S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) files, lot 66 D 95, “NSC Admin., 1950–54”

Memorandum by the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Nitze) to the Under Secretary of State (Smith)

  • Subject:
  • Organization and Functions of the Policy Planning Staff

The Policy Planning Staff was established in May of 1947 by a Departmental Order which defined its functions as follows:

  • “(1) Formulating and developing, for the consideration and approval of appropriate officials of the Department, long-term programs for the achievement of American foreign-policy objectives.
  • “(2) Anticipating problems which the Department may encounter in the discharge of its mission.
  • “(3) Undertaking studies and preparing reports on broad politico-military problems which the Department may submit for consideration by SWNCC, the Committee of Three,1 or other similar bodies.
  • “(4) Examining, independently or upon reference by the Secretary or the Under Secretary, problems and developments affecting United States foreign policy in order to evaluate the adequacy of current policy and making advisory recommendations pertaining thereto.
  • “(5) Coordinating planning activities within the Department of State.

“In the discharge of the above functions, the Policy Planning Staff has no operational responsibility and will not issue directives, instructions, etc., to the operational organizations of the Department or to missions in the field. However, in order to insure a realistic basis for planning close contact shall be maintained between the Staff and operational organizations; and the latter shall be responsible for keeping the Staff informed of their planning activities.”

The Staff consists of a Director, a Deputy Director, ten members (at present there are nine) and an Executive Secretary. (A list of the present members is attached as an Annex.)2

With the creation of the National Security Council and the unification of the Services that resulted in the creation of the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff with a Joint Staff, much of the work of the Policy Planning Staff has centered on political and political-military problems that cut across the responsibilities of various bureaus within the Department or of various departments of the Government and involve matters requiring the attention of officers having general experience rather than specialists in particular areas and fields.

An example of the continuing work of the Policy Planning Staff on problems that embrace all aspects of our national power and purposes is the series of NSC papers beginning with NSC 20/4 and proceeding through NSC 68, NSC 114, NSC 135, and most recently NSC 141. These papers were largely generated by the State Department through the Policy Planning Staff, working in collaboration with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff organization. Coordination with other interested Government agencies was achieved in the Senior Staff of the NSC and in the National Security Council itself. This series of papers deals with the broad questions of the building of strength in the free world, the retraction of Soviet power and influence, and the possibilities for combatting local aggression and meeting general war, if it should come. Officers who are familiar with atomic energy and [Page 239] military matters on a continuing basis, the whole field of foreign policy purposes and the range of available means, are essential to the development of these papers relating to strategic objectives and recommendations for the appropriate allocation of resources. Such officers, of course, must prepare the material with the assistance of specialists in particular areas and fields.

Apart from close working relationships with the Military Establishment required in the preparation of broad NSC policy papers, the Director and members of the Policy Planning Staff have been closely associated with the Deputy Under Secretary, Mr. Matthews, in the increasingly wide consultation between the State Department and the Defense Establishment. This consultation includes weekly meetings with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, frequent discussions with the Joint Strategic Survey Committee and various committees of the Joint Staff, as well as close and continuing relationships with Mr. Frank Nash and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. In addition, the Director and members of the Policy Planning Staff meet on a weekly basis with the representatives of the Director of the Mutual Security, the Mutual Security Agency, and the Defense Establishment to discuss foreign aid and foreign economic matters; participate in the work of the Atomic Energy Subcommittee of the NSC Senior Staff, the Joint State–Defense conversations with the representatives of the British Government and somewhat similar conversations with the Canadian Government; and are in touch with the work of such outside groups as the Center for International Studies at M.I.T., the “East River” project, and the Panel of Disarmament Consultants.

It is by these means that a planning staff can develop the general information and background which serve to focus a wide range of interests on the problems of foreign policy.

While the greater part of the time of the Policy Planning Staff members is spent on the matters I have mentioned above, the work of the Staff also includes the preparation, in collaboration with the geographic bureaus in the Department, of NSC papers that relate to specific countries or areas. The most recent of these papers cover Berlin, South-East Asia, Latin America and Iran. The Policy Planning Staff also prepares papers for use inside the Department on such questions (to select a few recent ones) as alternatives to the European Defense Community should the EDC treaty fail of ratification, the use of the United Nations as a forum for the discussion of such problems as Tunisia and Morocco, and the distinctions in foreign policy between intentions, aims and objectives.

