51. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter 1


  • Reorganization of the Intelligence Community

The SCC has completed its deliberations concerning reorganization of the Intelligence Community. A detailed summary of these discussions is at Tab A.2

The Issues

Considerable progress was made on several important issues. However, a fundamental difference of opinion remains over the basic issue of line control of predominantly national intelligence activities. The issues on which there is general agreement (but some differences in detail) are as follows:

Requirements. There is a general agreement that major consumers should play a dominant role in establishing requirements for national intelligence and prioritize them through some sort of high level committee mechanism.

Tasking Authority. There is general agreement that the function of translating consumer requirements into detailed intelligence collection objectives and the assignment of these to intelligence collection organizations (i.e., tasking) should be controlled by the DCI during peacetime.

Resource Management. There is general agreement that all national intelligence programs should be developed and budgeted within the context of a consolidated National Foreign Intelligence Program (NFIP) and that the DCI should play the leading role in this process.

Production. There is general agreement that national intelligence analytical production should remain the primary responsibility of the DCI but that independent departmental analytic centers should continue to exist. All agree that the DCI should remain the principal substantive intelligence advisor to the NSC and the President.3

Accountability. There is unanimous agreement that accountability is important to ensure protection against abuses. However, different views exist as to whether accountability is best achieved by centraliza[Page 291]tion of balanced authority and responsibility in a direct chain of command or through a degree of decentralization.

The principal issue concerns line authority, particularly over the military and technically oriented organizations and programs in the Department of Defense.

Stan Turner does not believe he can carry out his Intelligence Community leadership and operational responsibilities without full line control powers to match them. He believes that the historical record of 30 years indicates that any adjustments in the status quo will not suffice and that only full centralization of balanced responsibility and authority will result in the national intelligence effort you desire.

Harold Brown believes that the present decentralized intelligence system is responsive to both the critical needs of the military and the national level requirements of the DCI. In his view, centralization would diminish readiness for war, reduce responsiveness to consumers and decrease protection against abuse and budget escalations. He believes that present weaknesses in the system can be rectified largely by strengthening the DCI’s role in the management of community resources.

—A third view represented by OMB would centralize critical intelligence management functions under the DCI while leaving other responsibilities such as personnel actions and support activities as presently assigned.

Cy Vance favors giving the DCI full line control over all predominantly national intelligence activities based on his own past experiences in the Department of Defense.

The Options

Stan Turner, Harold Brown and OMB have each developed detailed options for your consideration.

Brown’s option (Tab B)4 modifies the status quo by (a) strengthening the DCI’s and PRC (I) role in managing all national intelligence resources, (b) providing for a high-level consumers committee within the NSC system to establish intelligence requirements, and (c) explicitly delegating to the DCI all responsibility for tasking collection facilities during peacetime (subject to appeal to a consumers committee) and to the Secretary of Defense during crisis or war. No changes would be made in the basic organizational structure of the Intelligence Community or in its normal daily mode operation.

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OMB’s option (Tab C)5 centralizes critical intelligence management functions under the DCI while leaving other functions normally associated with line management decentralized. This option diversifies the authorities inherent in the secretaries of most governmental departments as follows:

• The DCI would have full responsibility for all aspects of the resource management of national foreign intelligence activities, the formulation of intelligence collection requirements, the specific tasking of intelligence collectors and national analytical production. Structurally, the present technical collection and processing elements of CIA would be transferred to DOD where they would be integrated with like elements. DOD clandestine human source collection activities would be consolidated with the clandestine activities of CIA in a separate agency reporting to the DCI. The remaining analytic production elements of CIA would compose a new agency under the line authority of the DCI.

• Personnel administration, support activities and audit/inspector general functions remain largely as presently assigned under departmental arrangements because they are less immediately related to intelligence needs and to serve as a check on political misuse of authorities by the community leader.

• The NSC would continue to provide policy guidance and, in addition, a Consumers-Producers Union would be formed under the NSC to identify and prioritize consumer analytic product requirements and provide performance evaluation.

Stan Turner’s option (Tab D)6 strongly favors full centralization of national intelligence activities. He would place the present CIA, NSA, NRO [less than 1 line not declassified] under the full line management control of the Director of Central Intelligence and functionally integrate some major collection systems. Departmental analysis units would remain basically independent of DCI control. A high-level interagency consumers committee would be established to identify priority national intelligence needs, subject to your approval, and a DCI controlled joint civilian-military center would actually task collection systems.

Next Steps

The SCC has exhausted the limits of constructive debate on this subject. At this point, therefore, you have the following alternatives:

1. You could make your decision on the basis of the materials attached with this memorandum. I believe, however, that you should [Page 293] first provide both Harold and Stan an opportunity to make their cases directly to you in each other’s presence.

2. You could conduct a private meeting with the key principals on the basis of which you would then make your decision. This would give you an opportunity to systematically probe the logic of their positions and all concerned would feel they had an ample opportunity to make their views known to you.

3. A formal NSC meeting could be convened in which each of the key issues discussed in the SCC could be more systematically examined. Under the National Security Act of 1947, the NSC is technically responsible for considering recommendations on the conduct of intelligence activities.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 33, PRM–11, 2 of 2, [1]. Secret. Sent for action.
  2. Not attached.
  3. Carter wrote “OK” in the margin beside this and the three preceding paragraphs.
  4. Not attached, but see Document 50.
  5. Not attached.
  6. Not attached, but see Document 42.