President Reagan has established a "Special Situation Group" chaired by Vice President Bush to debate and formulate the administration's response to the Polish crisis in an almost daily series of meetings, the White House announced yesterday.
Reagan signed a presidential directive creating the group on Monday, spokesman David Gergen said. It is composed of most of the members of the National Security Council with the exception of the president himself who is briefed on the results of its deliberations.
The group represents, in effect, the first use of the crisis management apparatus that the president last spring placed under the direction of Bush, although Gergen declined to portray the Polish situation as technically at the crisis stage.
"This is not a decision-making group," Gergen said. He said members will assess developments and formuate policy options for the president. While this is the first use of the Special Situation Group it is clearly intended to function on similar future fast-breaking global problems.
The group consists of Bush, Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr., Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger, presidential counselor Edwin Meese III, chief of staff James A. Baker III, deputy chief of staff Michael K. Deaver, acting national security adviser James Nance, CIA director William J. Casey and Gen. David C. Jones, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The group met first on Monday, Gergen said, and a second time last night for 90 minutes. Afterwards, Bush, Baker, Meese and Deaver went to brief the president.
Meese, who is supposed to supervise the National Security Council staff, missed the Monday session because he was on the West Coast and in Hawaii on a speaking trip. He did not return to the White House when martial law was declared in Poland early Sunday Washington time. He returned to the White House as scheduled yesterday.
In his absence, Baker and Deaver played larger roles.
Haig cut short an extensive foreign tour to remain in Brussels an extra day and then fly back to Washington to better stay in touch with the Polish situation.
The first of the meetings chaired by Bush was convened Sunday, before the formal creation of the Special Situation Group. Haig was not yet back and the State Department was represented by Deputy Secretary William P. Clark and Undersecretary Walter J. Stoessel Jr. Weinberger got to the meeting late, having just returned from abroad.