Chapter 8 – Setting the New Cold War Strategy: The First Term - Statements and Decisions

NSC meetings to other groups involving key sub-cabinet levels of the bureaucracy. In this role, the NSC follows the president’s guidance and established NSC processes to assure cabinet and interagency meetings, work programs, schedules etc.; to assess facts and issues; to develop policy options for presidential decisions; and to assure subsequent implementation and updating. Differing departmental and agency views are presented in documents throughout the process in “bracketed” language with differences either reconciled or narrowed and then blessed or decided by the president.

NSC Staff Responsibilities. As observed directly by the author of this book during his 151/2 years of service on the NSC staff with four Presidents and nine National Security Advisors, NSC staff participate actively in all levels of the NSC process. Staff members prepare draft cover memoranda to the president from the National Security Advisor forwarding internal NSC, Cabinet-level and diplomatic communications. They describe and forward interagency analyses and options papers prior to NSC meetings; draft and coordinate presidential tasking and decision directives and implementation instructions; and assure appropriate follow-up interagency work programs. They regularly brief the President and participate in NSC, White House, and interagency meetings. As directed, they represent the White House and NSC in meetings with Congressional members and staff, the media, and other groups including academics, clergy, and foreign officials.

A memorandum prepared by the author, a career U.S. civil servant, presents a snap-shot view of 14 such Interagency Groups in which he represented Reagan’s NSC on arms control and public diplomacy issues in the year 1986 as the NSC staff’s Director of Arms Control. He held this position for six and a half years from January 1981 to September 1987, after serving on the NSC staff for nine years with presidents Johnson, Nixon, and Ford, from September 1967 to August 1976.

5. NSC Organization: Reagan’s Early Directives—1981 to 1982

Reagan’s formative NSC organizational decisions include the following from the first two years:

NSDD 1—National Security Council Directives, issued January 25, 1981, established two directive series to transmit presidential actions: 1) a National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) “implementing national policy and objectives in all areas involving national security . . . individually identified by number and signed by the President”; and 2) a National Security Study Directive (NSSD) “to direct that studies be undertaken involving national security policy and objectives.”3

Although a Reagan Press Secretary Statement on Crisis Management—March 24, 1981 announced a Presidential decision designating the Vice President as head of a senior Crisis Management Team supported by the NSC staff, internal debates on who should be in charge were evident after the shooting of the President on March 31 and beyond. NSDD 3—Crisis Management issued on December 14, 1981, formally affirmed, documented and detailed the earlier decision. A Special Situation Group (SSG) chaired by the Vice President would be convened by the National Security Advisor “when the gravity of the situation warrants.”4 Its members included the Secretaries of State and Defense, the Director of Central Intelligence, the Chief and Deputy Chief of Staff to the President, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and others designated by the Vice President. It would formulate contingency planning, monitor the crisis, formulate options, ensure transmittal and implementation of Presidential decisions, and provide communications and press guidance.

NSDD 2—National Security Council Structure was issued on January 12, 1982, almost a year after a proposed structural plan had first been considered without final decision and release. The document designated NSC responsibilities for the Assistant for National Security Affairs, the secretaries of State and Defense, and the Director of Central Intelligence. It established an interagency system including Senior Interagency Groups for Foreign Policy (SIG—FP), Defense Policy (SIG—DP), and Intelligence (SIG—I) to be chaired by the respective Undersecretaries. The directive also established a series of Interagency Groups for geographic regions, arms control, and defense areas, generally to be chaired by the Departments of State and/or Defense or by the representative of the Director of CIA. Organizational membership was specified for each group. NSDD 2’s specifics were generally comparable to arrangements that had been developed and practiced during the Administration’s first year except in the area of Arms Control. There, the prevailing practice of co-chairing of interagency groups by the Department of State and Defense was maintained as the most effective way to manage unusually complex and controversial issues.

NSDD 65—Establishment of National Security Council Arms Control Verification Committee, issued on November 12, 1982, is an example of a special NSC effort to assure presidential control through a strengthened NSC coordination mechanism to handle intense policy differences within the interagency system. In

[Book pg. 174]