Order Code 98-611 GOV
Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Background and Overview
Updated February 10, 2003
Harold C. Relyea
Specialist in American National Government
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Presidential Directives: Background and Overview
From the earliest days of the federal government, Presidents, exercising
magisterial or executive power not unlike that of a monarch, from time to time have
issued directives establishing new policy, decreeing the commencement or cessation
of some action, or ordaining that notice be given to some declaration. The
instruments used by Presidents in these regards have come to be known by various
names, and some have prescribed forms and purposes. Executive orders and
proclamations are probably two of the best-known types, largely because of their
long-standing use and publication in the Federal Register and the Code of Federal
Regulations. Others are less familiar, some because they are cloaked in official
secrecy. There is, as well, the oral presidential directive, the sense of which is
captured in an announcement that records what the President has prescribed or
instructed. This report provides an overview of the different kinds of directives that
have primarily been utilized by twentieth-century Presidents. Presenting background
on the historical development, accounting, use, and effect of such directives, it will
be updated as events suggest.
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Administrative Orders . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Certificates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Designations of Officials . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Executive Orders . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
General Licenses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Homeland Security Presidential Directives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Interpretations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Letters on Tariffs and International Trade . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Military Orders . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
National Security Instruments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
NSC Policy Papers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
National Security Action Memoranda . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
National Security Study Memoranda and National Security
Decision Memoranda . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Presidential Review Memoranda and Presidential Directives . . . . . . . 11
National Security Study Memoranda and National Security
Decision Directives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
National Security Reviews and National Security Directives . . . . . . . 11
Presidential Review Directives and Presidential Decision
Directives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
National Security Presidential Directives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Presidential Announcements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Presidential Findings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Presidential Reorganization Plans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Proclamations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Regulations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Source Tools . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Background and Overview
Responding to the request of a duly constituted joint committee of the two
Houses of Congress “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public
thanksgiving ...,1 President George Washington assigned Thursday, November 26,
using an October 3, 1789, instrument of proclamation.2 It was the first proclamation
issued by a President under the federal government established by the Constitution.
Four months earlier, on June 8, 1789, President Washington sent a communique
to the acting holdover officers of the Confederation government, directing the
preparation of a report “to impress me with a full, precise, and distinct general idea
of the affairs of the United States” handled by each official.3 The forerunner or
prototype of a body of presidential directives which would subsequently come to be
denominated “executive orders,” the communique was issued, of course, before the
creation of the great federal departments.
Various proclamations and orders would be issued by Presidents during the
nineteenth century. A number had accumulated by the time efforts were begun,
during the latter half of the century, to account better for them through a numbering
process and to standardize their forms. Consequently, an examination of published
collections of presidential papers, such as James D. Richardson’s A Compilation of
the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, prepared under the direction of the
congressional Joint Committee on Printing, reveals that, prior to the Lincoln
Administration, a number of documents denominated as proclamations and other
presidential instruments of no particular designation directed certain actions to be
taken.4 These latter types of documents were what came to be officially called
executive orders, largely because the first of them to be selected to begin the
numbered series had been captioned “Executive Order Establishing a Provisional
Court in Louisiana” by Richardson in his compilation of presidential papers. Signed
by President Abraham Lincoln, it was dated October 20, 1862. However, another
Annals of Congress, vol. 1, Sept. 25, 1789, pp. 88, 914-915; Ibid., Sept. 26, 1790, p. 90.
James D. Richardson, comp., A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents,
vol. 1 (New York: Bureau of National Literature, 1897), p. 56.
John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, vol. 30 (Washington: GPO,
1939), pp. 343-344. James D. Richardson (see note 2, above), who had compiled and
published the first thorough collection of presidential papers in 1895, overlooked this
directive and similar such orders of President Washington.
See Robert D. Stevens and Helen C. Stevens, “Documents in the Gilded Age: Richardson’s
Messages and Papers of the Presidents,” Government Publications Review, vol. 1, 1974, pp.
contender for the position of first executive order, dated March 10, 1863, and
concerning soldiers absent without leave, appeared in the United States Statutes at
Large.5 Furthermore, the instrument selected as the second executive order, dated
April 4, 1865, and concerning rewards for the arrest of felons from foreign countries
committing felonies in the United States, was signed by Secretary of State William
H. Seward rather than the President.6 The sixth executive order, dated July 20, 1868,
and concerning the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, was
also signed by Secretary Seward and has the form of a proclamation. The same was
true of the seventh executive order, dated July 28, 1868, certifying the ratification of
the Fourteenth Amendment and ordering its publication. Indeed, both of these last
two instruments appeared in the Statutes at Large as proclamations.7 Such were the
confused beginnings of bringing order out of the chaos surrounding the issuance of
As happened during the years prior to the Lincoln Administration, a President
might inscribe upon a sheet of paper words establishing new policy, decreeing the
commencement or cessation of some action, or ordaining that notice be given to
some declaration. Dated and signed by the Chief Executive, the result was a
presidential directive. Such instruments have come to be known by various names,
and some have prescribed forms and purposes. Executive orders and proclamations
are probably two of the best known types, largely because of their long-standing use
and publication in the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).
