192. Letter From Director of Central Intelligence Helms to the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Packard)1

Dear Dave:

I have read Bob Froehlke’s tentative report on Defense intelligence with great interest.2 It seems to me that he has done an impressive and commendable job. In general his recommendations are compatible with views which I have held for some time and the over-all thrust of his report in the direction of greater centralization and control over Defense Department intelligence resources seems to me highly desirable.

The details of how to implement his recommendations will obviously take some time to work out. For example, formulation of a truly consolidated Defense intelligence program, as he proposes, is a complicated matter and it may take considerable time to develop satisfactory procedures for the issuance of calls and assembling of data for such a program. Until this can be done, you may wish to continue the existing individual program presentations. I think it particularly important, at least for the time being, to continue to give independent visibility to the National Reconnaissance Program because of its importance and expense and also because our congressional committees are familiar with it.

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I note that objective 4 of the report calls for a reappraisal of security policies and procedures. I have no objection to such a review but, if one is to be initiated, I would like to be associated with it in view of my statutory responsibility for the security of intelligence sources and methods.

The observation in the report to the effect that in practice there are fluctuations in manpower and money from approved levels seems to me particularly pertinent. A corollary of improved programming procedures for intelligence activities of the Defense Department should be the establishment of more effective controls to ensure that resource levels in fact conform to program decisions.

Two specific recommendations of the report give me concern. One is the location of the proposed Special Assistant. While I heartily concur in the need for such an Assistant, his location appears to me a matter of prime importance. Because of their sensitivity, complexity, expense and national importance, matters involving intelligence, including resource management, have heretofore normally been handled by the Deputy Secretary of Defense personally. In view of the overall burden of responsibility on the Deputy Secretary, it seems to me desirable that he should delegate some of his responsibility in the intelligence field and certainly that he should be assisted by a trusted and competent senior official with an appropriately qualified staff.

I am extremely doubtful, however, whether this function of assisting and acting for the Deputy Secretary on intelligence matters can properly be performed by any individual, no matter how able, who is simultaneously charged with performing all the responsibilities given to any of the established Assistant Secretaries. Any existing Assistant Secretary would only be able to devote part time to intelligence matters which would have to compete for his attention with other important matters. This means inevitable delay in decision making in an area where quick reaction is essential. It also means that the actual work of developing, negotiating and coordinating positions on intelligence matters would be delegated to a subordinate staff level. Given the political significance and importance of many of the problems which determine the need for intelligence activities and the technical complexity and diversity of these activities as well as the fact that they must be responsive to a broad spectrum of officials and components of the Government, it seems to me important that their general supervision be the personal responsibility of a senior official and not delegated to a subordinate level.

As to the location of the Special Assistant, I therefore come down very strongly in favor of Bob Froehlke’s option 4.

My second concern is with the proposal to replace the Executive Committee of the NRO with an Executive Council charged with advising [Page 391] the Secretary of Defense on all intelligence matters. It is not clear to me how substitution of the new proposed Council would affect the administration of the national reconnaissance program with which of course I am personally involved.

The Executive Committee of the NRO as far as I know is a unique institution in Government. It provides, in effect, a forum in which those with participating interests in the development and operation of the national reconnaissance program can meet and make speedy and reasonably informal decisions. The agreement provides that in the event of disagreement the Secretary of Defense will meet with the Executive Committee and make the final decision. This arrangement has worked very well and has given me and the intelligence community what has seemed to me an appropriate voice in the program. I do not believe that the new Council would be as satisfactory for this purpose.

What is perhaps more important, a Council with larger membership, such as the one proposed, would probably not have the flexibility and capacity for prompt action which characterizes the present Executive Committee. In addition, it is an arrangement which has been worked out through years of difficult negotiation. In view of the critical nature of the information involved and the expense of the programs, together with the strong Congressional interest in this area generally, I believe we should be most circumspect in altering an arrangement in which we have joint responsibilities without carefully measuring losses as against possible gains.

I assume that any change in the arrangements for the administration of Defense Department intelligence resources would not be intended to change the relationship which currently exists between the USIB and my office generally and the intelligence agencies and components of the Defense Department through which general guidance is provided concerning the objectives and priorities of the national intelligence effort. Both the National Reconnaissance Program and the SIGINT program of the United States are, of course, national programs.

In this connection the suggestion has been made that the Special Assistant for Intelligence would replace the Director, DIA on the National Intelligence Resources Board. I would welcome such an arrangement. I assume, however, that the Directive, DIA would continue to represent the Defense Department on the USIB.


  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Executive Registry Files, Job 80–R01284A, Box 3, Folder 25, Defense Intelligence Reorganization. Secret; Handle via Byeman Control System Only.
  2. See Document 193 and footnote 2 thereto. A copy of Froehlke’s Tentative Report on Defense Intelligence, July 11, is in the Central Intelligence Agency, Executive Registry Files, Job 80–R01284A, Box 3, Folder 25, Defense Intelligence Reorganization.