The National Security Act of 1947 (PL 235-61 Stat. 496; 50 U.S.C. 402) established the National Security Council (NSC). The National Security Act formalized the coordination of foreign and defense policy among federal agencies. This legislation also provided for the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Resources Board, a National Military Establishment and a Secretary of Defense.
President Truman created the NSC to assist and advise the President on domestic, foreign and military policies relating to national security. The staff of the NSC, as stated in the National Security Act of 1947, consisted of the following seven permanent members:
- the President, who served as chairman
- the Secretary of State
- the Secretary of Defense
- the Secretary of Army
- the Secretary of Navy
- the Secretary of Air Force
- the Chairman of the National Security Resources Board
The Director of the Central Intelligence Agency served as a resident advisor. The President also had the authority to designate Secretaries from other executive agencies to attend meetings as appropriate.
In 1949, the National Security Act Amendments (63 Stat. 579; 50 U.S.C. 401 et seq.) were passed, reorganizing the structure of the NSC and placing it within the Executive Office of the President. The three service secretaries were eliminated as members of the Council and the Vice President and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were added as permanent members. The NSC staff was divided into three groups:
- the Executive Secretary and his staff
- personnel on detail
- Consultants to the Executive Secretary
Standing committees were created to deal with sensitive issues. President Truman made further changes to the NSC in 1950 and 1951 when he directed the head of the Office of Defense Mobilization to attend NSC meetings and then made him a member of the senior staff. Both the personnel and Consultants were later eliminated in favor of Senior Staff.
The structure and function of the NSC continued to change with each administration. The needs and desires of the President and his relationships with his advisors and department heads all had an affect on the role of the NSC in policy and decisionmaking. [See Also: National Security Council Structure and Functions]
Throughout his administration President Truman relied on advice directly from his secretaries of State and Defense and only made regular use of the NSC during the Korean War.
President Eisenhower, on the other hand, met with the NSC regularly and created a structured system of policy review. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson scaled back the size and responsibility of the NSC. Instead they relied on their National Security Advisor and his staff, inter-agency working groups and heads of agencies.
National Security Council Structure and Functions
Unlike his predecessors, President Nixon relied heavily on both his National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, and the National Security Council (NSC) for guidance on foreign policy decisions.
During the Nixon Administration, the members of the NSC included the:
Richard M. Nixon (1969 - 1974)
- Vice President
Spiro T. Agnew (1969 - October 1973)
Gerald R. Ford (October 1973 - 1974)
- Secretary of State
William P. Rogers (1969 - September 1974)
Henry A. Kissinger (September 1973 - 1974)
- Secretary of Defense
Melvin R. Laird (1969 - 1973)
James R. Schlesinger (1973 - 1974)
- Director of the Office of Emergency Preparedness (Office was abolished by Reorganization Plan I of 1973.)
George A. Lincoln (1969 - 1973)
During the Nixon Administration, the officials of the NSC were:
- Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
Henry A. Kissinger (1969 - 1974)
- Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
Alexander M. Haig, Jr. (1969 - January 1973)
Brent Scowcroft (April 1973 - 1974)
- Staff Secretary
Richard M. Moose (1969 - 1970)
William Watts (1971 - 1972)
Jeanne W. Davis (1972 - 1974)
President Nixon maintained a close relationship with his National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger. Dr. Kissinger increased the size of the NSC staff from 12 to 34. Dr. Kissinger set NSC agendas, set up inter-departmental working groups to prepare for NSC directives, created the NSC Review Group and issued National Security Study Memoranda (NSSM) and National Security Decision Memoranda (NSDM) which set forth needs for inter-agency policy papers. [See Also: Henry A. Kissinger Office Files Collection]
Dr. Kissinger also set up and chaired six NSC-related committees:
- the Senior Review Group
- the Washington Special Actions Group
- the Verification Panel
- the 40 Committee
- the Intelligence Committee
- the Defense Program Review Committee
Under Dr. Kissinger's direction, the NSC also took over the responsibility of clearing policy cables to overseas posts. He regularly participated in discussions with foreign state visitors and conducted important business directly from his office. The White House became the foreign policymaker, greatly reducing the Department of State's participation. In September 1973, President Nixon appointed Henry Kissinger Secretary of State, replacing William Rogers. Dr. Kissinger thus became the first and only individual to serve simultaneously as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State. [See Also: Henry A. Kissinger Office Files Series Descriptions]
Series: Presidential Daily Briefings | Folder Title List
Spans: January 1, 1969 - August 9, 1974
Description: These files consist of daily intelligence briefings prepared for the President by the Central Intelligence Agency; supplemented by briefings prepared by the NSC, the Department of State, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Most briefings are accompanied by memos for the President from Henry Kissinger noting late developments. Arranged chronologically. The available Presidential Daily Briefings (PDBs) include only those documents that have been released in part or in full through the Mandatory Review process. View folder list for details.
