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The Evolution of the President's Daily Brief

For more than 60 years U.S. presidents have received a daily, multi-source intelligence digest. President Harry S. Truman was the first to receive what was then known as the Daily Summary on Feb. 15, 1946. Although that first summary was much less formal than today’s product, it marked a change in the way U.S. intelligence agencies provide strategic warning and tactical insights to the nation's highest leaders.

Early Intelligence Products

President Truman's first Daily Summary
Over the years, the daily intelligence product evolved to meet the needs of the president and his national security officials. In 1951, CIA formed the Office of Current Intelligence (OCI) to consolidate the production of current intelligence. At the time, CIA analysts were already preparing a closely held, all-source weekly intelligence publication called the Situation Summary, which helped inform then-Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) Walter B. Smith’s briefings to President Truman.

Shortly after OCI was formed, the Daily Summary became the Current Intelligence Bulletin, first issued on Feb. 28, 1951. The Current Intelligence Bulletin would continue for several years, taking on a variety of forms and increasing in scope. In 1958, it became the Central Intelligence Bulletin (CIB) and, on the recommendation of CIA’s Inspector General, analysts began coordinating the Bulletin with other members of the Intelligence Community (IC). It was also circulated more widely to other national security principals.

The President's Intelligence Checklist, customized to President Kennedy's specifications.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy’s aides requested a more concise summary of all-source intelligence on key issues—something small enough to fit in the president’s jacket pocket. Three days later, the President’s Intelligence Checklist (PICL) was delivered to President Kennedy, who liked it immediately. From that point forward, the PICL remained essentially unchanged until the President’s Daily Brief (PDB), crafted to President Lyndon B.  Johnson’s specifications, replaced it in 1964.

Today’s PDB

CIA continued to produce the PDB until the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act was signed in 2004. This legislation created the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which is responsible for oversight and coordination of the IC. Today, the PDB is an IC product coordinated by ODNI’s PDB staff in partnership with the CIA Directorate of Analysis (DA)’s President’s Analytic Support Staff. It is still all-source publication that the president relies upon heavily to inform his national security decisions, and CIA analysts remain primary contributors.

President Obama receives PDB electronically.
The style, format and presentation of the PDB are based on the preferences of the current president. President Barack Obama, for example, asked CIA to explore a way to deliver the PDB electronically. On Feb. 15, 2014—68 years after the first Daily Summary was published—the final hard copy edition of the PDB for the President was printed. President Obama and other key national security policymakers now receive the PDB, six days a week, in a tablet format. Hard copies, of course, are still produced for officials who prefer printed, rather than electronic, versions.

To learn more about the history of the PDB and CIA’s briefings to past U.S. presidents, read the following related stories:

A Look Back ... The President's First Daily Brief

Getting to Know the President [Second Edition]

Historical Document
Posted: Feb 27, 2014 01:05 PM
Last Updated: Mar 08, 2018 07:25 PM