The Life and Death of NSSM 200 The Life and Death of NSSM 200 - Index to Contents The Life and Death of NSSM 200 - Index of Contents Stephen Mumford Bio Index of Issues Comments from Reviewers


President Ford's letter on page one was written shortly after a conversation between Adolph Schmidt and Mr. Ford's secretary. The conversation concerned an invitation to Mr. Ford to write a foreword to this book. His secretary conveyed the message that since Mr. Ford was now nearly eighty, he did not wish to take on any new projects.

Mr. Schmidt served as U.S. Ambassador to Canada during the Nixon administration; he knew President Nixon well, and has known President Ford for many years. So he is keenly aware that President Ford played a vital and positive role in one of the most important population projects ever undertaken by any government. This was a definitive study, initiated by President Nixon before Mr. Ford succeeded to the Oval Office, of the grave national and global security threat posed by world overpopulation. The study and its findings were successfully suppressed for eighteen years by the only institution categorically opposed to the project -- a foreign-controlled institution whose security interests are quite different from those of the United States -- the Vatican.

In this year 1996, world population will exceed an astonishing 5.9 billion persons. In 1975, world population had just reached the 4.0 billion mark. I choose 1975 for comparison here because that was the year President Ford, as his letter notes, endorsed the population policy recommendations contained in National Security Study Memorandum 200 (NSSM 200), the authoritative inter-agency study President Nixon had requested. Ford's endorsement was given in National Security Decision Memorandum 314 (NSDM 314). The complete texts of both memoranda are presented verbatim in this book.

NSSM 200 was the outgrowth of a gradually increasing concern over almost two decades about the world's rampant and totally unprecedented population growth. In effect, NSSM 200 verified and underscored a conclusion expressed earlier by a panel of the United Nations Association: namely, that sustained high rates of population growth "impair individual rights, jeopardize national goals, and threaten international stability."

The same grim tapestry of demographic facts that led the U.N. Association to this conclusion had also led President Richard Nixon, in July 1969, to deliver his Special Message to the Congress on Problems on Population Growth. That message set forth a far-reaching American commitment to helping limit the further unchecked increase of human numbers. It set in motion a broad range of government activities, both domestic and international. It called for creation of the Commission on Population Growth and the American Future, which collected and analyzed data that would make possible the formulation of a comprehensive, realistic U.S. population policy.

Other governmental activities called for in the message included: (1) increased research on birth control methods of all kinds and on the sociology of population growth; (2) expanded programs for training more people to work in the population and family planning fields, in this country and abroad; (3) expanded research into the effects of population growth on the environment and on world food supply; and (4) increased domestic family planning services aimed at extending such services to all those who want but cannot afford them.

The complete message as approved by Congress appears in Chapter One. President Nixon understood that the greatest threat ever faced by our species is its current unprecedented population growth. Here is part of President Nixon's concluding comments: "One of the most serious challenges to human destiny in the last third of this century will be the growth of the population. Whether man's response to that challenge will be a cause for pride or for despair in the year 2000 will depend very much on what we do today. If we now begin our work in an appropriate manner, and if we continue to devote a considerable amount of attention and energy to this problem, then mankind will be able to surmount this challenge as it has surmounted so many during the long march of civilization."

We made great strides toward fulfilling this commitment from 1969 through 1975. But as the record shows, the U.S. response began to unravel in 1976 and has been deteriorating ever since. As expressed in his March 26, 1993 letter to Ambassador Schmidt, President Ford's view of the implications of overpopulation remains today the same as it was in 1975 when he issued NSDM 314. The intervening years have shown this view, shared by so many knowledgeable people, to be remarkably sound.

I was among those who predicted dire consequences if our response to mounting population pressures was inadequate -- if not enough were done to curb world population growth. Yet it surely gives me no satisfaction that so many of these consequences are now descending on us. My predictions were made in my first book on this subject -- Population Growth Control: The Next Move is America's published by Philosophical Library (New York) in 1977. With the resurrection of NSSM 200, I am sensitized once again to the grave threat to international peace, to the domestic stability of all nations including our own, and to the global environment, posed by this inadequate response.

In setting the NSSM 200 project in motion, President Nixon specifically ordered a study of the "implications of worldwide population growth for U.S. security and overseas interests." The study examines in detail the ways in which uncontrolled population growth undermines national and global security. This study is as timely today as it was in 1974. Many predictions made in the report already have been realized. None of the predictions made over two decades ago has proved to be inaccurate. From our vantage point in 1996, it is clear that many of the anticipated consequences of our inadequate response to world population growth are now all but inevitable. While the NSSM 200 study may be one of the most important ever written on population policy, only a handful of people have seen it because it remained classified for fourteen years and has not been covered in the press.

This book contains NSSM 200 and its study report just as they were submitted to President Ford. I urge everyone concerned with human conflict, both domestic and global, with the social and economic welfare of the world's families, and with the global environment, to read this book. I urge you to ponder why our political will to deal with the population problem has so strangely and tragically withered since 1976. And I urge you to help us revive it.

Research Triangle Park, NC
September, 1996

The Life and Death of NSSM 200 - Index to Contents Index to Issues An Introduction to the Center for Research on Population and Security email your comments on this section to author Stay Updated on these Issues