Others are less familiar, some because they are cloaked in official secrecy. There is,
as well, the oral presidential directive, the sense of which is captured in an
announcement which records what the President has prescribed or instructed.
This report provides an overview of the different kinds of directives that have
been utilized primarily by twentieth century Presidents. It presents background on
their historical development, accounting, use, and effect. Turning to the last of these
considerations before discussing each type of presidential directive, it may be
generally said that most of these instruments establish policy, and many have the
force of law. Policy, in this context, is understood as a statement of goals or
objectives which a President sets and pursues. Whether these directives have the
force of law depends upon such factors as the President’s authority to issue them,
their conflict with constitutional or statutory provisions, and their promulgation in
accordance with prescribed procedure. Indeed, as history has shown, presidential
directives may be challenged in court or through congressional action. In the latter
case, however, difficulties may arise if Congress, through legislative action, attempts
to supersede or nullify a presidential directive issued, in whole or in part, pursuant
to the Executive’s constitutional authority, the result being a possible infringement
by one constitutional branch upon the powers of another. Congress has been more
See 13 Stat. 775.
See 13 Stat. 776.
See 15 Stat. 706, 708.
successful in overturning or modifying executive orders based solely upon or
authorized by a statute, which, of course, was the creation of the legislature.
Exercising its power of the purse, Congress has provided that appropriated funds
may not be made available to pay the expenses of any executive agency, including
agencies established by executive order, after such agency has been in existence for
one year, unless Congress appropriates money specifically for it or authorizes the
expenditure of funds by it.8 In some situations, where Congress has delegated
authority to the President, it has legislated requirements that executive orders
exercising this authority be subject to either congressional review and possible
cancellation before becoming effective, or modification, including cancellation, after
Finally, Congress has legislated procedures concerning the issuance of
presidential proclamations and executive orders. With the Federal Register Act of
1935, Congress mandated the publication of the Federal Register, an executive
branch gazette that is produced each working day by the National Archives and
Records Administration. That statute also requires the Federal Register publication
of all “Presidential proclamations and Executive orders, except those not having
general applicability and legal effect or effective only against Federal agencies or
persons in their capacity as officers, agents, or employees thereof.” In effect, the vast
majority of presidential proclamations and executive orders must be published,
particularly those prescribing a penalty. The statute also indicates that (1)
“documents or classes of documents that the President may determine from time to
time have general applicability and legal effect” and (2) “documents or classes of
documents that may be required so to be published by Act of Congress” shall also be
reproduced in the Federal Register.10 In fact, Presidents have elected to publish some
other kinds of directives, which are discussed below. All such presidential
instruments published in the Federal Register are collected in annual volumes of
Title 3 of the Code of Federal Regulations for ready reference.
The first administrative order, so denominated, was issued May 25, 1940. It
established the Office for Emergency Management in the Executive Office of the
President.11 The directive appeared to be issued pursuant to and as an extension of
an executive order (E.O. 8248) of September 8, 1939, which organized the Executive
Office of the President and made generic reference to an office for emergency
management which might be subsequently established in the event of a national
emergency or the threat of a national emergency. The second administrative order,
See 58 Stat. 361, at 387; 31 U.S.C. 3147.
See 47 Stat. 382, at 413; 48 Stat. 8, at 16; 90 Stat. 1255; 50 U.S.C. 1621-1622; also see U.S.
Congress, House Committee on Government Operations, Security Classification Policy and
Executive Order 12356, 97th Cong., 2nd sess., H.Rept. 97-731 (Washington: GPO, 1982), p.
See 44 U.S.C. 1505.
See 3 C.F.R., 1938-1943 Comp., p. 1320.
dated January 7, 1941, further defined the status and functions of the Office for
Emergency Management and was also issued pursuant to E.O. 8248.12 Thus, the
impression was left that administrative orders might be a subset of directives used to
detail further policy primarily established by executive orders. However, this soon
proved not to be the case.
