a protege of Howard Phillips of the Conservative Caucus, but did not abandon the NDCF. (9,10) Up until 1985, Messing held a position at the Pentagon where he monitored American intelligence on Central America. He claims he lost the job because "I am too controversial," but he received a commendation for his work in 1984. (9,10)
The NDCF focuses on LIC because Messing feels that this is ultimately where the confrontation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union lies, not in the nuclear arena. He wishes to return to the early days of the Kennedy administration in which counterinsurgency was the neocolonial savior of the moment. (9)
The NDCF studies LIC around the globe along with its humanitarian aid functions. (10)
Funding: NDCF has an annual budget of approximately $300,000 and a staff of three. (10,11) Their funding comes from direct mail solicitations, large individual contributions and foundations. (9)
They also receive donations of supplies from a variety of corporations.
In 1985 the NDCF received a $12,000 grant from the right-wing Adolph Coors Foundation to "conduct educational research and analysis of primarily defense related issues."(12)
George Bush has helped pay for lobbying trips of the NDCF’s Guatemalan affiliate to Washington DC (8)
The NDCF has received $500 from actor Clint Eastwood, and has received donations of undisclosed amounts from former president Richard Nixon and Ellen Garwood, a major funder of the contras. (10)
In 1985 contra leader Aldolfo Calero’s brother helped Messing channel over $1,000,000 of nonlethal aid to the contras. (10) Messing also claimed that he delivered $23,100 in cash to the contras but said it was all used for food and medicine."I got vouchers and receipts from the contras," said Messing. (10)
Activities: From 1984 to 1985-86 this organization distributed $22 million in medicines, medical equipment, food, and clothing in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Costa Rica. (7,8,9) NDCF channels donated supplies to hospitals and refugee camps. (10) Delivering "humanitarian" aid is their main activity and fits integrally into the LIC doctrine because food and medicine are the major linchpins in civic action campaigns. Messing calls Central America "an accessible laboratory" for the study and implementation of low intensity conflict. (14)
Messing and the NDCF were also integral in the passage of the Denton Amendment which allows the shipment of "humanitarian" items on a space-available basis on U.S. military vessels. In 1984, Messing and staff members at the National Security Council developed a scheme to send food and medicine to Central America on military aircraft. Using archaic regulations the NSC ordered the Pentagon to carry the supplies, but the Pentagon refused. Messing convinced Senator Jeremiah Denton to sponsor the legislation which eventually became the Denton Amendment. (9)
NCDF has sent over 130 tons of food and medical supplies to Central America that have been donated by various private organizations in the U.S. (11)
Messing, through the NDCF, has led over 40 trips to Central America for members of Congress and the media. While taking conservative Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr on a tour, their helicopter crashed, but no one was seriously injured. The two met Daniel Ortega on the trip and according to Sensenbrenner, Messing "called Ortega a Nazi to his face, and someone had to hold Ortega down."(6,10)
In 1978 Messing argued for and won a reduction in scheduled cut-backs in the U.S. Special Forces and he also helped save the U.S. Navy SEALs in 1981. (6,9)
Messing and the NDCF have also pushed for an increased role for the military in the war against the international drug trade. (6) An article written by Messing appeared in the Unification Church-owned newspaper, Washington Times, in which Messing argued for increased use of the military in fighting drug trafficking but acknowledged that "as the army increases, it becomes its own political force."(13)
Guatemala: The Guatemalan branch of the NDCF was founded in 1984 by Gabriel Gomez del Rio, a former AID employee in Guatemala and a former Cuban "freedom fighter." Gomez del Rio acknowledged that supplies donated to the organization were distributed by the Guatemalan army and the Air Commando Association. (8) Carlos Ramirez took over as head of the Guatemala affiliate in 1986 and described the NDCF in Guatemala as "a private business organization that believes in liberation, private enterprise, and the constitution. All our directors have factories, and the National Defense Council is anticommunist because of our principles. We stand for liberation and the Communists want dictatorships." This Guatemalan branch also informs U.S. Congressional members about Guatemalan issues. In 1986, the Guatemalan branch received a donated ship and wanted to convert it into a seaboard clinic to serve all of Central America. Along with medical services, the Guatemalan affiliate helps paraplegics and amputees. (8)
Government Connections: The NDCF and Messing have extensive government connections. The chair and vice chair of the group are both U.S. Congressional representatives. They have a Congressional Advisory Board with at least 19 members of Congress. Adviser Dick Cheney is currently President George Bush’s Secretary of Defense. (6)
The NDCF has two Senatorial advisers–Orrin Hatch and Don Nickels–both of whom are well-known conservatives.
