The primary focus of the documents in this volume is on the foreign policymaking
process of the U.S. Government, including documentation illuminating policy
formulation and major aspects and repercussions of its execution. Emphasis is placed
on official memoranda that reveal policy positions, show differences within the U.S.
Government over policy formulation, summarize developments and positions regarding
an issue, contain intelligence or military assessments, and describe decisions or
actions taken in the National Security Council.
The editor sought principally to cover four interrelated developments in U.S.
national security policy:
1. Upon taking office, the Kennedy administration dismantled much of the existing
policymaking machinery of the National Security Council (NSC) and substituted a more
unstructured policymaking style. The President met less frequently with the full NSC
than had been the case in the preceding Eisenhower administration. In the 1958-1960
triennium, the Council met 125 times, while under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson
during 1961-1963, it met formally only 46 times. The change was progressive; while
the Council convened 21 times under Kennedy in 1961, it met only 13 times in 1963.
At the same time, the role of the President's Special Assistant for National
Security Affairs was enhanced and the administration continuously created
issue-oriented, ad hoc bodies to deal with specific countries and crises. From time
to time McGeorge Bundy attempted to reintroduce more regularized policymaking
procedures. The NSC Standing Group was one result of these efforts. Documentation
providing some additional details on the transformed administrative role of the
National Security Council is scheduled for volume XXV.
2. Leading Kennedy administration policymakers in the White House, the Department
of State, and the Department of Defense, but not the President himself, worked to
frame a basic national security policy (BNSP), which would replace NSC 5906/1 of
July 1959, the last such statement of policy in the preceding administration. While
he had little interest in an umbrella BNSP paper, President Kennedy did from time to
time set forth a multi-subject overview of U.S. policy, either in the full NSC
meetings or with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
3. President Kennedy took a special interest in strengthening U.S.
counterinsurgency capabilities. Aided by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, he
constantly prodded policymakers to do more in this area.
4. Under the leadership of Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, the United
States gradually formulated a comprehensive set of doctrines on strategic military
posture, particularly with regard to the role of nuclear weapons and of conventional
land-based forces. These policies evolved throughout the triennium and were most
definitively expressed in a series of Draft Presidential Memoranda, or DPMs, from
McNamara to the President.