Embarrassment Brings Change

In 1943, Under Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius, Jr. immediately began a major reorganization of the Department of State because of the embarrassments that stemmed directly from wartime experience. As one journalist summarized the situation: “Notwithstanding the personal prestige of the Secretary of State Hull, the organization he heads has only to be mentioned in almost any circle, American or foreign, to arouse either doubt, despair, or derision.” Stettinius’ reorganization marked the birth of the modern Department of State. His reforms ensured that the Department would participate effectively in shaping the nation’s foreign relations in the postwar period.

Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius, Jr.

Stettinius concentrated on key deficiencies of the Department, particularly the poor division of responsibility for important functions, inadequate means of obtaining and disseminating information, and ineffective long-range planning. In December 1944, shortly after Stettinius succeeded Hull as Secretary of State, he issued Department Order 1301, which concentrated similar functions in the same office and related offices under a senior official, either the Under Secretary or one of six Assistant Secretaries.

To coordinate the work of the Department, ensure follow-through, and conduct long-range planning, Order 1301 created several new entities. A Staff Committee including the Secretary and his principal subordinates became the chief managerial group in the Department. A Coordinating Committee was formed to investigate policy options and control inter-office projects. A Joint Secretariat monitored Department activity to ensure that decisions were handled efficiently. Finally a Policy Committee and a Committee on Postwar Problems were created to focus on long-range planning.

Secretary Stettinius also streamlined functions overlapping the jurisdictions of the traditional geographic bureaus. New bureaus were set up to deal with trade relations, cultural diplomacy, and public information. Another important functional organization came into being in September 1945—the Interim Research and Intelligence Service, which is the forerunner of the present-day Bureau of Intelligence and Research. These innovations minimized fragmentation of jurisdiction that so frequently immobilized the Department in a crisis when quick decisions were required.