Messing served as a platoon leader in the 1st Air Cavalryduring the Vietnam War. He received two Purple Hearts and the Meritorious Service Medal. (6) After getting out of the army, he worked in the private sector for a short time and then rejoined the army as a congressional liaison until 1975. (9) He is now a retired Major, Special Forces, Army Reserve. (6)
The NDCF’s most damning link to the government is Messing’s close friendship with preeminent Iran-Contra figure Lt. Col. Oliver North (ret. ). The two became ac
quainted in 1982 when Messing heard North explain the Reagan administration’s position on Central America. The two became friends, it seems, because both shared similar backgrounds and "gung-ho" attitudes."North was convincing because he was IWT," said Messing. (IWT refers to "I was there.") Messing seems to use IWT as measure for most people, for instance, he has called Jack Kemp a "wimp" for not going to El Salvador. (10) Messing often briefed North on his trips abroad. Messing’s name ended up on a document confiscated from the NSC linked to the words "funds" and "guns," but Messing denies any wrongdoing."Yes, the memo in North’s office did have my name on it." Messing said "But it wasn’t North’s handwriting. Honest."(10) When North was being tried for improprieties, Messing said,"He [North] has the best lawyers in town outside the opposing force, which outnumber him 10 to 1. That’s the kind of odds Ollie North is used to."(15)
The NDCF has received accolades from such varying government figures as former U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica Lewis Tambs, a former U.S. Military Group Commander in EL Salvador, former Secretary of the Interior Donald Hodel, and former President Ronald Reagan. (6)
Messing is close to the Conservative Opportunity Society, a group of 15 New Rightists in the House of Representatives. (9)
In 1986 Messing briefed then Vice President George Bush on irregular warfare. (16)
When Messing found out that seven-and-a-half tons of medical equipment that he had shipped to El Salvador had languished in customs for three weeks, Messing made a call to Congressperson Dan Burton (NDCF’s vice chair) who in turn made a call to former president Jose Napoleon Duarte. Two hours later the supplies were released. (10)
Messing is also friends with Max Gomez, aka Felix Rodriguez, a former CIA agent who was named as the coordinator of the contra supply operation in El Salvador. (10,17) In the NDCF office, Messing has a poster-size photo in his office of himself and a Village Voice reporter in a military helicopter on a Salvadoran airfield. Rodriguez was the pilot of that helicopter. (10)
John K. Singlaub has a long history of U.S. intelligence work. During World War II he was an officer in the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA. He served as the deputy chief of the CIA in Seoul during the Korean War. (19)
He also served in Vietnam for two years where he was the commander of the Joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force (MACVSOG). MACVSOG ran Operation Phoenix which was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Vietnamese civilians. Singlaub denies involvement with Operation Phoenix. (20) He served as Chief of Staff of the United Nations Command in Korea until 1978 when he was forced to retire for publicly condemning President Jimmy Carter’s decision to cut back troops in the country. (20)
Messing persuaded former Undersecretary of Defense for Public Policy, Fred Ikle, to form a Special Warfare panel in 1984 to make LIC strategy recommendations that the Pentagon could pursue in Central America. Singlaub headed that Panel and Messing and North were members. (14,22) Singlaub said Messing "serves as my advisor on all matters relating to Congress and the general conservative community."(14) Many of the panel proposals were adopted by the Pentagon and implemented in El Salvador as well as Guatemala. (9)
Edward Lansdale served as a private sector adviser for the NDCF as well. Called the "Godfather" of counterinsurgency theory, Lansdale ran counterinsurgency operations in the Philippines in the 1950s and designed the early U.S. counterinsurgency plans in Vietnam. (9) Lansdale coined the term "civic action" to describe the work of the psychological warfare unit in the Philippines.
In 1982, Lansdale was appointed to a special Pentagon task force on LIC. (23) Messing introduced North to Lansdale. (10)
NDCF also works with the Guatemalan army in its rural pacification programs. Supplies donated to the NDCF are distributed in part by the Guatemalan Army in the militarized development poles. In 1985, NDCF delivered one shipment of over 20 tons of medical supplies for the military’s Operation Child civic action program for distribution to Indians in the Highlands. (14)
Private Connections: The groups and individuals that NDCF works with are all heavy hitters in the world of conservative interventionist policy towards Central America.
