President Reagan has decided to end the long-standing presidential practice of receiving formal daily briefings from his national security affairs adviser -- further deemphasizing the role of Richard V. Allen, who now holds that job -- and to put a new emphasis on a committee of policymakers.
As part of a continuing effort to bring order to his often-fractious foreign policy high command, the president is receiving his daily national security report from Allen in written form only, according to senior White House sources. The sources also said that the president has decided to set aside time three mornings a week for meetings with his entire top echelon of national security policy: Vice President Bush, Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr., Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger and Central Intelligence Agency Director William J. Casey, plus Allen and top White House aides Edwin Meese III, James A. Baker III and Michael K. Deaver.
Top presidential advisers said that the president hoped his new format would serve to emphasize the collegial nature and team-player requisites of his Cabinet government.
The moves come amid reverberations from the most recent round of personal infighting and private consternation within Reagan's national security inner circle. The latest problem began with criticism from two of Haig's deputies of the performance of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick -- which renewed the concerns of the president and his senior White House officials about Haig's willingness to perform as a player on the Reagan team.
The problem continued through published reports that Allen, in discussions with reporters, was sharply critical of Haig. The reports prompted considerable unhappiness with Allen on the part of Haig, his associates and some White House officials.
Senior presidential aides said the decision on the new policy, put into effect last week, was made by the president after consultation with his top staff advisers, notably Meese, Baker and Deaver.
"A decision has been made to streamline the president's schedule," one of Reagan's senior advisers said. "It is not intended to reflect on Dick Allen or Al Haig or anyone else."
In practice, however, the change does reflect on Allen because every national security affiars adviser has given daily briefings to the president since the job was formalized in the Kennedy White House with the appointment of McGeorge Bundy. And it reflects upon Haig in that the formalized inclusion on the president's schedule three days a week of the eight-person committee known as the National Security Planning Group amounts to the regular participation of two officials -- the defense secretary and the CIA director -- who had not previously been part of the president's routine morning policy discussions.
This means that the president will be meeting regularly with virtually his entire national security council. While the entire group will be included on the president's schedule every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, it will not actually meet quite that often, according to one senior White House aide. The meetings will be convened any time any of the members feels there is a matter that ought to be discussed, he said.
"We expect that the group will meet at least a couple of times each week. . . . The reason for the change is that issues have often surfaced in the morning briefings that affected not only State, but Defense, the CIA and others -- and they weren't there. Now they will be. It's an extension of cabinet government, really."
Before last week, the president had been receiving oral national security briefings from Allen each morning, along with a written daily intelligence report sent over by the CIA. Those morning briefings were attended by Bush and either Haig or Deputy Secretary of State William P. Clark, plus Meese, Baker and Deaver and Bush's top aide, Adm. Daniel Murphy.
Beginning last week, the president began receiving his national security information from a written report prepared by Allen on the basis of material received from the CIA and the departments of state and defense, according to a presidential aide.
"I think every president feels that it clarifies a briefer's mind to first put [his thoughts] down on paper," this presidential adviser said. ". . . Each morning, if Dick Allen wants to see the president, he will be able to do so.Also, every time Al Haig wants to see the president, he will be able to see him."
Allen, who assumed office in January with the understanding that his job would not be as commanding in scope as it was in the era of two of his more famous predecessors, Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, was asked in a telephone interview if he considered the new format a reduction of his duties. "Not at all," he said. "I suppose it could seem that way. But not at all. We are trying to make better use of the president's time. I'm altogether enthusiastic about the new schedule."
Now, he said, the president will read his national security briefing, and then Allen will appear in the Oval Office for the first five minutes of the regularly scheduled morning meeting that the president has with Meese, Baker and Deaver -- "just to see if there is anything that needs to be clarified."
The private conflicts and all-too-public turf fights that have marred the first 5 1/2 months of the Reagan presidency were triggered by -- and continued to revolve around -- his secretary of state, Haig.
In a memo to the president delivered on Inauguration Day, Haig sought to structure administration machinery to put him in control of all national security policy-making. One senior State Department official later recalled that Haig had told him at the time that he was hoping to "steal their underwear before they realized their pants are unbuttoned."
But other officials, notably Weinberger, felt the tugging at the seat of their power and reacted with memos of their own.
The most recent, the criticism of Kirkpatrick, came when Haig and those close to him had been striving to convince the president and senior White House aides that he was anxious to be a fully-functioning team player on the Reagan squad.
An administration official familiar with the thinking of the president and his top White House aides said he believes that, even in the wake of the Kirkpatrick affair, Reagan has come to feel that Haig can function effectively and loyally on the president's team. This official said, however, that he is not sure that this feeling is universal in the White House -- and he mentioned Meese as one who still harbors private doubts about Haig.
Though Haig has caught most of the headlines in these incidents of contention, Reagan aides believe it is the president who has suffered most. He has not felt comfortable enough with his secretary of state -- the most experienced of his policy-makers -- to spend a few relaxed evenings mixing private dinner and policy discussion, for example, some officials note.
In fact, some of Reagan's closest advisers, both within the White House staff and outside it, were spending much of this weekend in informal discussions about how to better expose the president to the details and nuances of international policy.