Series: Vietnam Subject File | Folder Title List
Spans: 1969 - 1973
Description: The contents of the Vietnam Subject File are primarily of a military nature, and cover the period 1969-1973. Cables, memoranda, memcons, reports, speech drafts, maps, and photographs describe deployment of forces, military operations in North & South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, prisoners of war / missing in action (POW/MIA), contingency plans, NSC deliberations, budget, research and development, and the organization/command structure of the U.S. military in Vietnam. Arranged by subject matter; thereunder chronologically.
Series: Vietnam Country Files | Folder Title List
Spans: January 1969 - September 1973
Description: Covering the period January 1969 through September 1973, the Vietnam Country Files are primarily diplomatic correspondence between Washington and the U.S. embassy in Saigon. It consists of State Department telegrams, memcons, and memoranda of diplomatic importance or pertaining to the activities of the executive branch of the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) government. Arranged chronologically.
Series: Paris Talks/Meetings | Folder Title List
Spans: May 1968 - March 1973
Description: These files consist of Department of State cables, memoranda, and other materials pertaining to Vietnam Peace Talks held in Paris. The bulk of the materials consists of cables between the American Embassy in Paris and the Department of State. Also included are intelligence cables and press releases. Cables are grouped by Department of State code and designation; then arranged chronologically within these designations.
Series: Subject Files | Folder Title List
Spans: 1969 - 1974
Description: These files deal with a wide variety of subject matters. The material consists of correspondence, reports, telegrams, articles, and press clippings. All of the files relate to the work of the NSC in general, and most to the responsibilities and activities of Henry Kissinger in particular. Arranged alphabetically by subject.
Series: President's Trip Files | Folder Title List
Spans: 1969 - 1973
Description: This series contains materials created by the National Security Council for the President in preparation for his official foreign visits. The files consist of general background reports, issue papers, plans and detailed schedules for each country on the agenda. Some trip reports also include follow-up media reaction reports. The files also include a sizable subseries of memoranda of conversation and exchange of notes between Dr. Henry Kissinger and Soviet Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin from 1969 to 1973, covering a wide variety of topics. This subseries continues in HAK boxes 68-71. Researchers interested in the President's travels should also consult the VIP Visits series. Some of the President's trips abroad are reflected in material found in NSC boxes 946-950. Arranged by subject; thereunder chronologically.
Series: Country Files - Far EAST (Tonga, Trust Territories, and Vietnam) | Folder Title List
Description: This series contains NSC and Department of State telegrams, memoranda, and correspondence dealing with Tonga, the Trust Territories of the Pacific Islands (TTPI), and Vietnam. The TTPI files include reports and U.S. policy papers regarding status negotiations through 1972. The Vietnam files reflect routine, non-war-related, diplomatic relations between the United States and the Republic of Vietnam. Arranged alphabetically by country; thereunder chronologically.
Series: Indo-Pak War | Folder Title List
Description: This series consists of cables and reports relating to the crisis in South Asia which lasted approximately from March 25, 1971 to December 17, 1971. Warfare broke out in the region as a result of West Pakistan's crackdown on the Bengali separatist movement. Over eight million refugees fled to India, which supported the Mukti Bahini guerrillas. Along with other nations, the United States provided food and other humanitarian relief to the war-torn areas. Arranged by subject; thereunder chronologically.
