50. Minutes of the 170th Meeting of the Secretary of State’s Staff Committee0


  • Present
  • The Secretary (presiding)
  • The Under Secretary
  • The Counselor
  • Mr. Benton
  • Mr. Braden
  • Mr. Hackworth
  • Mr. Labouisse (for Mr. Clayton)
  • Mr. McCormack
  • Mr. Pasvolsky
  • Mr. Russell
  • Mr. Gange
  • Mr. Lewis
  • Mr. Rothwell
  • Absent
  • Mr. Clayton
  • Mr. Dunn

The Committee met at 9:30 a.m.

Agenda Items

Development of a National Intelligence Program (Document SC–172,1 Agenda Item 1)

Mr. McCormack presented document SC–172 making recommendations regarding the development of a national intelligence program. [Page 125] He called attention in particular to Annex V,2 in which were outlined the principal differences between the recommendations in the document and the plans drawn up by the War Department3 for the coordination of foreign intelligence.

The Secretary said this was a matter in which the President was very much interested. He had assigned responsibility for it to Admiral Leahy, and about three weeks ago he had informed the Secretary that he thought some action should be taken on the matter. The Secretary said he had informed the President that not much could be done at the present time. He pointed out that the reorganization bill was being considered and Congress might resent action prior to passage of the bill. About a week ago, the Secretary said, the President had asked the Secretaries of War and the Navy, and himself to meet on November 28 to discuss the subject. On November 26, the Secretary asked the President to postpone this meeting in order that the Department might have more time to consider all problems involved. The Secretary informed the President that the reorganization bill would probably not be signed for about two weeks, and he thought that by that time the Department would have its plan ready.4

The Secretary said that in trying to arrive at some compromise, it was necessary to bear in mind that whatever we propose will have to be “sold” to the President. It will be turned over by the President to Admiral Leahy, who has strong views on the matter and the Secretary said we must, therefore, seek to avoid unnecessary questions of jurisdictional conflict with the Army and the Navy. The Secretary said the plan should also be as simple as possible. He said if the military services present a plan which is not complicated, while our plan is complicated, the military plan will have a much better chance of being adopted.

The Secretary said the division at the top, proposed in the paper (between Interdepartmental Intelligence Coordinating Authority and Interdepartmental Security Coordinating Authority) had certain advantages, but he wondered whether considering all factors it would be desirable particularly in view of the President’s desire to concentrate [Page 126] intelligence service in one agency. Mr. McCormack informed the Secretary that his latest proposal called for a single top organization.

The Secretary said that in his discussion with the President and Admiral Leahy, a question had been raised regarding the participation of the Budget Bureau in making plans for the intelligence organization. Mr. McCormack said that during the war all the intelligence agencies had had difficulties of various sorts. In the case of the Office of Naval Intelligence, Admiral King had requested the Budget Bureau to advise on its reorganization. The Budget Bureau had also supervised the organization of G2 in the Army and had done much work for OSS. The Budget Bureau was, in fact, the only agency familiar with all the intelligence agencies in the Government, and was, therefore, in a position to offer much helpful advice.

Mr. McCormack also outlined the origin of the War Department’s plan for coordinating foreign intelligence. He said that General Donovan had always been a strong advocate of a unified intelligence service. Late in 1944 word got around that President Roosevelt was favorably impressed with the idea, and the Army decided some action should be taken. An Army–Navy Committee had then been set up under the direction of General Nichols to prepare a plan for a central agency for use in the event such a plan was necessary. The plan was prepared and submitted to the Joint Intelligence Committee and in essence it is the present War Department plan.

Mr. McCormack said the War Department plan does not answer a number of serious questions, for example, how to bring together the many agencies of the Government working on various problems. As an example, he referred to the problem of meteorological intelligence which was now divided among the Weather Bureau, the Navy, the Army, civil airlines, and other bodies. The Secretary asked how this would be handled under the plan proposed by Mr. McCormack. Mr. McCormack said an interdepartmental committee would be established, composed of all agencies concerned, which would be charged with establishing a program and responsibility for reviewing its adequacy.

Mr. McCormack said the idea of establishing one central intelligence agency imposed on all other agencies was very much over-simplified. He said that such an agency would have to be a very large one. However, he thought there was no question of the need for a central coordinating authority.

