180. Paper Prepared by Harold Saunders of the National Security Council Staff1
ORGANIZATION FOR NATIONAL SECURITY
[Omitted here are an introductory discussion and a discussion comparing Eisenhower’s “institutional system” for organizing national security with a Kennedy system, the key to which “was a few important people and the groups and committees they set up.”]
- It’s obvious from what I’ve already said that President Kennedy chose the less
institutional approach. But what about President Johnson and the system as it
- The simple answer is that President Johnson is between the two extremes I’ve described but much closer to Kennedy than to Eisenhower. There is, of course, the obvious historical fact the President Johnson developed his system from what he inherited from President Kennedy. But there is the far more important fact that President Johnson, like President Kennedy in this way, determined to keep his own hand on the foreign policy helm.
- President Johnson’s system didn’t really emerge until spring 1966. Two concurrent events precipitated it—McGB’s departure and Maxwell Taylor’s return from Vietnam and review for the President of our organization to backstop overseas operations.
- President Johnson
has acted on two principles:
- He personally wants to make a large number of
decisions. [Page 404]
- For example, aid and PL 480 approvals. These are good examples of the President’s problems of coordination—aid, diplomacy, domestic economics and politics.
- However, short of his own decision-making, he
wants the State Department—not an especially large
staff in the Executive Office—to coordinate our
foreign policy and programs.
- Set up the SIG and IRGs as the mechanisms for interdepartmental coordination.
- Interesting to look back at some of the press comment when these groups were formed. The main comment then was that Bundy would not be replaced and that the President was strengthening the real State Department and killing the “little State Department” in the White House. But the idea was rather to strengthen State’s mandate and machinery for coordinating the activities of the other foreign affairs agencies. State could have done this before but it didn’t, so this gave it the formal mandate. Meanwhile, the small White House staff remains strong because the President keeps his own firm hand on the wheel.
- What machinery does this leave the President to help him?
- The Rostow staff—that “small personal staff” the Jackson Committee spoke of to provide “help and protection.” Through this group of about a dozen principal officers flow the great majority of decisions the President must make. From here, too, flow the themes that set the tone for national policy. (For instance, Rostow regionalism, State of the Union—the Great Transition.) This staff also presides over a continuing dialogue between the President and the professionals.
- Where discussion between the President and his
cabinet officers is required, two institutions:
- Tuesday lunch.
- NSC in present format.
- To deal with emergencies, the Special Committee of the NSC on the Middle East. Why it was needed and what it accomplished.
- So where do we find policy in a system like this? You find it
principally in the views and wishes of the President and those who
effectively implement or block them.
- Real lifeblood of this “system” is the deep personal involvement of President in details of major policy decisions and often implementation. Behind this is a complex of “interlocking directorates.” A small number of key men—under secretaries, assistant secretaries, and key staff members backstopped the President. To this nucleus is added a further group of key people responsible for specific areas and problems. If anything can accurately be described as “the invisible government” it is not the insidious CIA but this small group of key policy-makers.
- Still find written guidance in NSAMs, State Policy Guidelines, and new series of national policy papers. The collection of papers is not so neat as the old book of NSC papers, and the bureaucracy—especially in the Pentagon—often complains. The new NPP’s are designed to fill this gap (responsible officer idea).
- However, equally important concept is that you don’t find policy on paper. It’s a “mix of people and ideas.” From the President’s point of view, this requires continual prodding and needling from the White House. The problem recognized in 1947 is still with us—someone must wrap up the many loose ends in the complex foreign policy field. Some people feel SecState should do this, but it doesn’t always work out that way. I’m sure you see my peculiar approach in this statement. I’m deeply conscious that the President is a man elected to take the country along a certain course. When he takes office, the bureaucracy may not always agree with him. His job is to move it, or at least to apply enough pressure so that a good balance between new directions and old realities evolves. The organization for national security is no less than the machinery each president modifies or builds to help him do his job. So you really find policy in the views and wishes of the President and those who effectively implement or block them.
- Where does CIA fit into this
- Set up by the National Security Act to provide
intelligence basis for realistic policy—both collection and
analysis. What does this mean?
- There must be a place in government where the
policy-maker’s tough questions can be answered. So
the intelligence community’s job is to collect the
data on which answers can be based and then to apply
those data to those questions. Much of the
intelligence function is simply to report what is
going on, and that’s important. But the real job is
to add enough analysis to the reporting to make it
relevant. (I may be talking out of school to say
this, but some of the community’s product is
- In this connection, it can provide a detached source of information—a sort of touchstone against which to measure policy. All other sources of info—foreign service, attachés—also have policy axes to grind. CIA—at least the intelligence-producing side of it as contrasted to the spook side—the ivory tower of government.
- There must also be an organ of government that can compete with our adversaries on their own ground. The Communists have a unique instrument in the Communist parties. Our intelligence operations provide our only organizational counter.
- What is the Agency’s chief product?
- It has its formal channels of communication—regular publications (some especially for WH), briefings, etc.
- I think its more important product is the people it sends into policy-making councils. In a sense, the Agency’s chief product is its director or whoever represents the intelligence viewpoint in meetings where policy consensus emerges.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Saunders Files, NSC, SIG, IRG. No classification marking. In a March 15 covering note Saunders indicated that the paper consisted of his notes for a presentation to Career Trainees at CIA.↩