124.06/4–648: Circular airgram

The Acting Secretary of State to Diplomatic and Consular Offices

Plans for Emergency Action

1. The Department is formulating a new set of instructions for the guidance of Foreign Service offices abroad in drawing up emergency [Page 817] plans to be followed in the event of emergency situations arising from any cause whatever in order that the required action may be taken on short notice, in accordance with uniform standards for the protection of American citizens and American interests in general.

2. A comprehensive mimeographed circular instruction is under preparation on this subject and will be mailed to the Field to supplement or replace similar material previously sent to the Field on the same subject, such as the mimeographed circular instruction dated March 21, 1939,22 on the subject of Instructions in Case of Hostilities, addressed to American Diplomatic Officers and Certain Consular Officers in Europe and the Near East.23

3. In the meantime, the present message is intended as an introductory basic instruction to prepare all United States Foreign Service posts which will, in case of emergency, act in conformity with emergency plans prepared under this instruction and related material under preparation; and consistent with the degree of the emergency, carry out the functions required in the interests of the United States.

4. The following types of situations may call for emergency action:

Disastrous conditions in a specified area due to phenomena of nature such as:
Flood, typhoon, hurricane;
Volcanic eruption, earthquake;
Dangerous conditions in a specified area due to the possibility or existence of:
Civil war, public disorder, or riot;
Warfare between sovereign states, the United States being neutral;
Warfare involving the United States.

5. In order to be prepared for any emergency each post shall develop its own set of emergency plans and shall submit them to the Chief of Mission for approval and integration into the Mission general emergency plan for the respective country. The plan should be transmitted to the Department for its information, together with estimates of the costs to the Government for each phase of emergency. It appears logical that the plans for various posts and countries will vary according [Page 818] to the peculiar local problem. In general, however, it is considered that the problem divides itself into two main categories, namely, (1) those concerned with external matters and (2) those involving internal factors. External problems are those which include mainly the factors outside of the Foreign Service establishment; that is, they would cover the statutory responsibilities and related functions of the office in connection with the promotion of American interests in general rather than the office itself. They would involve such items as relief, protection, and evacuation of American citizens, reporting activities, OIE24 functions, and representation of the interests of the United States or the representation of foreign interests. Internal factors, on the other hand, are connected with the physical problems of the Foreign Service establishment itself. They cover such factors as office organization and personnel, protection and evacuation of employees and families, accounts and fiscal arrangements, communications arrangements and general administrative provisions. The plan, therefore, will consist of two parts as outlined below. If desired, Part I and Part II may be submitted either together or in two despatches.

6. The substance of the emergency plan shall be organized in accordance with the following outline and shall be drawn up in four phases under each heading according to the degree of the emergency: (See Paragraph 9 below).

Part I—External

7. An outline of procedures to be followed in discharging the statutory, traditional, and other responsibilities of the Foreign Service for the relief, protection and evacuation of American citizens in general; protection of American property and interests; the performance of political, economic, consular, and OIE functions; and transfer of representation of interests of the United States where required or the fulfillment of commitments for the representation of foreign interests. More detailed instructions for Part I of the plan are in preparation, and pending their receipt the Department’s mimeographed circular instruction of March 21, 1939, mentioned above may serve as a general guide where possible for this part of the emergency plan.

Part II—Internal

8. The substance of this part of the plan will consist of (A) Functional plan, (B) Security plan, and (C) Personnel plan, as follows:

Functional plan providing for normal, restricted, minimal or discontinued operations.
The contents of the functional plan will be determined at each post and communicated to the Chief of Mission.
It will include also a provision for communications arrangements. Emergency alternate communication channels within a country shall insofar as possible be designated by the Chief of Mission, (Ambassador, Minister, et cetera). Emergency courier routes will be designated by the District Communications Officer. The Department will designate emergency communications channels as required.
Security plan providing for the protection and evacuation or destruction, if necessary, of:
Classified material;
Government property, including passports, legend machines, seals and stamps, in accordance with standing instructions.
Government funds; accounts; fiscal arrangements.
U. S. $ Currency
Foreign Currency
Negotiable Instruments
Copies of Accounts not already rendered to Department
Fee Stamps
Unused numbered D. O. checks
Blank drafts
Local bank account
Trust funds for assistance in repatriating Americans, etc.
For purposes of the records and for subsequent tracing, care should be taken to make as complete a record as possible of items destroyed, stored, or evacuated.
Each post should submit to the Department as well as to the Chief of Mission its emergency security plan.
Separate detailed instructions on the disposition of cryptographic equipment and supplies are being transmitted to the Field by Cryptographic Memorandum No. 1–11, contained in change No. 3 to “Cryptographic Memoranda” dated March 1, 1948.
Plan for evacuation and protection of Government personnel and effects.

Safety and welfare of U. S. Government employees and their dependents and protection of their property:

Evacuation to an evacuation point selected by the Chief of Mission of those not required or desired at post;
Protection of those remaining at post;
Shipment or protective storage of property of American employees, including inventory and tracer provisions.

