4. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs-Designate (Brzezinski) to President-Elect Carter1


  • The National Security Council System

I have reviewed the structure, activities and staff of the current NSC system. The recommendations which follow are designed to improve, streamline and rationalize the existing NSC system. They are intended to place more authority and responsibility in the departments and agencies and to insure that the NSC continues to integrate and facilitate foreign policy decisions.

I. NSC Committee Structure

The NSC committees are the heart of the NSC. This is where policy proposals are developed, policy reviews undertaken, and implementation of your decisions coordinated. A description of the current NSC committee system and of each current committee is found at Tab 1. A working diagram of that system is at Tab 2.2


1. Department officials should chair the majority of NSC committees. When Kissinger was the Assistant for National Security Affairs, he chaired all of them. The system is more de-centralized now. This has had the effect of putting more authority back into the departments. [Page 22] However, the allocation of chairmanships reflects Kissinger’s power rather than logic or Presidential responsibilities.

I believe we should have a more rational structure. Department officials should chair policy-oriented committees. The Assistant for National Security Affairs should chair those NSC committees responsible for review, coordination and crisis management.

2. The present NSC committee structure should be reorganized and rationalized. There should be seven NSC committees. Four should be policy-oriented and chaired by appropriate department officials. They would develop national security policy based on your guidance and direction.

The four policy committees would be:

—The Policy Issues Committee would combine the functions of the present Senior Review Group and Under Secretaries Committee, both of which deal with foreign policy issues that contain significant military and other inter-agency components. It would be chaired by the Secretary of State, not the Assistant for National Security Affairs as is presently the case.

—The Defense Issues Committee would replace the Defense Review Panel, and the Secretary of Defense would chair it. It would include a representative from the ACDA. It would deal with defense policy issues having international implications, such as NATO force posture and naval strategy and force levels. And, it would attempt, in accordance with its present mandate, to keep the annual Defense budget in line with foreign policy objectives.

—The Foreign Intelligence Committee would continue to be chaired by the DCI. State would be placed on the committee. It would continue to prepare a consolidated national intelligence budget and guide resource allocation within the community.

A new committee—the International Economic Security Committee—would be created to deal with economic issues in which U.S. foreign policy and security interests predominate. It would be chaired by the Secretary of the Treasury or the Chairman of the CEA. Working groups of the committee would be chaired by the appropriate representatives from the departments—Treasury, State, Commerce—depending on the subject matter.

The four committees above would cover each of the broad policy areas with which you must deal in the field of international relations.

The following three committees are tailored to deal with more specific cross-cutting issues requiring coordination in the development of options and the implementation of Presidential decisions.

—The Strategic Review Committee would replace the current arms control committee, the Verification Panel. The panel was chaired by Kissinger when he was Assistant for National Security Affairs and he [Page 23] held on to it when he moved to State. No one agency or department (e.g. State, Defense, ACDA) has exclusive jurisdiction in this area so the new review committee would be chaired by the Assistant for National Security Affairs. It would have subcommittees on Strategic Arms Control, MBFR, CTB, and Non-Proliferation.

—The Special Coordination Committee would replace the current crisis management committee (Washington Special Actions Committee). This committee was chaired by the Special Assistant until Kissinger became Secretary of State. Crisis management is conducted from the White House. The central crisis communication center is the White House Situation Room. The key crisis manager assisting the President should be a White House official, thus the Assistant for National Security Affairs would chair this committee. Actual command authority over military forces would continue to flow from you to the Secretary of Defense.

—The Intelligence Review Committee would replace the Operations Advisory Group. It would review all sensitive intelligence activities, including CIA covert operations, and make recommendations to you. The committee should be chaired by a “disinterested” party and one who is looking out for your interests. This committee would continue to be chaired by the Assistant for National Security Affairs. A Counterintelligence Subcommittee would be established to deal with electronic surveillance legislation, investigations of the KCIA, concerns about the security of U.S. telecommunications, and statutory charters for the FBI, the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

I propose that the above NSC committee structure be approved. A flow chart of the proposed new structure is found at Tab 3.

APPROVE _______ DISAPPROVE _______ COMMENT _______3

II. The National Security Council

In keeping with the recommendation above for an International Economic Security Committee, and without prejudice to the overall organization of economic issues, I recommend that those international economic and other interdependence issues which are pertinent to national security be considered in the NSC. This arrangement would not deal with such issues as monetary affairs, or trade and others which do not directly bear on national security.


3. International economic security issues, such as the political ramifications of the UK financial crisis, OPEC and North-South negotiations, should be considered also within the National Security Council framework. [Page 24] For this purpose, the Secretary of the Treasury should attend appropriate NSC meetings. Consideration of economic issues within the NSC framework would not prejudice their consideration within other policy boards or committees you may wish to establish.

APPROVE _______ DISAPPROVE _______ COMMENT _______

4. The Director of OMB and the Chairman of the CEA should attend appropriate meetings of the NSC to assist you in integrating foreign and domestic policy.

