216. Letter From Director of Central Intelligence McCone to President Johnson 1

Dear Mr. President:

This letter is in response to your request for a statement from the head of each department and agency concerning desirable reforms in on-going programs as indicated in your statement to the Cabinet on 19 November, a copy of which was transmitted to me by Mr. Kermit Gordon.2

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At my direction the Central Intelligence Agency has intensified its program of management control designed continually to improve efficiency within the Agency, to eliminate marginal or outmoded activities and to stabilize, and if possible reduce, the Agency’s budget as well as its manpower.

I believe that this program has been successful. The five-year forecast for the Agency’s budget contains only very moderate increases which reflect the costs of conducting operations in foreign countries where rising price levels prevail; and the cost of pay raises already granted. These increases will be offset to some extent by actual reductions in the Agency’s manpower. We are actually budgeting in 1966 for 558 fewer permanent positions than we had included in our 1964 budget. Many new and costly programs calling for additional funds and manpower have been successfully absorbed within established ceilings. Programs considered redundant or of lesser priority have been screened out to make this possible. I see no reason why the five-year forecast should not prove to be accurate unless unanticipated tasks are assigned to the Agency.

Two points of importance, however, should be noted. One is that CIA must be prepared to take action required by policy makers on short notice to meet new political crises which are essentially unpredictable. A second point is the fact that CIA performs certain services which call for both manpower and appropriations over which it does not have exclusive control and which may involve increases over estimates projected in the five-year forecast. I have in mind certain communications responsibilities for the Department of State.

Turning to the question of the Intelligence Community as a whole in which I, as Director of Central Intelligence, by Presidential Directive have responsibility for coordination and guidance, I feel a continuing effort is indicated. The recognized budget for all intelligence activities is about [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. CIA costs account for roughly [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. The Defense Intelligence Agency, including intelligence components of the Army, Navy, and the Air Force, accounts for [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]; the National Security Agency, including the collection activities of the Services, for approximately [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]; and the National Reconnaissance Organization for [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. A small amount is attributable to the Department of State.

I have created a small but highly qualified staff to assist me in my coordinating capacity, which has undertaken a series of studies and evaluations of programs conducted by the Intelligence Community. With this assistance, I have made and will continue to make recommendations to the Secretary of Defense, who is the Executive Agent for the National [Page 477] Security Agency and the National Reconnaissance Organization, concerning the extent to which economies might be effected without impairing the collection, analysis and dissemination of essential intelligence. My concern has been to identify the priority objectives of the United States intelligence effort and to make sure that intelligence programs are as responsive as possible to these objectives. Over the past two years the United States Intelligence Board (USIB) has increasingly been providing guidance and managerial direction to the Community through the refinement of intelligence requirements and by careful scheduling of overhead reconnaissance activities, the allocation of ELINT and COMINT responsibilities, and review of the needs of the Community for research and development of new collection systems and sensors.

The cost of the U.S. intelligence effort, as I have said, runs about [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] and employs about [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] men. This effort will continue to be substantial and is obviously essential for the national security. It is also a necessary factor in containing the military budget within realistic limits. In the absence of an intelligence system capable of identifying probable military and political developments, the cost of the forces required to meet all possible contingencies would clearly be prohibitive. Accurate information about enemy strengths and dispositions enables us to avoid excessive, as well as inadequate, expenditures for forces and armaments.

The cost of this effort can be minimized by insisting that activities be confined to what is essential to the intelligence mission; that efforts be carefully screened to avoid duplication; that national intelligence assets, such as the National Photographic Interpretation Center, the National Security Agency and the National Reconnaissance Organization, created and operating at great cost to the benefit of all departments of the Government, be used to the fullest extent by the entire Intelligence Community and not be duplicated; and that the resources of the CIA, in areas of its special competence, in the field of covert collection of intelligence, the collation, analysis and reporting of intelligence, be utilized to the fullest by policy makers and members of the Intelligence Community and should not under any circumstances be duplicated. Effective coordination along the lines which I have suggested depends upon the existence and assertion of centralized coordinating authority. Under the terms of a Presidential letter, dated 16 January 1962,3 the responsibility to ensure effective guidance and coordination to the U.S. intelligence effort as a whole was entrusted to the Director of Central Intelligence. Acting under the authority of this direc tive, [Page 478] very considerable progress has been achieved. If, however, there is to be further improvement reaffirmation by Presidential Directive of the authority of the Director of Central Intelligence would be desirable. No new legislation appears necessary as an adequate statutory basis for the coordination of national intelligence programs exists in the provisions of the National Security Act of 1946.4

I consider the relations of the Central Intelligence Agency with the Congress as reasonably satisfactory. During the three years of my tenure of office, I have met approximately once a month with a subcommittee of the House Armed Forces Committee chaired by Chairman Vinson and reviewed in depth our estimates of the world situation and details of the Agency’s operations. Similar meetings have been held with a subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee chaired by Chairman Russell, although because of the demand on the time of the members of the Committee, these meetings have been less frequent. Also, it is our practice to meet periodically with subcommittees of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees for the purpose of reviewing our budget which involves discussion of our activities and, in addition, to present a substantive briefing. I have recommended to both Senator Russell and Chairman Vinson that these Committees be expanded to include the senior Majority and Minority members of the Foreign Relations Committee and Foreign Affairs Committee and it is my hope that early action will be taken on this subject. Frequently members of the Senate or the House visit the Agency headquarters at Langley and thus are acquainted with the organization and activities of CIA.

Respectfully yours,

John A. McCone 5
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Executive Registry, Job 80–B01676R, White House, July–Dec 1964. Secret. Drafted by Bross on December 2.
  2. Text of the President’s statement is in the Johnson Library, Statements File, 11/19/64, Statement of the President at a Cabinet Meeting: The Great Society.
  3. Printed in Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XXV, Document 99.
  4. For text of the National Security Act of 1947, see Michael Warner, ed., The CIA Under Harry Truman, pp. 131–135.
  5. Printed from a copy that indicates McCone signed the original.