Similarly conscious of the need to counter the Communists' people's war, the Government of Vietnam established the Phung Hoang program five months later. Renamed Phoenix, the U.S. mission was to provide financial and advisory assistance to the new Phung Hoang program. However, Phung Hoang (Phoenix) didn't become fully effective until mid-1968 due to the Communist's Tet offensive and the resulting need for additional intelligence on the military threat.
District Intelligence and Operations Coordinating Centers collected, analyzed and distributed information on VCI members to action forces, which included the ARVN, territorials (Regional Forces and Popular Forces), Police forces and Provincial Reconnaissance Units. Identified VCI members were to be either induced to defect, captured and detained, or as a last resort, killed. Individuals not killed were taken to Provincial Interrogation Center's and any information extracted during interrogation was delivered to the DIOCC.
One criticism of the program was that low level VCI members or villagers were too often captured or killed in order to meet neutralization quotas. Consequently, In March 1969 VCI members were graded into three categories
A: Party Member (PRP) or important official
B: Cadre in key position
C: Local organization member / courier / rank and file guerrilla etc. Only category A and B individuals were to be targeted by the Phoenix Program. Between 1968 and 1972 - 81,740 VCI members were neutralized. Of those, 22,013 defected, 33,358 were captured and detained and 26,369 were killed.
The Phoenix Program was accused of carrying out assassinations and of using torture