137. Memorandum From Seymour Weiss of the Planning and Coordination Staff, Department of State to the Staff Director (Cargo)1


  • NSSM Process

In response to your request, the following three examples illustrate in varying ways how the NSSM process might be adjusted to secure a better result:

NSSM 69—US Nuclear Policy in Asia. The NSSM sought an analysis of a sensible nuclear strategy for the United States in Asia. [Page 292] However its terms of reference largely ignored the fact that a major, if not the major, determinant in such a strategy is the political context within which one might realistically anticipate that nuclear weapons might be used to secure US objectives. This failure, together with the assignment of the responsibility for Chairmanship to DOD, resulted in a study which, though launched in July of 1969, has yet to be completed! Draft, after draft, after draft, was produced each advancing no more forward than its predecessor in effectively analyzing the problem and the range of issues bearing on it. Eventually an ad hoc accommodation was worked out among State, OSD, JCS and the NSC staff, resulting in a study being produced. The resultant study still lacked cohesiveness and an integrated approach and was typified, quite literally, by agency footnotes to footnotes. Some discussion of the terms of reference before they were issued might just possibly have resulted in a better end product.
NSSM 84—US Strategies and Forces for NATO. Responsibility for chairing this study was again delegated to the Department of Defense, despite the fact that in this case the NSSM did recognize a number of the political variables which required analysis. The terms of reference and the subsequent procedures were deficient in the following respects: (a) not all or even necessarily the most important political implications were identified for analysis; (b) placing the chairmanship in Defense implied that the overriding concern and the ultimate focus of the study should appropriately be militarily rather than politically oriented; and (c) the nature of the studies themselves were extremely unrealistic. To amplify the last point, extensive war gaming type of analysis were included for the purpose of establishing a statistical measure of what was required for appropriate military strategy for NATO. These efforts were voluminous, time consuming, repetitious and in some measure duplicatory of work done in previous years, and in the end not productive of new insights. The single most important action on which a decision was needed dealt with the maintenance of US forces committed to NATO, and this decision emerged not from the NSSM 84 study but as a result of a memorandum from the Secretary to the President!
NSSM 100—Military Cooperation with France. This study, currently in process, was assigned to State, in this case appropriately recognizing the overriding political implications of the subject. Moreover such a study was needed and in all candor would probably not have been initiated by the Department. So far so good. The problem lay in interpreting what was desired. Literal reading of the terms of reference suggested a rather narrow focus on certain specific areas of cooperation, such as in R&D. In fact the study was accompanied by an oral interpretation suggesting that a broader approach was desired. Because of the room for confusion, State insisted that an NSC representative actually [Page 293] participate in the development of the study, a somewhat unusual procedure. This in fact resulted in three different NSC staff members participating at differing periods, each advancing a different interpretation of what was desired. Had there been an opportunity for a preliminary State–Defense–NSC staff discussion before the terms of reference were issued, some of the ensuing confusion might have been obviated.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Policy Planning Council, Subject Files: Lot 73 D 363, Review of NSSM Process. Top Secret; Sensitive; Nodis. A copy was sent to Hartman. Weiss’ memorandum responded to a January 22 request from Cargo. In response to the same request, five other staff members also prepared memoranda reviewing the NSSM process, which are ibid.