8. Memorandum From the Presidentʼs Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • U.S. Port Security Policy

The following changes in U.S. port security policy applicable to Soviet and East European merchant vessels have been proposed by the Department of State and concurred in by other interested departments:

  • —Opening additional U.S. ports to Soviet bloc vessels.
  • —Eliminating the automatic requirement for continuous surveillance of Soviet bloc vessels while in U.S. ports.

At the present time, entry of Soviet bloc vessels is restricted to twelve coastal ports: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Hampton Roads, New Orleans, Galveston–Houston, Corpus Christi, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle. Congressmen from the Great Lakes region claim that ports in their area are suffering “economic discrimination.” Moreover, the Polish government is pressing particularly hard for admission of vessels from Poland to Great Lakes ports. The State Department believes that these changes will result in increased trade and a reciprocal relaxation in Soviet restrictions. The Soviets have repeatedly sought to improve maritime relations, and Foreign Minister Gromyko has made a direct approach to Secretary Rogers on this subject.

The opening of additional ports should not necessitate an increase in Coast Guard security personnel since elimination of the automatic requirement for continuous surveillance will free men for boarding and search operations in new ports who are presently assigned to in-port surveillance duties. It is considered that search of each vessel by the Coast Guard prior to admission to a port is an acceptable countermeasure to the threat of clandestine introduction of nuclear weapons or other materials intended for use against the United States. Moreover, under the proposed system, continuous surveillance of Soviet bloc vessels would be instituted if available intelligence information indicated the desirability of such a precaution.

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The proposed new policy directive (Tab A),2 which supersedes NSAM 203 of November 7, 1962:3

  • —assigns primary responsibility for port security to the Secretary of Transportation, reflecting the shift of the Coast Guard from Treasury to Transportation;
  • —requires the Secretary of Transportation to consult with the Departments of State, Defense and Justice and the Director of the CIA in determining the action to be taken with respect to each Soviet or East European merchant vessel seeking admission to a U.S. port.

The revised security measures appear to be adequate. There is some possibility that dockworkers may strike in protest against Communist cargoes in new ports. However, on balance the easing of current restrictions appears to be a sound move which is consistent with your efforts to develop an era of negotiations.


That you authorize the issuance of the attached National Security Decision Memorandum at Tab A.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 369, Subject Files, U.S. Port Security Program. Secret. Sent for action.
  2. Attached but not printed is a draft National Security Decision Memorandum. The final, revised version, approved by the President on September 1, became NSDM 82 (Document 16).
  3. Attached but not printed.
  4. Nixon did not check either the approval or disapproval options. Instead, he wrote over the approval option: “No. Not unless & until there is direct Soviet reciprocity when we do it.” A notation on the memorandum indicates the President made the decision on March 12.