Series: Cambodian Operations | Folder Title List
Description: These files consist of memoranda, cables, and reports relating to the U.S. "incursion" of Cambodia in 1970. Also included are background material and drafts for Presidential speeches and press conferences on the subject of Cambodia. There are also materials relating to background briefings Henry Kissinger gave to Congressional leaders. Arranged by subject; thereunder chronologically.
Series: Country Files - Middle East | Folder Title List
Description: This series contains NSC and Department of State telegrams, memoranda, and correspondence dealing with the Middle East. The majority of the material pertains to the Arab-Israeli conflict and U.S. diplomatic efforts to achieve a negotiated settlement. Folders labeled "Middle East" or "Middle East - General" deal primarily with Israel and Egypt. There is also a considerable amount of material related to the tensions in South Asia, centered on relations between India and Pakistan. This includes U.S. reaction to the 1971 Indo-Pak War. Arranged alphabetically by country; thereunder chronologically.
Series: Country Files - Europe | Folder Title List
Description: This series contains NSC and Department of State telegrams, memoranda, and correspondence dealing with Europe. The files reflect the political changes which occurred in Europe in the early 1970s. The files are dominated by material pertaining to France during and after DeGaulle, West Germany and Ostpolitik, the United Kingdom, and U.S. relations with the U.S.S.R. under Leonid Brezhnev. Arranged alphabetically by country; thereunder chronologically.
Series: Country Files - Africa | Folder Title List
Description: This series contains NSC and Department of State telegrams, memoranda, and correspondence dealing with Africa. During this period, the Nixon Administration was dealing with many emerging nations in the region, which led to sometimes tense relations. Major issues include the overthrow of the Libyan monarchy in 1969 and the Biafran crisis during the Nigerian civil war. The files also contain information on the Organization of African Unity. Arranged alphabetically by country; thereunder chronologically.
Series: Presidential Correspondence | Folder Title List
Spans: 1969 - 1974
Description: This series contains drafts of letters, memoranda, and Department of State telegrams. The correspondence between the President and foreign heads of government and heads of state concerns a wide variety of bilateral and multilateral issues. Highlights include correspondence with the Republic of Vietnam's President Thieu regarding the ongoing hostilities in Vietnam, and with Israel's Prime Minister Meir regarding U.S. peace-making efforts in the Middle East. There are also Presidential replies to several foreign leaders` congratulations on the Vietnam settlement. Arranged alphabetically by country; thereunder chronologically.
Series: Name Files | Folder Title List
Spans: 1969 - 1974
Description: These files consist of material to, from, or about Administration officials and other public figures as they relate to the work of the NSC. There is a small amount of material related to private citizens. Prominent figures include Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker, Senator J. William Fulbright, General Andrew Goodpaster, Henry Cabot Lodge, and Walt Rostow. The subject matter of the material concerns primarily international affairs and national security matters. There is a preponderance of items dealing with the prosecution of the Vietnam War and its resolution through negotiations. Arranged alphabetically by subject.
Series: Abm/Mirv | Folder Title List
Spans: 1969 - 1973
Description: These files consist of reports, memoranda, and public statements regarding the Nixon Administration's decision to seek Congressional approval of the modified Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) system known as "Safeguard". In addition, there is material relating to the Administration's position on Multiple Independently targetable Reentry Vehicle (MIRV) testing and a possible ban on MIRV research and development. Included is correspondence among NSC, State, Defense, and CIA concerning U.S. intelligence estimates of Soviet strategic strength and U.S. verification methods. There are many drafts of the President's position statement on ABM issued on March 14, 1969. There are memoranda from Henry Kissinger and other officials to the President – some bearing the President's handwriting. There is also a considerable amount of Kissinger notations on drafts of memoranda and reports. Arranged by subject; thereunder chronologically.
