27. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Allen) to President Reagan 1

SUBJECT

  • Talking Points for National Security Council Meeting Friday, February 6, 1981 from 1:30 to 2:20 p.m.2

The purpose of this session is to inaugurate the meetings of the National Security Council. It is anticipated that these meetings will occur as required but I estimate they will be every week or ten days. In addition to the statutory members of the National Security Council—the Vice President, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense—Ed Meese and Jim Baker will also be members. In addition, the Director of Central Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are statutory advisors to the National Security Council.

The meeting will be informational in nature, and the hour devoted to it will cover three topics:

U.S. Policy toward the Caribbean Basin
U.S. Policy toward Poland
Future Topics for NSC Meetings

You may wish to include the following points in your opening remarks:

Talking Points

• The interagency working group procedures for the National Security Council are not yet complete, but I understand that these are being worked on and anticipate that these matters will be decided within the near future.

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• I intend to have the National Security Council meet frequently. The National Security Council is a valuable institution, and I intend to make good use of it.

• I want members of the National Security Council and those directly associated with the NSC’s work to function as a team. A team effort is important if we are to realize successful and sound policies for this Administration. To that end, I urge cooperation at all levels, and I ask that no one stand on bureaucratic ceremony, since there is so much that needs to be done.

• During the campaign I pledged to formulate and implement a new foreign policy for the United States. I consider our foreign policy to be a key ingredient of our national security, and I will look to this forum to advise me in that regard.

— Of equal importance is our defense policy. The smooth integration of these two key areas, along with considerations bearing on intelligence, international economic issues, trade issues and energy issues, will guarantee the success of our policy.

• The intelligence community is a vital component of our national security, and I am dedicated to the task of restoring the vigor and effectiveness of the intelligence community. That is one reason why I am so pleased to have Bill Casey as Director of Central Intelligence.3 He is a team player, and I know he shares the urgency of this mission.

• During the campaign I frequently spoke of the need to “restore the margin of safety.” That means providing this nation with the best military establishment in the world.

— I am intent upon implementing those pledges, and I particularly welcome the opportunity to work with General David Jones, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for the purpose of achieving that objective. We will be seeing a great deal of General Jones, and I welcome his cooperation with the members of the NSC and with our staff.

• Once I have made a decision, I will expect the departments and agencies to implement it smoothly and without hesitation. I know I can count on your close cooperation in this regard.

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— We will work through Ed Meese, Counselor to the President, and we will establish “tracking mechanisms” to ensure that our teamwork produces the desired results.

• Among the specific pledges made during my campaign, none could be more important than the communication of our policy in clear, concise and understandable language. I believe that we have a great communications opportunity, not only within the United States but also for the rest of the world.

— In order to build the consensus we need, the American message must be told effectively and repeatedly. In that connection, I will shortly be making appointments in those agencies concerned with communicating our policy.4

• Beyond the formal members of the National Security Council, we will frequently be calling other members of the Cabinet and sub-Cabinet to assist us in our endeavors.

— While the National Security Council will not become another Cabinet exercise, it is imperative that we take account of the needs of many agencies to participate in our work, if only because they are affected by the decisions that will emerge from the National Security Council framework.

• The decisions will be mine, but your advice and close cooperation will be the basis for good decisions.

— While I recognize that there will be disagreements, and while I will insist upon hearing all points of view, once the decisions are made we should all pull together to implement them.

• The National Security Council staff will function as an integral part of the White House and will be available to assist in the coordination of the matters that come before this body. Since all of you know and have worked with Dick Allen, you also know that he places high value on the smooth management of these affairs. Dick is working closely with Ed Meese and Jim Baker and he will have the task of seeing that these meetings accomplish the objectives which we set for them.

• Now, I would like to call on Dick to give us an overview of today’s agenda.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC Agency File, National Security Council (01/23/1981–07/29/1981). Secret. Sent for action. Printed from an uninitialed copy. A stamped notation in the top right-hand corner of the memorandum indicates the President saw it. The first NSC meeting of the Reagan administration took place in the Cabinet Room at the White House on February 6 from 1:30 until 2:40 p.m. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary) A portion of the meeting minutes are printed in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. III, Soviet Union, January 1981–January 1983, Document 15.
  2. An unknown hand crossed out “January” and wrote “February” below it to indicate that the meeting took place on February 6.
  3. Casey testified in support of his nomination before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on January 13. For the transcript of the hearing, see Nomination of William J. Casey, Hearing Before the Select Committee on Intelligence of the United States Senate, Ninety-Seventh Congress, First Session, on Nomination of William J. Casey, to be Director of Central Intelligence, Tuesday, January 13, 1981 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1981). On January 27, the Senate voted 95 to 0 to confirm Casey as Director of Central Intelligence. (Lee Lescaze, “Reagan Nominates Key Officials for Interior, HUD and Budget Agency,” Washington Post, January 28, 1981, p. A2)
  4. On March 6, the President indicated that he planned to nominate Wick to head the International Communication Agency. (“Reagan Friend Named to Post,” New York Times, March 7, 1981, p. 10)