204. Memorandum From Clinton E. Granger of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft)1


  • Staff Philosophy

At this critical juncture in the history of the NSC staff, I would like to offer a few unsolicited—but hopefully helpful—thoughts on staff philosophy. I recognize that some of our operational techniques are derivative of the personality of Secretary Kissinger, and others are dictated by the overall White House requirements for security. However, the crux of the concern which I believe I share with most of the other staffers is inadequate flow of information on events, even when we may have a primary staff interest.

More than anything else, the staff needs to be better informed on ongoing events and plans, if it is to be responsive and provide the support to you which it can, but does not always, render.

I recognize the requirements to safeguard the very sensitive information to which we are privy. This is not limited to “classified” material in the normal sense, but knowledge of events which are politically sensitive, and which would be counterproductive to the President’s aims if they were widely known. There is no question that both security of classified and unclassified but sensitive material is essential. However, the lack of information available on developing issues and events denies the staff information which is equally essential for planning, and very frequently forces us to seek the data from outside the NSC organization. I think that this is counterproductive, in that it leads to speculation, and to uninformed discussions which can be misconstrued by those outside the NSC staff.

The other side of the coin is the mistaken reaction of some of the staffers who wonder why they cannot be trusted with the information they need. I recognize that this is certainly not the intent, but it is frustrating to our staffers to consistently be told of events in which we may have a vital interest by other agencies of the government. I do not mean to imply that all staffers should be privy to all information. The sensitivity of some programs and projects would, of course, preclude any [Page 682] wide dissemination at all—but the number of such instances would appear to be rather limited.

I advocate a far more liberal policy of keeping the staff informed, to include the establishment of better mechanisms. Perhaps a different approach to NSC staff meetings where the staff exchanges information on future and on-going events, actions in progress, and related material would be useful. Such exchanges could be conducted by the staff prior to your assuming the chair at the meetings to save your time. The present system of a series of dialogues between you and each staffer present is very frequently incomprehensible to most of the rest of the staff seated in the room, and serves only a limited usefulness.

Inherent in the problem of exchanging information is the necessity for a better feedback on decision papers which are forwarded by the staff. You are certainly well aware of the fact that occasionally decisions are made, and when the subject is raised at a staff meeting some days later, it is equally clear that the decision has not reached those who need to take follow-on action. The same is true of feedback from key meetings and conferences, where the nature of the discussions may shape other on-going events.

While these comments may sound overly critical of the existing system, they are not so intended. We have very fine and competent people who manage the flow of information—but they are limited by the philosophy of compartmented information and the encouraged approach that each staffer play his own cards very close to his chest. Given a change in this philosophy, the system can and would respond very well to a broadened flow of basic information.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Outside the System Chronological File, Box 3, 11/3/75–11/11/75. Confidential; Outside the System. Sent for information. Scowcroft initialed the memorandum.