9. Reverting to paragraph 6 above, the following standard progression chart shall be applied in setting up the four phases of the functional, security and personnel plans. It will be noted that this chart as devised indicates four degrees of emergency and four gradations [Page 820] of action under (a) Functional plan, (b) Security plan, and (c) Personnel plan. Thus, the three last-mentioned plans, as designed, may be activated in four separate progressive stages as required according to the seriousness of the particular emergency situation encountered. The “degree of emergency” principle shall be adapted also to Part I of the emergency plan when developed.

Progression Chart

part ii—internal

Degree of Emergency A. Functional Plan B. Security Plan C. Personnel Plan
Phase 1 1. Normal Functions 1. Alert 1. At the request of Government personnel evacuate their dependents and evacuate or store their personal effects.
Phase 2 2. Restricted functioning; discontinue functions which can be postponed. 2. Check inventories and dispose of unnecessary items by shipment, storage, or destruction. 2. Evacuate all dependents and ship out or Store unnecessary personal property.
Phase 3 3. Perform only absolutely essential functions. 3. Retain only essential minimum of classified material and Government property. 3. Retain bare minimum of personnel, evacuate others.
Phase 4 4. Close post. Relinquish U. S. interests to protecting power. 4. Destroy classified material. 4. Evacuate personnel and evacuate or store personal property.

10. Whenever the situation and communications facilities permit, the Department’s advance authorization must be obtained for the issuance of travel orders for Government personnel and transportation of their families and effects or for other related action under the emergency plan calling for the expenditure of funds not specifically allotted. It is recognized, of course, that in extreme cases this procedure may not be practicable. Full authority, therefore, for the effectuation of the emergency plan in any country is centered in the principal United States representative in that country (Ambassador, Minister, Chargé d’Affaires, Diplomatic Agent and Consul General). That representative may on his own authority, if necessary in the interest of the national security of the United States, order the plan fully effective. This authority covers all American interests, including Americans serving abroad in a Government capacity in missions or delegations of whatever nature.

11. If advance warning and time permit, certain parts of these plans, after specific authority shall have been granted in each case by the Department, may be carried out in anticipation of an emergency. Principal officers are enjoined to bear this point in mind and [Page 821] to recommend such procedure to the Department when in their judgment it appears advisable. At the same time, attention in this connection is directed to Section 103.611 of the Foreign Service Regulations which states: “Any expenses which may be authorized may also be approved when incurred without prior authorization because of an emergency.”

12. In any case not covered by formal plans the principal officer at the post shall take all possible steps for the protection of American lives and interests in accordance with the traditions, as well as statutory responsibilities of the Foreign Service, informing the Chief of Mission and the Department fully of the circumstances.

13. The Red Cross and similar organizations cooperate with the Department and the Foreign Service in rendering assistance in catastrophes resulting from natural causes. In addition, the Department has in progress arrangements with National Defense for the possible evacuation of American citizens from certain areas should political, military or local security conditions deteriorate. Preliminary interdepartmental conversations are held as occasion warrants in respect of the most practicable evacuation plans which would entail implementation by Military, Naval and Air Forces under various commands, and in order to make necessary arrangements interdepartmentally to provide for sufficient funds to reimburse the respective Departments for expenses incurred.

14. Such arrangements depend likewise upon the formulation of an adequate, detailed, and fully coordinated evacuation plan. The Chief of Mission, therefore, should carefully coordinate the emergency plans in this connection, including estimates of costs as mentioned in paragraph 5 above, with the Service Attachés on assignment in his Mission and with such other Service personnel as may in particular instances be detailed discreetly to accumulate emergency evacuation data for facilitating liaison with Military, Air and Naval authorities in nearby areas.

15. This message is not intended to nullify recent instructions directed to particular areas apprising certain offices of pertinent arrangements already evolved. In such cases it should be found possible to reconcile with the pattern set up in the present message any special arrangements which may already have been made and to integrate them without difficulty into the respective Mission’s general emergency plan.

16. Chiefs of Missions are requested to submit to the Department as soon as possible by airgram or airmail despatch preliminary comments in connection with the problem outlined, including a statement of pertinent steps which have been taken or which are contemplated [Page 822] at posts in the respective countries to which they are accredited. All principal officers are requested to make an airgram acknowledgment of receipt and understanding of the present message.

17. Although this airgram is an administrative message designed to bring certain established routine procedures up to date, its potentially disturbing implications are recognized, and principal officers, therefore, should take precautionary measures to assure that its contents shall not come to the knowledge of unauthorized persons.

18. In the interest of economy and clarity reference in telegraphic correspondence to any feature of this message should be by paragraph number.

  1. Copies of circular instruction and of a supplement thereto, memorandum Er–13–V, were transmitted to the Ambassador in China in instruction No. 85, May 13, not printed; for text of circular instruction, see Foreign Relations, 1939, vol. i, p. 574.
  2. Circular airgram, April 28, 9:20 a.m., to Diplomatic and Consular Officers, referred to circular airgram of April 6, with particular reference to “Part I–External, paragraph 7”, and added: “This completes Department’s basic instruction for entire emergency plan envisaged by reference airgram.” (300.1115/4–2848)
  3. Office of Information and Educational Exchange.