Reagan Roundtable: Big Peace blog Posts NSDD-32, Reagan’s “Grand Strategy”

Big Peace blogger Sun Tzu has dug into the historical archives to post NSDD-32, the cornerstone document for coordinating the Reagan administration’s foreign, defense and intelligence policies ( Hat tip to Col. Dave).

“NSDD” stands for “National Security Decision Directive”. In essence, the document is an executive order issued through the National Security Council to executive branch agencies represented or under the supervision of the NSC. A NSDD (or “PDD” in Democratic administrations) carries the force of law and is often highly classified, frequently being used for presidential “findings” for approving covert operations, as well as to set national security policy.

NSDD-32: Ronald Reagan’s Secret Grand Strategy



May 20, 1982

National Security Decision
Directive Number 32


I have carefully reviewed the NSSD 1-82 study in its component parts, considered the final recommendations of the National Security Council, and direct that the study serve as guidance for U.S. National Security Strategy.

Our national security requires development and integration of a set of strategies, including diplomatic, informational economic/political, and military components. NSSD 1-82 begins that process. Part I of the study provides basic U.S. national objectives, both global and regional, and shall serve as the starting point for all components of our national security strategy.

The national security policy of the United States shall be guided by the following global objectives:

To deter military attack by the USSR and its allies against the U.S., its allies, and other important countries across the spectrum of conflict; and to defeat such attack should deterrence fail.
To strengthen the influence of the U.S. throughout the world by strengthening existing alliances, by improving relations with other nations, by forming and supporting coalitions of states friendly to U.S. interests, and by a full range of diplomatic, political, economic, and information efforts.
To contain and reverse the expansion of Soviet control and military presence throughout the world, and to increase the costs of Soviet support and the use of proxy, terrorist, and subversive forces.
To neutralize the efforts of the USSR to increase its influence through its use of diplomacy, arms transfers, economic pressure, political action, propaganda, and disinformation.
To foster, if possible in concert with our allies, restraint in Soviet military spending, discourage Soviet adventurism, and weaken the Soviet alliance system by forcing the USSR to bear the brunt of its economic shortcomings, and to encourage long-term liberalizing and nationalist tendencies within the Soviet Union and allied countries.
To limit Soviet military capabilities by strengthening the U.S. military, by pursuing equitable and verifiable arms control agreements, and by preventing the flow of militarily significant technologies and resources to the Soviet Union.
To ensure the U.S. access to foreign markets, and to ensure the U.S. and its allies and friends access to foreign energy and mineral resources.
To ensure U.S. access to space and the oceans.
To discourage further proliferation of nuclear weapons.
To encourage and strongly support aid, trade, and investment programs that promote economic development and the growth of humane social and political orders in the Third World.
To promote a well-functioning international economic system with minimal distortions to trade and investment and broadly agreed and respected rules for managing and resolving differences.
In addition to the foregoing, U.S. national security policy will be guided by the operational objectives in specific regions as identified in Parts I and III of the study.

Read the rest here.

Normally, for important NSDD, there will be several preliminary meetings of principals (the statutory members of the NSC) or their key deputies, before the text of the NSDD is prepared by the NSC adviser or executive director (sort of the chief of staff of the NSC) and the White House Counsel before it is formally approved by the NSC and signed by the President. This however, is not set in stone. Presidents are free to determine the NSC procedures of their administrations or ignore them if it suits their purpose. It is hard to imagine Richard Nixon fully briefing his SECSTATE William Rogers on anything of importance, much less doing it through Kissinger’s NSC, or JFK permitting any kind of bureaucratic structure to constrain his prerogatives.

NSDD-32 was prepared under the auspices of Reagan’s second NSC Adviser, “Judge” William P. Clark, who succeeded the hapless William V. Allen. Clark was the most conservative of Reagan’s many NSC Advisers and, as a California political crony of the president, the only Washington outsider. As a result, Clark was in tune with DCI William Casey and UN Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick, hostile toward the views of State Department Soviet experts and far more interventionist than the top officials at Cap Weinberger’s OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense). Clark had previously served at State as Deputy Secretary under Al Haig, an experience that did not leave him with a good impression of the loyalty of senior State Department officials to the administration’s foreign policy goals.

The activist “we win, they lose” strategy laid out NSDD-32 reflects Clark’s alignment with William Casey and it is very hard to credit Reagan’s national security strategy looking like NSDD-32 if it had been concocted by Colin Powell, Frank Carlucci and George Schultz, making Clarks brief tenure of critical historical importance. Powell, Carlucci and Schultz are all fine public servants but were disinclined by temperment and institutional loyalty to have articulated a strategy that “went on offense”; though, in fairness to Schultz, as SECSTATE he made very effective diplomatic use of Reagan Doctrine programs that State consistently opposed ( Contra aid, covert aid to the Afghan Mujahedin, UNITA and RENAMO) to extract concessions from the Soviets at the bargaining table.