177. Memorandum From the Director of the Planning Group, National Security Council (Kennedy) to the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig)1


  • Organization and Staffing

At Staff Meeting you asked for thoughts on organization and staffing. This paper is more lengthy than planned, but I believe accurately reflects some of our principal problems. None is major, but in the aggregate they make the organization less effective than it might be.

1. The Senior Staff’s Role

  • —The Senior Staff can and should be extensions of Henry Kissinger.
    • • They want to be and are capable of it.
    • • If the bureaucracy knows without question they are speaking for him, regard for our staff and in turn for HAK will grow.
    • • And the work will get done and the problems of assuring adherence to the policy line will be reduced (to the extent there are any problems—I think there are fewer than HAK imagines, and can produce a long list of constant follow-ups to demonstrate this).
  • The only way that this can be accomplished is for these men to know what Henry Kissinger thinks and wants.
    • • Staff meetings could help, but we both know that he is uncomfortable with them and they have not long survived each reincarnation.
    • • You have been helpful to them (and in a more limited way I have tried to be) for one reason—we knew what Henry Kissinger said to a Cabinet officer, an Assistant Secretary, to us in his office, etc.
    • • There is nothing more demoralizing and demeaning (to HAK’s loss) for one of the senior staff than to be told by a colleague from a Department what HAK has said on a subject on which the colleague had been debriefed by his principal and our man was not.
    • HAK’s new ideas may be helpful but the process will be greatly furthered if (a) they can read relevant telecons (they could be protected), and (b) if there is a reading file of staff papers on the EOB side which the Seniors could leaf through each day to get the flavor of his thinking on issues and his reactions.

[Page 354]

2. Systems Analysis

  • —The Systems Analysis function should be pared down and focused on strategic and defense issues.
  • —Moreover, it will be far more effective if it stops directing and starts participating and contributing.
    • • It has improved but there are still some vestiges of the past, and we suffer the after-effects of earlier excesses.
    • • The writing of papers in this staff and then trying to sell them or ram them down the throats of the bureaucracy is hardly calculated to get what the system is supposed to produce—“all relevant facts, the views of all involved agencies, and a fair presentation of all reasonable options.” Experience has shown amply that (1) this is seen as simple arrogance, and (2) this generates the strongest and most effective kind of bureaucratic resistance to implementation of a decision.
  • —If it is to do an analytical work concerning a country, region or issue which is the responsibility of one of the senior staff (either functional or regional), then it should do that work for him and not totally independently (e.g., the country programming exercise on which more later, and some economic issues, etc.). This takes people whose satisfaction is in their work and contribution, not in names on papers.
    • • In the last analysis, it does not serve HAK well to have radically different viewpoints expressed, neither of which has taken into account the valid aspects of the other. It is just bad staff work.
    • • This in no way implies that differing viewpoints should not be put forward—they should. But if they are to be useful they ought to be integrated in a way which shows their relevance one to the other and that is what the regional staff officer is for.

3. The HAK personal staff has become a buffer—unfortunately in the poorer sense of the word.

  • —There are too many (though the quality is superb); and because they are there, Henry simply turns to them.
  • —If he cannot trust people on the EOB side, then he should replace them, not fence them out. When HAK has said: “I want you to work on this yourself and I do not want anyone else to know,” that is precisely the way it has been. If that is what the situation calls for, it is precisely what HAK should get. But that does not mean that he needs to establish a completely separate staff which he refers to as “his staff” as distinct from the others.

4. The NSCIC

  • —The NSCIC fills a vital need but for it to do net assessment is, in my judgment a non-starter. A year’s experience lends some credence to this view.
  • —There should be a net assessment group established directly under the Director of Central Intelligence which reports to the [Page 355] NSCIC and is tasked by it (and HAK) through the Director of Central Intelligence.
    • • The NSC staff element’s role should be to (1) participate in that group, and (2) provide for HAK the independent analysis of the work done by the Net Assessment Group.
    • • Let the DCI (who has functions prescribed by law) fight the battle with the Secretary of Defense rather than engaging HAK in a direct confrontation. HAK can step in when he wants to do so on ground of his choosing rather than be continually engaged in energy sapping and useless bureaucratic fights started by others.

