204. Memorandum From the Consultant to the National Security Council (Joyce) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Intelligence Information Handling


On January 7, you sent to the President the PFIAB memorandum on intelligence information handling and the DCI’s comments on its recommendations (Tab A).2 You may recall that the Board recommended that the President direct the DCI to undertake the design and management of a unified intelligence information handling system, exploiting to the maximum practicable extent scientific and technological advances in the field of information handling.

You informed the President of the seminar scheduled for January 8 and recommended that he postpone action on this matter until after the seminar. This was approved by the President.

Results of the Seminar

At the seminar, Dr. William O. Baker of the PFIAB and five consultants presented their views on the role of technology in intelligence information handling. The reaction of Andy Marshall, Larry, and I, which seems to match the reaction of other attendees, is that:

The talks were broad, technical, and were not made clearly relevant to the problems recognized by top intelligence officials.
In the current and foreseeable fiscal situation, the resources to implement the ideas presented are unlikely to be forthcoming.

There is also a feeling within the intelligence community that the Board has not made itself fully aware of what the intelligence community has done recently in this area. Since the seminar, Mr. Helms has sent you a summary of data processing activities in CIA, and has reaffirmed his belief that satisfactory progress is being made in the light of budgetary limitations (Tab B).3

[Page 421]

What Is Needed Now?

Right now there are a variety of automated, information handling projects in operation or under development at various places throughout the intelligence community. Many of these have attracted some interested users, some have not. But strikingly absent in the community is any real understanding of the value of these automation projects to the intelligence function.

To take one example, both Andy Marshall and I have looked into the biographics area, and neither of us can see exactly what would be gained by further automation of biographics. What is needed is a thorough analysis of the biographics function to see how it can be improved.

Similarly, the Institute for Defense Analyses has recently studied in depth the functions of the National Indications Center (NIC). The study’s principal conclusion was that the mission and scope of the warning function are not now well understood, and that responsibilities are ill defined. With respect to computer support, the study concluded that in the present mode of operation of the NIC, computers do not offer significant aids to the warning process.

What is needed now is therefore:

thorough evaluation of the experimental and operational projects now in being, and
clarification of the purpose and design concept for a future unified information handling system.

What is not needed right now is a massive effort to design and build a unified information handling system.

How Might Desirable Progress Be Achieved?

The Board’s recommendation is to set up a central manager under the DCI, with a charter to design and manage a unified information handling system, making maximum practical use of technology.

An approach which could either complement or replace the actions recommended by the Board would be to exert increasing White House pressure for the intelligence community to:

fully exploit on-going projects to learn more about their utility, and
seriously address the problem of clarifying the concept and use of a unified information handling system.

To exert such pressure I could, with your approval, brief the appropriate community officials on what I have found in reviewing this area, and encourage them to initiate the actions described in Tab C.4 I [Page 422] have received indications that the National Intelligence Resources Board (Cushman, Cline, Froehlke) might be willing to sponsor the necessary steps.

I could also try to arrange for the White House to have access to the COINS system during its test and evaluation phase. (COINS is a system linking intelligence agencies so analysts at any agency have direct access to selected computerized data files.)

If the above informal approach proves unproductive, or if you want to start out on a more formal plane, the NSC structure could be brought into play, e.g., through an Information Handling Working Group. There is ample precedent for NSC direction of intelligence affairs (see Tab D).5

You need to decide now what recommendation to make to the President on the Board’s proposed directive, and what other actions, if any, you want to take.

The PFIAB Directive: Pro and Con

The principal argument for the PFIAB directive is that a DCI who is disposed to do so could use the charter thus provided to exert an increasingly significant control over the entire intelligence effort.

The arguments against the directive are:

All indications are that the present DCI is not disposed to exert any such control.
The proposed directive is open to misuse: it could be taken as a charter to request greatly increased information handling budgets to build a “unified information handling system.” As I pointed out above, the time is not right for such an effort.

It can be argued that the President should issue the directive even if the likelihood is that it will be ignored or misused, because:

The overall goal is sound.
The DCI might just decide to use the charter properly.
Even if the present DCI decides to ignore the directive, a future DCI might effectively use it.
The PFIAB will monitor the activities of the community and prevent any abuses.

If you are impressed by the potentials and not too concerned about the abuses, you could recommend that the President issue the directive.

If you are skeptical about the realization of these potentials and want to avoid the possible abuses, you could recommend deferring action [Page 423] on the Board’s proposals while pursuing the actions described in Tab C.

A third alternative would be for the President to issue the directive, but also to establish an NSC group to maintain visibility on what is happening and to try to focus attention on the right issues. Such a group could focus initially on the issues raised in Tab C.

In weighing the desirability of getting your office or the NSC involved in this area, you should recognize that the more we know about, and influence, the community’s information handling systems, the more effectively we can get the new Presidential Information and Communications Center firmly “wired in” to the community.


1. Do you want to recommend for or against the signing by the President of the Board’s proposed directive?



No recommendation—give the President the arguments and let him decide.

2. Do you want to pursue the approach described in Tab C?

Informally, or

Through appropriate NSC machinery, or

Not at all.6

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Name Files, Box 825, Marshall, Andrew, Vol. I, 1969–1971. Secret. Sent for action. The memorandum was sent through Lynn.
  2. Document 200.
  3. Attached but not printed.
  4. Attached but not printed.
  5. Attached but not printed.
  6. None of the options for responding to either question is marked. In a February 23 memorandum to Kissinger, Haig recommended that Kissinger meet with Joyce and Marshall “on this very complex problem. Memo is tough to grapple with.” Kissinger asked Haig to set up the meeting, but no record of the meeting or of further action has been found. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Name Files, Box 825, Marshall, Andrew, Vol. I, 1969–1971)