The Structure

The NSC system is designed to marshal all the resources and expertise of the departments and agencies of the government. The National Security Council is the apex of the system. It is here that the final refinement of studies conducted at lower levels provides a common framework for thorough deliberation. The council's discussions assist me by illuminating the issues and focusing the range of realistic choice before I make my decision.

The supporting interagency groups of the system do the preparatory work before consideration of major issues by the council:

The Interdepartmental Groups, each chaired by an Assistant Secretary of State, are the systems basic subgroups for policy analysis. They are organized on a geographic or functional basis, and include membership from all appropriate agencies. They do the basic studies and develop the range of choices. In some instances ad hoc groups, each chaired by a representative of the appropriate agency at the Assistant Secretary level, are established to deal with specific policy issues.

The Vietnam Special Studies Working Group is a specialized group for assembling and analyzing factual data on the Vietnam countryside, the economic situation and other factors affecting Vietnamization. It has investigated specific topics which bear on our negotiating efforts, such as the security implications of alternative ceasefire proposals.

The Verification Panel, a senior group at the Under Secretary level, performs 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.

The Defense Program Review Committee, also at the Under Secretary level, deals with the major issues of defense policy, posture and budgetary support. It integrates our consideration of the strategic, international political and economic implications of defense programs. And it relates our defense programs and resource requirements to overall national priorities and the Federal Budget.

We made changes in the NSC system this past year in the light of experience, primarily to provide a higher-level focus and integration below the National Security Council itself. Two principal groups were raised from the Assistant Secretary to the Under Secretary level. Because the responsibilities of officials at the Under Secretary level transcend specific geographic or functional areas, they are able to view issues in broad perspective; they can draw more fully upon the complete resources of their respective agencies to assure that the entire spectrum of arguments and alternatives is exposed.

The Senior Review Group directs and reviews the policy studies prepared by the Interdepartmental Groups and Working Groups. It sees to it that these studies present the facts, the issues, the arguments and the range of choice, before the studies are considered by the President and the National Security Council.

The Washington Special Actions Group develops options for implementation of decisions during crises. In 1970, the WSAG had to deal with such situations as Cambodia, the Middle East and Jordan. In each case, it laid the groundwork for reasoned decisions to prevent crises from expanding and threatening our interests and the peace.

The success of any policy depends largely on effective implementation by the responsible departments and agencies. The Under Secretaries Committee, chaired by the Under Secretary of State, links the process of policy formulation to the operations of the government. Through interagency review and coordination it helps to ensure that decisions are carried out consistently with policy and uniformly throughout the foreign affairs community. It also recommends to me alternative operational steps to implement broad policy decisions; it develops the details, for example, of our positions in certain important negotiations within the guidelines laid down by the National Security Council.