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Presidential Directives and Where to Find Them

Presidential directives are signed or authorized by the President. They are issued by the National Security Council. Many recent ones are classified. They have been given different names by different Presidential administrations:

  • National Security Action Memoranda (NSAMs): Kennedy & Johnson
  • National Security Decision Memoranda (NSDMs): Nixon and Ford
  • Presidential Directives (PDs): Carter
  • National Security Decision Directives (NSDDs): Reagan
  • National Security Directives (NSDs): Bush
  • Presidential Decision Directives (PDDs): Clinton
  • National Security Presidential Directives (NSPDs): George W. Bush
  • Presidential Policy Directives (PPDs): Obama
  • National Security Presidential Memoranda (NSPMs): Trump


  1. Executive Orders and Other Presidential Documents, Law Librarians Society of Washington DC:
  2. The Presidential Directives and Executive Orders website maintained by John Pike of The Federation of American Scientists "Intelligence Resource Program":
  3. Other miscellaneous Presidential Directives turn up on the Web. Search Google to try and find the one you are looking for.
  4. Presidential Directives on National Security from Truman to Clinton. Chadwyck-Healey; National Security Archive. 1994. 820pp. 441 microfiche, containing 2132 items.
  5. National Security Directives of the Reagan and Bush Administrations. Westview. 1995. 1032p. Texts of NSDDs 1-325 and NSDs 1-67 (incomplete). Also contains commentaries. 94-28882. E876.S5 1995. Main Reading Room.
  6. Documents of the National Security Council, 1947-1977. Microfilm. University Publications of America. Micro RR: 86/203, 86/203a, 86/203e, etc. (6 supplements). Includes NSAMs and NSDMs.
  7. Center for National Security Studies (George Washington University). Tel. (202) 994-7060. Good place to check first for directives the Library of Congress does not have.
  8. Declassified Documents Catalog (earlier title: Declassified Documents Quarterly Catalog). In earlier issues, tended to be listed under "national Security Council." Z1223.Z9D4. Ser RR and Micro RR. 1975- . Microfiche with texts of documents are in Micro RR.
  9. The Declassified Documents Retrospective Collection. Part One: Catalog of Abstracts. 2 vols. Z1223.Z7D36. (Descriptions of documents contained in the Retrospective microfiche collections and cited in its Cumulative Subject Index). Part Two: Cumulative Subject Index. ("...combining entries from the Retrospective Collections and the Annual Collections for 1975."). Z1223.Z7D36. Ser RR and Micro RR.
  10. Foreign Relations of the United States. JX233.A3 MRR. S1.1: Ser depository collection (contains only volumes published in 1969 and after). Contains a fair number of older directives.
  11. National Security Council. Information Directorate. Tel.: (202) 456-9201. Can tell you whether a particular directive is still classified or not, at least for recent ones.
  12. National Archives. Civil Reference Branch. In Record Group 273, "National Security Council." They have basically NSC documents from the Truman and Eisenhower Administrations. However, they have received copies of more recent directives on a courtesy basis from NSC as they are declassified. Tel.: (202) 501-5425.
  13. Presidential libraries. Can be a good last resort for directives that cannot be found in the Washington, DC area. Examples: Johnson and Reagan libraries. Nixon papers are at the National Archives. Tel.: (301) 713-6950
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  July 25, 2020
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