The third administrative order, so designated, was a July 29, 1943, letter
transferring certain functions of the Office for Emergency Management. The next
two orders, issued April 13, 1945, concerned keeping flags at half-staff on all federal
buildings and temporarily closing federal departments and agencies in conjunction
with ceremonies on the occasion of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death. Both
were signed by Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius, Jr. A September 10, 1945,
administrative order, signed by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, indicated how
the term “World War II” was to be officially used. The next order, dated August 15,
1945, and signed by President Harry S. Truman, terminated the Office of Censorship
and voluntary censorship of the domestic press and radio.13
These and subsequent instruments denominated as administrative orders took
a variety of forms—delegations of authority, determinations, directives, findings,
letters, memoranda, and orders—on a wide array of administrative matters. In fact,
some items appeared to overlap other types of presidential directives. For example,
some international trade instruments, sometimes in letter form, were considered to
be administrative orders,14 as were designations of officials.15 In 1972, certain
instruments, identified as presidential determinations, but appearing in CFR Title 3
compilations in the administrative orders category, began to have hyphenated
identification numbers, the first figure indicating the year of issuance and the second
marking the sequence of promulgation.16 Presidential determinations, as a particular
type of administrative order, first appeared in the Federal Register and CFR in
1964.17 In general, indications are that, during at least the past 40 years, presidential
directives published in the Federal Register in forms other than those of executive
orders, or proclamations, have been denominated as administrative orders when
reproduced in CFR Title 3 compilations.
Apparently only one presidential certificate, as such, was published in the
Federal Register and subsequently included in a CFR Title 3 compilation. Issued
March 27, 1940, pursuant to a farm crop production and harvesting loan statute of
Ibid., pp. 1320-1321.
See Ibid., 1943-1948 Comp., pp. 1078-1079.
See Ibid., 1964-1965 Comp., pp. 372-374; Ibid., 1966-1970 Comp., pp. 997-1005.
See Ibid., 1966-1970 Comp., p. 1005.
See Ibid., 1971-1975 Comp., p. 1082.
See Ibid., 1964-1965 Comp., pp. 372-374.
1937,18 the instrument certified that four Washington counties were distressed
emergency areas and, therefore, not subject to the loan limitations stated in the law.19
Although there is evidence that Presidents had issued statutorily authorized
certificates prior to this time, no directives of this designation have appeared in
subsequent CFR Title 3 compilations.20
Designations of Officials
Since the establishment of the Federal Register and the CFR, presidential letters
designating individuals to hold specified official positions in the government have
been reproduced in these publications. The first, dated May 28, 1941, vested
Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes with the additional position and
accompanying duties of Petroleum Coordinator for National Defense. The second,
however, established a new position, Coordinator of Information, and designated
William J. Donovan, a private individual, to fill it.21 Subsequent designations have
been of both types—some being an additional position for an individual already
holding an official post, others being an original appointment of a private person to
an existing vacant or newly created position. The President may unilaterally make
designations where no Senate approval of the appointment is required and where he
has the authority and resources to create new official positions to be filled by
designees. Some designations are merely delegations of presidential authority to
constitutional officers such as Cabinet secretaries.22 Two more recent designations,
one in 1979 and another in 1982, were of a slightly different character: officials, by
title, were designated to have authority to security classify information at the “Top
Executive orders are one of the oldest types of presidential directive, an early
model appearing in June 1789, when President Washington directed the acting
holdover officers of the Confederation government to prepare for him a report “to
impress me with a full, precise, and distinct general idea of the affairs of the United
States” handled by each official. Like most executive orders, it was directed to, and
governed actions by, executive officials and agencies. However, some executive
orders, such as perhaps those concerning emergency situations and relying upon the
President’s constitutional authority or powers statutorily delegated to him by
Congress to respond to exigencies, were of a more profound character. For example,
President Roosevelt used an executive order (E.O. 9066) on February 19, 1942, to
50 Stat. 5.
3 C.F.R., 1938-1943 Comp., p. 1322.
See, for example, Samuel I. Rosenman, comp., The Public Papers and Addresses of
Franklin D. Roosevelt. Vol. 4: The Court Disapproves, 1935 (New York: Random House,
1938), p. 113 (certification of the proposed Constitution of the Philippine Islands).
See 3 C.F.R., 1938-1943 Comp., pp. 1323-1325.
See Ibid., p. 1326; Ibid., 1943-1948 Comp., p. 1083.
See Ibid., 1979 Comp., p. 519; Ibid., 1983 Comp., pp. 257-259.
require the internment of American citizens of Japanese ancestry who were living in
certain designated Pacific coast defense areas.
The issuance of executive orders by Presidents followed not only the practice
of state governors, but also relied upon constitutional authority, such as the
Commander-in-Chief role and the faithful execution of the laws clause, and statutory
law. Under the new federal government, the Department of State was responsible for
preserving presidential executive orders. Examples of early presidential directives
having the characteristics of executive orders may be found in Richardson’s A
Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents. In 1907, the Department
of State began to assign identification numbers to both executive orders and
proclamations, making a determined, but not totally successful, effort to include
previously issued instruments of both types in this accounting.24 The numbering of
executive orders began with an October 20, 1862, instrument signed by President
Lincoln. The Federal Register Act of 1935 effectively required that both executive
orders and proclamations be published in the Register.25 The first executive order so
published was E.O. 7316 of March 13, 1936, concerning the enlargement of the Cape
Romain migratory bird refuge in South Carolina. Beginning with this instrument, all
subsequent presidential executive orders have been reproduced in CFR Title 3
compilations. Regulations governing the preparation, presentation, filing, and
publication of executive orders and proclamations are prescribed in E.O. 11030, as
Indications are that only one presidential general license, as such, was published
in the Federal Register and subsequently included in a CFR Title 3 compilation.
