87. Memorandum From the President’s Military Aide (Clifton) to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1

Several of us have looked this over and find that it is a very logical study,2 which fully appreciates the situation in regard to the President. The conclusions, as to the requirements for command and control support for the President, are sound.

The conclusions in Chapter VII are logical, and they would indicate the following actions:

That the President choose a Presidential Group that will assist him in directing a crisis when it occurs.
That further study be made of the means for the protection of the President during times of intense crisis.
That interagency effectiveness in crisis anticipation and management be improved.
That we should not attempt to establish a formal National Command Center with adequate staff support on a full-time basis, but [Page 239] that we plan for the establishment of such a command center if it were to be needed.



Someone in authority should take an active hand in lining up the proper Presidential support to go with the emergency plans, which are charged to the Office of the Military Aide at present. We have gone about as far as we can go with the present guidance. Fundamentally the President should have recommendations made to him as to the specific locations of his possible successors, including the Vice President, and see that appropriate staff assignments are made so that if a nuclear attack occurred, and the President were lost, the command function could be carried on by one or more successors.

The above includes the advance designation for certain members of the State Department, Defense Department, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to go to the location of the Vice President, and that the Vice President and the agencies be so directed; and that the proper communications be established at these points when the Vice President goes.

The Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense and you as the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs should review the “highly classified” command and control designations, and recommend to the President whether or not these should be continued. The last review was with President Kennedy, as far as I know.
Most important, it behooves us to improve our own decision support to the President. As you can see from this study, decision support falls in several categories, including information, staff, etc. It is quite obvious from even the recent experience in the Dominican Republic situation that it takes from three to four days to extemporize a situation room and staff to meet a Presidential requirement even in a minor crisis in which our own security is not threatened. This could be improved with a little thought and some preparation on a more permanent basis. The staff and decision support of the President of the United States can be put on a better established basis now that we are so well acquainted with the working habits of the President, as well as his decision-making procedures.

I would suggest that the time has come for the White House to attain a capability to meet the crisis situations which appear to be a “norm” rather than an exception.


That you designate a member of your staff to write a reply to Secretary Vance based on the above.
That you designate a member of your staff to work out the basis for our own improvements in this area.
That the President designate a member of his staff to supervise the “successor location” item of emergency planning.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, Department of Defense, Command and Control Support to the President, Box 20. Top Secret.
  2. Document 86.