Series: For The President's Files (Winston Lord) - China Trip/Vietnam | Folder Title List
Spans: 1969 - 1973
Description: This series contains briefing materials (originally in notebook form) maintained by Winston Lord, Henry Kissinger's executive assistant at the NSC. The China materials were prepared in conjunction with the President's February 1972 trip to the PRC. This section consists primarily of extensive memoranda of conversation between US and Chinese officials (notably Premier Chou En-lai and Chairman Mao Tse-tung) arranged by subject. Also included are intelligence reports and Department of State briefing books. Some documents contain annotations by the President and Dr. Kissinger. The Vietnam material, also maintained by Mr. Lord, concerns the secret negotiations conducted between Dr. Kissinger and Special Advisor Le Duc Tho of North Vietnam in Paris. Separate from the official US peace talks in Paris which were begun during the Johnson Administration, the secret negotiations were conducted between 1969 and 1973 and resulted in the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam. The 1973 Nobel Peace Prize was jointly awarded to Dr. Kissinger and Special Advisor Le for their efforts. The series also includes material relating to US efforts to keep the South Vietnamese apprised of the secret talks through US Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker.
Series: SALT | Folder Title List
Spans: 1969 - 1974
Description: These files consist of cables, memoranda of conversation, background material, and reports relating to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. These talks were held in Vienna, Helsinki, and Geneva. The U.S. delegation was headed by Ambassador Gerard Smith, Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. In May 1972, SALT I culminated in the signing in Moscow of an ABM treaty and an agreement to limit strategic arms. Arranged chronologically.
Series: Pentagon Papers | Folder Title List
Description: This series contains the complete report titled United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967 written by the OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense) Vietnam Task Force. This report was commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in 1967 and was completed in January 1969. The 47 volume study traces the role of the United States in Vietnam from the 1940's, but primarily focuses on the evolution of war during the administrations of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Portions of the report were leaked by Daniel Ellsberg, a RAND Corporation employee, and published by the New York Times beginning June 13, 1971. These leaked documents became known as the Pentagon Papers. Arranged chronologically.
Series: Presidential Press Conferences | Folder Title List
Spans: 1969 - 1970
Description: These files consist of briefing papers prepared by Henry Kissinger's staff for the President's use as he prepared for press conferences. Included are background materials, draft statements, and questions journalists might pose as well as proposed Presidential responses. The subject matter addressed in all these materials relates solely to U.S. foreign policy and defense matters. Arranged chronologically.
Series: Soviet Defector Case | Folder Title List
Description: This series contains memoranda, reports, and other materials concerning the defection of Lithuanian seaman Simas I. Kudirka. Seaman Kudirka defected from the Soviet Mother Ship Sovetskaya Litva to the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Vigilant during a meeting between the U.S. fishing industry and the Soviet fishing fleet. The defection occurred in U.S. territorial waters off Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts on November 23, 1970. Arranged by subject.
Series: VIP Visits | Folder Title List
Spans: 1969 - 1974
Description: This series contains background materials created for the President's use in preparation for visits with various foreign leaders, both in the U.S. and abroad. Notable visits include those by Prime Ministers Meir of Israel and Sato of Japan in 1969, King Hussein of Jordan in 1969, the Shah of Iran in 1969, Prime Minister Tanaka of Japan in 1972 and 1973, and General Secretary Brezhnev of the U.S.S.R. in 1973. Also included are background materials for the President regarding foreign dignitaries in the U.S. to attend the funeral of former President Eisenhower in 1969. There is similar background material for President Nixon's attendance at French President Pompidou's funeral in 1974. This series also includes NSC-prepared background material for trips made by officials other than the President. These officials include Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, Secretaries of the Treasury John B. Connally and George P. Shultz, and Secretary of State William P. Rogers. Arranged alphabetically by country; thereunder, chronologically.
Series: Alexander M. Haig Chronological Files | Folder Title List
Spans: 1969 - 1972
Description: This series reflects Alexander Haig's duties as Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. As Henry Kissinger's principal assistant, General Haig played a key role in the day-to-day operation of the National Security Council staff. The chronological file consists of memoranda, correspondence, cables, and reports pertaining to a wide variety of topics. Also included is a series of memoranda of conversation and transcriptions of Haig telephone conversations from 1970 to 1972. Arranged chronologically.
