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


  • Accumulated Intelligence Issues

This memorandum summarizes some intelligence issues that have accumulated over the last couple of months. These include:

  • —You owe Helms a reply to his request that you review DCID 1/2, the DCI’s current effort to provide guidance to the intelligence community as to national intelligence objectives and priorities.
  • Helms has responded to your request for a six month progress report on the implementation of the President’s intelligence reorganization. You may want to comment on Helms’ report. Before addressing these and other issues it will be useful to:
  • — Summarize what has been happening in the intelligence area since my last report to you.
  • — Raise the question as to the best strategy for:
    • • Effectively carrying out the President’s reorganization.
    • • Getting you a better product.

What Has Been Happening

My assessment of progress in implementing the President’s reorganization is the same as I gave you in my memorandum of April 13.2

  • —Slow progress because of a cautious and limited approach to implementing the President’s directive.
  • —Considerable resistance and defensiveness on the part of CIA to efforts to evaluate past performance, or to suggestions as to ways in which intelligence products might be improved. (I have attached your copy of my April 13 memorandum at Tab C. It has some marginal notes and an indication that you wanted to discuss it with me.)
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Intelligence Reorganization

Helms’ response to your request (see Tab D) for a six month progress report on the implementation of the President’s intelligence reorganization is at Tab E.3 It is a misleading statement of the state of affairs. While it describes steps taken, it does not assess the progress made in achieving the President’s goals. Indeed, not much progress has been achieved. Some of the steps have been more limited than portrayed. For example:

  • Helms’ staff has been restructured, but there are few additional people to assist him carrying out his new responsibilities.
  • —The only substantial work accomplished by the NSCIC Working Group likely to be useful to the NSCIC, are the studies I have directed on intelligence support of the Indo/Pak crisis and NSSM–69.
  • —There appears to be no intention to develop the comprehensive product improvement program asked for in the President’s memorandum. The attitude is that if after laborious study some defects in intelligence products are exposed, then appropriate changes will be made. In other words, there is no initiative coming from Helms to improve the product.

Helms is still working out his approach to the preparation of a consolidated intelligence budget. At the moment the plan is that he will merely collect together the DOD, CIA, and other budget components and present them, along with a National Intelligence Program Memorandum (NIPM). The latter will be modeled after McNamara’s DPM’s. It will set a context for program decisions, present the rationale for FY–74 intelligence program decisions, and perhaps raise outstanding issues. It will be available in mid-October. Helms will also issue planning guidance to the community in December. Attached at Tab F is the current outline of Helms’ planning guidance.4 It will attempt to describe the future political-military-economic environment of the U.S. 1975–80, highlight key policy issues in that time period, major intelligence problems, and give appropriate planning guidance to major program managers. Both of these documents will offer an opportunity for comment and guidance to the community. Both should be reviewed by the NSCIC after they are issued, perhaps before, and Helms would resist the latter. Helms will, in fact, be doing what I urged you to ask him to do in my April 13 memorandum.

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NSCIC Working Group Activities

The product evaluation work of the NSCIC Working Group is moving forward, though too slowly to suit me. The Indo/Pak crisis study is finished5 and the NSSM–69 essentially done. Additional studies in these two series will be started soon. There has been a lot of foot-dragging on the part of Helms’ representative and the CIA members. Despite prodding by me there has been almost no progress in developing a program of work to assist the NSCIC to carry out its other main functions—giving guidance as to substantive intelligence needs to the community. I have some proposals as to what to do about this below. Later this year, as indicated above, Helms’ NIPM and planning guidance will offer opportunities to give guidance. Although intelligence people say they want guidance from users, they really like the current situation that keeps outsiders out of their business.

What is the Best Strategy

Before recommending specific near-term actions, I want to raise the question: what is to be our basic strategy dealing with Helms and the intelligence community for the rest of this year? Al Haig and I discussed this recently. The conclusions I drew were:

  • —Assume Helms will retire the end of next March at age 60.
  • —Major showdown unwise and likely to be unproductive.
  • —Pressure should be continued in key areas so as to keep things moving; e.g., NSCIC Working Group product evaluation studies, asking Helms to present NIPM and planning guidance document to NSCIC for comment, etc.
  • —Make known your views as the important characteristics of the new DCI.
  • —Stockpile ideas as to specific actions the new DCI might take to achieve the President’s goals.6

Can we discuss the details of your preferred strategy sometime soon?

Specific Actions

Response to Request to Review DCID 1/2

You owe Helms a reply to his February 24, 1972 request for your reactions to DCID 1/2 which purportedly describes U.S. intelligence objectives and priorities. A proposed memorandum for you to Helms is at Tab A. Helms’ request and a copy of DCID 1/2 are at Tab G.7

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DCID 1/2 is supposed to provide guidance for resource allocation decisions to managers in the intelligence community. He invited guidance from you with respect to the 71 objectives, nine sub-objectives, and the numerical priorities (running from one to eight) attached to each objective in each of 116 countries. Specifically, he asked:

  • —How well the listed objectives reflect White House and NSC requirements.
  • —How appropriate you find the assigned priorities.
  • —What suggestions you have for adding or deleting objectives and changing priorities.

