Statement on Signing the National Science Foundation Authorization Act, 1970.
I HAVE APPROVED S. 1857, the bill which authorizes appropriations for the activities of the National Science Foundation for fiscal year 1970.
Section 6 of the bill warrants a few words of comment. It would require the Director of the National Science Foundation to keep the appropriate committees of the Congress fully and currently informed with respect to the activities of the Foundation.
In my memorandum of March 24, 1969, to heads of executive departments and agencies, I said: "The policy of this Administration is to comply to the fullest extent possible with Congressional requests for information. While the Executive branch has the responsibility of withholding certain information the disclosure of which would be incompatible with the public interest, this Administration will invoke this authority only in the most compelling circumstances and after a rigorous inquiry into the actual need for its exercise." I reaffirm that policy here.
At the same time, there must be some limits on what information can be reported. Voluminous reporting of detailed day-to-day activities of an agency can be unduly burdensome without providing any significant assistance to the Congress in discharging its legislative responsibilities. More importantly, premature disclosure of information can seriously impair the ability of executive branch agencies to carry out effectively their responsibilities, e.g., in law enforcement or in executive branch communications leading to the development of legislative and budgetary proposals for possible presentation to the Congress.
I think that the Congress and the executive branch agencies appreciate the importance of striking a working balance between the needs of Congress for information and those of the agencies for candid and free communication in carrying out their responsibilities. I interpret statutory provisions to keep the Congress fully and currently informed with respect to all of the activities of executive branch agencies and the intent of the Congress in enacting such legislation to be consistent with the proper division of powers between the Congress and the executive branch.
Note: As enacted, the bill (S. 1857) is Public Law 91-120 (83 Stat. 203), approved November 18, 1969.
The memorandum of March 24, 1969, from which the President quoted, was not released by the White House Press Office.
Richard Nixon, Statement on Signing the National Science Foundation Authorization Act, 1970. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/240147