Mr. McCormack said that in connection with the establishment of the top organization, the question arises as to where the State Department fits into the picture. On the assumption that the President wished the Department to take the lead in the matter, the plan before the Committee proposed that the Secretary should be Chairman of the authority; that the executive officer should be appointed from the State Department; [Page 127] and that the preparation of strategic estimates should be entrusted to the State Department. Secret intelligence operations would be the responsibility of the central agency. The main functions of the agency, Mr. McCormack said, would be to harness the resources of the Government to get the most information out of all agencies and to get the best job done in each case.

The Secretary said he was sure the President had never gone into the question in much detail. He said he had probably viewed the problem only as one of centralizing intelligence operations abroad. This was the aspect of the question which General Donovan had discussed with the President. The Secretary said that at the time of General Donovan’s discussion, he [the Secretary]5 had not liked the proposal too well but General Donovan had been suggesting that the central agency should be under the President’s direction. The Secretary said he now saw the wisdom of the plan proposed by the Budget Bureau and Mr. McCormack, but he said there was still the problem of convincing the President. He also said that when the Department is ready to make a recommendation with regard to the appointment of an executive office, its case must be well prepared and presented. He said he felt that it would be better if the agency were not made directly responsible to the President.

The Counselor expressed agreement with the Secretary and pointed out that even if the President took the most active interest in the agency in peacetime, it would be unlikely that he could do this in wartime. He also expressed his opinion that a central operating agency, such as that proposed by the War Department, could not avoid important duties of coordination, and that if it were an agency of this type doing its own work, it would be unable to achieve such coordination effectively.

The Secretary raised the question as to how the desired coordination could best be obtained. He said the War and Navy Departments had had much more experience with intelligence problems than the State Department, and he asked whether they would be disposed to cooperate with the Department as well as they would with an independent central agency. Mr. McCormack said that in peacetime the State Department has certain intelligence functions which Army and Navy recognize, and he thought that the State Department’s primary responsibility in foreign affairs could be so presented that Army and Navy would recognize it. He emphasized his opinion that the central agency proposed by the War Department would be a pretext like the Joint Intelligence Committee, or else it would become so large that Congress would raise difficulties regarding appropriations.

[Page 128]

The Secretary asked whether the plan was to ask for secret appropriations. Mr. Russell said it might as well be recognized at the outset that this would be impossible. The Secretary agreed and said Congress would want to know the cost of intelligence operations, and there would probably also be difficulty in convincing Congress of the necessity for appropriations for intelligence operations carried on by each of the several departments concerned. Mr. McCormack said he did not minimize the difficulties involved in this connection. He said he hoped, however, that much of the work would be paid for by the individual departments out of regular appropriations. He suggested that the need for large appropriations could be avoided by the extensive use of working personnel in the several departments.

(The Secretary and Mr. Russell left the meeting at this point.)

Mr. Braden said he agreed with Mr. McCormack that the War Department plan was unsatisfactory but he asked whether the plan proposed by Mr. McCormack was not getting away from the real function of the State Department and the Foreign Service. He said that in the field, intelligence was the function of the Department’s Foreign Service, and of the associated services represented by military, naval, and legal attaches. The information obtained by these representatives should be calibrated by the Chief of Mission and should then flow back to the Department to the people who know how to judge its reliability and usefulness. These officers should then be able to give the Secretary all the information that is necessary. He said he thought that under the President’s directive a very simple coordinating set-up could be established with very little extra personnel.

Mr. Braden also referred to the proposed withdrawal of FBI personnel from Latin America as outlined in Annex IV to document SC–172.6 He emphasized again the importance of attempting to work out some arrangement for retaining the FBI representatives in other American republics.

Mr. McCormack said he was in general agreement with Mr. Braden’s viewpoint, but he thought that everyone’s experience with intelligence services in Washington had not been as happy as Mr. Braden’s. He cited examples of delays in obtaining information and of the unavailability of full and up-to-date information needed during the course of the war. He said it was in his opinion very important to set up an organization which will ascertain in advance the deficiencies in our information and take the necessary steps to correct them. Mr. Braden said his idea was that the State Department should be so organized that it would be able to [Page 129] do this job rather than to have it made the responsibility of an interdepartmental committee. He said what coordination was necessary could be effected by meetings of the Secretaries of State, War, and the Navy.

