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


  • NSC Weekly Report #17

1. Opinions

Intelligence Reorganization

Our SCC meeting this week on intelligence2 narrowed the range of choice on structural options and reached agreement that we should proceed with legislation to protect American rights, even as we refine our thinking on the overall structure on the intelligence community. As you may know, Senator Inouye believes that the time is not ripe for legislation on the overall structure of intelligence community, and that this would only detract from the more urgent task of legislating reforms in the area of safeguarding against abuse. We set up a high-level working group, chaired by David Aaron to get the legislative drafting process underway.

On the structure of the intelligence community, we identified five key issues—which drive the choice of options:

—The degree of centralization of authority over intelligence agencies’ budgets to ensure against duplication and waste;

—Line authority;

—The most effective way for consumers to be involved in tasking and requirements;

—The need for improved quality of intelligence—particularly political intelligence;

—The best way to ensure accountability—particularly over clandestine intelligence activities.

As a result of this discussion, three options emerged. The first, supported generally by Defense, would provide clarification and strengthening of the DCI budget making authority within the present collegial framework. It would also create a high-level “users” committee to direct tasking of the intelligence community, instead of the pres[Page 276]ent system in which the intelligence community tasks itself. In other respects the structure of the intelligence community would remain essentially the same.

A second alternative, favored by Admiral Turner, would be to create a “czar” over the intelligence community who would have complete budget authority, full line authority over NRO and NSA and CIA, along with tasking and requirements setting authority. There was general agreement that under either option centralization would not extend to consolidating the analytical centers in the departments (INR in State and DIA).

A third option emerged out of concern for issues in addition to budget and line authority—that is, the quality of intelligence and the need for accountability. This option would incorporate the idea of more centralized budget authority, preferred by Admiral Turner, and the tasking and requirements setting by the consumers, supported by Harold Brown. However, it would have more radical structural implications in terms of consolidating the major technical intelligence programs, giving intelligence analysis higher priority and establishing tighter control over the clandestine service. All technical collection would be consolidated in one agency with line authority running to the Secretary of Defense. Clandestine human intelligence collection would become the exclusive activity of a foreign intelligence agency. (This would give this crucial source higher priority than it now has in CIA, where it is combined with intelligence analysis and major technical programs.) This agency would report either through the Secretary of State or the NSC to you, thus increasing accountability by eliminating several layers in the present system. A third agency would be created to provide both intelligence analysis/estimates, and have control over budgets. It would be headed by the Director of Central Intelligence, who, as the principal analyst, would be in the best position to assess the value of the raw intelligence product of the collection agencies and more effectively allocate resources among their programs. In this option, the organization and the purpose would be more directly wedded; resource inputs would be related to intelligence outputs under the DCI, major technical programs could be streamlined under the Secretary of Defense yet remain close to their consumers in the military.

We will meet again late next week to continue our discussion.3

[Omitted here is information unrelated to intelligence reorganization.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, 1977–1981, Box 28, NSC Weekly Report, 2–6/77. Top Secret; Sensitive. Brzezinski did not initial the memorandum. A note at the top of the memorandum reads: “LDX’d to Pres at Camp David 6–18 AM.”
  2. See Document 47.
  3. Presumably a reference to the June 28 SCC meeting. The Summary of Conclusions of that meeting are in the Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, 1977–1981, Box 86, SCC019 Intelligence 6/28/77.