National Security Adviser


Copy Set, 1974-1977

Collection Finding Aid


A reference file of copies of  National Security Study Memoranda (NSSMs) and National Security Decision Memoranda (NSDMs) promulgated during the Ford administration.  The original NSSMs and NSDMs were retained by the NSC as institutional/agency records.  NSSMs were the basic documents used to generate formal policy studies.  NSDMs were the primary mechanism by which the administration articulated basic tenants of national security policy.

0.5 linear feet (ca. 600 pages)

Gerald R. Ford (accession number 77-118)

Open.  Some items are temporarily restricted under terms of the donor’s deed of gift, a copy of which is available on request, or under National Archives and Records Administration general restrictions (36 CFR l256).

Gerald Ford donated to the United States of America his copyrights in all of his unpublished writings in National Archives collections.  The copyrights to materials written by other individuals or organizations are presumed to remain with them.  Works prepared by U.S. Government employees as part of their official duties are in the public domain.

Prepared by Leesa Tobin, May 1998; Revised March 2000
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The National Security Decision Memoranda and National Security Study Memoranda is one of many subcollections that comprise the National Security Adviser Files.  The provenance and nature of the National Security Adviser Files as a whole are described in Appendix A

The National Security Council (NSC) had dual functions during the Ford administration.  Under the direction of the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (Henry Kissinger until November 1975, then General Brent Scowcroft) the first was to advise the President with respect to the integration of domestic, foreign and military policies related to the national security.  The second NSC function was as an ongoing institutional body supporting the direction and planning of national security more broadly. The NSC did not act as a decisionmaking body.  It served as the mechanism for identifying and analyzing national security issues; defining U.S. objectives; developing viable alternative courses of action; obtaining and coordinating the views and recommendations of the various departments involved in the national security process; presenting them to the President for decision and finally, ensuring implementation of  presidential decisions.

The NSC system was set in motion by identification of an issue requiring a presidential decision.  The process could be initiated by the President himself, any member of the National Security Council, or by the NSC staff. The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs would draft a National Security Study Memorandum (NSSM) which defined the issue, set out the terms of reference of the study, assign it to a particular group to prepare, and set a due date for completion.  The NSSM took the form of a memo from Henry Kissinger or Brent Scowcroft to the heads of various departments or agencies requesting a review of “U.S. goals in relation to...” or “U.S. policy toward...”  NSSMs from the period of the Ford administration are numbered 207-248 (1-206 date from the Nixon administration).

Often, a NSSM resulted in the production of an exhaustive report examining every aspect of a particular national security matter.  This Ford Library collections does not include the actual studies, only the NSSM delineating the parameters of an issue and the resultant NSDM described below.  Occasional copies or drafts of some of the studies are scattered in other NSC collections.  Presumably, a complete set is filed with the NSC’s institutional records at the White House.

If the national security issue to be decided was a major one, or if there was disagreement among the agencies as to the recommended option, an NSC meeting was held so that the President could hear the views of his senior advisers directly.  Usually, in the course of a few days, the President reached a decision.  A National Security Decision Memorandum (NSDM) was then prepared by the NSC and approved by the President informing the appropriate departments and agencies of the President’s decision.  Generally, the NSDM states that the President reviewed a particular issue and “approved in principle” or “approved the following action” or “approved the statement of policy.”

This file of NSSMs and NSDMs appears to have been compiled by the National Security Adviser’s immediate staff for his reference use.  It was not a complete set and has been augmented with declassified photocopies of some of the missing NSSMs and NSDMs provided to the Ford Library by the National Security Council.

Related Materials (May 1998)
The NSC Meeting Minutes File includes discussions of NSSM-generated studies among top-level administration officials.

Series Descriptions

Box 1            NSDMs File, 1974-77.  (0.4 linear feet)
A copy file of National Security Decision Memoranda.  NSDMs were the primary mechanism by which the presidential administration articulated its most basic tenants of national security policy.  Arranged by NSDM number. 

Box 2            NSSMs File, 1974-77.  (0.1 linear feet)
A copy file of National Security Study    Memoranda.  NSSMs were the documents used to generate formal policy studies within the administration.  Arranged by NSSM number. 

Container List

The entire collection is in digital form. Please click on the folder titles to view the documents.

Box 1              NSDMs File

Box 2               NSSMs File