1. Editorial Note

Following the election of November 4, 1960, President-elect John F. Kennedy and his transition advisers focused among other things on questions involving the organization and administration of foreign policy, particularly proposals for modifying and streamlining the structure of the National Security Council apparatus as it had developed during the Eisenhower administration. Among principal transition advisers to the President-elect were Clark M. Clifford, a Washington attorney who had served as Special Counsel to President Truman, and Richard E. Neustadt, Professor of Public Law and Government at Columbia University. Clifford served as a channel of communication with the Eisenhower administration and maintained contact with General Wilton B. Persons, President Eisenhower’s Assistant, from the time of their first meeting on November 14, 1960, through the weeks that followed. See Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965), pages 118–127, 209–210; and Bromley K. Smith, Organizational History of the National Security Council During the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations (Washington: National Security Council, 1988), pages 5–14.

Several transition memoranda Neustadt prepared for President-elect Kennedy dealt with aspects of the organization and administration of foreign policy. These included “Staffing the President-Elect,” October 30, 1960; “Conversation with Richard Bissell about a ‘Personal Assistant to the Commander-in-Chief-Elect’,” November 25, 1960; “The National Security Council: First Steps,” December 8, 1960; “Next Steps in Staffing the White House and Executive Office,” December 9, 1960; and “Introducing McGeorge Bundy to General Persons,” January 3, 1961. Copies of these memoranda are in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Departments and Agencies Series, Richard E. Neustadt.

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On December 6 President-elect Kennedy met with President Eisenhower at the White House. They discussed various subjects, including the organization and operation of the White House staff, the National Security Council, and the Pentagon. Eisenhower urged the President-elect to avoid any reorganization until “he himself could become well acquainted with the problem.” The full text of Eisenhower’s account of the meeting is in the Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries. It is printed in The White House Years: Waging Peace, 1956–1961, pages 712–716. See also Foreign Relations, 1958–1960, volume III, page 493.

During the transition period the President-elect was influenced by the findings and recommendations of the Senate Subcommittee on National Policy Machinery of the Committee on Government Operations, chaired by Senator Henry M. Jackson of Washington. Senator Jackson had begun hearings on the national security system in 1959, and Neustadt had become a consultant to the subcommittee. The subcommittee’s initial recommendations, first released during the transition period on November 22, 1960, largely coincided with Kennedy’s views on streamlining the National Security Council mechanism. See Schlesinger, A Thousand Days, pages 209–210; Smith, Organizational History, pages 5–7. For the first published Jackson subcommittee hearings and reports from the 86th Congress, Second Session, and the 87th Congress, First Session, see Organizing for National Security: Inquiry of the Subcommittee on National Policy Machinery of the Committee on Government Operations, United States Senate; vol. 1, Hearings; vol. 2, Studies and Background Material; and vol. 3, Staff Reports and Recommendations (Washington, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1961).

On January 1, 1961, in announcing the appointment of McGeorge Bundy as his Special Assistant for National Security Affairs, Kennedy indicated that he had been impressed by the recommendations of the Jackson Subcommittee, and that these would provide a starting point for the task of reorganizing the operations of the National Security Council. The President-elect stated: “I intend to consolidate under Mr. Bundy’s direction the present National Security Council secretariat, the staff and functions of the Operations Coordinating Board, and the continuing functions of a number of special projects staffs within the White House. 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.”

“Mr. Bundy will serve as my personal assistant on these matters and as director of whatever staff we find is needed for the purpose. It will be part of his assignment to facilitate the work of the National [Page 3] Security Council as a body advisory to the President. I intend to seek advice from the members of the Council, both collectively and individually, and it is my hope to use the National Security Council and its machinery more flexibly than in the past. I have been much impressed with the constructive criticism contained in the recent staff report by Senator Jackson’s Subcommittee on National Policy Machinery. The Subcommittee’s study provides a useful starting point for the work that Mr. Bundy will undertake in helping me to strengthen and to simplify the operations of the National Security Council.” (Statement from the Press Office of Senator John F. Kennedy, Palm Beach, Florida, for release Sunday January 1, 1961; text in Henry M. Jackson, ed., The National Security Council: Jackson Subcommittee Papers on Policy-Making at the Presidential Level (New York: Praeger, 1965), pages 302–303.

Additional documentation on the reorganization of the National Security Council mechanism during the Kennedy administration is in Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, volume VIII. On aspects of the organization and administration of foreign policy in the Kennedy administration generally, see also the following works by participants: George W. Ball, The Past Has Another Pattern: Memoirs (New York: Norton, 1982); John Kenneth Galbraith, Ambassador’s Journal (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1969); Roger Hilsman, To Move a Nation (New York: Doubleday, 1967); Walt W. Rostow, View From the Seventh Floor (New York: Harper & Row, 1964); Dean Rusk, as told to Richard Rusk, As I Saw It (New York: Norton, 1990); and Theodore C. Sorensen, Kennedy (New York: Harper & Row, 1965).