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Presidential Documents: Pres. Directives

Publications of the President or the Executive Office of the President.

About Presidential Directives

"From the earliest days of the federal government, Presidents, exercising magisterial or executive power not unlike that of a monarch, from time to time have issued directives establishing new policy, decreeing the commencement or cessation of some action, or ordaining that notice be given to some declaration. The instruments used by Presidents in these regards have come to be known by various names, and some have prescribed forms and purposes." Presidential directives: background and overview. Congressional Research Service. Harold C. Relyea. 98-611 GOV, 26 Nov 2008, [i]

National Security Instruments

Type Administration Sources
NSC Policy Papers Truman, Eisenhower

National security instruments were usually classified and only become publicly available long after they were issued.

At Colby:

  • National Security Directives of the Reagan and Bush Administrations. 1995. Texts of NSDDs 1-325 and NSDs 1-67 (incomplete). Also contains commentaries. Held at Colby.
  • Presidential directives on national security. ProQuest. Electronic databases. Part I. Part II.

For more information:

National Security Action Memoranda Kennedy, Johnson
National Security Study Memoranda (review) and
National Security Decision Memoranda (decision)
Nixon, Ford
Presidential Review Memoranda (review) and
Presidential Directives (decision)
Carter
National Security Study Memoranda (review) and
National Security Decision Directives (decision)
Reagan
National Security Reviews (review) and
National Security Directives (decision)
G.H.W. Bush
Presidential Review Directives (review) and
Presidential Decision Directives (decision)
Clinton
National Security Presidential Directives (decision) G.W. Bush
Presidential Study Directives (review) and
Presidential Policy Directives (decision)
Obama
National Security Presidential Memoranda Trump

Other Presidential Directives

  Administration/
time period
Federal Register Code of Fed Regs 3 Daily/Weekly Comp of Pres Docs Public Papers of the Pres CMPP U.S. Statutes at Large U.S. Code USCCAN USCCS American Pres Proj Other
Administrative Orders 1940- yes yes                  
Presidential Determinations 1964- yes yes                  
Designations of Officials 1941- yes yes                  
Executive Orders 1789- yes yes yes yes yes   yes yes yes yes (4) Serial Set, Cong Rec+, (1)
Homeland Security Presidential Directives (some issued also as National Security Presidential Directives) G.W. Bush     yes                (2)
Memoranda (also listed under Other Public Documents)   yes yes yes yes           yes  
Letters on Tariffs and International Trade 1936-1979 yes yes                  
Presidential Announcements (oral)       yes             yes  
Presidential Findings ca. 1954- yes yes                  
Presidential Reorganization Plans ca. 1939- yes yes yes     yes yes yes   yes SerSet, CR
Proclamations 1789- yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes SerSet, CR+, (3)

 

(1)

(2)

(3)

(4) Note: Executive Orders from before 1970 that have subsequently been changed (e.g., superseded, amended, etc.) may not appear in their original form.

Sources

Federal Register

Federal Register
The Federal Register reports executive orders and proposed executive agency regulations.

Code of Fed Regs 3

Code of Federal Regulations
The CFR codifies and publishes the final regulations. Title 3 of the CFR is an annual print compilation of Executive Orders and other presidential documents.

Daily/Weekly Comp of Pres Docs

Note: The current Compilation of Presidential Documents is more up-to-date than Public Papers of the Presidents. In earlier years, the Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents and the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents included more documents than the PPP.

Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents; Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents via HeinOnline, 1965-present Best Bet
--or in--
Compilation of Presidential Documents 1993-
--or in--
Academic Search Complete 1995-
Each week the Government Publishing Office publishes in this database the President's public speeches, press conferences, proclamations, etc. from the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents and the Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents. These are later compiled in the volumes of the Public Papers of the Presidents.
Public Papers of the Pres

Note: The current Compilation of Presidential Documents is more up-to-date than Public Papers of the Presidents. In earlier years, the Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents and the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents included more documents than the PPP.

A compilation of the messages and papers of the presidents (George Washington to Woodrow Wilson)
Main Ref  J81 . B96G
The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt
Main Libr  E806 .R749. Also available at U.S. Presidential Library via HeinOnline; choose "U.S. Presidential Library" from the drop-down (at the top left) > Public Papers.
Public Papers of the Presidents (Herbert Hoover to present, except FDR)
Govt Ref AE 2.114 ; Govt Index AE 2.114 ; Online, 1929-1932, 1945-present . Also available at U.S. Presidential Library via HeinOnline; choose "U.S. Presidential Library" from the drop-down (at the top left) > Public Papers.
Each president's public speeches, proclamations and sometimes executive orders are collected and published together in an annual volume, arranged chronologically. Volumes for some presidents are also available through their libraries: Herbert Hoover, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush

CMPP A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 1789-1897. James D. Richardson. 3265-1 to 3265-10 H. Misc. Doc. 210, 53-2. Govt Doc  AE 2.113/2:  Also available at U.S. Presidential Library via HeinOnline. Choose "U.S. Presidential Library" from the drop-down (at the top left) > Messages and Papers.
U.S. Statutes at Large United States Statutes at Large
U.S. Code United States Code
USCCAN United States Code Congressional and Administrative News. Govt Doc KF48 .W4
USCCS United States code congressional service. Govt Doc KF48 .W4
American Pres Proj American Presidency Project. An amazing archive -- party platforms beginning in 1840, inaugural addresses since 1789, public papers since 1789, signing statements, State of the Union addresses, Executive Orders*, Proclamations, and much more.
(*Note: Executive Orders from before 1970 that have subsequently been changed (e.g., superseded, amended, etc.) may not appear in their original form.)
Serial Set United States Congressional Serial Set (online)
Govt Doc Y 1.1/2, numbered serially 1879-1999 (print)
Govt Micro Y 1.1/2 - Y 1.1/8 (microfiche)
The Serial Set is primarily comprised of congressional reports on legislation, but has Presidential messages, documents and treaties as well. For the 19th century many executive agency reports are included--reports on expeditions, fisheries, commerce, defense, etc. Bowdoin's paper Serial Set starts with the years of the early republic, and with a few gaps continues to the present. The online Serial Set provides access to 1980.
Cong Rec Congressional Record

Other sources

U.S. Presidential Library via HeinOnline. Choose "U.S. Presidential Library" from the drop-down (at the top left).

More information

What is an Executive Order?, Insights on Law and Society 17 (Fall 2016)

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