History of the United States National Security Council 1981–1989

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This article is about the history of the United States National Security Council during the Reagan Administration, 1981-1989.


The Haig initiative

On inauguration day, Secretary of State-designate Alexander Haig presented a draft National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) on the organization of U.S. foreign policy to Presidential Counselor Edwin Meese III. The intent of Haig's draft was to place overall responsibility for the direction and implementation of U.S. foreign policy within the Department of State. Relying on his experience in the Richard Nixon administration, Haig wanted to ensure Department of State control of the interagency groups within the National Security Council (NSC) because they were the "key [to] the flow of options to the President," and thus to policy control [1].

Haig's initiative, which he repeated on several occasions, was never responded to. Senior members of the White House staff including, Counselor Meese, Chief of Staff James A. Baker III, and Michael Deaver were concerned that the proposed reorganization took too much power out of the President's hands and that an activist Secretary of State operating with wide powers could eclipse the President in his public role as the chief enunciator of U.S. foreign policy. Although the Haig initiative failed, the Secretary of State appeared to achieve for a time broad authority over the formulation of foreign policy. The President placed National Security Adviser Richard Allen's office under the supervision of Meese, and for the first time in the history of the NSC, the National Security Advisor lost direct access to the President. In subsequent public statements, the President underlined his belief that his Secretary of State was his "primary adviser on foreign affairs, and in that capacity, he is the chief formulator and spokesman for foreign policy for this administration." [2] Allen, who had less personal authority, undertook a role as National Security Adviser that emphasized the "integration" of the proposed policies and views of the foreign affairs agencies. Nor did he take on any of the articulation of administration foreign policy(a responsibility left to Secretary Haig who at first thought of himself as the "Vicar" of foreign affairs.

Attempts to reorganize the NSC

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