Fateful Decisions: Inside the National Security Council

By Karl F. Inderfurth; Loch K. Johnson | Go to book overview

3
LEGISLATIVE DEBATE ON THE NATIONAL
SECURITY ACT OF 1947

U.S. Congress

Though most of the debate on the 1947 National Security Act focused on the issue of mil-
itary unification, legislators did raise issues about the future of the proposed National
Security Council.


CONGRESSIONAL RECORD—SENATE

MR. BALDWIN … Briefly, what does this unification accomplish? First, it provides a National Security Council to advise with the President and the Congress on the integration of our domestic, foreign, and military policies. That is a very important consideration. It is something which we did not achieve in World War II until we had had a long and bitter experience with a different situation. We tried to establish it in Washington in a way that would provide the greatest coordination, but we found from experience that there was much delay, much uncertainty, and a lack of a sound integration of policy and program, and it was not until along toward the end of the war that we approached in our organization an establishment which is similar to that provided for in this bill—the National Security Council. True, the personnel are different, but our experience demonstrated conclusively that we needed something of that kind. So this bill creates a National Security Council.

I might point out, Mr. President, that the National Security Council is entirely, as I recall it, a civilian organization. It is made up of the President, the Secretaries, and such other persons as the President may designate. Of course, that Council could bring to its service any officer it might desire. Consequently, it is the main coordinating factor, I think, in all our preparations for national security and for our defense. God grant that we shall not have to prepare for war, but merely for the possibility that it may come, and thus be prepared to defend ourselves.

Under the Council there is established a central intelligence agency to provide coordinated, adequate intelligence for all Government agencies concerned with national security. When one reads the record of the past war in regard to that field it is found that there was much to be desired in the way intelligence was covered, and there was great conflict about it. I say nothing here in depreciation of the men who were engaged in the intelligence service, because some remarkable and extremely courageous things were done. Nevertheless, we demonstrated from our experience the need of a central intelligence agency; and this bill provides such an agency. Neither a National Security Council nor an intelligence agency now exists.

MR. SALTONSTALL Mr. President, will the Senator yield to me once more?

MR. BALDWIN I yield.

MR. SALTONSTALL The Senator was discussing the National Security Council and its importance. Does the Senator agree with me when I say that the purpose of creating the National Security Council is not to set up a new function of government with extraordinary powers, but solely to provide an organization to give advice to the President, not on general affairs of state, but through civilian groups, on affairs of state affecting the national security and tending to make the military forces more efficient? Is not that correct?

MR. BALDWIN I agree wholeheartedly, Mr. President. In other words, it is not essentially an administrative agency. It is an advisory council.

Reprinted from the Congressional Record, July 9 and July 19, 1945, pp. 8496–8497 and p. 9397, respectively.

-21-

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