268. Memorandum From the Director of the Net Assessment Group, National Security Council (Marshall) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Report on Intelligence Activities

When we last met, you asked for a report on my activities related to intelligence. This memorandum supplies that report.

It also recommends several actions:

  • —As chairman of the NSCIC that you task Helms to prepare and submit to the NSCIC a draft statement of his view of major political, military, and economic trends affecting the world environment over the next five years. Such a draft would provide the NSCIC with a starting point from which it might produce a statement of top level decision makers’ needs. It might also be useful as a basis for preparation of the President’s 1973 foreign policy statement. A memorandum from you to Helms is attached at Tab A.2
  • —That an effort be made, under my direction, to prepare a classified statement which you might issue giving your views as to major trends in the world environment and the major policy issues likely to concern top level U.S. decision makers. A proposal on how a draft for your consideration could be prepared is included.


I assume that my basic objective is to get you and your staff better, more useful intelligence. I am attempting to do so by working toward the development of a long term program of improvement in intelligence products through:

  • —Efforts to make sure that the implementation of the President’s intelligence reorganization by the DCI adequately reflects concern for product improvement.
  • —Participation in NSCIC Working Group activities, in particular the direction of NSCIC studies.
  • —Efforts unilaterally to obtain for you and the NSC Staff improved intelligence products.

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The underlying causes of the numerous deficiencies in intelligence products you and I perceive cannot be overcome in the short term. Within current intelligence capabilities, selected product areas can be made more responsive through improved communication of your needs and critical review of products, with feedback to the analysts. But to obtain major improvements across the board will require significant changes in intelligence community programs and practices. Key problem areas are:

  • —Overload of analysis resources. The budget allocation for intelligence analysis is probably too low as compared with the collection budget. Since intelligence is a free good to consumers, the response of the producers is to emphasize volume output at the expense of quality.
  • —Career incentives for analysts are insufficient to attract and hold good people.
  • —Training in intelligence analysis is limited and ineffective. Essentially intelligence analysis is in the craft guild stage—people are trained through apprenticeship.
  • —There is almost no research and development on new analysis methodologies within the intelligence community.

Current Activities

Monitoring the Reorganization Implementation

Let me express my concern to you about the pace of the implementation. Helms has been proceeding very slowly and cautiously. There appears to have been a decided shift in responsiveness to the President’s goals in the period from mid-December to mid-January. In mid-December things seemed to be moving along fairly well. In mid-January the view of Helms’s people changed to “tell us what is wrong and we will change it,” rather than one of “we see the President’s objectives, we are looking for opportunities to improve and are taking action.” The process of creating the staff to support Helms in his new duties slowed appreciably. Also, the goals as to staff size and activities were reduced. For example, the part of the new staff devoted to product improvement, which had been advertised in December as having ten people, is now more likely to have four or five people. Even now the final TO&E of the group is not established.

I have supplied you with a memorandum to Helms asking for a six month progress report on May 5. When we have his reply, we can decide how best to proceed toward the President’s goals. Until recently Helms has had some basis for holding back. Since the first of the year he has had no Deputy at CIA, although that post has now been filled. Packard left and the relationship of Helms to the Deputy Secretary of Defense is a key one. Rush has been fully on board only a relatively short time. But basically the problems lie elsewhere. In my judgment we probably will have to put some pressure on Helms to get more rapid progress toward the President’s goals.

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NSCIC Activities

I have begun two series of studies that you authorized as Chairman of the NSCIC:

  • —Studies of intelligence support to high level decision makers in times of political/military crises, and
  • —Studies of intelligence support to the NSSM process.

Two of these studies are now underway, one on the Indo/Pak crisis, the other intelligence support to NSSM–69 (Asian strategy).3 The Indo/Pak crisis study should be available in preliminary form by early May, and the NSSM–69 study by the middle of May. I plan to start additional studies on other crises and NSSMs as resources become available.

Thus far I have been unable to get the NSCIC Working Group to focus on what appears to me to be its primary and most important task—that is, to prepare materials that would assist the NSCIC in formulating and issuing useful guidance as to the intelligence needs of high level decision makers. To move the system, I think it would be important to attempt to provide the intelligence community with a picture of the emerging trends in the world situation, as seen by you and the NSCIC, and the major policy problems that may result. Actions are recommended below.