Issued December 13, 1941, shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and
congressional declarations of war on Japan and Germany,26 the general license,
signed by President Roosevelt, authorized the conduct of certain export transactions
otherwise prohibited during wartime by the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917, as
amended. It also delegated to the Secretary of the Treasury responsibility to regulate
such transactions.27An emergency action taken to assist the prosecution of the war,
the general license facilitated the shipment of material to U.S. allies for that effort.
No directives of this designation have appeared in subsequent CFR Title 3
Homeland Security Presidential Directives
In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade
Center in New York City and the Pentagon in suburban Washington, DC, President
George W. Bush established, with E.O. 13228 of October 8, 2001, the Office of
Laurence F. Schmeckebier and Roy B. Eastin, Government Publications and Their Use,
2nd revised edition (Washington: Brookings Institution, 1969), p. 341.
See 44 U.S.C. 1505.
See 55 Stat. 795, 796.
3 C.F.R. 1938-1943 Comp., p. 1328.
Homeland Security and the Homeland Security Council within the Executive Office
of the President to assist with the planning and coordination of federal efforts to
combat terrorism and maintain the domestic security of the United States. On
October 29, 2001, the President issued the first instrument in a new series
denominated Homeland Security Presidential Directives (HSPDs) “that shall record
and communicate presidential decisions about the homeland security policies of the
United States.” Additional details about the issuance of HSPDs were not
immediately available, but they apparently are not being published in the Federal
Register. The initial directive concerned the organization and operation of the
Homeland Security Council; the second, also issued on October 29, pertained to
combating terrorism through immigration policies.
Only two presidential interpretations, denominated as such, have appeared in the
Federal Register and CFR Title 3 compilations. The first, dated May 20, 1942, and
signed by President Roosevelt, was a clarification and interpretation of E.O. 9128 of
April 13, 1942, concerning functions of the Department of State and the Board of
Economic Warfare.28 The second, dated November 5, 1943, was actually a letter to
Attorney General Francis Biddle from President Roosevelt. It concerned the
construction of E.O. 9346 of May 27, 1943, regarding the insertion in government
contracts of a provision obligating signatory contractors not to discriminate against
any employee or applicant for employment on account of race, creed, color, or
national origin.29 Neither instrument was actually a presidential directive, but both
did interpret previously issued directives. Furthermore, it could be argued that the
President might have asked the Attorney General to prepare and issue these
interpretations on his behalf, but apparently wished to offer his own viewpoint in
these two instances.30
Letters on Tariffs and International Trade
Presidential letters on tariffs and international trade have appeared in the
Federal Register and the CFR since the beginning of their publication. The earliest,
dated March 20, 1936, and addressed to the Secretary of the Treasury, directs the
continuation of duties on imported goods produced by certain specified countries.31
Indeed, the Secretary of the Treasury appears to be the recipient of all such published
letters appearing in CFR Title 3 compilations through 1978. The last such letter to
date to appear in these compilations was sent jointly to the Speaker of the House and
the President Pro Tempore of the Senate on January 4, 1979. Presidential letters and
memoranda on matters other than tariffs and international trade are sometimes
Ibid., 1938-1943 Comp., pp. 1329-1330.
Ibid., 1943-1948 Comp., p. 1084.
The published legal interpretations of the Attorneys General appear in periodical volumes
of the Official Opinions of the Attorney General of the United States for the years 17891974 and in the succeeding Opinions of the Office of Legal Counsel of the United States
Department of Justice for the years 1977 to date.
See 3 C.F.R., 1936-1938 Comp., p. 419.
denominated as administrative orders and appear as such in CFR Title 3 compilations
CFR Title 3 compilations for the 1938-1943 and 1943-1948 periods contain the
texts of 12 presidential directives denominated as military orders.32 The first of these
was issued on July 5, 1939, and the last on October 18, 1948. Ten of them bear the
signature of President Roosevelt; the other two were signed by President Truman.
