268. Memorandum From the Chairman of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (Clifford) to President Johnson1


  • The Intelligence Information-Handling Problem

This is the second report submitted by your Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board concerning the serious problem faced by U.S. intelligence agencies in physically handling the huge volume of intelligence information which is collected, stored, drawn upon, digested, analyzed and disseminated within the Government on a continuing basis.

In June 1965 you approved the Board’s preliminary recommendations2 for action to resolve this information-handling problem, including (1) the establishment of specialized training programs for personnel of the intelligence agencies, and (2) an experimental, inter-agency system utilizing computers for the storage of intelligence information accessible to user agencies at remote locations over secure communications circuits. Over the past two years the Board has followed closely the implementation of these recommendations, and we are pleased to report that the beginnings of progress are being made by the member agencies of the U.S. intelligence community. However, we find that much more must be done.

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The third recommendation of our report of two years ago, which you also approved, called for a broad study of the information-handling problem by a select panel of outside experts in related scientific fields, under the joint sponsorship of the Board and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology, Dr. Donald F. Hornig. This study, which was completed recently, included a thorough examination of all aspects of the information-handling problem confronting the intelligence agencies of our Government.3 Based on our review of this study, supplemented by an independent review of the subject by the Board’s Communications Panel, we have reached the following conclusions:

Although individual agencies have taken noteworthy steps to improve their information-handling capabilities, the problem is not being addressed adequately on a concerted community-wide basis.
In recent years there has evolved a steady and tremendous growth in the input and output of intelligence information within and among the agencies making up the U.S. intelligence community. (As examples of the volume of intelligence input, one agency makes 30 copies of incoming reports from overseas posts; another agency distributes copies of incoming documentary messages to more than 200 different recipients; and a third agency’s yearly total of 125,000 incoming reports is distributed in almost 5 million copies. The output of digested intelligence adding to the “information explosion” is illustrated by the Central Intelligence Agency’s production of 35 million pages in 1965, representing more than a two-fold increase in four years. The immensity of the reservoir of intelligence information is indicated by the estimated total of 300 million documents, reports and other items of intelligence information which are on hand, and which require the services of over 7,000 people engaged in the handling of this store of material at a cost of around $100 million a year.)
The U.S. intelligence community has not yet exploited modern methods and technologies for information-handling, including automation techniques, as promptly or as widely as could be done to meet the problem, except for some significant steps taken by individual U.S. agencies. (As one example of this deficiency in the intelligence community as a whole, the current systems for handling and processing biographics intelligence files are inadequate in the following ways: (a) large numbers of duplicative biographics files are maintained by various member agencies of the intelligence community (b) in most cases these duplicative files have been inadequately cross-checked (c) there are differing procedures among agencies, and even within agencies, with respect to such fundamental matters as the organization, updating, and formats used in maintaining [Page 582] the files (d) as presently constituted the biographics files of the various agencies do not satisfy the needs of intelligence analysts with respect to prompt availability, completeness or reliability of the information sought, and (e) the actual service provided by these various files does not justify the current cost of maintaining them.)
In the absence of a modern information-handling system operated on a community-wide basis under strong and effective management, the U.S. intelligence community will not achieve a satisfactory capability to provide the President and other Government officials with discriminating, adequate and timely intelligence support. (We believe that another crisis situation such as the presence of Soviet strategic missiles in Cuba would most likely require improvised information-handling arrangements because of inadequacies in the present system.)
An effective community-wide intelligence information-handling system, designed and carried out under strong central management, should result in long-term, significant improvement in the over-all management and coordination of U.S. intelligence operations as a whole.
The extensive experience and particular competence of the Bureau of the Budget in the management and organization field are such as to warrant participation by the Director of the Bureau of the Budget in top-level Executive Branch guidance and support which should be provided to the U.S. intelligence community in its efforts to resolve the intelligence-handling problem.

Based on the above conclusions, we are of the opinion that a basic action is required in the form of a Presidential Directive which will establish the responsibility and authority of the Director of Central Intelligence (within his statutory mission relating to coordination of the overall foreign intelligence effort) for the creation and central management of an efficient, automation-supported intelligence-handling system with participation by all intelligence agencies of the Government. We believe that such a directive should also make provision within the Executive Offices of the President for top-level monitorship and guidance of the development of the over-all system in the interest of the national security.

Should you approve the basic action which we have just proposed, we also propose certain supplementary actions which we believe should be considered by the Director of Central Intelligence and member agencies of the intelligence community for inclusion in initial steps taken toward establishment of the ultimate system.

The Board’s recommendations for action at the Presidential level, and within the U.S. intelligence community, are attached hereto. In submitting these recommendations the Board wishes to emphasize the great importance which we place upon the timely achievement of the objectives involved, as an essential element of actions required to [Page 583] improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the overall United States intelligence effort.

In the course of our study of the subject the Board has had the benefit of the views and comments of Dr. Hornig concerning the nature of the problem and actions which should be taken to remedy the situation. This report has the approval of Dr. Hornig and he joins in its submission to you.

