77. Memorandum From the Director of the Planning Staff, National Security Council (Osgood) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • The Role, Functions, and Requirements of NSC Planning Staff

The purpose of this memorandum is to make as precise as possible, at this experimental stage, the responsibilities of the Planning Staff. It outlines a role that we regard as substantively necessary and organizationally workable. We present it for your approval or modification in the form of an Action Memorandum because of the importance of defining relationships between the planning and operational members of the NSC Staff in a way that will elicit your support and their cooperation.

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I. Role

The principal role of the Planning Staff is to assure that (a) U.S. policies and policy studies reflect systematic foresight in light of significant considerations in a period of from one to five years ahead, and that (b) they are coordinated with one another according to a coherent concept of American interests. This foresight and coordination should be applied to three kinds of issues:

Issues which arise with respect to decisions or NSSMs that are up for consideration in the near future.
Issues that are anticipated to arise from international trends and developments but which are not being dealt with by decisions or NSSMs in the near future.
Issues raised by possible crises that one may anticipate.

II. Functions

Broadly speaking, the Planning Staff can play this role in two ways:

providing education and enlightenment to those with operational responsibilities, including the President and the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs;
participating more directly in the formulation and consideration of policies and policy options.

The first function should be the primary responsibility of the Planning Staff, but it also needs to perform the second function to a degree in order to keep informed and remain relevant.

The first function can be performed through think-pieces, conferences, memoranda, consultants, and other intellectual media. The principal instruments of the latter are the NSSM process and the operational staff in their dealings with the departments.

The second function is difficult because it requires being familiar with operational matters and participating in the policy process to an extent that may not be easy to reconcile with the intellectual or organizational requirements of good planning. And it is largely this latter function that raises delicate problems of the relationship between the operational and planning staff.

III. Responsibilities

To carry out these functions properly I recommend the following guidelines concerning the responsibilities of the Planning Staff and its relationship to the Operators.

Planners should develop their own papers, particularly on issues of mid-range or longer-range significance which are not adequately dealt with in NSSMs elsewhere. Operators should suggest papers and studies for the Planning Staff and advise the staff in preparing them.
The Operators are responsible for managing NSSMs. They should represent you at meetings and prepare you and the President [Page 164] for Review Group and NSC meetings. The Planners should not deal with Department personnel on matters concerning the content of NSSMs under the management of Operators.
Planners should make suggestions to Operators concerning the longer-range implications of policy positions in NSSMs as they are being drafted.
The Planning Staff should be free to present to you occasionally comments and alternative positions reflecting longer-range perspectives on NSSMs as they come to the Review Group and the NSC.
The Planners should, from time to time, give you analyses of developments in international politics with significant bearing upon U.S. policies in the longer run.
On a few particularly important longer range issues with which the NSSMs do not adequately deal, the Planning Staff should initiate Planning NSSMs that would be conducted by Departmental personnel and draw on other Planning Staffs. We would manage these as the Operators manage regular NSSMs. We would, of course, check with Operators in order to guard against duplication of effort and would work closely with them while the NSSM studies were being prepared.
The Planning Staff would be responsible for an Annual Review of American Foreign Policy, stating concisely the interests and policies of the U.S. in relation to the international environment.

IV. Requirements

In order to fulfill its responsibilities the Planning Staff will need certain kinds of authorization and assistance.

NSC system documents put out by the Secretariat (schedules, memoranda, NSSMs, NSDMs, etc.), EXDIS and NODIS cables, sensitive intelligence reports, and other material necessary to keep the Staff abreast of ongoing actions and alert to problems needing planning attention.
Draft copies of NSSMs as they become available to the Operators.
Authorization to initiate and manage a select few Planning NSSMs, while keeping the Operators fully informed.
Access to a reasonable portion of funds available to utilizing consultants, calling conferences, commissioning outside studies, etc.
Permission for a Planning Staff representative to sit in on Pre-NSC Review Group meetings and, occasionally, Review Group, Pre-NSC, and NSC meetings, when they have an important bearing on subjects in which the Planning Staff is particularly interested.


That you consider the proposals and views in this memorandum as the basis for a memorandum from you to the NSC Staff as a whole.2

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1319, NSC Unfiled Material 1969. Confidential. Sent for action. In forwarding the memorandum to Kissinger, Haig stated that it was “replete with generalities but does codify much of what you have outlined as the role of the Planning Staff.” (Memorandum from Haig to Kissinger, September 26; ibid.) In an October 1 memorandum to the President, Kissinger commented that the Planning Staff was “being strengthened under Osgood’s direction to do medium and long-range planning and to consider policy and program alternatives in some key areas,” with a greater emphasis “placed on trying to isolate some critical issues which do not get the kind of advance attention they deserve. I expect this to assume an increasingly important role in generating new thinking and alternatives for Council consideration.” (Ibid., White House Central Files, Subject Files, FG 6–6)
  2. There is no indication of approval or disapproval of this recommendation.