These directives appear to have been issued by the President in conjunction with the
execution of his duties as Commander-in-Chief and pertain to matters concerning
armed forces administration and personnel. Indeed, half of them bear the
Commander-in-Chief title below the President’s signature. Moreover, while all of
them make reference to “the authority vested in me as President of the United States
and as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States,” two also
cite a specific Article of War and six also cite explicit statutory authority for their
issuance. No directives of this designation were subsequently produced in the
Federal Register or CFR Title compilations until November 2001, when President
George W. Bush issued a controversial military order on the detention, treatment, and
trial, by military tribunals, of noncitizens alleged to be terrorists.33
National Security Instruments
Shortly after the creation of the National Security Council (NSC) in 1947,
supporting staff began producing four types of policy papers: basic comprehensive
policy statements on a broad variety of national security problems, together with
pertinent political, economic, and military implementation strategies; situation
profiles of large geographic areas or specific countries; assessments of mobilization,
arms control, atomic energy, and other functional matters; and organizational
statements on NSC, foreign intelligence, and internal security structure and activities.
The initial products in the series reportedly were of the geographical type; the first
comprehensive policy statement was completed and given NSC approval in
The early NSC policy papers were initiated by the council’s members, executive
secretary, and supporting staff. Some ideas were also drawn from studies and reports
prepared by the State-Army-Navy-Air Force Coordinating Committee, which was
subsequently dissolved in 1949. The Department of State “was the most important
single source of project requests, with the Defense Department a close second.”
Moreover, the early council papers were drafted primarily by the policy planning staff
of the Department of State.35 Some of these papers came before the NSC for
See Ibid., 1938-1943 Comp., pp. 1306-1308; Ibid., 1943-1948 Comp., pp. 1074-1075.
Federal Register, vol. 66, Nov.16, 2001, pp. 57833-57836.
Stanley L. Falk, “The National Security Council Under Truman, Eisenhower, and
Kennedy,” Political Science Quarterly, vol. 79, Sept. 1964, pp. 409-410.
Ibid.; Sidney W. Souers, “Policy Formulation for National Security,” American Political
information or served solely as a basis for discussion. However, others, containing
policy recommendations, eventually reached the President. His signature indicated
approval of the proposed policy.36 Also, according to the first NSC executive
secretary, if implementing legislation was required for the new policy, it was
prepared by the appropriate department(s) and cleared in the usual way through the
Bureau of the Budget before submission to Congress.37 Nonetheless, a new type of
presidential directive was in the making. By the time President Dwight D.
Eisenhower took office, approximately 100 NSC papers mandated operative policy.38
With each succeeding President, national security instruments of varying
denominations and character evolved from the NSC policy papers. In general, they
were not required to be published in the Federal Register, were usually security
classified at the highest level of protection, and were available to the public after a
great many years had elapsed, usually at the official library of the President who had
approved them. Many of the more recent ones remain officially secret. The national
security instruments of the past several administrations are briefly profiled.
NSC Policy Papers. The production of NSC policy papers continued under
President Eisenhower. Almost any official in the NSC system, from the President on
downward, could suggest topics for policy papers. In response, a preliminary staff
study might be prepared within the NSC Planning Board, a new body composed of
assistant secretary-level officers representing agencies having statutory or
presidentially designated membership on the council. A first draft, drawn from the
preliminary staff study, would be produced by the agency having primary policy
interest, followed by various reviews, revisions, and, ultimately, presentation to the
President. A new component of the NSC policy papers during this period was a
“financial appendix” indicating the fiscal implications of proposed policy.39 The
sequential numbering system for NSC papers that had been begun by the Truman
Administration was continued by the Eisenhower Administration. About 270-300
NSC policy papers were accounted for at the end of President Eisenhower’s second
term. Many of them went through major revisions after their initial issuance, some
undergoing three or four such overhauls. Indeed, in their preparations for their
successors, Eisenhower Administration officials updated almost every operative NSC
paper, approving no fewer than 18 revamped policies during Eisenhower’s last month
Science Review, vol. 43, June 1949, pp. 539-540.
Falk, “The National Security Council Under Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy,” pp. 410411.
Souers, “Policy Formulation for National Security,” p. 541.
Robert Cutler, “The Development of the National Security Council,” Foreign Affairs, vol.
34, Apr. 1956, p. 449.
Falk, “The National Security Council Under Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy,” pp. 421422; Cutler, “The Development of the National Security Council,” p. 450.
I. M. Destler, “The Presidency and National Organization,” in Norman A. Graebner, ed.,
The National Security: Its Theory and Practice, 1945-1960 (New York: Oxford University
National Security Action Memoranda. During the Presidency of John F.
Kennedy, NSC policy papers were superseded by a new type of instrument
denominated National Security Action Memoranda (NSAM). Their generation began
with a Cabinet official or a senior presidential assistant. This manager coordinated
development of a draft position paper with other responsible individuals, often
through the use of ad hoc interdepartmental working groups. Fiscal considerations
were integrated into the body of the document and no longer appeared in a separate
“financial appendix.” Discussion of and debate over the final text continued all the
way to and into the Oval Office. Once the President approved the recommendations
of the position paper, his decision was recorded by responsible agency or NSC staff
in a brief NSAM.41 President Lyndon B. Johnson largely continued these
arrangements, and approximately 370 NSAMs were produced during the KennedyJohnson years.