John K. Singlaub is one of NDCF’s private sector advisers. He was the former head of the World Anti-Communist League (WACL), and the founder and chair of the now-defunct U.S. branch of the WACL, the United States Council for World Freedom. (18) Messing was on the advisory board of the U.S. Council for World Freedom while it was still intact. (21) Singlaub has been called the leading organizer for the private war on Nicaragua. (9) Singlaub has said about Messing,"He’s educated me about who in the conservative movement gets things done."(10) Messing also introduced North to Singlaub. (10)
NDCF works with the Air Commando Association (ACA) in Central America."NDC was instrumental in our initial contacts to Guatemala," said an ACA newsletter. Gabriel Gomez del Rio, the former head of the Guatemalan branch of the NDCF, provided ACA head Harry Aderholt with introductions to key Guatemalan officials and arranged for surface transportation of ACA materials within Guatemala. (1) Aderholt served as chief of covert air operations under John Singlaub in Southeast Asia and, with a senior CIA official, distributed $100 million in medical supplies to Hmong tribesmen. The tribesmen were fighting for the CIA in its "secret" war in Laos. (2)
NDCF receives most of its medical supplies from World Medical Relief (WMR) based in Michigan. WMR is the primary supplier of medical materials for the ACA in El Salvador and Guatemala. WMR also provided Aderholt with many of the supplies that went to the Hmong tribesman in Laos. Irene Auberlin who founded WMR in 1953, called ACA’s work in El Salvador "a beautiful, beautiful program." Auberlin received the President’s Volunteer in Action Award in 1984. (2,3) As of 1985 Messing had made eight to ten visits to Detroit to pick up supplies from WMR. (3)
Robert Brown, editor of Soldier of Fortune, was a former board member of NDCF. (10)
Messing helped former president Richard Nixon write a chapter on irregular warfare in his book No More Vietnams. (9)
Misc: Messing has been investigated for his possible role in the Iran-Contra affair by the FBI, IRS, a congressional committee, and special prosecuter Lawrence Walsh but seems to have come out unscathed. (10)
Carlos Ramirez, director of the Guatemalan NDCF, has said of Messing,"He’s crazy. He said he wanted to come to El Salvador over his vacation to kill Communists."(7)
"The efforts of the NDCF have been invaluable in offering hope and promise where there was only despair. The inspirational programs undertaken by the NDCF… will help the cause of freedom. Your work is in the highest tradition of this great nation," said former President Ronald Reagan. (6)
Comments:U.S. Address: National Defense Council Foundation, 108 South Columbus Street, Suite 101, Alexandria, VA 22314.
Principals: F. Andy Messing Jr, exec dir and tres; Robert K. Dornan, chair; Dan L. Burton, vice chair; David M. Fitzgerald, pres; H. Keith Christian Jr, vice pres; Catherine C. Dickey, legislative dir; and Margaret M. Walsh, press asst. Congressional Advisers: Dick Cheney, Larry E. Craig, Philip M. Crane, William E. Dannemeyer, Duncan Hunter, Delbert L. Latta, Robert R. Livingston, Manuel Lujan Jr, Carlos Moorhead, Howard C. Nielson, Ron Packard,
Daniel L. Schaeffer, Norman D. Shumway, Denny Smith, Gerald B. H. Solomon, Floyd D. Spence, Bob Stump, Patrick Swindall, and Barbara Vucanovich. Senatorial Advisors: Orrin Hatch, Don Nickels. Private Sector Advisers: Tom Corcoran, Admiral C. A."Mark" Hill (USN ret. ), Herbert Humphreys Jr, Major General Edward Lansdale (USAF ret. , deceased), Major General John K. Singlaub (USA ret. ). (6) Guatemala Directors: Raphael Passada, Julio Asencio, Carlos Ramirez. (7)
Sources:1. Air Commando Association Newsletter, May 1985.
2. Susanna McKean Moore,"Aid Commandos," The Nation, Nov 2, 1985.
3. Russ Bellant,"The Politics of Giving," The Metro Times, October 9-15, 1985.
4. Texas Observer, March 7, 1986.
5. Prensa Libre, Feb 28, 1985.
6. NDCF Brochure and Letterhead, April 17, 1987.
7. Interview with Carlos Ramirez, director NDCF/Guatemala, Jan 21, 1987.
8. Private Organizations with U.S. Connections: Guatemala (Albuquerque, NM: The Resource Center, July 1988).
9. James Ridgeway,"Crusade for Low-Intensity Conflict," Village Voice, Nov 26, 1985.
10. Alicia Mundy,"Messing in Action," Regardie’s, February 1988.
11. Encyclopedia of Associations, 1989.
12. Foundation Grants Index, 16th ed, 1987.
13. F. Andy Messing Jr,"Peru: A Nation Gripped by Politics of Contraband," The Washington Times, Sep 3, 1985.
14. The New Right Humanitarians, (Albuquerque, NM: The Resource Center, 1986).
15. Leslie Phillips,"Ollie North Now Gets His Day(s) in Court, USA Today, Apr 12, 1988.
16. William Finnegan,"On the Militarist Fringe," Mother Jones, Apr/May 1986.
17. Sandra Dibble,"Miamian Tied to Anti-Sandinistas," Miami Herald, Oct 23, 1986.
18. Don Devereux,"Singlaub and the Good War," newsletter, Aug 31, 1989.
19. Joe Conason and Murray Waas, Village Voice, Oct 22, 1985.
20. Scott Anderson and Jon Lee Anderson, Inside the League (New York, NY: Dodd, Mead & Co, 1986).
21. List of USCWF’s board of directors and advisory board, received Feb 1987.
22. Invitation List to Low Intensity Warfare Conference, Jan 1415, 1986.
23. Tom Barry and Deb Preusch, The Soft War (New York, NY: Grove Press, 1988).
The underlying cites for this profile are now kept at Political Research Associates, (617) 666-5300. www.irc-online.org.