17. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Cutler) to President Eisenhower0

Mr. President:

The views which you expressed last week on how you wished Council Meetings conducted, I have set down in the attached memorandum for myself and my successors as Special Assistant.

During the time I shall continue as Special Assistant, these views will guide me. Nevertheless, I earnestly believe:

As a general rule, the most fruitful discussion at top-level results when it is addressed to a carefully-prepared paper, circulated and studied in advance, which forms the basis of consequent written-out decision.
As a general rule, discussion of an issue—not so based and directed and recorded—tends not to be responsible, or to move the ball forward.
At top level, there is urgent, continuing need for painstakingly careful written-out policy papers, to guide future action in all areas of our enormous governmental structure.

These beliefs are consistent with the generation and carrying on of vigorous discussion in the Council Meetings (against a documented background) along the lines you have outlined. It has been my lack of skill not to evoke as sharply as you wish the issue, rather than the text which expresses the issue. I certainly shall try to do better.

Right now, the Planning Board is at its tenth meeting in review of Basic Policy. To me, nothing done at my level is more useful than this annual exercise (killing as it may be to R.C.). All the resources, all the strong views, all the passionate advocacies, of the Executive Branch agencies meet and clash in this broad spectrum.

As President you see only the end-result, often with many divergent and unresolved views. But I hope you will appreciate the value derived from this great annual struggle to reappraise, reexamine, keep up to date (as circumstances change) our Basic Policy. The text of the paper is only the result: the text has a great value, of course, for those who must use and rely on it. But far greater value inheres in the tremendous interagency intellectual effort that goes into the preparation of the integrated text.

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Administration Series. Confidential.