National Security Study Memoranda and National Security Decision
Memoranda. When Richard Nixon became President, he appointed Henry
Kissinger as his national security adviser. Kissinger recruited a substantial and
influential NSC staff, and they produced national security position papers which were
designated National Security Study Memoranda (NSSM). They were developed
through the use of various interdepartmental working groups composed of high level
representatives from pertinent agencies.42 Beginning with a study answering 26
questions on Vietnam, multiple NSSMs were immediately assigned.43 During his
first hundred days, Kissinger reportedly called for the preparation of 55 such study
memoranda, with a total of 85 inaugurated in 1969, another 26 initiated in 1970, and
27 apportioned during the first nine months of 1971.44
The NSSMs were among the resources used by the President when determining
national security policy, which he would express in National Security Decision
Memoranda (NSDM). However, according to a Kissinger biographer, “the most
important decisions were made without informing the bureaucracy, and without the
use of NSSMs or NSDMs.”45 Both types of instruments continued to be produced
during the presidential tenure of Gerald Ford. Almost 250 NSSMs were generated
during the Nixon-Ford years, and, perhaps more important, at least 318 presidentially
approved NSDMs were issued.
Press, 1986), p. 239.
Falk, “The National Security Council Under Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy,” pp.
John P. Leacacos, “Kissinger’s Apparat,” Foreign Policy, Winter 1971-1972, pp. 5-6; I.
M. Destler, Presidents, Bureaucrats, and Foreign Policy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, 1974), pp. 132-142.
The text of NSSM-1 appears in Congressional Record, vol. 118, May 10, 1972, pp. 1674816836.
Leacacos, “Kissinger’s Apparat,” p. 13.
Seymour M. Hersh, The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House (New York:
Summit Books, 1983), p. 35.
Presidential Review Memoranda and Presidential Directives. The
presidential national security studies and dicta emanating from the NSC system
during the administration of President Jimmy Carter were called Presidential Review
Memoranda (PRM) and Presidential Directives (PDs). Approximately 30 PRMs
reportedly “were issued in the first half of 1977, over half of them during the
President’s first week in office.”46 President Carter issued at least 54 PDs during his
National Security Study Memoranda and National Security Decision
Directives. President Ronald Reagan designated his instruments in the national
security series as National Security Study Memoranda (NSSM) and National Security
Decision Directives (NSDD). As of August 1988, at least 298 NSDDs had been
issued by President Reagan.48
National Security Reviews and National Security Directives. National
security studies apparently were called National Security Reviews (NSRs) by
President George H. W. Bush, and his policy instruments were denominated as
National Security Directives (NSDs).49 While the number of NSDs issued by
President Bush remains officially secret, an October 21, 1991, directive concerning
single scope security background investigations was designated NSD-63.
Presidential Review Directives and Presidential Decision
Directives. NSC executive secretary William H. Itoh indicated that, for President
William Clinton, Presidential Review Directives (PRDs) were the equivalent of the
NSSMs of the Reagan Administration and the NSRs of the Bush Administration.
Also, the Presidential Decision Directives (PDDs) of the Clinton Administration
were equivalent to the NSDDs of the Reagan Administration and the NSDs of the
George H. W. Bush Administration.50 While the number of PDDs issued by
President Clinton remains officially secret, his directive of February 24, 2000,
concerning the strengthening of criminal justice systems in support of peace
operations, was designated PDD-71. Also, between January 25, 1994, and
September 19, 1996, President Clinton signed eight separate and distinct PDDs
arising from National Science and Technology Council deliberations.51
Philip A. Odeen, “Organizing for National Security,” International Security, vol. 5,
Summer 1980, p. 114.
U.S. General Accounting Office, National Security: The Use of Presidential Directives to
Make and Implement U.S. Policy, GAO Report GAO/NSIAD-89-31 (Washington: Dec.
1988), p. 4.
Ibid., pp. 4-5.
U.S. General Accounting Office, National Security: The Use of Presidential Directives to
Make and Implement U.S. Policy, GAO Report GAO/NSIAD-92-72 (Washington: Jan.
Letter to the author, May 5, 1993, with accompanying full text of PDD-1 establishing the
Clinton Administration’s national security instruments.
