86. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for American Republic Affairs (Braden) to Secretary of State Byrnes1

After my February 6, 1946, conversation with you1 when I expressed my opposition to the idea of making permanent the Office of Research and Intelligence, Staff Committee memorandum SC–185 treating this same subject was received by me. Because of the vital issues raised in this document, I respectfully submit to you my views in the premises.

I believe in doing first things first. In order that the Department of State and Foreign Service may competently perform the functions assigned to them by law, it has long been apparent to those of us who have been operating in our foreign diplomatic missions that the first things are:(a) to rebuild the morale which has suffered serious damage [Page 215] during recent years; (b) to support the Department and Foreign Service with adequate personnel, funds, and facilities; and (c) to make such changes in organization and administration as may be clearly indicated as the result of careful analysis and study.

“Intelligence” as used in SC–185, is just another name for “Information” which the Department and the Foreign Service have been gathering, reporting and analyzing, and on the basis of which foreign policy has been formulated for 150 years. These activities are at the core of the Department’s functions. If its performance is to be improved, we must build on, strengthen and support our existing organization.

SC–185 advocates adoption of a new, preconceived plan developed outside of the Department by people obviously unfamiliar with the Department and Foreign Service and their needs and work. Its net result would be not to strengthen the existing organization of the Department, but to implant upon the Department another already established organization, cutting across and dividing the basic responsibilities of the Department’s geographical offices. In effect it attaches a “booster” without first diagnosing what is wrong and then repairing the motor.

The plan in SC–185 is based upon the false premise that in the formulation of foreign policy there are two separate and distinct processes—(1) the analysis, evaluation and interpretation of facts bearing on problem; and (2) the decision as to what should be done. The fact is that in diplomacy the decisions which make policy must at every step be intimately related to the most thorough knowledge and analysis of conditions, problems, personalities and national characteristics. The geographical offices cannot be relieved, as this plan proposes, of the “burden” of gathering the fullest possible information on the problems with which they deal, and be expected to operate efficiently.

To make permanent the plan now proposed, far from clarifying the Department’s operations, as is claimed in SC–185, would produce duplication, divided responsibility and unwarranted expense, with resulting inefficiency and confusion.

The staff which, under SC–185, would take on this vital responsibility is unproven and without diplomatic training. It has been qualified by no stiff examinations as has our Foreign Service. It has scant experience in the rough and tumble of the field.

I will not encroach upon your valuable time by answering in detail the many arguments presented in SC–185, but do respectfully call your attention to the following points:

The statement that only the ORI can provide the right kind of professionally trained personnel disregards completely the far higher professional training, qualifications and experience of the Foreign Service and Department, whose loyalty and integrity have been proven not merely over a few years but for decades. Moreover, the geographical [Page 216] divisions are staffed with men thoroughly familiar with the problems to be studied, and therefore far more able to make analytical studies fit the practical needs of our foreign relations.
The argument that fact finding must be separated from policy decision may hold true in ascertaining facts about a military situation, but is completely invalid for the purpose of evaluating and interpreting political situations.
The analogies to juridical practices are not pertinent.
The paper complains that the morale of the ORI has deteriorated in the last few months because of the uncertainties surrounding its continuance. The Foreign Service morale has gone down also, but only after years of neglect and worse. The morale of the Department and Foreign Service organizations would suffer disastrously if a totally new organization were given responsibility for this essential aspect of their work. The reporting of our Foreign Service would certainly suffer if the officers in the field knew their reports were no longer to go directly to those responsible for policy decisions, but merely into a mechanical research operation. If their reports are to go to both, there would result the costly duplication to which I have already referred.
The criticism of ARA’s analysis section is unjustified and uninformed. Admittedly lacking in personnel and space, this section has been of great service precisely because it operates as an integral part of the geographical office and is in constant contact with the problems which that office faces.
It is not surprising that SC–185 evidences such a complete lack of knowledge of the operations of the geographical divisions and of the Foreign Service, since ORI has no one experienced in this work. Nor have my principal assistants and I ever been consulted by the ORI as to our operations and organization. That no difference of opinion on this subject was evidenced until October 27, 1945, is due to the fact that neither my assistants nor I ever heard of the proposed plan until October 31, 1945.

There is a relatively small job of correlation for a central intelligence office to do. Among the first things to be done would be to establish an efficient filing unit in the Department. A small staff could be set up to bring together in one place the information received from the various geographical areas, to maintain liaison with the interdepartmental intelligence organization and other agencies. To direct and supervise work of this kind I recommend the establishment of a small committee, consisting of the two political assistant secretaries and the Assistant Secretary for Administration who would be the chairman.

I am, however, emphatically opposed to superimposing on the geographical offices and the Foreign Service another organization which would duplicate their basic responsibility for analyzing and interpreting [Page 217] the situations on which they must everyday—and frequently with the utmost speed—recommend decisions of policy. Rather than create this duplication, we must first strengthen the geographical offices and Foreign Service with the personnel, space, and administrative services that are so badly needed and for which we have been pleading for years.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Records of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research: Lot 58 D 776, Birth of the Intelligence Organization in the Department of State. No classification marking.
  2. No record of this conversation has been found.