In his letter, Helms indicates that since the other relevant agencies participated in the statement and review of the priorities, he already has their approval of the document and thus is asking only you to comment. It is doubtful, however, that the other principals in the NSCIC were ever involved in the process or even knew about it; consequently, the subject of intelligence priorities, if properly formulated, could be profitably discussed in the NSCIC in the future.

Unfortunately, DCID 1/2 does not fill the bill. I have reviewed the document and elicited comments on it from other members of the NSC Staff. While the responses have varied in detail, I think it is fair to say that all of us agree on one point: whatever the utility of this document to the intelligence community, it is so sweeping and general in character, so divorced from any consideration of how resources will be allocated, and so devoid of explicit issues and choices, that neither you nor the NSCIC could possibly review it, much less respond to it, with any meaningful guidance.

The immediate and ostensible issue is how to respond to the Helms’ request for guidance. The more fundamental and serious issue is how to extract from the DCI a document, or series of issues, that will present you and the NSCIC with an appropriate basis for effective response and provision of guidance as to your priorities and needs. As I have indicated, DCID 1/2 and its supplements do not perform that function. They simply serve up a smorgasbord of objectives, with something for everyone on the tray. It may be that DCID 1/2 is of some use within the intelligence community, but even that is open to doubt.

Under these circumstances, it seems to me that you have a choice from among three basic replies to Helms:

  • —A bland thank-you note.
  • —A rather more skeptical response which asks what difference this listing will make, and question how priorities can be productively discussed independently of resource allocations.
  • —An even more pointed reply which indicates that you are puzzled by the document and requests that he provide you and the NSCIC [Page 634] with specific issues and/or documents better designed to allow discussion and issuance of guidance as to intelligence needs.


I believe that you should exercise the third option. As matters now stand, the NSCIC Working Group—with its heavy representation from the intelligence community—simply is not developing a comprehensive and interesting set of issues for consideration by the principals. In particular there is little underway that will assist the NSCIC in what is its principal task—guidance to the community as to intelligence needs.

The burden of developing issues is being placed entirely on the consumers, whereas in my view the DCI should be taking some initiative in presenting specific substantive reports, and issues to the NSCIC, and devising ways that make it as easy as possible for the NSCIC to give him guidance as to what is needed. There is nothing equivalent to consumer or market research undertaken by the intelligence community. They show almost no real effort to understand what the consumers need.

Helms should be asked to:

  • —Prepare a more suitable document that you and the other NSCIC members could more easily and fruitfully respond to later this year.
  • —Explore additional ways in which the provision of guidance from the top level consumers could be facilitated.
  • —Present the National Intelligence Program Memorandum and the Planning Guidance, you understand he is preparing, to the NSCIC for comment at an appropriate time.

The attached memorandum at Tab A makes these points. I recommend that you sign it.8

Response to Helms’ Six-Month Progress Report

Earlier in this memorandum I characterized the nature of Helms’ report:

  • —Covers steps taken but does not assess progress.
  • —Illustrates slow pace envisaged by Helms; e.g., indicates that assuming of new budgeting and programming responsibility as an “evolutionary process.”
  • —Makes product improvement measures a delayed response to the results of NSCIC Working Group studies and subsequent NSCIC guidance, rather than the DCI assuming a major responsibility to produce some initiatives in this area.

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While there is no requirement for a response to Helms’ report, you may want to remind him of the responsibility laid on him in the President’s memorandum to prepare a comprehensive program of product improvement. Such a reminder may:

  • —Put more steam behind the few efforts underway in the newly created Product Review part of his staff to study the current allocation of intelligence analysis resources, the career problems of analysts, etc.
  • —Cause him to increase the size of that part of his staff, which is small. It now consists of three people.

There is almost no R&D on intelligence analysis supported by the intelligence community. There is plenty of room for a display of initiative on his part. Prodding may not produce results, but can do no harm.

At Tab B is a memorandum noting Helms’ responsibility for a major role in product improvement and asking him to tell you in more detail what could be done.9

I recommend that you sign the memorandum.10

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Name Files, Box 825, Marshall, Andrew, Vol. II. Top Secret; Sensitive; Codeword. Kissinger wrote on the first page: “Andy—Please see me. Dick [Campbell of the NSC Staff] before that I want to reread this memo plus attachments.” The memorandum has four covering notes, three of them undated, which include the following comments: Jonathan Howe of the NSC staff wrote Haig, “If we intend to take Helms on, it may be preferable to discuss these issues with him orally”; Haig wrote Kissinger, “We should meet with Helms and avoid paper donnybrook”; Haig told Campbell on July 10 to “set up meeting next week”; Campbell later wrote Marshall that he had been holding Marshall’s memorandum “for the meeting we were going to have between you and HAK which never came off.”
  2. Document 268.
  3. Tabs D and E are printed as Documents 269 and 271.
  4. Attached but not printed.
  5. See Document 286 and footnote 2 thereto.
  6. Neither the agree nor disagree option is checked.
  7. Tabs A and G are attached but not printed.
  8. Neither the agree nor disagree option is checked.
  9. Attached but not printed.
  10. Neither the agree nor disagree option is checked.