271. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State (Katzenbach) to President Johnson1


  • The Intelligence Information-Handling Problem

The Secretary has asked me to examine the present and prospective needs for information handling in the Department of State in the light of the welcome initiative and recommendations recently made by your Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.2 I am enclosing a memorandum which sets forth our position on those recommendations.

In essence, the Department strongly favors new efforts to improve information handling within the intelligence community and shares the view of the Board that immediate, concerted action is required.

Our objective is to provide the leadership in the foreign affairs agencies with a common data base of relevant facts. We believe that, to assure the adoption of complementary elements of a unified system by all members of the community, thorough coordination is called for, and that the Director of Central Intelligence should be designated as coordinator. Until further study has been made of the needs of each agency and the scope of the proposed system, it seems premature to determine the extent to which centralized management may be required in either the design or the operation of the eventual system, and we believe that the recommendations of the Board should be amended in this respect.

We realize that until the present financial uncertainties facing the Government are resolved, designs and plans for a comprehensive information-handling system must be considered tentative and preparatory. The costs will be considerable, and our memorandum discusses the need for a carefully-formulated funding plan and Congressional strategy.

Nicholas deB Katzenbach
[Page 594]



The Department of State strongly favors new efforts to improve the intelligence community’s information-handling system, so as to insure better methods for the dissemination, use, and retrieval of foreign affairs information.

The Department of State is the prime user of the increasing flow of materials which constitute intelligence and foreign affairs information. Thus, in designing any information-handling program, apart from technical military data, the information requirements of the Department of State are preeminent and the system must serve the needs of the Secretary of State as the principal adviser to the President in the formulation and execution of the foreign policy of the United States. The adequacy of the Government’s information base for foreign policy formulation is obviously one of the matters falling within the general supervisory authority assigned to the Secretary of State by NSAM-341 of March 2, 1966.3

The Department agrees fully with the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board in its description of the urgency of the problem, aggravated by the tremendous growth in the collection and distribution of intelligence information, and in its view that immediate concerted action by the intelligence community is required. The Department has long felt the need for an effective community-wide intelligence information-handling system which would not only cope with the anticipated proliferation in intelligence and foreign policy information but would also permit the timely retrieval of primary foreign affairs documentation long consigned to archives. Thorough coordination is required to assure the adoption by all members of the United States intelligence community of complementary elements of such a system.

It nevertheless seems premature, at this embryonic stage in the development of a complex system, to make a determination that strong, centralized management will be required or even feasible. We are far from knowing what the information needs of the respective agencies will be in the future.

[Page 595]

Under the provisions of National Security Council Intelligence Directive No. 1,4 the Director of Central Intelligence has the responsibility of “coordinating” intelligence community activities, with the advice and assistance of the United States Intelligence Board. This cooperative relationship has worked well, and the Department believes that it is within this context that the information-handling effort should be undertaken. Accordingly, for the purpose of initial system design and program presentation, the Director of Central Intelligence should be designated with USIB participation to coordinate intelligence community action and Basic Recommendations No. 1 and No. 3 should be amended accordingly. The degree of centralized management which may ultimately be needed will become clear only as the design of a compatible community-wide system takes shape and its constituent elements are identified.

With this change, the Department would have no difficulty with the additional provision of Basic Recommendation No. 1 which charges the Director of Central Intelligence with the coordination of a phased plan for review with the Fiscal Year 1969 budget. A great imbalance exists among the several Departments and Agencies as to the current level of development, and a special effort will be necessary to upgrade some components of the system, including those of the Department of State. The Department has recently employed a small staff of information-handling experts to develop a program for a modern substantive information-handling capability. We now have a proposal for a five-year program of technological modernization with an initial program in Fiscal Year 1969 calling for fifteen additional positions and $334,000 in operating and contracting funds. The entire five-year plan for the Department in Washington might be in the magnitude of eight million dollars. Substantial additional sums would be required for installation of the system at field posts. This program has been designed to meet the Department’s own internal requirements.

The costs to the community as a whole of the information-handling system proposed by the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board will undoubtedly be many millions, and consequently a most carefully formulated funding presentation for Congressional consideration will be required. Fundamental budgetary and strategic considerations are involved, and questions of how to budget for common-use elements of the system as well as for departmental components of the unified community system should be left for subsequent high-level decision. Equally important is the issue of whether there should be a composite intelligence community program, presented as a single budget [Page 596] request for funding outside the normal appropriation cycle, or whether the program should be presented in pieces as regular parts of the annual budget of each community agency having responsibility for providing a facility or service which will be a part of the community program. The best solution may be a combination of specially-provided community funding for central and common components, plus identified departmental budget items for departmentally-operated components.

Finally, the Department agrees with the rationale for the creation of a high-level review body within the Executive Office of the President and wholeheartedly supports Basic Recommendation No. 2.

The Department also agrees that, contingent upon the issuance of the recommended Presidential Directive, early consideration should be given to such actions as those listed in the form of Supplementary Recommendations by the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. No discussion of these recommendations is deemed necessary at this time.

In a final recommendation, the President’s Board proposes that the Department seek to improve its internal procedures for using intelligence information in the formulation of foreign policy. Before commenting on this recommendation, it would be useful to have the benefit of the Board’s thinking as to the nature of present deficiencies in this regard.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, INT 8 US. Confidential. An attached November 6 covering memorandum from Thomas L. Hughes (INR) to Katzenbach indicates that his staff had revised the memorandum and its attachment in accordance with Katzenbach’s guidance provided in his October 14 memorandum to Hughes. In that memorandum, also attached, Katzenbach complained that the Department of State paper had “an overly bureaucratic tone,” and he suggested it should be revised to “stress the substantive necessity of having such a system as our intelligence resources increase. The means we choose to achieve control over our resources should be secondary to the fact that we must find some way to create a common data base. This data base must enable us to distinguish between the relevant facts from the mass of information flowing into the Government.” He also proposed deletion of discussion about foreign service reporting which, he felt, was “a problem to be dealt with at a much later stage when we discuss how information from the common data base is to be distributed.”
  2. Document 268.
  3. Document 56.
  4. Dated January 19, 1950; printed in Foreign Relations, 1945–1950, Emergence of the Intelligence Establishment, Document 432.