6. Draft Paper by the Executive Assistant of the Operations Coordinating Board (Johnson)1


It is assumed that the President will make use of the statutory Council on an ad referendum basis and will endeavor to keep it clear of routine review of policies that can be adequately performed at lower levels in the government by planning and operating officials who are aware of and responsive to the over-all policy directions of the Administration. The intent, therefore, of the steps outlined below is to free up the time and attention of the President and his immediate advisors by relieving them of the burden of immediate supervision of the machinery for continuous policy review and adjustment and for insuring the coordinated implementation of such policies while, at the same time, preserving sufficient structure of an institutional character that will insure disciplined orderly [Page 16] performance of these functions with a minimum of personal administration. In addition, the objective is sought of promoting a maximum of lateral coordination among opposite numbers in the operating departments to provide a “nervous system” through which the impact of the President’s personality and influence can be registered at the operating level in the various agencies, as well as to provide an alternative route on occasion for operating views to be flushed up to the attention of the top people in the Administration.

The following specific actions are suggested for consideration as a means of moving from the present situation to meet the express wishes of the new Administration with respect to simplifying the process of policy planning and operational coordination in the national security field:

Abolish the Planning Board, Planning Board Assistants, the Operations Coordinating Board and the OCB Assistants.3
Assign, by Presidential order, all functions of the Planning Board and the Operations Coordinating Board to the Special Assistant to the President (Mr. Bundy).4 In this regard make a specific assignment to him of all outstanding national security policies for review in consultation with the appropriate agencies and recommendation to the President as to the disposition of such policies. At the same time, these policies should be considered in force until changed to guard against the immediate resurrection of all the “dead cats” and overloading the policy-making officials with issues that have no real urgency.
Set up a weekly informal luncheon meeting at the Under Secretary level with the same officials as have been attending the OCB luncheon meeting (Consideration might be given to adding the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors and the Special Assistant to the President (Science and Technology). In addition, Mr. Salinger might be given a standing invitation to attend when he wishes. Consideration might also be given to having both Under Secretaries in the Department of State attend this meeting.).
Set up a regular formal weekly meeting of Departmental Representatives (Assistant Secretaries or comparable officers) which would be attended by representatives of the same agencies as are now represented on the Planning Board and the OCB under the chairmanship of a staff assistant to the Special Assistant to the President, who would be charged [Page 17] with the formal aspects of policy review and operational coordination. This weekly meeting would be the device by which the Special Assistant to the President would secure the concurrence of the appropriate agencies in steps to be taken to implement Presidential policy as set forth in formal Operations Plans or more informal interagency memoranda or “treaties.” It also would be the body that would secure departmental views as to the need for policy changes and recommendations for inclusion in revised policy statements. The Special Assistant to the President would have the responsibility of determining whether such recommendations need referral to the President or can be put into effect by the concurrence of the principal departments involved. The Special Assistant to the President would also refer policies to this group for recommendation or request them to initiate new statements in response to need.
Affirm the present working group setup pending review of the policies for which they have the present responsibility of evaluation in terms of operational requirements and for preparing drafts of Operations Plans. These working groups need re-invigoration. In this connection certain steps need to be taken as soon as the major adjustments described above have taken place. The more important of these steps are: (a) improved backstopping of the working group representation in the departments and agencies participating in the group; (b) improved representation on the working group; and (c) a clear expression of support for this process by the White House and by the heads of the agencies involved. The working groups would normally be chaired by the agency having the principal responsibility. On all geographic working groups this is the Department of State, which is concrete evidence of the primacy of the State Department’s coordinating role in this area, but the working group, on the other hand, is part of a Presidentially-established mechanism responsible to and receiving its instructions from a representative of the President.
Review and issue a projected schedule of work for the working groups in order to maintain a balanced workload in the weekly meeting of Departmental Representatives and to maintain the principle that every formal statement of policy must be subject to regular review.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Departments and Agencies Series, NSC Organization and Administration 1/26/61-1/29/61. No classification marking. A January 27 covering note from Bromley Smith to Bundy is not printed.
  2. On January 1 President-elect Kennedy appointed McGeorge Bundy to be his Special Assistant for National Security Affairs, stating that he intended to consolidate under his direction the NSC Secretariat, the OCB, and a “number of special projects staffs within the White House.” Kennedy continued: “I have asked Mr. Bundy to review with care existing staff organization and arrangements, and to simplify them wherever possible toward the end that we may have a single, small, but strongly organized staff unit to assist me in obtaining advice from, and coordinating operations of the government agencies concerned with national security affairs.” For full text of Kennedy’s statement, see Henry M. Jackson, ed., The National Security Council: Jackson Subcommittee Papers on Policy-Making at the Presidential Level (New York: Praeger, 1965), pp. 302-303.
  3. Transition adviser Richard E. Neustadt made a recommendation to abolish the OCB in a December 9, 1960, memorandum to Senator Kennedy. (Kennedy Library, President’s Office Files, Neustadt, Richard E., 1960) On February 18 President Kennedy issued Executive Order No. 10920 abolishing the OCB (26 Federal Register 1463), and on February 19, he issued a statement regarding performance of tasks formerly assigned to the OCB. (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1961, pp. 104-105)
  4. It is assumed that the staff and funds provided for the National Security Council will be made available to Mr. Bundy. [Footnote in the source text.]