National Security Council Institutional Files (H-Files)


These Presidential historical materials are in the custody of the National Archives and Records Administration under the provisions of the Presidential Records Act.

Materials covered by this act have been archivally processed and are described in this finding aid. Items that are security classified or otherwise restricted under the act have been removed and placed in a closed file. A Withdrawal Sheet (NA Form 14029) has been placed in the front of each folder describing each withdrawn it em.

Employees of the National Archives will review periodically the unclassified portions of closed materials for the purpose of opening those which no longer require restrictions. Classified documents may be reviewed for declassification under authority of Executive Order 13526 in response to Mandatory Review Requests (NA Form 14020) and Freedom of Information Act Requests submitted by the researcher.

  • Cubic Measurement of materials: 105 feet
  • Approximate number of pages: 180,000
Organizational Note

The National Security Act of July, 1947 (PL 235-61 Stat. 496; 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 Secretaries of State, Defense, Army, Navy, Air Force, and 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 o Staff were added as permanent members. The NSC staff was divided into three groups: the Executive Secretary and his staff, personnel on detail and 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 he 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 decision-making. 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.

During the Nixon Administration, the members of the NSC included the President, Vice President, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and the Director of the Office of Emergency Preparedness, who was removed in 1973. President Nixon maintained a close relationship with his National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger. Unlike his predecessors, he relied heavily on both his National Security Advisor and the NSC for guidance on foreign policy decisions. Dr. Kissinger increased the size of the NSC staff from 12 to 34. He 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. 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 and 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 policy-maker, 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.

View the National Security Study Memoranda (NSSM).

View the National Security Decision Memoranda (NSDM).

The NSC Institutional Files were part of an ongoing collection that the NSC maintained, dating from the Eisenhower administration. They were retained by the NSC for continuity of government purposes, and transferred to the physical and legal custody of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) at the end of the Clinton administration. NARA returned the records to the Presidential Library of the relevant president, as well as to the Nixon Presidential Materials Staff. The NSC Institutional Files are Presidential records, subject to access and disclosure under the Presidential Records Act (PRA).


  • The President
    • Richard M. Nixon (1969 - 1974)
  • The Vice President
    • Spiro T. Agnew (1969 - October 1973)
    • Gerald R. Ford (October 1973 - 1974)
  • Secretary of State
    • William P. Rogers (1969 - September 1973)
    • Henry A. Kissinger (September 1973 - 1974)
  • Secretary of Defense
    • Melvin R. Laird (1969 - 1973)
    • James R. Schlesinger (1973 - 1974)
  • Director, Office of Emergency Preparedness
    • George A. Lincoln (1969 - 1973)


  • 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)

Group and Committee Descriptions

Vietnam Special Studies Group (VSSG)

President Nixon established the VSSG in September 1969 (NSDM 23) to systematically assess the facts upon which Vietnam policy decisions were based. The group sponsored and directed systematic analyses of U.S. programs and activities in Vietnam; undertook special analytical studies on a priority basis as required to support broad policy and related program decisions; and provided a forum for interagency analysis of U.S. programs and activities in Vietnam. The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs chaired the VSSG. Other members included the Under Secretary of State, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Director of Central Intelligence, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Verification Panel

The Verification Panel, a senior group at the Under Secretary level, performed the basic technical analysis to help develop choices and proposals for strategic arms limitation, approaches to mutual and balanced force reductions in Europe, and other major arms control subjects.

Senior Review Group (SRG)

President Nixon established the SRG in September 1970 (NSDM 85). The SRG replaced the Review Group, originally organized in January 1969 (NSDM 2). The SRG reviewed papers prior to their submission to the National Security Council or the President. Its role was to ensure that the issues had been clearly defined, all relevant factors considered, realistic alternatives with their costs and consequences set out, and the views of all interested departments and agencies fairly and adequately presented. The SRG then determined whether a paper would be referred for consideration by the National Security Council, sent directly to the President for decision, or returned to the originating body for revision. The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs chaired the SRG. Other members included the Under Secretary of State, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Director of Central Intelligence, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Washington Special Actions Group (WSAG)

The WSAG was established in July 1969 (NSDM 19). It was one of two operational subgroups of the NSC during the Nixon-Ford eras. As opposed to most of the other subgroups of the NSC which were review groups and operated as an issue was being prepared for consideration by the President, the operational groups operated within the framework of already determined policy. The WSAG was a high-level task force responsible for ensuring the coordination of all elements of U.S. Government activities in crisis situations. It served as a management team to assure flexible and timely action by various departments as directed by the President during a fast-developing situation. The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs chaired the WSAG. Agencies were represented at the Deputy Secretary level.  The Director of Central Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were also included.