The Policy Planning Staff prepares other material for Departmental use in connection with international conferences and negotiations, for example: meetings of the Council of Foreign Ministers, [Page 240] the NATO Council, tripartite conferences with the UK and France, and negotiations on the Middle East Defense Organization, the Suez Canal Zone and the Sudan, the Korean truce talks and the Iranian Oil dispute.

A further function of the Staff, which arose from the general background its members have developed, involved the preparation and checking of important Departmental and Presidential speeches and statements and the writing of outlines for use in Congressional presentations requiring a general discussion of foreign policy.

These, I think, are the general categories in which the Staff’s work has fallen in the past. The Director and individual members keep themselves informed on developments in particular areas and fields and participate in a variety of discussions, meetings and committees in the Department. Without such contact with the operating divisions, planning could easily become unrealistic and lead to policy planning papers that merely constituted a set of desirable aims rather than purposes achievable within the limits of means.

So far as recommendations with respect to the Policy Planning Staff are concerned, I think what I have said in this memorandum will indicate that I regard the continuance of a Planning Staff as an important element in the State Department contribution to the formulation of national policy and as an important device for providing, within the Department, assistance in a variety of matters that do not fall wholly within the province of specialists.

The one specific recommendation I would like to suggest concerns the participation of the Department and the Policy Planning Staff in the work of the NSC. I am sure that a good deal can be done to improve the functioning of the NSC, but I doubt whether any reorganization of the NSC will diminish by much the necessity for staff work on national policy in the State and Defense Departments.

During the past two years, the Counselor of the Department has represented the Department on the NSC Senior Staff. The Counselor’s assistants have served as his alternates on the Senior Staff and as his representatives on the group known as the NSC Staff Assistants. The Policy Planning Staff, however, has continued to originate papers for submission to the Council or to review and revise proposed NSC papers originated elsewhere in the Department.

The difficulty in this arrangement arises from the fact that the responsibility of the Policy Planning Staff, which has been intimately involved in the preparation of the papers, cuts off at the point that the papers are submitted to the Council and it does not participate in the work of the Senior Staff or the NSC Staff Assistants. It would be possible, of course, to alter this arrangement by combining the functions of the Counselor and the Director of the [Page 241] Policy Planning Staff or by assigning the NSC responsibility to the Planning Staff and giving the Counselor other functions. Perhaps one of these two alternatives would be desirable.

I am inclined to believe, however, that there are merits in having some division of responsibilities that should be retained. First, there is the advantage of having available two principal officers of the Department who can be used by the Secretary in dealing with the wide variety of matters that require a generalized background and ability and involve interdepartmental and intergovernmental discussion and conferences. Second, the work of the NSC Senior Staff consumes a very great deal of time and would seriously limit the attention that one officer could give to the other necessary functions of the Policy Planning Staff. I say this on the basis of personal experience, since I served on the NSC Senior Staff for some time prior to the assignment of the function to the Counselor in 1951.

I believe the advantages of the present division of responsibility can be retained and the present difficulties largely obviated by a less drastic change in the arrangements. If the Counselor had as his alternate on the Senior Staff and as his representatives on the NSC Staff Assistants, members of the Policy Planning Staff who had been directly involved in the preparation of the papers submitted by the Department then the process of completing papers for the consideration of the Council itself would be a continuing rather than a broken one, and the work of the Policy Planning Staff would be carried on in the light of full information about the views of other agencies represented on the NSC and expressed in discussions in that forum.

In its work with NSC papers and in its other functions, the Policy Planning Staff’s effectiveness and utility depend, of course, on the degree to which the Secretary and the Under Secretary find in such an organization a means of increasing the depth of thought and attention given to policy matters and the degree to which the Director and Deputy Director are in a position to reflect in their guidance of the Staff the assumptions on which the administration wishes policy to be planned.

  1. Reference is to the State–War–Navy Coordinating Committee which, prior to the establishment of the National Security Council in July 1947 was one of the chief policy coordinating and recommendatory bodies in the Executive Branch. Reorganized in 1947, SWNCC continued to meet through 1949. The Committee of Three, comprised of the Secretaries of State, War, and Navy met periodically through 1947 to discuss on a more informal level ongoing policy problems. For information on the National Security legislation of 1947, see the editorial note in Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. i, p. 760.
  2. Not printed.