Policy Planning Staff Files

Memorandum by the Secretary of Defense (Johnson) to the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council (Souers)1

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I agree with the Acting Secretary of State that in general the adoption of specific measures for the implementation of national policy is properly a function of the executive departments at the direction of the President rather than a function of the NSC.2 The [Page 346]application of that doctrine to the subject draft report, however, appears to have been misconstrued. There seems to be considerable confusion in the use of the term “measures” in this connection. Its use in the draft evidently springs from the language of the directive (NSC Action No. 88–b). The directive itself, however, appears to be an inaccurate expression of the intent of NSC 20.3 It is evident in that text that Mr. Forrestal had reference, not to “specific measures of implementation”, but to a needed “integration of domestic, foreign, and military policies in relation to the national security”, which is precisely the function of the National Security Council. I believe that the directive should be corrected rather than cancelled, and the report when completed should be considered on its merits as a result of the “integration of domestic, foreign, and military policies”.

The report which the Department of State proposes to make at about September of each year would be a welcome contribution to the work of the Council. This report, however, could not be accepted as a substitute for that integration of domestic, foreign, and military policy which it is the duty of the Council itself to provide for the guidance of all of its constituent departments. It should, therefore, be clearly understood that the Council, in noting the intention of the Department of State, in no sense thereby delegates any of its statutory functions.

The continuing and progressive formulation of national security objectives in the broadest sense is a project essential to sound planning in the National Military Establishment. Therefore, the members of the Council should give serious consideration to the adoption of extraordinary means for its accomplishment.

In summary, I recommend that the National Security Council:


Amend the directive to the NSC Staff in NSC Action No. 88–b, for the purpose of correcting the record, by substituting the following:

Provision of the policy guidance which, in the light of our existing commitments and capabilities, is required to promote the achievement of our current national security objectives.

Amend the subject NSC Staff report4 as indicated in the Appendix hereto (to conform to the amended directive) and place the report on an early agenda for the consideration of the Council.
Note that the Department of State will submit, about September of each year, a report such as that described by the Acting Secretary of State in his Memorandum for the Executive Secretary, NSC, May 24, 1949, but note that this Action does not constitute a substitution for the formulation of policies and the provision of the policy guidance, short of directing specific operational methods, that is the statutory function of the Council.

Louis Johnson
[Page 347]

Appendix A

Report by the National Security Council

Measures Required To Achieve Policy Guidance To Assist in Achieving U.S. Objectives With Respect to the USSR

1. Introduction. To counter the threats to our national security and well being posed by the USSR and to achieve our general objectives with respect to Russia, the following measures are policy guidance is deemed essential. In implementing these measures utilizing this policy guidance, care must be taken to avoid unduly impairing our economy and the fundamental values and institutions inherent in our way of life. (See paragraph 11 below.)

  1. This memorandum was circulated in the National Security Council by Souers on June 21.
  2. Reference is to Webb’s memorandum to Souers, May 24, p. 313.
  3. NSC 20 is described in footnote 1, p. 271.
  4. For the text of the March 30 draft NSC Staff Report, see p. 271.