Established by E.O. 12881 of Nov. 23, 1993, the National Science and Technology
Council, composed of relevant department and agency heads, functioned as a forum for
National Security Presidential Directives. Although President George
W. Bush and his national security advisers have provided little detail about his
directives in this series, the first such instrument, dated February 13, 2001, and
approved for public release by the National Security Council staff on March 13,
indicates that they are denominated National Security Presidential Directives
(NSPDs) and may serve double duty for both decision and review purposes. The
initial NSPD pertained to the organization of National Security Council policy and
coordination subgroups. In July 2002, President Bush reportedly signed NSPD 16
directing the development of guidance concerning the determination of when and
how cyber-attacks against enemy computer networks would be launched.52
An oral presidential directive oftentimes is captured in an announcement which
records what the President has prescribed or instructed. For example, President
Richard Nixon established his Advisory Council on Executive Organization in this
manner, with a April 5, 1969, announcement,53 as did President William Clinton
when he inaugurated his National Performance Review task force on March 3,
1993.54 By contrast, such temporary government reform study panels were mandated
on various occasions during the first half of the twentieth century and during the
Reagan Administration with written charters expressed in statutes or executive
orders. Such presidential announcements, as in the examples cited, often are
recorded in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, a presidential gazette
launched in the summer of 1965 and published 52 times a year. However, they do
not appear in the Federal Register or in the Public Papers of the Presidents of the
United States, produced by the National Archives for Presidents Herbert Hoover,
Harry S. Truman, and the Chief Executives succeeding Truman.55
Presidential findings, as such, initially appeared in the Federal Register and
CFR Title 3 compilations as instruments determining that certain conditions of the
Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act of 1954, as amended, had been
satisfied and, therefore, sales of agricultural commodities could proceed. Presidential
findings of this type were reproduced in CFR Title compilations as administrative
orders.56 In 1974, the reference to a presidential finding took on its current popular
meaning when Congress adopted the so-called Hughes-Ryan amendment to the
formulating, coordinating, and integrating science and technology policy.
Bradley Graham, “Bush Orders Guidelines for Cyber-Warfare,” Washington Post, Feb. 7,
2003, pp. A1, A21.
See Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, vol. 5, Apr. 14, 1969, pp. 530-531.
Ibid., vol. 29, Mar. 8, 1993, pp. 350-352.
See Warren R. Reid, “Public Papers of the Presidents,” American Archivist, vol. 25, Oct.
1962, pp. 435-439.
See 3 C.F.R., 1966-1970, pp. 1006-1008.
Foreign Assistance Act of that year. Set out in section 662 of the statute, it
prohibited the expenditure of appropriated funds by or on behalf of the Central
Intelligence Agency for intelligence activities “unless and until the President finds
that each such operation is important to the national security of the United States and
reports, in a timely fashion, a description and scope of such operation to the
appropriate committees of Congress.”57 The requirements of this provision
subsequently went through a series of transformations, the vestiges of which were
recently codified in the Intelligence Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 1991, but this act
still requires a written presidential finding satisfying certain conditions set forth in
the statute for covert actions to occur.58 Such presidential findings, which are
security classified, are to be “reported to the intelligence committees as soon as
possible” after being approved “and before the initiation of the covert action
authorized by the finding.” Thus, these findings are not published in the Federal
Register or reproduced in CFR Title 3 compilations.
Presidential Reorganization Plans
Congress first authorized the President to propose plans for the reorganization
of the executive departments and agencies in a 1939 statute.59 The objective of such
reconfigurations was to achieve efficiency and economy in administration. A
presidential reorganization plan, submitted to Congress, became effective after 60
days unless both houses of Congress adopted a concurrent resolution of disapproval.
Such reorganization authority, renewed periodically a dozen times between 1945 and
1984, with slight variations remained available to the President for nearly half a
century. At different junctures, qualifications were placed upon its exercise. For
example, reorganization plans could not abolish or create an entire department, or
deal with more than one logically consistent subject matter. Also, the President was
prohibited from submitting more than one plan within a 30-day period and was
required to include a clear statement on the projected economic savings expected to
result from a reorganization.
Reorganization plans not disapproved by Congress were published in the
Federal Register prior to being implemented, and also in the Statutes at Large and
the CFR (Title 3) for the year in which they became effective.
Modification of the President’s reorganization plan authority was made
necessary in 1983, when the Supreme Court effectively invalidated continued
congressional reliance upon a concurrent resolution to disapprove a proposed plan.60
Under the Reorganization Act Amendments of 1984, several significant changes
were made in the reorganization plan law. Any time during the period of 60 calendar
days of continuous session of Congress following the submission of a reorganization
plan, the President might make amendments or modifications to it. Within 90
calendar days of continuous session of Congress following the submission of a
88 Stat. 1795, at 1804.
See 105 Stat. 429, at 442.
53 Stat. 561.
See INS v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919 (1983).
reorganization plan, both houses must adopt a joint resolution (which, unlike a
concurrent resolution, becomes law with the President’s signature) for a plan to be
approved. This amendment, however, continued the President’s reorganization plan
authority only to the end of 1984, when it automatically expired.61 Neither President
Ronald Reagan nor, to date, his successors have requested its reauthorization.
