16. Editorial Note

On September 4, 1961, McGeorge Bundy described the Kennedy administration’s changes in and operation of the National Security Council in a letter to Senator Henry M. Jackson as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Policy Machinery of the Senate Committee on Government Operations. For text, see Jackson, ed., National Security Council, pages 275–279. In a subsequent letter to Jackson of January 28, 1965, Bundy stated: “In almost every particular, the principles and procedures set forth in the [September 4,] 1961 letter have governed the work of the Council under both President Kennedy and President Johnson.” (Ibid., pages 279–280)

At the end of 1961, Bundy established a Standing Group of the National Security Council that was to meet weekly in the White House [Page 35] Situation Room to “organize and monitor the work of the National Security Council and to take up such other matters as may be presented to the group by its members.” This NSC Standing Group was to meet 15 times between January and August 1962. Its chairman was the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and its members included the Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Director of Central Intelligence, and the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs. The Executive Secretary of the NSC would participate, as would representatives of other agencies in accordance with particular agenda items. After a lapse in meetings, Bundy revived the Standing Group in April 1963 under his chairmanship, first as the Plans and Operations Committee, then as the Standing Committee, and shortly as the NSC Standing Group, the original name. (Smith, Organizational History of the National Security Council, pages 51–53; see also Document 23)

President Kennedy, in his opening remarks at the 469th meeting of the National Security Council on January 18, 1962, described the role of the NSC with respect to Executive Branch departments and agencies. The meeting summary noted that “The President referred to the Council’s responsibility for integrating the work of the Departments of State and Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency, with the participation of the Treasury Department and other agencies when matters of interest to them were being considered. He asked the members to cooperate in making the Council meetings useful, and ensuring that decisions arising out of the Council meetings were effectively carried out.” See Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, volume VIII, Document 69.