National Security:

The Use of Presidential Directives to Make and Implement U.S. Policy

NSIAD-92-72: Published: Jan 14, 1992. Publicly Released: Feb 25, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed national security directives (NSD) issued by the Bush administration through the National Security Council (NSC), focusing on: (1) whether NSD have been used to make and implement U.S. policy; (2) whether congressional committees have received copies of NSD that discuss policy in their areas of jurisdiction; and (3) how NSD differ from executive orders.

GAO found that: (1) it could not determine how many NSD made and implemented U.S. policy; (2) four of the five unclassified NSD summaries reviewed addressed U.S. policy; (3) if pressed to provide the information, NSC would advise the president not to provide the information by invoking executive privilege; (4) none of the cognizant congressional committees regularly received copies of NSD or were asked to review NSD before they were issued; (5) the Bush administration has not declassified any NSD; and (6) unlike executive orders, NSD embody foreign and military policymaking guidance, are classified, are directed only to NSC and senior executive branch officials, and are not issued under statutory authority conferred by Congress. GAO noted that it could not analyze NSD issued by the Bush administration, since NSC did not give it access to NSD.

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