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Management of Foreign Policy

During the Johnson years, complaints persisted about the Department’s management of foreign policy. In a 1966 quest for greater efficiency, the Department created “country directors” in the geographic bureaus to support chiefs of mission and their embassies. These directors formulated and communicated policy guidance and mobilized operational and administrative support for an embassy’s “country team.”

Also in 1966, Johnson made the Secretary of State formally responsible for overall direction, coordination, and supervision of interdepartmental activities overseas and created the Senior Interdepartmental Group (SIG), chaired by the Under Secretary of State, to do just that. Several Interdepartmental Regional Groups were created to support the work of the SIG, chaired by Assistant Secretaries of State. On paper at least, the Department of State was in charge of the NSC policy process. In reality, the system did not work as planned and did not survive beyond the Johnson Administration. At least for Vietnam and a few other high-profile issues, Johnson still relied on Rusk, the Secretary of Defense, and his National Security Adviser, meeting through the mechanism of the “Tuesday lunch,” an extremely restricted version of the National Security Council.