Nixon as Architectural President:
Putting Management into the Office of Management and Budget
Nixon Legacy Forum
Hoover Institution at Stanford University
May 22, 2014

The Nixon Legacy Forum came to the Hoover Institution at Stanford University where Nixon administration officials who worked in the Office of Management and Budget talked RN’s effort to organize the government and insure it accomplished the vision he set out for America.

Participants included in the Legacy Forum, Richard Nixon as Architectural President: Putting Management into OMB, included: Secretary George Shultz, who President Nixon tapped first Director of Office of Management and Budget; Fred Malek, Deputy Director of OMB in the Nixon administration; and Ken Dam, then associate director of OMB for national security and international policy. Geoff Shepard, associate director of the Nixon White House Domestic Council moderated.

Photo: Dec 1, 1973, President Nixon with Roy Ash, and Fred Malek in OVAL (whpo-e1878-08a-i-2020-rp)


Upon winning the presidential election of 1968 President-elect Richard Nixon began the process of preparing to assume the presidency in January of 1969. Given his experience in government and his vision for a more modern presidency Richard Nixon knew the work that had been assigned to his pre-presidential task force was not a small one. To make the most efficient use of the time as possible President-elect Nixon set up seventeen task forces to study the Executive Branch. These task forces were to determine how to modernize and make the presidency more effective. Arthur F. Burns (Councilor to the President) was to oversee these task forces and submit their reports prior to President Nixon’s inauguration. Eleven of the task force summaries were forwarded on to President-elect Nixon on January 18, 1969. The full report for the other six task forces were forwarded to the president-elect intact as they were deemed to be most important and thus not summarized but presented in their entirety.   

 After the inauguration President Nixon sought to act upon the recommendations of the task force and reorganize the operations of the Executive Office of the President. This was done to make it more responsive to the president’s desires and would be done in part based on the recommendations of the pre-presidential task forces. President Nixon recognized the world was changing, and the federal government of the United States has grown. President Nixon sought to transform the Executive Office of the President from one where the heads of the various cabinets directed operations of that department nearly independently to one where the president had more direct input into the various activities by the departments. To study the most effective way to make these changes President Nixon authorized the creation of the President’s Advisory Council on Executive Organization. 

The President’s Advisory Council on Executive Organization (PACEO) would be led by Chairman Roy L. Ash; thus, the council would also be known as the Ash Council. Amongst many others, the Ash Council made three major recommendations. These changes resulted in the transformation of the Bureau of the Budget into the Office of Management and Budget, the revitalization of the National Security Council, and the creation of the Domestic Council. 

President Nixon’s strategy for reorganization for the Bureau of the Budget into the Office of Management and Budget was designed to add an element of managerial oversight, by the president, to the Bureau of the Budget and to reduce the number of direct reports to the president from the previous arrangements over 100 direct reports to a more manageable number. President Nixon’s strategic approach to restructuring the Office of Management and Budget included not only a restructuring of the staff but by reinforcing the idea that the nation’s budget was not a product of the unelected bureaucracy. The idea was to make clear the nation’s budget was a product of the Executive Office and the president who does answer to the public. To give that concept a visualization the Director of the Bureau of the Budget and the Assistant Director of the Bureau of the Budget were given an office in the White House to reinforce the idea that the Executive Office is responsible for and managing the nation’s budget.   

“The idea behind this reorganization was designed around the idea that you would see the different subjects that the government is going to work on. You identify the departments that have leading roles in those subjects. You form them into little councils, and they work directly with the president to develop policy and then carry it out.  So it is the president’s policy, but worked with cabinet officers who are also accountable and can be called to testify at any time.” – George Shultz

The idea that developed was “Management by Objective”. This was the idea that it was not enough to have grand aspirations but that you had to codify them into specific objectives to be achieved in the department. These objectives would include, along with the objectives, timelines, and responsibilities to measure progress against those objectives and hold people accountable for achievement. A key aspect of making this approach work was working with the departments to ensure the departments took ownership of the objectives.

These transformations enabled the president to make changes within the government and modernized the presidency in a way that continues today. These transformations revitalized the process by which the budget is managed and introduced a realm of accountability that creates oversight and direction by elected officials who are responsible to the will of the people to the budgetary process.   

The National Security Council had been created in response to the experiences of World War Two and the beginnings of the Cold War and reflected to a degree the focus of the president in relation to the balance between domestic and foreign policy. Richard Nixon came into the presidency understanding that the world was changing and had changed since the National Security Council was created, therefore changes needed to be made in how the N.S.C. functioned and interacted with the White House. Structural changes at the N.S.C. proposed by President Nixon intended to consolidate foreign policy making power into the White House as opposed to the Executive Branch at large. The innovations and changes brought to the decision-making process of the N.S.C. contributed in no small way to the foreign policy success of the Nixon Administration in ending the war in Vietnam, the opening of China, détente with the Soviet Union and the Strategic Arms Limitations Treaty that followed, as well as the peace that followed the Yom Kippur War.

The changes to the Domestic Council were modeled on the changes that had been made to the National Security Council. The intent was to consolidate domestic policy making power into the White House as opposed to the Executive Branch at large. Thus, transforming Executive Branch operations from one driven by cabinet level government into operations coming out of the White House. These innovations and changes contributed greatly to the domestic policy success of the Nixon Administration, especially given the politically divided state of Congress. Prior to the creation of the Domestic Council the president was advised on domestic issues primarily two men: Arthur Burns and Patrick Moynihan who proposed ideas from two different political perspectives, but the system did not seem to fit Nixon’s idea for increased efficiency in domestic government. To present the recommendations and proposals in a more time efficient manner Bob Haldeman brought in John Ehrlichman to join the meetings between Burns’ and Moynihan’s teams to create policy papers to present to the president. Under Reorganization Plan #2 of 1970 formalized the creation the Domestic Council based on the proposals of the Ash Council to coordinate and facilitate domestic initiatives under the direction of the president. 

The function of the Chief of Staff was also changed considerably as part of the transformation of the Executive Branch under President Nixon. President Nixon’s experiences in the elections of 1960 and 1964 had shown that the president needed to have someone manage his schedule to make the most efficient use of the president’s time. The redefined role of the Chief of Staff, based on these observations, reflected the view that politics was changing, and that the world was changing regarding how technology allowed information to go forth.  Taking these changes further the role of the Chief of Staff was also redesigned to support the other changes being made to ensure that the president made the policy decisions that would come out of the Executive Branch. These observations and changes ensured that the president’s schedule was managed in such as was so that the president’s time would be used as efficiently and effectively as possible. To fulfill these new roles, the Chief of Staff would now have absolute control over the president’s schedule and the president’s reading but was also to be non-ideological. These changes, made to the role of the Chief of Staff, would transform the office of the presidency for decades to come.  

Timeline of Leadership of the Office of Management and Budget

Management of the Bureau of the Budget

Robert Mayo: January 1969 to June 1970 (PICTURE 45-00to07)

Management of the Office of Management and Budget

Director George Shultz / Assistant Director Casper Weinberger: July 1970 to June 1972 (PICTURE )

Director Casper Weinberger/Assistant Director Frank Carlucci: June 1972 to January 1973 (PICTURE)

Director Roy Ash/Assistant Director Fred Malek: January 1973 to August 1974 (PICTURE)

PICTURE: Dec 15, 1970 President Nixon with John Ehrlichman and George Shultz in OVAL