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Kissinger Becomes Secretary of State

During 1973, the Watergate scandal proved a major distraction to the nation and overshadowed any achievements President Nixon gained in foreign affairs. When the President focused on foreign policy, he was accused of trying to distract public attention from charges of abuse of power and avoiding the impeachment process. Disappointed by the Watergate scandal and tired of fighting bureaucratic battles, Secretary Rogers resigned on September 3, 1973. President Nixon named Kissinger as Secretary of State—in addition to his role as National Security Adviser. With one man doing both jobs, the problems that Rogers faced disappeared, but Kissinger at times found himself in an awkward position when, as National Security Adviser, he had to make judgments on the Department of State’s position.

Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger

Many of Kissinger’s NSC staff moved to important positions in the Department, creating an inner circle within the agency. In 1973, Winston Lord became Director of the Policy Planning Staff, and Helmut Sonnenfeldt became Counselor. In 1975, Lawrence Eagleburger was confirmed as Under Secretary of State for Management, and Harold Saunders took over as the Director of Intelligence and Research.

Kissinger was a very demanding Secretary of State; he was hard on his staff and hard on himself. He worked a brutal number of hours seven days a week, and he expected his aides to do the same. In the course of his tenure as Secretary of State, he flew 565,000 miles, making 213 visits to foreign countries. He once visited 17 countries in 18 days, and after the October 1973 war, Kissinger spent 33 consecutive days in the Middle East negotiating disengagement between Israel and Syria. Despite his self-admitted “merciless driving” of his staff, morale improved at the Department during his tenure as Secretary. Foreign Service officers and Civil Servants appreciated his conceptual abilities as a strategist. They were also relieved that under his stewardship the Department of State was once again at the center of the foreign policy process. As Kissinger tackled all the complexities that faced a Secretary of State, he came to rely more and more upon the Department’s permanent staff.

Because of growing Congressional and public disapproval of the fact that Kissinger was wearing two hats, he resigned as National Security Adviser in late 1975. Nixon’s successor, President Gerald R. Ford, named Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft, Kissinger’s deputy at the NSC, as National Security Adviser.