March 31, 1987
To the Congress of the United States:
In my address to the American people on March 4, I promised that I would report to the Congress by the end of March on all the steps I have taken to implement the recommendations of the President's Special Review Board chaired by former Senator John Tower.
I hereby submit to the Congress for its information the text of the decision directive I issued to implement the Special Review Board's recommendations. This directive mandates certain actions to put the National Security Council (NSC) process in better order and to avoid any recurrence of the deficiencies and abuses that the Special Review Board described. Many of these remedial measures -- including the prohibition of NSC Staff engagement in covert activities -- were implemented before the Special Review Board reported to me on February 26. The remaining steps have been taken or will be completed shortly.
The President and the Congress share a significant responsibility for safeguarding and advancing the interests of the United States in the world at large. When our two branches of government are at odds, we weaken ourselves as a force for international peace and freedom; when our two branches work in harmony, there is little our Nation cannot accomplish. Each branch is jealous of its constitutional prerogatives; yet, each must also respect the prerogatives of the other.
In this regard, I endorse the Special Review Board's recommendation that the structure and procedures of the National Security Council system not be the subject of further legislation. The NSC and NSC system have traditionally been a flexible instrument for presidential management of national security affairs. Every President since 1947 has used this instrument in a different way; as my successors, too, will discover, its flexibility is an important part of its usefulness. Similarly, the Special Review Board found that it was not the present structure or procedures that were at fault; rather, the problem was that the properly established structure and procedures were not properly used.
The reforms and changes I have made are evidence of my determination to return to proper procedures, including consultation with the Congress. I will do my share, as I said on March 4, ``to make the congressional oversight process work.''
I look to the Congress to do its share, as well. In the intelligence field, I welcome the Congress's oversight role as it has developed in the last decade. At the same time, this is a sphere of policy that requires a strong Executive role -- for constitutional, historical, and practical reasons -- as well as a special spirit of close cooperation between our two branches.
The Special Review Board recommended that the existing Intelligence Committees of the House and Senate be merged into a new Joint Committee, with a restricted staff, to oversee the intelligence community. This is a recommendation that deserves to be enacted as it would help ensure the necessary secrecy of deliberations in this sensitive area. In addition, I must make clear that I will strongly oppose legislation that would attempt to encroach further on what I regard as the President's independent constitutional authority in the intelligence field.
I pledge to the American people and to the Congress that I will follow through on all the commitments set forth in the decision directive that I am transmitting. I intend, as well, to move ahead on the pressing agenda of foreign policy challenges and opportunities that lie before us. This agenda will not wait. I was elected to carry forward this Nation's vital role of leadership in the world, and I intend to do so.
The White House,
March 31, 1987.