Respectfully yours,

Clark M. Clifford


Recommendations of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board to President Johnson on the Intelligence Information-Handling Problem

Basic Recommendation

The Board recommends the issuance of a Presidential Directive, pursuant to Section 102 of the National Security Act of 1947,4 as amended, providing as follows:

That the Director of Central Intelligence (a) undertake as a high-priority assignment the responsibility for the design and management, within the U.S. intelligence community, of a unified information-handling system to ensure on a community-wide basis the secure and efficient processing, storage and retrieval of intelligence information which is acquired and maintained by the U.S. Government in the interests of national defense and security; (b) in discharging this assignment, exploit to the maximum practicable extent scientific and technological advances in the field of information-handling; (c) establish the Office of a Deputy to the Director of Central Intelligence to assist him in discharging his responsibility for design and management of the community-wide information-handling system; (d) produce a phased plan for the definition and implementation of the unified information-handling system, with an identification of costs and benefits for each phase, for review in connection with the Fiscal Year 1969 budget (a detailed proposal for the first annual increment and overall estimates for the total system should be made available by November 1, 1967); and (e) submit semiannual reports to the President on progress toward implementation of the plan.
That the Director of the Bureau of the Budget, the Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, and the Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, serve the President as a review body within the Executive Office of the President, having responsibility for (a) lending assistance to the Director of Central Intelligence in the implementation of his responsibilities pursuant to this directive, and (b) performing a monitoring function, including periodic follow-ups, with respect to the establishment and operation of the community-wide system.
That the member agencies of the U.S. intelligence community develop and operate information-handling systems meeting the requirements established by the Director of Central Intelligence with respect to the community-wide system for which he has design and management responsibility; and that the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency establish in their respective offices a central focal point having responsibility for management and resources review of their internal intelligence information-handling systems, and for working with the designated Deputy Director of Central Intelligence in the achievement of the community-wide system.

Supplementary Recommendations

Contingent upon the issuance of the Presidential Directive proposed above, the Board recommends that the following actions be included among the initial steps to be taken by the Director of Central Intelligence toward the achievement of a community-wide information-handling system, and by the respective intelligence agencies in support of that system:

The creation, on a priority basis, of a community-wide pilot system for the handling of intelligence information which compromises the biographic files on Soviet “elite” personalities; the tasking and funding of the experimental COINS project currently being conducted under the leadership of the Director of Central Intelligence, in order to accommodate the pilot biograhpics system; and the subsequent steady expansion of this pilot system to include other important biographics areas.
The conduct of an experimental program to provide automated support to those functions of the intelligence community’s National Indications Center having to do with the timely processing, evaluation, and reporting of current intelligence indications; and utilization of the results of this experimental project, to assist in the further development of automated support to the total U.S. intelligence effort.
The establishment in each U.S. intelligence agency, in addition to the office of the Director of Central Intelligence, of a staff function to be concerned with operations research and systems analysis directed toward the formulation of new and improved information-handling methods and [Page 585] procedures, based on an objective evaluation of the needs of individual agencies and of the intelligence community as a whole.
The conduct of community-wide studies, under the leadership of the Director of Central Intelligence, to determine how automated data storage and recall and improved information-handling procedures might assist other elements of the community which perform evaluations of (a) the adequacy of the intelligence product to meet intelligence users’ needs, and (b) the formulation and validation of intelligence collection requirements which generate that product.
Action by the Director of Central Intelligence to provide over-all policy guidance to U.S. intelligence agencies with respect to the establishment and conduct of experimental research facilities for the development of improved information-handling techniques.
Action by U.S. intelligence agencies, under the leadership of the Director of Central Intelligence, to develop an automation-supported system providing increased efficiency and economy in the control, dissemination and accountability of classified documents which are generated by the U.S. Government in great quantity and at great expense, and are presently inventoried and controlled by manual methods.
The development by the Director of Central Intelligence of new physical security regulations, procedures and guidelines to be implemented by U.S. intelligence agencies on a community-wide basis, with a view to providing adequate security protection for sensitive intelligence data within information-handling systems utilizing automatic data processing techniques.
Establishment of the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, having responsibility with respect to the community-wide information-handling system, as a focal point to act as an interface between the intelligence agencies and the scientific and technical community, to ensure that information-handling techniques wherever developed are applied to information processes in the intelligence community.

The Board also recommends action by the Department of State, in consultation with the Director of Central Intelligence, to improve significantly the effectiveness and efficiency of the usage of intelligence information in the formulation of foreign policy, through such means as (a) better integration of the information produced by the Bureau of Intelligence and Research into the overall information system of the Department as a part of the policy-formulating process, and (b) exploitation of modern systems and information-handling technology applicable to the acquisition, processing, analysis, and evaluation of substantive foreign affairs information and intelligence information, and their joint use in policy formulation.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, INT 8 US. Confidential. An attached September 21 memorandum from Rostow to Secretaries Rusk and McNamara requests comments on the report. Reaction to the conclusions and proposals are in memoranda prepared by Director of Central Intelligence Helms, Deputy Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research George Denney, Jr., Director of the National Security Agency Carter, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Nitze. (Johnson Library, National Security File, NSAMs, NSAM 368)
  2. Dated June 15, 1965. (Ibid.)
  3. The study has not been found.
  4. P.L. 253, approved July 26, 1947. (61 Stat. 497)