15. Note by the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Cutler)0
GUIDANCE FROM PRESIDENT ON CONDUCT OF COUNCIL MEETINGS
The President expressed a strong preference that future Council Meetings should focus less on discussion of papers and more on discussion of issues.
From this latter type of discussion, guidance would flow to the Planning Board, which had enough authority correctly to draft the necessary papers on the basis of the discussion of issues.
He said that, in the first term, there was necessity to review all existing policy papers; but that, now we had completed that work, he hoped the Council could discuss provocative issues which required high-level thought.
He pointed out that the Cabinet, from time to time, had half-hour executive sessions preceding the Cabinet Meeting which were devoted entirely to oral discussion of important topics. He thought Cabinet Members found these sessions most helpful in their work.
I replied that it was necessary for the NSC to operate largely on written-out papers, because NSC papers were the basis of planning and of budgetary expenditures throughout the Government. However, I thought such papers could be used as a springboard for discussing at Council Meetings the basic issues which they covered rather than concentrating attention on the papers themselves. The President approved such a procedure.
The President also indicated that OCB progress reports, special reports, and intelligence briefings were not in the category he had been talking about.
Mr. Lay pointed out that minor changes in existing policies could be, and were being, handled through the Planning Board and a Council-vote-slip procedure, instead of using up Council time for their consideration. The President approved such a procedure.