5. The Staff and the System

  • —If the NSC System is to function effectively, the NSC Staff has to play the game. It cannot denigrate the efforts of the bureaucracy; it must encourage them and help to improve them. We have come some distance along this road but we show signs of falling back.
    • • It should stimulate IG meetings, not decry their lack.
    • • It should help the Group charged with preparing a paper to produce a responsive and respectable product. It should not sit back and complain about the product or write a superior one independently to crow about.

6. Consultants

  • —The use of consultants should be brought under control.
  • —I find it incredible that we could have a consultant on board to do a study which had not yet been approved; and when it was, was directed by HAK to be performed by an IG. But that is exactly what happened in a recent case.
  • —Consultants, as a celebrated case made amply clear, can lead to real disaster.
  • —Their usefulness is unquestioned but common sense dictates tight control over their employment and terms of reference. This should be exercised by HAK. If the question must be put to him, my guess is that it might not even be asked in some instances.

7. Staff Needs

  • —I do not need four people on a continuing basis, though the present fourth man—the White House Fellow—has helped greatly to lighten the load over the last three months, much of which I have spent in HAK’s office during your absence. Three is about right. Most of what we do is as a service and to be of help to the senior operators, but we also handle Security Assistance and (increasingly) other aid matters, and a variety of cats and dogs which need to be done.
  • —We need to get a senior man for Africa and UN matters and he should have a junior assistant.
  • —We need a senior man for Scientific Affairs and relationships with OST.
  • —We need a Security Officer who will handle not only the personnel security matters but equally as important, physical and document security matters.
  • —We need a Senior Economics man (Hormats is superb but the task is going to be enormous). When we gave way on the CIEP, we created a monster which is just now beginning to get itself involved in a way that complicates the foreign policy-making process and HAK must get a hold of this.

8. Country Programming

  • HAK expended major capital 18 months ago vis-à-vis Rogers and Laird to get out NSDM 112 calling for Country Program studies,2 but absolutely nothing has emerged. It was a major confrontation which we had to unscramble as you recall (and it was the third issuance of essentially the same directive since January 1969). The exercise was supposed to provide a base for Security Assistance and Economic Aid estimates for FY 73 and FY 74, but no papers were completed. Even before joining the staff, the futility of this exercise (and the cost to the prestige of the System) was evident to me. The bureaucracy had dug its heels in and, though it cooperated, it was convinced universally that nothing useful would emerge. (The Korea and Brazil examples bore them out—however excellent the academic exercises were, the conclusions could not stand the test of the real world.)
  • —The principle is sound. But the way to get it done is to task the bureaucracy to do it, not hire a staff here to direct it.
  • —This non-starter (three times) should be wiped off the slate and we can then move to get the desired product in an effective way. (The System Analysts won’t like this because it is a bread-and-butter fallback to rekindle whenever you run out of other work.)

9. Morale

  • —I know you have heard more on this than you really care to. But it would be unfair and less than candid if I failed to tell you that the prevailing mood is not helped by the lack of decent recognition of this superb staff which serves the President faithfully and well and (except for a very few notable examples) facelessly.
  • —As a simple and oft-repeated example, when half of the Domestic Staff can eat in the Mess, the fact that the Senior NSC Staff—a [Page 357] handful in number—cannot, is simply a reflection on their stature and on HAK’s.
  • —The fact that this staff has worked as devotedly as it has, being treated as it has, is testimony to its selflessness and its greatness. Few Commanders would expect such a result.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 316, Reorganization of the NSC System. Personal; Confidential. Sent for information. The memorandum is not signed. A 2-page attachment, January 29, that discusses alternative ways of structuring the NSC staff, is not printed. Typed at the top of page 1 is: “[Outside the System]”
  2. See Document 151 and footnotes 13 thereto.