16. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • NSC Weekly Report #71

1. Opinion


Coordination in the area of national security and foreign policy will not work well unless the Departments feel that I speak for you when insisting that sensitive decisions be fully coordinated.2

This did not happen in the Dresser case3 because the principals at State and Commerce, who in any case wanted a positive decision, felt that they knew better and directly what you wanted done; accordingly, Schlesinger’s objections could be disregarded and NSC coordination short-circuited.

Similarly, on travel abroad and on speeches or testimony bearing on foreign policy, instructions that they be cleared through the NSC have lately, in some cases, not been followed.

Finally, effective coordination and frank discussion of issues is made more difficult by the epidemic of self-serving leaks designed to force you to take a given course, not to speak of the derogatory press comments by anonymous officials. I strongly suspect the former was the case with some ACDA officials in regards to SALT, or more recently to identify you directly with the State/Commerce Dresser decision, [Page 56] thereby making any review of additional information or reclama look like an effort to reverse you.

It would be helpful if at an early Cabinet meeting you discussed the issues of discipline, coordination, and discretion.

[Omitted here is unrelated information.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, Plains File, Box 9, NSC Weekly Reports, 6–12/78. Secret. A handwritten “C” indicates that Carter saw the memorandum.
  2. Carter described the tensions between his advisers when we wrote, “There were some inherent differences in the character of the White House National Security Council staff and the State Department. I attempted to tap the strongest elements in each as changing circumstances demanded.” (Carter, Keeping Faith, p. 53) Vance was more specific about the tensions when he wrote in his memoir, “I supported the collegial approach with one critical reservation. Only the president and his secretary of state were to have the responsibility for defining the administration’s foreign policy publicly. As time went on, there developed an increasingly serious breach of this understanding. Despite his stated acceptance of this principle, and in spite of repeated instructions from the President, Brzezinski would attempt increasingly to take the role of policy spokesman.” (Vance, Hard Choices, p. 35)
  3. A reference to the $144 million contract for drill bits between the Soviets and Dresser Industries, which caused controversy because not all members of the Cabinet were informed about the deal. For additional information on the Dresser case, see Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VI, Soviet Union, Document 141.