7. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Read) to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1


  • NSAM #277—Anticipation of Foreign Crises

The President’s memorandum of January 30 to Secretary Rusk, Secretary McNamara and Director McCone called for a review of procedures in effect in this Department, Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency for anticipating foreign crises.2 I understand that you are coordinating the replies.

Crisis anticipation procedures within this Department have been reviewed and revised periodically during the last three years, with particular attention to the early identification of situations which could develop into crises. Secretary Rusk, in the attached memorandum of July 2, 1962, described the procedure for strengthening our performance in “the systematic planning for crises”.3 This directive is still in effect and has been utilized, for example, for the preparation of studies on possible succession problems in Ghana, Spain, France and Portugal. It requires members of the Policy Planning Council to consult regularly with the operating bureaus and other areas of the Department to review possible problems and to develop specific plans to avert or mitigate undesirable consequences.

The Bureau of Intelligence and Research participates in the above mentioned review of problem areas. In addition, it prepares monthly a list of actual and potential trouble spots in all parts of the world and publishes them in the form of a monthly “Global Alert List”. The list for February 1964 is attached.4 It serves as a useful method of briefing principal officers about expected crises.

[Page 11]

More generally, however, it is clear that our ability to anticipate crises rests on the continuous alertness and efficiency of the Department as an organization. Many officers and offices play important roles in this process. As you know, the Secretary considers the country desk officer the focal point for the identification of important policy implications of unfolding events. It is for this reason that he wishes to up-grade the desk officer’s status. When crises develop with little warning, the Operations Center in the Secretariat puts into effect carefully worked out procedures for alerting the Department. These procedures tie in to the White House Situation Room, the National Military Communications Center and the Central Intelligence Agency. The Secretary’s daily staff meetings, including both intelligence briefings and consideration of operating problems, are used frequently to flag possible crisis areas. Many other devices are used for the same purpose, but it would not seem desirable to prolong this memorandum with a detailed discussion of these procedures and practices.

The Secretary of State has reviewed this memorandum and has advised me that he would be available to discuss these problems and to provide additional information and suggestions if desired.

John A. McKesson 5
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, DEF 1–1. Confidential. Drafted by Grant G. Hilliker (S/S) and Read on February 11 and cleared by Rostow (S/P), Allen Evans (INR), and Thomas Stern (O). An attached February 12 memorandum from Read to Secretary Rusk reads in part: “Bromley Smith has advised me that the President’s purpose in this NSAM exercise is not to produce a major overall revision of existing procedures, but rather to obtain a briefing on existing procedures, and he has so advised Defense and CIA.” Secretary Rusk initialed his approval on this memorandum.
  2. Document 5.
  3. Addressed to the Assistant Secretaries of State; not printed.
  4. Not printed. In a February 11 memorandum to Read, Allen Evans offered comments on an earlier draft of this memorandum, which has not been found. He suggested the language in the first two sentences of this paragraph to make clear that the “Global Alert List” was “made up not from contributions by the geographic Bureaus, but from materials put together entirely within INR itself” as well as other minor changes. All his suggested revisions were incorporated into the final text of the memorandum printed here.
  5. Printed from a copy that indicates McKesson signed the original for Read.