Policy Planning Staff Files

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State (Webb)


Subject: State Department Participation in the NSC.

Participants: State: National Security Council:
Mr. Webb Admiral Souers
Mr. Kennan Mr. Lay2
Mr. Butler
Mr. McWilliams1

I arranged a meeting with Admiral Souers and Mr. Kennan in order that we might have a discussion on the Department’s participation in the NSC. I opened the discussion by saying that the State Department was interested in reaching an agreement on how we could best furnish the President with what he needed to carry out his duties relating to the National security. Mr. Souers agreed that we all had the same objective (i.e. giving the President what he needs) and that we only needed to agree on the procedures by which we could accomplish this. I stated that I would like to discuss four subjects regarding Council procedure on which I felt that agreement was essential to achieve our common objectives. The four follow:

1. Consideration by the Council of Measures to Implement Policies.

I stated that the State Department has been concerned because of the tendency of the Military Establishment to agitate for specific “measures” papers designed to implement broad policies. I stated that it was the State Department’s belief that “measures” papers generally [Page 297]should not be considered in the NSC. I cited the cases of the “measures” paper3 designed to implement NSC 20/4 (U.S. Objectives Toward the USSR)4 which was drafted over State protests. I asked Admiral Souers if we could not have that paper removed from the agenda. Admiral Souers agreed with our position as to consideration of “measures” papers by the NSC. He said that he would take appropriate action to remove the paper in question from the agenda.

2. Role of the NSC Staff.

I informed Admiral Souers that the Department had some doubts as to the desirability of continuing the NSC contributed staff in its present role (each member agency contributes one staff member and the State Department supplies an additional officer known as the Staff Coordinator). I pointed out that the role of the Staff had never been clearly defined and that we doubted that it served a useful purpose. Admiral Souers agreed that the accomplishments of the staff had not been impressive but stated that he believed it would be a worthwhile unit if it were used as a forum for analysis of problems and a bringing together of military and political views to be taken into consideration by State in its drafting of papers. He agreed that the staff should not generally attempt to draft papers and that State should not have to submit its papers to the Council through the Staff. Admiral Souers then explained General Gruenther’s5 role as set up by Secretary Johnson in handling NSC business. Contrary to the former arrangement when the Secretary of Defense was not represented on the working levels in the Council, General Gruenther will have responsibility for the Secretary of Defense for all working level participation by the National Military Establishment.

Admiral Souers agreed with our suggestion that State needed only one man on the Staff and not two. He agreed that if we placed one good man in this role he could serve as Staff member and coordinator. I asked Mr. Kennan, Mr. Butler and Mr. McWilliams to give their attention to finding a suitable officer for this role. They are to consult with Mr. Peurifoy6 and forward recommendations to me.

Mr. Kennan and I agreed that Admiral Souers’ conception of the role of the Staff seemed to have merit and stated that we would be willing to give the suggestion a thorough trial.

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3. Implementation of NSC Papers.

I stated that the State Department was concerned, that: whereas we were required to submit reports of progress of our implementation of NSC papers, no action was taken when we reported failure of other agencies to carry out their assigned responsibilities. The case in point is NSC 13/2 (U.S. Policy Toward Japan)7 on which State has reported failure by the Military Establishment and General MacArthur8 in carrying out the provisions of the paper. I asked Admiral Souers how he thought this should be taken care of. Admiral Souers said he had not been aware of this problem but thought that there were several ways which it might be handled. We agreed that Mr. Lay and Mr. McWilliams would get together and prepare a paper suggesting ways of handling this issue.

4. Objectives.

I stated that we were aware of the President’s need in having an overall summary of our objectives in the field of foreign relations to help him with the many decisions he has to make. We recognize the need of the Military to have an estimate of our objectives so that they can plan their budget; of the Budget Director so that he can plan an overall budget; of all the other government agencies so that their programs can be tied in to our foreign program. I asked Mr. Kennan to outline what we planned in this regard.

Mr. Kennan said that the Policy Planning Staff planned to draw up annually a review of our Foreign Policy to cover where we have been and where we are going. The paper, which would be an estimate, would attempt to forecast the areas and projects to which we should give primary attention. It would’ attempt to give some broad dollar estimates in needs for specific programs such as European Recovery Program. It will attempt to present a framework within which all government agencies could make plans for the following twelve months. Mr. Kennan said that his staff was starting preliminary work on this project and estimated that it would take two or three months to complete. Admiral Souers thought this was an excellent idea and belived that it would be a great help to the President.

Admiral Souers and I agreed that Mr. Lay and Mr. McWilliams would get up a paper putting in writing the agreements which we reached in this meeting.

James E. Webb
  1. James S. Lay, Jr., Assistant Executive Secretary of the National Security Council.
  2. William J. McWilliams, Assistant to the Director of the Executive Secretariat, Department of State.
  3. Of March 30, p. 271.
  4. NSC 20/4 is identified in footnote 1, p. 271.
  5. Maj. Gen. Alfred M. Gruenther, Director of the Joint Staff, Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  6. John E. Peurifoy, Assistant Secretary of State for Administration.
  7. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. vi, p. 858.
  8. General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, Commanding General, United States Army Forces in the Pacific; Supreme Commander, Allied Powers in Japan.