Defense Program Review Committee (DPRC)

The President established the DPRC in October 1969 (NSDM 26). Its purpose was to review the diplomatic, military, political, and economic consequences of issues requiring Presidential determination that resulted from proposals to change defense strategy, programs, and budgets; proposals to change U.S. overseas force deployments and committed forces based in the U.S.; and major defense policy and program issues raised by studies prepared in response to National Security Study Memorandums. The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs chaired the DPRC. Other members included the Under Secretary of State, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Director of Central Intelligence, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, and the Director of the Bureau of the Budget.

Under Secretaries Committee

The Under Secretaries Committee was established in January 1969 (NSDM 2) with the reorganization of the NSC. This committee considered issues referred to it from above, matters pertaining to interdepartmental activities of the U.S. Government overseas, and certain operational matters. The Under Secretaries Committee played a major role in analyzing National Security Study Memorandums, a key Nixon NSC document. The committee was chaired by the Under Secretary of State and counted among its members the Director of Central Intelligence, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Series Description

Boxes:   H-1—H-3
Series:   Committee Files
Description:   Files pertaining to the organization, administration and functions of internal NSC committees, panels, study groups, and similar bodies. Included in this series are the meeting files of the Vietnam Special Studies Group. Arranged chronologically.

Boxes:   H-4—H-106
Series:   Meeting Files
Description:   Files documenting meetings of NSC committees and organizations. Files contain schedules of meetings, lists of attendees, agendas, talking points, background materials, and summaries of conclusions and/or recommendations. Included in this series are meetings of the Verification Panel, NSC, Senior Review Group, Washington Special Action Group, and Defense Program Review Committee. Arranged by committee or group, and thereunder chronologically.

Boxes:   H-107—H-121
Series:   Minutes of Meetings
Description:   Minutes of meetings of the Verification Panel, National Security Council, Senior Review Group, Washington Special Action Group, Defense Program Review Committee, and the Vietnam Ad Hoc Group. Arranged by committee or group, and thereunder chronologically.

Boxes:   H-122—H-207
Series:   Study Memorandums
Description:   Formal directives by the President directing that studies be undertaken for discussion by the NSC. This series includes documents known as National Security Study Memorandums (NSSM). A typical file includes background papers, input from various agencies, drafts, comments, memorandums, and the directive itself. Arranged numerically.

Boxes:   H-208—H-248
Series:   Policy Papers
Description:   Formal issuances used to establish policy and inform departments and agencies of Presidential decisions and their responsibilities in carrying them out. This series includes documents known as National Security Decision Memorandums (NSDM). A typical file includes background memorandums, submissions from the various departments involved, drafts, memorandums to the President, Presidential approvals, and the signed policy paper. Some files include narrative background and history for the papers. Arranged numerically.

Boxes:   H-249—H-281
Series:   Under Secretaries Committee Memorandum Files 
Description:   Files documenting the Under Secretaries Committee activities regarding specific studies and recommendations. This series has two distinct sub-series: 1. Study (Pre-Decisional) Memorandums: Files relating to specific studies assigned to and carried out by the Committee. Files consist of statement of issue, tasking memoranda to various offices, inputs from these offices, and draft Under Secretary Committee positions. Arranged numerically. 2. Decision Memorandums: Final position papers prepared by the Under Secretaries Committee for the National Security Council and responding to specific issues. Arranged numerically.

Boxes:   H-282—H-283
Series:   Intelligence Files
Description:   Documentation relating to overt intelligence matters or activities. The Nixon collection contains files relating to the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) and the Committee on Internal Security (CIS). The files contain 1969-70 correspondence between the NSC and key Nixon administration officials, and relate to sensitive national and international intelligence issues. Arranged chronologically.

Boxes:   H-284—H-298
Series:   Records of the Staff Secretary
Description:   Files maintained by the NSC Staff Secretary. These files include correspondence, reports, memorandums, minutes of meetings. Also included are the Staff Secretary's NSDM Working Files and the NSC Decisions Index. Arranged numerically.

Boxes:   H-299—H-315
Series:   Miscellaneous Institutional Files of the Nixon Administration
Description:   Files documenting the functions and activities of the National Security Council, including its intelligence and housekeeping functions. The following sub-series are included in the Miscellaneous files: NSC System, Administrative Files, Subject Files, and History Files.

National Security Council Institutional Files Finding Aid