APPROVE _______ DISAPPROVE _______ COMMENT _______4

III. The NSC Staff

The present NSC staff is composed of the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, his Deputy, 48 professionals and 77 administrative and clerical personnel. A brief description of the current NSC staff is contained at Tab 4. A “wiring diagram” is found at Tab 5.


5. I propose to reorganize and reduce the size of the NSC staff. The professional staff can be reduced to 30 professionals, a cut of 33 percent. The non-professional staff cannot be reduced by a similar percentage because virtually all of them perform support functions, such as Freedom of Information Act analysts, Situation Room assistants, and secretaries. Despite this, the non-professional staff can be reduced, and I propose to eliminate ten slots initially and make further cuts later. Overall, I propose to reduce the size of the NSC staff from the current level of 125 to no more than 100, a reduction of 20 percent.

APPROVE _______ DISAPPROVE _______ COMMENT _______

The major features of my proposed reorganization of the NSC staff are as follows:

6. There should be two Deputies to the Assistant for National Security Affairs rather than one. The first Deputy would be responsible for political/security issues including policy analysis. The proposed new Deputy would be charged with the responsibility for international economics, North-South relations, and global issues.

APPROVE _______ DISAPPROVE _______ COMMENT _______

7. The current Press and Congressional Liaison Offices should be consolidated into a single External Liaison Office staffed by one professional.

APPROVE _______ DISAPPROVE _______ COMMENT _______

[Page 25]

8. The offices of Planning and Science and Technology should be abolished and their functions, together with those now performed by the Program Analysis Staff, should be consolidated into a new Policy Analysis Office.

APPROVE _______ DISAPPROVE _______ COMMENT _______

9. The current Latin American, African and South Asian functions should be consolidated into a North-South Relations Office. In addition, international organizations, now a responsibility of the African desk, should be taken over by a newly created Global Issues Office which would be staffed by one professional and would also be responsible for human rights and environmental matters.

APPROVE _______ DISAPPROVE _______ COMMENT _______5

An organization chart showing the proposed reorganization of the NSC is found at Tab 6. A breakdown of present and proposed manning levels is attached at Tab 7.

IV. NSC Procedures

A procedure for identifying policy options and informing the departments and agencies of Presidential decisions is required. National Security Study Memoranda (NSSM’s) were issued by the NSC under Presidents Nixon and Ford to generate policy options and to provide a formal system for reviewing them. The process allowed the departments and agencies to air their views and recommendations prior to a Presidential decision.

Almost all Presidents have relied on some form of directive to announce national security policy decisions. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, for example, issued National Security Action Memoranda (NSAM’s). Presidents Nixon and Ford used National Security Decision Memoranda (NSDM’s).


10. A new system of NSC studies and NSC directives should be established. The former should be named Presidential Review Memoranda/NSC; the latter should be named Presidential Directives/NSC.

APPROVE _______ DISAPPROVE _______ COMMENT _______6

[Page 26]

11. A Presidential Directive/NSC on the organization of your National Security Council system should be prepared prior to your Inauguration and issued January 20. This directive would set out in detail the specifics of recommendation 2 (above), if approved.

APPROVE _______ DISAPPROVE _______ COMMENT _______7

12. A Presidential Directive/NSC should be issued immediately after your Inauguration stating the disposition of all active NSSM’s and NSDM’s from the previous Administration. I have begun a review of active NSSM’s and NSDM’s and will submit a disposition list to you shortly.

APPROVE _______ DISAPPROVE _______ COMMENT _______8

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, 1977–1981, Box 165, NSC Organization I. Confidential. Sent to Carter under cover of a December 23 memorandum from Brzezinski, who wrote: “In keeping with your telephone instructions of December 19, I have made a preliminary review of needed changes in the NSC organization and staffing, and I include my initial recommendations.”
  2. Tabs 1 through 7 are attached but not printed.
  3. Carter did not select any of the options.
  4. For recommendations 3 and 4, Carter did not select any of the options.
  5. For recommendations 5 through 9, Carter did not select any of the options.
  6. For recommendation 10, Carter did not select any of the options.
  7. For recommendation 11, Carter did not select any of the options. Presidential Directive/NSC–2 was issued on January 20, 1977. For the text, see Document 7.
  8. For recommendation 12, Carter did not select any of the options. Presidential Directive/NSC–3 was issued on February 11, 1977. (Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, 1977–1981, Box 3, PD–3) On Brzezinski’s covering memorandum (see footnote 1 above), Carter wrote, “Zbig—I prefer a more drastic change. Since the committees are almost identical, I see no reason for a multiplicity of them. For instance, ‛Defense Issues,’ ‛Policy Issues,’ ‛Strategic Review,’ ‛Intelligence Review,’ & ‛Special Coordination’ all include the same top five persons (State, Defense, NSC Advisor, JCS, DCI). Why have 5 separate committees? ACDA, Treasury, OMB can be invited to attend depending on agenda. Also, for each meeting, I can designate a chairman to fit the agenda. Consider ‛Economic Security’ under CEA with you as member [?]. Please strive for maximum simplicity—J.C.” The bracketed question mark is in the original.