Series: Alexander M. Haig Special File | Folder Title List
Spans: 1969 - 1973
Description: This series is a subject file of various national security issues. The files contain correspondence, memoranda, cables, notes, briefing papers, and memoranda of conversation. Most of the materials are from Alexander Haig's tenure as Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. Also included, however, are files from General Haig's April 1973 trip to Southeast Asia, at which time he was Vice Chief of Staff of the Army. The bulk of the material concerns the war in Southeast Asia. Acting as the President's representative, General Haig made several trips to Southeast Asia between 1970 and 1973. This series includes memoranda of conversation between General Haig and the leaders of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and the Republic of Vietnam. Arranged alphabetically, with some exceptions. Files relating to General Haig's Southeast Asia trips are arranged in approximate chronological order.
Series: Presidential /HAK Memcons | Folder Title List
Spans: 1969 - 1974 (with one Kissinger conversation from February 1975)
Description: This series contains memoranda of conversation primarily between the President and foreign heads of state. Also included are memcons between Henry A. Kissinger and foreign leaders, cabinet members, journalists, and the general public. There are also memcons between the President and Dr. Kissinger from June 1969-August 1974. Arranged chronologically.
Series: For The President's Files - China/Vietnam Negotiations | Folder Title List
Spans: 1969 - 1973
Description: This series contains memoranda, reports, memoranda of conversation, background papers, and talking points prepared for use by the President and Henry A. Kissinger. The China materials concern the latter's trips to the People's Republic of China in July and October 1971. Included are exchanges through intermediaries between the US and the PRC prior to HAK's secret trip in July 1971. There is also material relating to the drafting of the Shanghai Communique, signed at the conclusion of the President's trip in February 1972. Also included are background materials for use by General Haig, Senators Mansfield and Scott, and Representatives Boggs and Ford for their respective trips to the PRC in 1972. The Vietnam materials are primarily memoranda of conversation concerning the secret negotiations Dr. Kissinger conducted with the North Vietnamese in Paris from 1969 to 1973. Also included are memcons from HAK's Saigon trip in 1972. Of interest are letters from President Thieu to President Nixon during the final phases of the Paris negotiations, November 1972-January 1973. Arranged by subject; thereunder chronologically.
Series: Houdek Chron Files | Folder Title List
Description: This series contains the staff files of Robert G. Houdek. Houdek was an NSC staff member in the Office of the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs from 1969 to 1972. The series consists of memoranda, letters, and schedules concerning a wide variety of topics. Arranged chronologically.
Series: Lake Chron Files | Folder Title List
Description: This series contains the staff files of William Anthony K. ("Tony") Lake. Lake was an NSC staff member in the Office of the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs from 1970 to 1971. The series consists of memoranda, letters, and cables concerning a wide variety of topics. Arranged chronologically.
Series: Harold H. Saunders Files: Middle East Negotiations Files | Folder Title List
Spans: 1969 - 1974
Description: This series contains memoranda, correspondence, cables, and reports concerning US involvement in the Middle East. A member of the National Security Council staff since 1961, Hal Saunders was the NSC Middle East expert during the Nixon administration. He kept extensive files documenting the various attempts to achieve peace in the region. This series includes the records of the Jarring Talks. Following the June 1967 war, Ambassador Gunnar Jarring of Sweden, under UN auspices, launched negotiations designed to achieve a comprehensive settlement in the area. These ultimately inconclusive talks continued for several years before finally being scuttled by the October 1973 war. Also included are records of the talks relating to the US Peace Initiative for the Middle East, as well as Four Power and US-USSR talks. This series documents the US response to the October 1973 war. The files also include background materials prepared for Henry Kissinger for use in his "shuttle diplomacy". Between November 1973 and May 1974, Secretary of State Kissinger made several trips to the Middle East in efforts to achieve Egyptian-Israeli and Syrian-Israeli disengagement of forces. Also included is a small subseries called Vice President's Meeting File. This consists of summaries of conversations held between Vice President Spiro Agnew and foreign leaders. Arranged by subject; thereunder, chronologically.