6. Editorial Note

On February 11, 1964, National Security Action Memorandum No. 281 was issued under McGeorge Bundy’s signature, stating: “In keeping with his responsibilities for the coordination of foreign policy, the President has today vested in the Secretary of State the responsibility for the promulgation of certain National Policy Papers. Procedures and standard outlines for this series will be circulated promptly by the Secretary of State.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, NSAMs, NSAM 281) The Secretary’s ensuing procedures defined National Policy Papers as “comprehensive, authoritative and unifying statements of US policy” to which statements of policy and strategy in other country documents “will be brought into conformity.” (Procedures and Annotated Standard Outline for National Policy Papers,” June 17, 1965; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S/S-NSC Files: Lot 70 D 265, General National Policy Papers)

A draft of NSAM 281, prepared by Walt Rostow, Chairman of the State Department’s Policy Planning Council, had first been forwarded to Bundy by State Department Executive Secretary Benjamin Read on January 7, 1964. According to Chester Cooper, who was in attendance, Bundy indicated at his staff meeting on February 5 that he would try to get the NSAM through, “but it was clear that there was not much interest in this project in the White House these days.” It was pretty much a question of “doing something” for Rostow, continued Cooper, rather “than any firm conviction that this is a high priority activity.” (Memorandum from Chester Cooper to Ray Cline, February 5; Central Intelligence Agency, DDI Files, Job 80–R01447R, White House Staff Meeting Memos, 1964) Earlier, in a January 7 memorandum to Bundy, National Security Council Staff member Robert Komer had raised several questions about the draft NSAM, among them: “Might this new procedure, especially if publicized, lead people to conclusion President is delegating to SecState his foreign policy responsibilities and doesn’t intend to take a very active role himself?” At Bundy’s request, expressed in his February 11 memorandum to Rostow, the Department incorporated language into the procedures specifying that the President could initiate National Policy Papers, that the White House staff could participate in their preparation, and that the Secretary of State would satisfy himself that each paper reflected the President’s purpose and policy. Komer’s and Bundy’s memoranda are at the Johnson Library, National Security File, NSAMs, NSAM 281.