Communicating Your Own and NSC Staff Needs4

The following efforts have been undertaken:

  • —Review of the new DCI guidance as to national intelligence objectives and priorities. Helms sent this document to you for comment. A memorandum from you to Helms is being prepared.
  • —Interviews of NSC staff as to perceived quality of intelligence in their areas. When finished I will write them up in a form that will permit feedback to the intelligence community.
  • —Organized occasional meetings of NSC staff with intelligence community representatives. For example, Sonnenfeldt and Hyland and Soviet analysts, and Odeen et al with National Estimates staff to review plans for the next series of Soviet military NIEs.
  • —Initiated a preliminary study by CIA and DIA of Soviet perceptions of U.S. forces, military programs, and activities. What do the Soviets notice and react to most strongly?

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How Best to Help you in the Future?

I propose to continue to try to:

  • —Communicate your needs.
  • —Review and criticize selected intelligence products.

To do a good job on the first function I need to know more about your views as to your needs. I am preparing my own views as to what is wrong with some of the products. You will receive soon a memorandum on those views and a questionaire eliciting your views.

I am reviewing a special SS–9 study produced by CIA, at your request, as a follow-on to my work for you in early 1970. I did not report to you on this product, which was finished in September 1971, although some of Phil Odeen’s people made use of some of the results. The study did not meet the goals set for it. It is now under critical review by a panel of people from DIA, CIA, NSA, and INR. I will chair a review meeting next week to get their assessment and produce proposals on how best to continue this effort.


Since the NSCIC Working Group seems unwilling to address the problem of how best to supply guidance to the intelligence community, I recommend that the two following measures be taken:

  • —As chairman of the NSCIC, you task Helms to draft, for NSCIC consideration, comment, and revision a document, comparable in scope and size to the President’s Foreign Policy Statement, that gives his views as to the major political, military, and economic trends affecting the world environment of importance to national policy. This draft to be available in September for NSCIC consideration and comment.5
  • —A draft be prepared expressing both your own views as to the changing world environment and the attendant U.S. policy issues top level decision makers will be concerned with over the foreseeable future. This statement to take as its basis the current version of the President’s Foreign Policy Statement.

The draft prepared by Helms, if it can be revised to be acceptable to you, could then be issued as NSCIC guidance to the intelligence community and used in preparing the President’s Foreign Policy Statement for 1973. If it is unacceptable, you will become aware of the divergences that exist between your judgments as to the world environment over the next five years and those of the DCI and his staff. We will then have a very concrete basis for demanding improvements in the intelligence product, and even changes in the allocation of intelligence resources.

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The draft of a statement by you would complement the DCI effort because it would focus primarily upon the policy issues likely to engage the attention of top level U.S. decision makers in the future. I would propose to borrow a young State Department officer, Robert Crane, to prepare the NSC draft. If the effort fails the draft can be discarded.

I therefore recommend that:6

  • —You sign the attached memorandum to Helms asking him to draft a report to the NSCIC giving his views as to future trends in the world environment.
  • —That I undertake to have prepared a draft of a statement by you of trends in the world environment and major policy issues facing the U.S.

I plan to ask for a few special studies by the intelligence community, with the objective of producing some interesting material for you, as well as offering an opportunity, through critical review of study drafts, to make the community more aware of the quality of product we would like to have. The following is a list of possible topics, please indicate your preferences:7

  • —Soviet Military and Political Strategy toward its Southern Asia Arc (Iran to Japan).
  • —Soviet capabilities for flexible and discriminating use of strategic forces.
  • —Soviet Nuclear Technology as related to possible comprehensive test ban issues.
  • —Soviet Naval missiles.

  1. Source: National Security Council, Nixon Intelligence Files, Log Numbered Series, 1971–1973. Top Secret; Sensitive. Sent for action. Kissinger wrote the following message to Marshall on page 1: “See my notes. I also want to discuss ASAP.” The memorandum was returned to Marshall through Haig who initialed it.
  2. Document 269.
  3. NSSM 69, “U.S. Nuclear Policy in Asia,” July 14, 1969. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Boxes H–159–161, National Security Study Memoranda, NSSM 69.
  4. Kissinger wrote the following note adjacent to this section: “One of my troubles is that I may not know what my needs are. But let us discuss immediately. I am very interested in psychology of foreign leaders. I once set a psychiatrist to work on it.”
  5. Kissinger wrote in the margin next to this paragraph, “That’s really very ambitious.”
  6. Neither option is marked.
  7. None of the topics is marked.