143. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rogers to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

We have now had over two years’ experience with the NSSM system.

On the whole, I believe this system has served the President well. It has frequently presented him with opportunities to make key decisions based on a full range of opinions and facts. Moreover, I think the efficiency of the system has improved with experience.

I believe that the system could be further improved if there were consultation between us on the objectives, scope, timing, and action assignment of NSSMs before they are issued. I have in mind the desirability of precluding—or holding to the minimum—instances in which the preparation of studies might be delayed or made unnecessarily difficult by lack of a common appreciation of the purposes to be served and of the study approaches which might most effectively be employed. I also have in mind the usefulness of ensuring that the Under Secretaries Committee, within the limits of its responsibilities, shares fully in the total workload of the system.

I believe that the most practical means of consultation would be for you and me or Jack Irwin to discuss possible NSSMs and to agree beforehand on their central elements.

Such a procedure would be helpful in making the NSSM system even more useful to the President than it now is. Please let me have your reaction.2

William P. Rogers
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Agency Files, Box 283, Dept of State, Vol. X, 1 Dec 70–15 Apr 71. Confidential. Haig initialed the memorandum. Kennedy wrote at the top: “Rogers gangs up with Laird.”
  2. Kennedy drafted a memorandum in response on March 1, revised it on March 5, and revised it again on March 9 after Kissinger commented: “Do it as a letter—as if it is something I don’t have to do. I’ll dictate.” The final draft stated: “From time to time, once the President has decided on the topics which he wishes studied, I would hope to be able to discuss with you or Jack Irwin the specific requirements which certain NSSM’s would lay out.” The letter was apparently “OBE” (overtaken by events) and not sent, but an agreement was presumably reached (see, Document 155). Documentation on the response to Rogers’ February 26 memorandum is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 148, State/WH Relationship, Vol. 5; and ibid., NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–300, Institutional File General 1969 through 1974.