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


  • Net Assessment Group, The Next Four Years

The purpose of this memorandum is to give you my views as to appropriate goals for the next four years and important near-term actions you should take. Net Assessment Group responsibilities fall into two relatively separable areas:

  • —Conducting national net assessment studies.
  • —Improving intelligence community performance, through:
  • —Monitoring the implementation of the President’s reorganization of November 5, 1971.
  • —Staff support to you as chairman of the NSCIC.
  • —Direct efforts to obtain improved products for you and the NSC staff.


The establishment of a national net assessment process and the initiation of work on the first of our studies has been delayed by Laird’s sharp resistance over the past few months. We are prepared to start discussions with DOD, State, and other agencies as soon as we are directed to do so. These discussions should:

  • —Establish an NSC view of the nature and scope of national net assessments.
  • —Define procedures for carrying out national net assessments.

Candidates for the initial net assessments have been developed, in particular:

  • —A study of the comparative economies of U.S. and Soviet military establishments aimed at clarifying the question: —Are we pricing ourselves out of the continuing military competition with the Soviets?
  • —A study of the national security implications of the energy crisis.

Major problems in net assessment are:

  • —Lack of generally accepted definition of net assessment.
  • —Lack of clearly defined methodology.
  • —Diminishing credibility of the national net assessment effort as time passes and none are produced.

The solution to these problems is to get started soon on national net assessment.

The intelligence area has been more active. The first year under the President’s reorganization directed on November 5, 1971 is now behind us. For the first time Helms has produced a consolidated budget, called the National Intelligence Program Memorandum (NIPM).2 He will soon produce a Planning Guidance document. The NSC Intelligence Committee Working Group has underway eight studies of the performance and product of the intelligence community. I have taken a number of initiatives to improve the products coming to you and the NSC staff.

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Major problems, however, are:

  • —The slow pace of improvement in intelligence community management in dealing with persistent problems, e.g., no long-range planning, marginally effective budgeting systems, etc.
  • —Lack of drive to improve intelligence products, to develop a product improvement program, or to become more sensitive to consumer needs.

Net Assessment: Goals and Actions

Major goals of the net assessment effort over the next four years are:

  • —Firmly establishing a national net assessment process directed from the NSC staff.
  • —Producing a number of high quality studies that will:
  • —Raise issues requiring national level attention.
  • —Clarify the appropriate scope and nature of national level net assessments.
  • —Demonstrate methodologies for doing net assessments.

Our preliminary view is that net assessments should focus upon the diagnosis of problems or opportunities in some aspect of national security. The analysis in most cases will emphasize comparisons with Soviet capabilities and programs, and will be comprehensive, including non-military factors not normally considered in past forms of analysis. At Tab A is a more complete discussion of the opportunities and goals we perceive for net assessment.

Near-term actions you should consider are:

  • —Issuance of the NSSM now awaiting your signature creating an ad hoc group to proceed with the definition of the national net assessment process.
  • —Initiation of national net assessment of:
  • —The comparative economics of U.S. and Soviet military establishments.
  • —National Security implications of the energy crisis.

Intelligence: Goals and Actions

Major goals with regard to the intelligence community management and intelligence product are:

  • —Improved intelligence community management, especially as regards budgeting and program planning.
  • —Development of the NSCIC into an effective source of guidance on top level decisionmakers’ intelligence needs and a source of critical evaluation and feedback on the quality of intelligence products.
  • —Instituting within the intelligence community continuing programs for improvement of intelligence products, e.g., programs for R&D on improved intelligence analysis methods, for product quality [Page 651] control, for consumer and market research, for training in analysis and management, etc.

Near-term actions for you to take are:

  • —Should Helms be replaced now or asked to retire on his 60th birthday in the Spring, an early meeting with the new DCI should be arranged. The meeting should focus on your views concerning current and future intelligence needs, improving communication between top level intelligence consumers and intelligence producers, etc. I will provide talking points.
  • —Meet with the NSCIC to discuss the first completed study of intelligence community performance (during the Indo/Pak Crisis),3 to review the NSCIC Working Group’s efforts to date, and to direct a review of appropriate portions of Helms’ National Intelligence Program Memorandum and Planning Guidance.
  • —Request the DCI to report on progress in implementing the President’s reorganization after the first of the year. It should present a basis for guidance from you as to the priorities attached to the President’s stated goals for the reorganization.
  • —Communicate your views of the quality of intelligence products you and your staff receive and how well they are focussed on your needs. Helms in the past has taken your and the President’s comments literally; largely favorable words from you have made it difficult to get across some deficiencies in the products. I will prepare a summary of the views of your staff on the intelligence materials they receive for transmittal to the DCI under your signature after the first of the year.

At Tab B is a more complete diagnosis of current problems, description of goals for the next four years, and set of near-term actions for you to take. I share, I believe, your doubts that the intelligence community bureaucracy can even routinely produce the high quality intelligence analysis you would find satisfactory. But they can do a lot better than they are now doing.

Early next year you and I should discuss goals and priorities, and a general strategy for dealing with the intelligence community.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Name Files, Box 825, Andrew Marshall, Vol. II. Top Secret; Codeword; Handle via Byeman Talent Keyhole Channels Only. The memorandum is marked “Outside System.” Sent for information. The tabs are attached but not printed.
  2. See Documents 242 and 288.
  3. See Document 286 and footnote 2 thereto.