Arms Control Policy and the National Security Council
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During the cold war, arms control policy was a focal point in relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. The progress of negotiations was closely tracked by observers both within and outside of successive administrations, and the outcome of such negotiations frequently proved to be a harbinger of the entire superpower relationship. Thus the process for making policy was crucial. Since arms control, almost uniquely among national security issues, involves both the expertise and equities of all the key national security agencies including the Departments of State and Defense, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, the Joint Staff, and the Intelligence Community the National Security Council has long played a central role in coordinating policy making and implementation. This process has often worked well defining the central issues, and helping to forge interagency consensus on policy directions. But it has also broken down on occasion either because the issue proved to be too difficult or contentious or because some players decided to ignore the interagency process altogether. To shed light on this variation, the National Security Council Project convened a roundtable panel on March 23, 2000, to explore the ways NSC"s in different administrations worked to coordinate U.S. policy on arms control. Participants in this roundtable represented a broad range of experiences across administrations, from Eisenhower to Clinton. Participants were asked to respond to a set of questions (Appendix A) to draw upon their understanding of how the decision making processes on arms control worked in relation to the National Security Council. This is the sixth in a series of roundtables held by the NSC Project, which is cosponsored by the Center for International and Security Studies at the Maryland School of Public Affairs and the Foreign Policy Studies program of the Brookings Institution. Transcripts of four previous roundtables on the Nixon NSC, on the role of the NSC in international economic policymaking, on the Bush NSC, and on the role of the national security adviser have already been published and are available on the Brookings website at http://www.brookings.edu/fp/ projects/nsc.htm. Two additional transcripts on the NSC and U.S. policy toward China and on the Clinton administration NSC will be published in the near future. These seminars have been conducted for their own independent value. They also provided useful insight for "A New NSC for a New Administration," a policy brief published by the Brookings Institution in November 2000 (also available on the Brookings website at http://www.brookings.edu/fp/projects/nsc.htm) and a book to be published in 2001. We are grateful to the participants for coming and talking with candor and insight. We are also particularly grateful to Karla Nieting for her help in organizing the roundtable, editing the transcript, and working with the participants in bringing this edited version of the proceedings to publication. Responsibility for any remaining errors rests with us. I.M. "Mac" Destler is a Senior Fellow at the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland. Ivo Daalder is a Fellow at the Brookings Institution.
from Oral History Roundtables