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

T-NSIAD-88-42: Published: Aug 3, 1988. Publicly Released: Aug 3, 1988.

Additional Materials:


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

GAO discussed its ongoing study on how the current and previous administrations used presidential directives to make and implement U.S. policy. GAO noted that: (1) the National Security Council (NSC) has produced policy papers and presidential directives, representing the U.S. position on a broad variety of national security issues, since 1947; (2) most of these documents remain classified and are largely unavailable for congressional or public scrutiny; (3) NSC does not routinely or systematically seek congressional views before issuing directives, or notify Congress when it issues directives; (4) there is no complete listing of presidential directives issued by any administration; (5) although the administrations tailored the system for announcing and circulating directives to reflect personal style, they used the directives in similar ways; and (6) many of the directives rescinded or superseded previous directives, demonstrating the ongoing nature of the documents. GAO also noted that, of 247 publicly released directives it analyzed: (1) 47 percent established policy, directed the implementation of policy, or authorized the commitment of government resources; and (2) 63 percent involved foreign policy issues, 41 percent involved military issues, and 22 percent involved domestic matters.

Oct 15, 2018

Sep 27, 2018

Sep 20, 2018

Sep 18, 2018

Sep 6, 2018

Sep 5, 2018

Aug 30, 2018

Aug 8, 2018

Jul 30, 2018

Looking for more? Browse all our products here