EUR/EX files, lot 57 D 694, “Mutual Security Agency (General)”

Memorandum by the Executive Assistant to the Director for Mutual Security (Sheppard) to the Director of Mutual Security (Harriman)

  • Subject:
  • Committee Arrangements.

The Executive Order2 will abolish the International Security Affairs Committee and its subcommittees. Through this medium, and its predecessors, the interested agencies have cooperatively developed policies and procedures currently governing the mutual security programs. The question: What committee arrangements will be needed in the future?

Although the real issue is how the committee is set up and managed, at the outset some will question the need for a committee at all. The facts which support the need for some committee arrangement can be simply stated. The Mutual Security Program consists of diverse operations, employing diverse techniques among diverse peoples and situations. Many parts of three separate Government agencies are directly involved in the program. In addition many aspects of the program impinge on the responsibilities of several other agencies. The constituent elements of the program, however, all support the same foreign policy objectives; and the sine qua non of successful accomplishment is consistency in conception and execution. Committee work is not the only way to develop this consistency of course. But it is one of the more important ways by which we can get multi-agency action, with economy in time and effort.

In establishing new committee arrangements we should take advantage of some unfortunate experiences with ISAC. While there is a surfeit of uncritical judgment on the errors of ISAC, there were [Page 461] actually five aspects in which it was found wanting. To begin with, too much reliance was put on formal committee action. It has long since been proven true that the Government would jar to a halt if it were not for the informal day-to-day contacts between individuals of different agencies. Any artificial requirements that all collaboration be through a committee is nonsense of course, but the relative emphasis between the formal and informal is important. The greater your staff can accelerate the evolution of informal cooperation, the quicker we will solve the problem of “Government by committee”. A second shortcoming ISAC suffered was the lack of good staff work. Too much responsibility was put on subcommittees instead of on agencies. There comes a time in the development of a policy or a procedure when it should move from an agency to an inter-agency forum. Generally, however, the subcommittees of ISAC were formally seized with a problem too early in its development. The staff work was similarly faulty in that neither in the committee structure, nor in the agency structure was there one group responsible on a full time basis for reviewing and seeing that action was taken on the whole range of problems in the program. This was a serious gap which the Gordon shop should overcome. At heart, such a general review is a planning function in which the major problems are separated from the minor problems. The staff responsible then takes the action necessary to reach a quick solution—even though the action might be to have one of the agencies do it. A third deficiency we suffered in ISAC was a lack of discipline in controlling the gestation period of the various problems. Many of the issues in the mutual security field require, by their complex nature, considerable inter-agency exposition, discussion and reflection. Decisions on these issues many times involve overruling stoutly held points-of-view. The problem is to allow sufficient discussion and analysis to clarify the issue and develop the facts which bear upon it, but to terminate this process with a decision before discussion reaches the point of diminishing returns. Our handling of the infrastructure question is a good example of how it shouldn’t work. Disciplining the gestation period works two ways. We can get as poor results by precipitately inflicting a unilateral decision as we can by interminable discussion and analysis. Fourth of the major ISAC errors was the way the subcommittees developed. In the beginning, ISAC established subcommittees by speculating on the pattern in which anticipated problems would arise. There is no doubt that it was overdone. Moreover, membership in the parent committee carried a right to membership in all subcommittees. This led to a swelling in the subcommittees which was not conducive to brisk discussion. The last error in ISAC was that the members were not all able to speak for their agencies. It [Page 462] will be essential in forming the new committee that we assure members who can in fact speak for their agency heads. Some of these problems will be avoided by the way we set up the committees; some will be avoided by better management.

Against this background, it is recommended that initially we establish only one committee, to be known as the Mutual Assistance Advisory Committee and to be chaired by Mr. Gordon. It is recommended that no permanent subcommittees be established but that for the time being we rely upon the designation of ad hoc groups to consider ad hoc problems, with the membership to be determined by the chairman of the parent committee. It is recommended that we continue to use the secretariat facilities of the State Department. This would have the advantages of maintaining a common secretariat for both MAAC and NATO problems. State’s people are experienced in the subject matter, and it is administratively much more convenient.

One problem on which we have come full circle over the past year is how we relate the assistance aspects of the mutual security program to U.S. positions in regional groups, such as NATO. In the present situation, where authority is separated again, the State Department could establish—in addition to the committee discussed above—a committee to coordinate the agencies on those NATO matters which do not involve assistance programs. It is possible that the Departments of State and Defense would prefer this, and there might be some advantages to such a course. On the other hand, such a NATO committee would consist of the same agencies proposed for the MAAC and the agencies would be represented by the same people. Both committees would be serviced by the same secretariat and many of their problems would be impossible to separate. Establishing two committees at this time, therefore, seems extraordinarily impractical. In lieu thereof it is recommended that the MAAC also be used for coordinating non-assistance U.S. NATO positions, with the Chair alternating between your office and the State Department depending on the agenda.

There has been some discussion about whether or not in addition to a working level committee there shouldn’t also be a Cabinet-level committee which you would chair. From an institutional standpoint, such a committee would have several disadvantages. For example, there would likely be more decisiveness and discipline in the working-level committee if conflicts either had to be resolved there or else the dissenting member had to carry the burden of proof to get his own agency head into the matter. There is also a question about the extent to which a Cabinet-level committee would restrict your flexibility in resolving differences. Many such differences which occur will be between two Departments [Page 463] only. Many such differences might be resolved more readily below the Cabinet level, but above the working committee. As you know, we created a Cabinet-level Foreign Military Assistance Steering Committee at the Cabinet-level a couple of years ago. It has met once and that meeting was only a formality.

On balance it is recommended that no Cabinet-level committee be established at this time, although it is recognized that there might be other considerations which would offset these disadvantages.3

  1. Reference is presumably to Executive Order 10300 of Nov. 1, 1951, providing for the administration of the Mutual Security Act of 1951 and related statutes. For the text, see the Department of State Bulletin, Nov. 19, 1951, pp. 826–827, or American Foreign Policy, 1950–1955: Basic Documents, vol. ii, pp. 3086–3088.
  2. On Nov. 1, 1951, Harriman informed Secretary Acheson by letter of the establishment of a Mutual Assistance Advisory Committee (MAAC). This letter, also addressed to the Secretaries of Defense and Treasury, the Director of Defense Mobilization, and the Acting Administrator for Economic Cooperation, requested the addressees to designate representatives to the Committee “in order that we may have the benefit of the advice and views of your agency. It would be helpful if your designation could be made as soon as possible so that the work on the 1952 and 1953 programs can proceed.” (A/MS files, lot 54 D 291, “Director for Mutual Security”) The first meeting of the Mutual Assistance Advisory Committee took place on Nov. 13, 1951. A file of MAAC minutes is in A/MS files, lot 54 D 291, “Mutual Assistance Advisory Committee.”