Proclamations are also one of the oldest types of presidential directive, the
earliest appearing in October 1789, when President Washington declared Thursday,
November 26, to be “a day of public thanksgiving.” Like most proclamations, it
affected primarily the activities and interests of private individuals and, like many
proclamations, it was at best hortative. However, some proclamations, declaring
emergency situations and invoking the President’s constitutional authority as
Commander-in-Chief or powers statutorily delegated to him by Congress to respond
to exigencies, were of a more profound character. An early proclamation,
promulgated by President Washington on August 7, 1794, exemplified this latter use
of such instruments. Responding to rebellious activities in western Pennsylvania and
Virginia in protest of a federal excise tax on whiskey, the President called forth the
militia and personally took command. This was done pursuant to statutory
The issuance of proclamations by the President followed a tradition established
by British monarchs and practiced by royal governors in the North American colonies
and by their elected successors after the Revolution.63 Under the new federal
government, the Department of State was responsible for preserving presidential
proclamations. Numerous examples of the early proclamations may be found in
Richardson’s A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents. In 1907,
the Department of State began to assign identification numbers to both proclamations
and executive orders, making a determined, but not totally successful, effort to
include previously issued instruments of both types in this accounting.64 The Federal
Register Act of 1935 effectively required that both proclamations and executive
orders be published in the Register.65 The first proclamation so published was Proc.
2161 of March 19, 1936, concerning contributions to the American Red Cross for
flood relief. Beginning with this instrument, all subsequent presidential
proclamations have been reproduced in CFR Title 3 compilations. For the past 20
years, proclamations have been largely hortative, often being used to declare
commemorative occasions. Regulations governing the preparation, presentation,
filing, and publication of proclamations and executive orders are prescribed in E.O.
11030, as amended.
See 5 U.S.C. 901-912.
See 1 Stat. 264-265.
See Hans Aufricht, “Presidential Proclamations and the British Tradition,” Journal of
Politics, vol. 5, May 1943, pp. 142-161.
Schmeckebier and Eastin, Government Publications and Their Use, p. 341.
See 44 U.S.C. 1505.
CFR Title 3 compilations for the 1938-1943 and 1943-1948 periods contain the
texts of nine administrative documents denominated as regulations.66 The first of
these was issued on September 6, 1939, and the last on September 19, 1945. Eight
of them bear the signature of President Roosevelt; another one, signed by three
commissioners of the U.S. Civil Service Commission, indicates it was approved by
President Truman. With the exception of one brief extension item and another
relying upon an executive order, all of these documents cite explicit statutory
authority for their issuance. The Roosevelt items largely pertained to the allocation
of defense materials to nations of Western Europe engaged in war with Germany.
The regulations approved by Truman concerned within-grade salary advancements
for federal employees. While earlier examples of Presidents issuing regulations can
be found, no directives of this designation have appeared in subsequent CFR Title 3
compilations.67 Current regulations governing the preparation, presentation, filing,
and publication of executive orders and proclamations are prescribed in an executive
order, E.O. 11030, as amended. Agency regulations appear in other titles of the CFR.
Presidential directives published in the Federal Register are reproduced in CFR
Title 3 compilations. Single volume compilations have been published for the 19361938, 1938-1943, 1943-1948, 1949-1953, 1954-1958, 1959-1963, 1964-1965, 19661970, and 1971-1975 periods. Annual CFR Title 3 volumes have been published for
the subsequent years. Current full text versions of many primary proclamations and
executive orders, as amended, may be found in the periodically produced
Codification of Presidential Proclamations and Executive Orders prepared by the
Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration.
More recent executive orders, proclamations, and presidential directives, dating
from 1994, may be found at the Office of Federal Register Web site at
html]. The first 8,030 executive orders (1862-1938) are very briefly profiled in one
volume and indexed in a companion volume of Presidential Executive Orders,
prepared by the Historical Records Survey, New York City, under the editorship of
Clifford L. Lord, and published by Archives Publishing Company of New York in
Some unclassified presidential national security directives may be found at the
Federation of American Scientists Web site at
[http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/direct.htm]. For a published compilation, see
Christopher Simpson, ed., National Security Directives the Reagan & Bush
See 3 C.F.R., 1938-1943 Comp., pp. 1309-1319; Ibid., 1943-1948 Comp., pp. 1076-1077.
James D. Richardson’s A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, for
example, contains executive orders of June 10, 1921 (Alaskan railroad townsites), Sept. 21,
1921 (budget preparation and submission), and Apr. 4, 1924 (commercial research of
government officials in foreign lands), setting regulations, as well as an undenominated
instrument of Nov. 8, 1921 (budget preparation and submission).
Administrations (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1995). The Homeland Security
Presidential Directives of the Bush Administration may be found on the White House
Web site at [http://www.whitehouse.gov].