1. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) for the President’s Files1


  • Meeting Between the President, Secretary of Defense Designate2 Elliot Richardson, and Henry A. Kissinger on January 4, 1973 at 11:45 a.m. in the Oval Office

Secretary Richardson remarked that he had met with all the Presidential appointees in the new Administration. He now sought an opportunity to get more fully what his approach ought to be. He was ready to discuss the issues involved and wanted the President’s guidance.

The President then went over with Secretary Richardson his intentions with respect to the Department of Defense. First, he wanted the number of Assistant Secretaries cut by one-third. He did not want those jobs filled. The McNamara 3 system was to be dismantled. The President emphasized that he expected a reorganization of the Defense Depart[Page 2]ment. He did not want the McNamara people around; he did not like them nor trust them. The Department always ran the Secretary rather than the Secretary running the Department, and that must be changed.

The enormous duplication of the intelligence effort must be stopped, the President continued. We couldn’t have five competing organizations. We wouldn’t have four competing tactical air operations. The greatest waste in the Defense Department was R&D. The subsidies of educational institutions were shocking. They used it for salaries, not R&D. This would have to be cut. The R&D had to be done by those who favor a strong defense, not by those who opposed it like the universities.

The President then emphasized to Secretary Richardson that he wanted the Secretary to participate heavily in the NSC. We had an NSC system and the President wanted Secretary Richardson to work it. He should meet frequently with Henry [Kissinger] and work closely with him.

The President also remarked that the Secretary should look over the SIOP. The President then emphasized that we had to get a rationale into defense policy. We hadn’t had a Secretary of Defense who was really Secretary. We had had brokers but no guiding principles. The President stressed that the White House would not be in competition with the Secretary of Defense. Anything that the Secretary sent to him would get to him. And, of course, the President would be glad to see Secretary Richardson from time to time. He could just come over to the White House and the President would let him be seen.

Secretary Richardson welcomed this. He told the President that he had been probing into strategic doctrine. He saw a need for a new consensus for a peacetime defense policy, but a new consensus had not yet surfaced. The question was how did we design a defense policy that served the needs of peace in a new period.

The President agreed. He advised Secretary Richardson not to get bogged down in the details of management. We had had the theme of a generation of peace, but the question indeed was how do we preserve it. A lot of hot shots wanted to be Secretary of Defense. But this would round out Richardson’s career. He would have been in Defense, State4 and HEW in the highest positions. The President advised Secretary Richardson not to join the doves, and not to become a weak Secretary. Enough was not enough—unless it was as much as the other guy had. The Secretary should make people proud of wearing the uniform.

The President indicated that we would also take a hard look at the command structure. When he looked around for a new Chairman [of [Page 3] the Joint Chiefs of Staff]; he wanted to keep the Haig model in mind. Abrams was no good at Army; the Secretary should lean on Haig. Haig should look around for good, young men as well. The Secretary should take a look at the service academies. They were too large and the Secretary should see whether they could be cut.

Secretary Richardson replied that his budget approach was that he was in a position to urge high levels of defense spending because he had come from HEW. But we would face a tough situation in the Committee.5 We had lost four votes. There was no Republican who could deliver votes. The President advised Secretary Richardson to give Senator Tower tender loving care.

The Secretary should read Churchill’s account of World War I,6 the President continued. Especially the account of the Eastern front. The military never had a conceptual strategic approach. The military never had concepts. Ike7 was not a strategist but a politician. When the U.S. Army had the biggest tactical air set up, something was wrong.

The President said that he would be seeing Admiral Moorer from time to time alone. But the Secretary would be fully informed. The President advised the Secretary to have the closest communication at all times with Henry. There would be many changes in the State Department, although he didn’t know yet precisely what they would be.

The President closed by saying that he would always welcome Secretary Richardson’s recommendations.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Presidential/HAK MemCons, Box 1025, MemCon—The President, Sec. Richardson, and HAK, Jan. 4, 1973. Secret; Sensitive. The memorandum is not initialed by Kissinger. The meeting, held in the Oval Office, concluded at 12:37 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) There is a tape recording of this conversation. (Ibid., White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation No. 833–11)
  2. On November 8, 1972, the day after Nixon won reelection, Secretary of Defense Laird submitted his letter of resignation, effective January 1973. (Ibid., White House Special Files, President’s Personal Files, Name/Subject File, Box 10, Laird, Melvin) During his November 28 news briefing, Press Secretary Ziegler announced that the President intended to nominate Richardson to succeed Laird. (Public Papers: Richard Nixon, 1972, pp. 1152, E–1)
  3. Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of Defense, January 21, 1961 to February 29, 1968.
  4. Richardson served as Under Secretary of State from January 23, 1969 to June 23, 1970.
  5. A reference to the Senate Committee on Armed Services.
  6. A reference to either Winston S. Churchill’s The Unknown War: The Eastern Front (New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1931) or his The Great War (London: G. Newnes, 1933).
  7. During the Second World War, General Dwight D. (Ike) Eisenhower was the supreme commander, Allied Expeditionary Force. He later served as President of the United States from 1953 to 1961, during which time Nixon was his Vice President.