Fateful Decisions: Inside the National Security Council

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

7
FORGING A STRATEGY FOR SURVIVAL

Henry M. Jackson

Calling the NSC a "dangerously misleading facade," Senator Jackson urged a reorganiza-
tion of the Council in a speech before the National War College. He was soon thereafter
named chairman of a subcommittee on national policy machinery to study the NSC fur-
ther and recommend improvements.

General Harrold, faculty, members of the National War College and Industrial College of the Armed Forces, I am honored to have this opportunity to talk to you again. I thoroughly enjoy these occasions—above all the question period which follows this opening statement. So I will immediately get down to the presentation of my theme.

The central issue of our time is this: Can a free society so organize its human and material resources as to outperform totalitarianism? Can a free people continue to identify new problems in the world and in space—and respond, in time, with new ideas? I think you would agree with me that the answer to these two questions is now in doubt….

One thing I am sure would help—better machinery for policy-making.

Organization by itself cannot assure a strategy for victory in the cold war. But good organization can help, and poor organization can and does hurt. Let's face it: we are poorly organized.

Also, unlike some problems that confront us, that of organization is within the power of the Congress to tackle.

We now have an enormous executive branch and elaborate policy mechanisms: The Office of the President, the Cabinet, the National Security Council, and its two subsidiaries, the Operations Coordinating Board and the Planning Board. We have the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Office of the Secretary of State—departmental planning staffs, and hundreds of advisory boards, steering groups, interdepartmental committees, and special presidential committees like the Draper Committee.

Yet this modern Hydra, with nine times nine heads, fails to produce what we need.

According to the chart it does the job:

The Planning Board of the National Security Council plans and proposes new policies and programs. These go for consideration to the heads of Departments who are members of the National Security Council. An agreed paper is approved by the National Security Council—which serves as an advisory board for the President. The President decides. The policy is then implemented under the watchful eye of the Operations Coordinating Board. And the President has a clear and consistent policy to spell out for the American people.

The procedure is pretty as a picture—and that is what it is, a pretty picture on an organization chart. It has little or nothing to do with reality.

First, the NSC is not and by its nature cannot be an effective planning agency, except in the most Olympian sense.

The President may and should make the most basic strategic decisions—such as the decision in 1941 to

Reprinted from Senator Henry M. Jackson, "How Shall We Forge a Strategy for Survival?" Address before the National War College,
Washington, D.C., April 16, 1959.

Henry M. Jackson served as a Democratic senator from the state of Washington, 1952–1983.

-53-

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