4. Paper Prepared by the Under Secretary of State-Designate (Richardson)1

The suggested changes incorporated in the attached revisions of the Proposal for a New National Security Council System2 are predicated upon the following considerations:

That the Special Assistant for National Security Affairs and the NSC perform an indispensable function on behalf of the President of the United States in assuring that those national security policy issues which require his attention and decision are identified and brought up for action;
That the Secretary of State is the primary adviser to the President on foreign affairs and is responsible to him for the overall direction, coordination and supervision of interdepartmental activities of the U.S. Government overseas;
That there is no inherent incompatibility between the function of the Special Assistant and the NSC in policy development and control and the Secretary of State’s responsibilities in the field of foreign policy;
That the arrangements described in the attached Proposal, which will in due course become embodied in a new restatement of NSC-State Department relationships, must be viewed against the background of a long history of efforts to define these relationships effectively; and
That the necessarily wide dissemination of any such restatement must therefore be considered in the context of its impact on institutional attitudes and morale as well as public comment and interpretation.

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The procedures outlined below will, I believe, permit us to reach these goals, while avoiding the dangers of compromise and indecision which can result from an excessively formal system.



The National Security Council. The National Security Council should be the principal forum for national security policy issues requiring inter-agency coordination where Presidential decisions are involved. It should meet regularly, and discussion should be limited to agenda subjects. The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs—at the direction of the President and in consultation with the Secretary of State—should be responsible for determining the agenda and ensuring that the necessary papers are prepared—normally by the responsible departments. The NSC staff should assist by synthesizing and sharply defining the options, and occasionally by providing an independent staff study. To keep the meetings small, only principals should attend (with the possible exception of the Under Secretary of State).

The NSC should consider middle and long-range policy issues as well as aspects of current crises and immediate operational problems involving the national security. By providing a forum for high-level discussion of planning papers, the NSC can insure that senior officials consider the long-range implications of policy choices.

NSC agenda papers should present a wide range of alternative policy options that are politically and administratively feasible, and should avoid the all-too-frequent practice of setting up extreme alternatives as straw men to the one course of action being urged.

The NSC should not be considered the sole forum for Presidential discussion in the National Security field. The President will reserve the option of constituting subcommittees for the expeditious handling of operational matters (with membership especially adapted to the particular issue).

Department of State. The Secretary of State should be the principal adviser to the President in the conduct of foreign policy. The Department of State has principal responsibility for the overall direction, coordination and supervision of interdepartmental activities of the U.S. Government overseas.

National Security Council Agenda. The Secretary of State and the Assistant to the President should, in advance of NSC meetings, discuss subjects proposed for NSC discussion to be sure that they are appropriate for NSC consideration and, if so, that they are so framed as to sharpen the issues to be decided, not to achieve a compromise or consensus which hides alternatives. In the case of an issue not regarded by the Secretary of State and the Assistant to the President as requiring Presidential decision, they could indicate the agency or forum appropriate for its consideration.

Papers prepared for the NSC would be reviewed by NSC staff to be sure that: (1) they are worthy of NSC attention; (2) all the relevant alternatives are included; (3) the facts are accurately presented. They should also be made available in advance of NSC meetings to agencies represented on the NSC.

Under Secretary’s Committee. The Committee would be composed of the Under Secretary of State (Chairman), the Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Under Secretary of the Treasury, the Director of the Joint Staff, and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (and other agencies where appropriate). It would deal with matters on which the Interagency Regional Groups (see below) have not been able to agree but which do not require Presidential decision or Cabinet-level discussion as well as with matters referred to it by the Secretary of State and the Assistant to the President.
Inter-Agency Regional Groups. The currently existing interagency regional groups (IRG’s), chaired by the relevant Assistant Secretary of State, should perform three functions: (1) discussion and decision on issues which appear capable of settlement at the Assistant Secretary level, including issues arising out of the implementation of NSC decisions; (2) preparation at the direction of the Secretary of State and the Assistant to the President of policy papers for consideration by the NSC, stating alternatives, their costs, and consequences; (3) preparation, also as so directed, of potential crises contingency papers for review by the NSC. These papers should discuss what steps can be taken to avoid the crisis, as well as actions planned during the crisis.
Ad Hoc Working Groups. Where the problem is not geographic— or is too important to be dealt with from a regional perspective—ad hoc working groups should, consistently with paragraphs B and C above, be used to develop policy alternatives for consideration by the NSC. The make-up of the working group would depend on the subject being studied.
Outside Consultants. The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs should establish a roster of consultants who are experts on major issues. When appropriate, these consultants should participate in groups preparing papers for NSC consideration.
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NSC Memoranda. Two memoranda series should be established to inform the departments and agencies of Presidential actions. In order to avoid confusion, the current series of National Security Action Memoranda (NSAMs) should be abolished and replaced by:

  • National Security Decision Memoranda (NSDMs). NSDMs would be used to report Presidential decisions (whether or not the result of NSC meetings) when the President wants the agencies concerned clearly to understand what he desires, and the reasons for his decision.
  • National Security Study Memoranda (NSSMs). This series would be used to direct that studies be undertaken of particular problems (normally for NSC consideration).

Existing NSAMs should be examined prior to January 20 and divided into three categories: (1) those which are out of date and should be rescinded; (2) those which should continue in force; (3) those which should be re-examined to determine whether they should be continued. NSAMs in the second category would be primarily annual decision documents which the President would review as a matter of course during his first year. Those in the third category should continue in effect pending completion of the review. A NSDM should be issued as soon as possible after January 20, following review by the NSC, indicating the status of all existing NSAMs.

Annual Review of the International Situation. The National Security Council Staff, together with the relevant agencies, should prepare for the President an annual review of the international situation similar to the annual economic message. This report, which would be submitted to the Congress, would permit a more extended discussion of the President’s view of the international situation than is possible in the State of the Union Message. The Review would:
  • —provide a regular framework for defining U.S. security interests and programs to meet those interests;
  • —give the agencies an opportunity to assure high-level attention to fundamental issues within an overall framework.

The Review would focus on world events over the past year and set forth the President’s view of these events and our future goals. The statement would include some of the material which over the past eight years the Secretary of Defense has presented in his Annual Posture Statement to the Congress, but it would not give the details of Defense or other foreign policy budgets. The statement should normally be issued in January.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–209, National Security Decision Memoranda, NSDM 2. No classification marking. The paper is not typed on letterhead and includes no information about authorship other than the following handwritten note at the top of the first page by Kissinger: “Richardson—memo.” The first page of the paper, which ends with paragraph 5, was typed in black ink and double-spaced, while the attachment was typed in blue ink and single-spaced. The 4 pages of the attachment are numbered 3 through 6; pages 1 and 2 in the same format have not been found but they presumably consisted of the opening sections of Kissinger’s December 27 memorandum (attachment to Document 1) up to the last paragraph of “Eisenhower Procedures.” For Nixon’s reaction to Richardson’s paper see Document 8.
  2. Document 1.
  3. Secret; Eyes only.