The Counselor said the plan proposed by Mr. McCormack seemed to him to go farther in the direction desired by Mr. Braden than the other plan proposed by the War Department, and he suggested that if the Secretary should, in accordance with Mr. Braden’s suggestion, inform the President that the Department now sees no need for any new organization, the War and Navy Departments’ viewpoint will be considerably strengthened. The Counselor and other members indicated they agreed with Mr. Braden that intelligence operations abroad should be under the control of the Chief of Mission. In this connection, Mr. McCormack pointed out that the State Department was not now staffed to do the job as suggested by Mr. Braden. He also pointed out that for various reasons the State Department’s representatives abroad frequently do not wish to become involved in the type of work which is necessary to obtain certain types of intelligence. He referred, in this connection to a recent request for information regarding the Belgian Communist Party, which our Embassy in Belgium had been reluctant to undertake, and which had been turned over to OSS. Mr. Braden said work of this kind had been done by FBI personnel at his Latin American posts but he said he had always known what was going on and had had an opportunity to see all reports before they were transmitted to Washington. If he then disagreed with those reports, he submitted his own views regarding them. He thought any conflicting views of this sort should then be reconciled in Washington. The Counselor asked how this could be done. Mr. Braden said it should be done by the working officers of the interested departments as a routine operation. The Counselor said it seemed to him that in this connection some machinery such as that proposed by Mr. McCormack would be advantageous.

(The Under Secretary joined the meeting at this point.)

Mr. McCormack said he wished to emphasize that setting up the organization outlined in the document would not do the job in itself but would be merely the start. He said there must be responsible people appointed to see to it that somebody does each of the jobs involved and does it adequately. He emphasized that the total amount of information sent in by the Department’s Foreign Service was only a small part of the inflow. Other sources included foreign broadcasts and private information. He pointed out that at the outset of the war we had in this country practically all of the information needed to bomb Japan, but it required 2–1/2 years to assemble this in usable form. This information was not in the State Department, he said. The task of making it available was much more than one of mere coordination.

[Page 130]

Mr. Pasvolsky said he would be wary of the appointment of a coordinator of departments appointed by the President, and that in place of an executive director, he would rather see a committee secretary. He also said he would not, at the present time, raise the question of who should prepare strategic estimates. He said the departments now having intelligence agencies were not going to give them up, and suggested that the question of strategic estimates be allowed to work itself out—as it would in a matter of a few months.

Mr. McCormack said he had no objection to leaving open the question of strategic estimates. He said the principal reason for making a recommendation in this connection was that the matter was included specifically in the War Department plan.

In discussing a chart of the organization, presented by Mr. McCormack, Mr. Pasvolsky suggested that the top committee (in the chart consisting of the Secretaries of State, War, and the Navy) should be broadened to include other cabinet members in order to avoid jurisdictional conflicts. Mr. Benton and other members expressed agreement with Mr. Pasvolsky’s suggestion, especially if the top committee were to meet only once or twice a year.

The Committee agreed that the discussion of the document should be continued at the next meeting.

The meeting adjourned at 11:20 a.m.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 353, Records of Interdepartmental and Intradepartmental Committees—State Department, Lot File No. 122, Records of the Secretary’s Staff Committee 1944–47. Top Secret. Drafted by James H. Lewis. The meeting was held in the Secretary’s office.
  2. Document 46.
  3. Document 49.
  4. Document 42.
  5. No other records have been found of the conversations with Truman that Byrnes mentioned. The proposed November 28 meeting presumably is the one referred to in Document 44. Later on November 27, at a meeting with the Secretaries of War and Navy, Byrnes asked for a postponement. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Diplomatic Branch Reference File, Minutes of Meetings of the Committee of Three 1944–47) See the Supplement. There is no indication the postponed meeting with the President was ever held. The “reorganization bill” referred to became law as the Reorganization Act of 1945 (P.L. 263, December 20, 1945), giving the President certain powers to restructure government agencies.
  6. Brackets in the source text.
  7. Dated November 22. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 353, Records of Interdepartmental and Intradepartment Committees—State Department, Lot No. 122, Records of the Secretary’s Staff Committee, 1944–49, Box 88F) See the Supplement.