Policy Planning Staff Files

Memorandum by the Acting Secretary of State to the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council (Souers)1

top secret

Pursuant to NSC Action No. 88–b, the NSC Staff has prepared a draft report on measures required to achieve the US objectives with respect to the USSR, as stated in NSC 20/4, which is now before the NSC Consultants for concurrence.2

Examination of this draft report within the Department of State has confirmed the Department’s previous feeling that this project is not a proper function of the National Security Council. The statutory function of the NSC is clearly stated to be the integration of policies relating to the national security, rather than the determination of the measures required to implement those policies. Under established procedures such measures are left to the determination of the responsible Departments and Agencies under the coordination of the Department or Agency having primary responsibility in each case as designated by the President. Use of the NSC for the determination of these measures would be contrary to the principles under which the Executive Branch of the Government operates, and would limit the flexibility in the conduct of operations which is essential in the rapidly changing world situation.

It is recognized that the NSC will from time to time be called upon to advise the President as to specific measures which are of such major significance to the national security as to require his personal consideration. Such instances, however, should be considered the exception rather than the rule, and should not be interpreted as changing the basic concept of the NSC as an advisory body on policies.

On the other hand, the Department of State appreciates the fact that it has the responsibility for furnishing guidance as to US foreign policies to the other Executive Departments and Agencies to assist them in the conduct of their operations, including the formulation of programs and the preparation of budgets therefor. The Department of State therefore intends to prepare, about September of each year, for the information of the other Executive Departments and Agencies, a paper which will furnish such guidance for the following fiscal year.

It is therefore recommended that the National Security Council:

Cancel the directive to the NSC Staff contained in NSC Action No. 88–b.
Note that the Department of State will transmit to the members of the NSC and other appropriate Executive Departments and Agencies, about September of each year, a review of the existing trends of international life, in their relation to US foreign policy, with a corresponding estimate of their projection into the future and with an indication of our probable national requirements in the foreign affairs field for the next fiscal year.

James E. Webb
  1. This memorandum was circulated in the National Security Council by Souers on May 25.
  2. Of March 30, p. 271.