61. Action Memorandum From the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (Smith) to Secretary of State Rogers 1


  • Reactivation of the Committee of Principals


That you speak to the President and Henry Kissinger about making use of the Committee of Principals, within the NSC framework, to backstop on-going disarmament negotiations.2


I believe it would be highly desirable to reactivate the Committee of Principals as the principal mechanism below the Presidential level for backstopping the various on-going disarmament negotiations. The [Page 130] Committee of Principals (COP) which has been in existence since 1958, and has been chaired by the Secretary of State, has in the past been the principal forum for either decision making or for formulation of issues for the President in the disarmament field and the COP and the COP Deputies have backstopped negotiations. The NSC framework established this year does not give any specific place to the COP, though such a place is not precluded.

The new NSC structure with its pre-scheduled agenda, Review Group, and ad hoc steering committees established to prepare studies for various specific items to be presented to the President, is a useful mechanism for the establishment of basic national policies, and particularly during the initial review of foreign policy by the new Administration. However, I believe that the experience with the present NSC setup and the likely requirements of on-going disarmament negotiations suggest the desirability of having a more flexible, and at the same time more clearly established, procedure for high level backstopping of negotiations in the disarmament field. This is particularly true for the forthcoming SALT negotiations but also applies to the negotiations in the ENDC at Geneva and to subsequent discussions in the fall at the UN General Assembly.

We cannot expect to have the pace of the ENDC and SALT negotiations fit predetermined schedules of the NSC, which of necessity are not very flexible, involving as they must the President. For many ENDC and UN matters, I believe it is not desirable to involve the President in the relatively less important matters of substance that are bound to arise and require higher level interagency discussion. This would not of course preclude raising matters with the President in the NSC when they cannot be resolved in the COP or by their deputies. Moreover, it is desirable that we have one fixed body below the Presidential level consider the various disarmament matters. At present we have different steering committees (some of the same composition) considering CW/BW, seabeds, etc.

With respect to SALT, I am sure the President will wish to oversee the negotiations in a rather intimate way. However, there will be day-to-day instructions involving tactical issues that the COP or deputies should be authorized to backstop.

Moreover, the Committee of Principals would be a highly useful mechanism for the preparations on short notice of issues arising during the SALT or ENDC negotiations for presentation to the President.

One further thought which I believe is of importance. It is essential that, within the Administration, facts and issues be clearly brought into focus for consideration by the President. My experience in past Administrations, and during the current one, is that in consideration of issues in the disarmament field there is a reticence among high officials [Page 131] to engage, in a meeting before the President, in the sharp examination of assertions by one or another Principal that leads to questionable premises being challenged. I believe it would be very healthy for preliminary discussion of some issues in an on-going negotiation to take place at the Principals level prior to their discussion with the President.

Attached for your information at Tab A is a brief résumé of the history of the Committee of Principals.3

I urge that you raise this matter with the President and Henry Kissinger and if you wish, I would be very happy to participate in this discussion.4

Gerard Smith 5
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 18. Secret; Limdis. Smith forwarded the memorandum to Richardson under cover of a July 10 memorandum stating that he wanted very much to talk with Richardson regarding the draft proposal. (Ibid.)
  2. There is no indication of approval or disapproval of this recommendation.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Richardson responded in a July 15 memorandum that he thought the proposal was a good one and that Smith should take it up with Rogers, but he advised Smith to make clear that “we are not attempting to bypass the NSC” and warned that “we would have to be very careful in discussing this with the President or Henry Kissinger.” He pointed out that the arguments in the third to last paragraph “seem to question the whole NSC system.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 18)
  5. Printed from a copy with this typed signature.