38. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Laird to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • National Security Council (NSC) Procedures

Under your able leadership, an excellent organizational system has been molded for considering national security matters. I am concerned, however, about the pattern being established in NSC procedures, particularly with regard to sudden changes in NSC schedules and lateness of papers to be considered by the NSC and the Review Group. In all candor, we are not being provided the time or circumstances for an orderly and studied review of the issues coming before the NSC and the Review Group.

It would seem important that the Review Group—charged as it is with insuring that realistic alternatives are presented to the NSC and that different views are fairly and adequately set out—should be able to function in a reasoned, deliberate manner. For this purpose, its members should have adequate lead time to thoroughly study papers submitted to them. A more important requirement is posed for NSC members who must weigh the pros and cons of various alternatives and recommend to the President policy positions on matters of the highest [Page 94] national importance. In recent weeks, however, agenda have been uncertain, and papers have been received too late for adequate review.

I believe it would serve no useful purpose to document the full range of problems we are having with the NSC processes. Rather, I would suggest we strive for a more orderly arrangement, and particularly one that allows the Review Group and National Security Council membership more study and deliberation time before their respective meetings.

I understand the difficult position you are so ably discharging. Please accept my comments as simply a desire to see the system work more effectively, to our mutual benefit, to the benefit of the President, and to the benefit of the nation.2

Mel Laird
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSCNixon Files—1969, Box 1347, Nixon Files—1969. Confidential; Eyes Only.
  2. In a May 8 follow-up memorandum to Kissinger, Moose and Davis noted that “all the other NSC participants have voiced similar complaints in various degrees. These are legitimate complaints. The late arrival of papers appears to be more serious than the schedule changes and possibly more susceptible of correction,” and “the biggest delay is in the receipt of papers by the NSC Secretariat from the Interdepartmental Groups.” (Ibid.) In his May 19 reply to Laird, Kissinger agreed completely with Laird’s concerns, indicated that “we are stretching out the schedule to allow more time between all phases of the NSC operation,” and noted that “our success, of course, depends on strict observance of the due dates for the papers on which the meeting schedules are pegged.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 1, Chronological File)