700.5 MSP/3–2752

Memorandum by the Consultant to the Secretary of State (Cowen) to the Secretary of State

  • Subject:
  • The Responsibility of the Department of State for the Mutual Security Program.


During the last two or three weeks I have been giving extensive and detailed thought to the effectiveness with which the Department is exercising its responsibility under existing legislation to assure that the various Mutual Security programs conform to the objectives of American foreign policy.1 A brief review of the Department’s previous role concerning the aid programs might be useful as background for the present unfortunate situation. Since the programs of military assistance were first established by the Congress there have been at least a half-dozen men who for more or less brief periods have exercised the Department’s authority. This authority has varied all the way from little more than a liaison responsibility to the high point of S/ISA under Mr. Cabot, who was given a degree and extent of responsibility which few officers in the Department have ever had. Unfortunately, Mr. Cabot appears to have allowed his authority to slip from his hands into those of a number of other people, with the result that the Department never exercised the leadership and control with which it was charged by the Congress. Following the unhappy S/ISA experiment, the Mutual Security Act gave coordinating and operational authority over the aid programs to the Director of Mutual Security.2 The act [Page 491] did, however, specifically reassert the control of the Secretary of State over the conduct of foreign relations. To meet this situation, S/MSA was established. As far as economic aid programs are concerned, the history of the relations between the Department and the ECA are too well known to call for any description.

I find that at present the Department is not exercising its proper role in the Mutual Security programs. This situation arises from a number of facts. In effect there is no longer a staff which works with these problems, due to numerous changes of leadership, personnel, and authority. Each geographical bureau tends to run its own part of the aid programs without reference to the other parts of the world and without any strong coordinating force from above. As a result, each of the bureaus deals directly with the Director of Mutual Security, MSA, Defense, and other concerned agencies. Any coordination which can be taken to represent the voice of the Department is purely coincidental. I do not mean to imply that the bureaus are not working effectively for their own areas: for example, the RA Office in EUR is doing a superb job, but necessarily it is concerned with its own regional interests rather than the global aspects of the aid programs as instruments of foreign policy. I find that quite naturally an outside agency might get one answer from one bureau and a second answer from another. As a result the other agencies are more or less consistently confused as to what the views of the Department are and they are normally irritated at not being able to come to one focal point. Somewhat to my surprise, I have found an amazing amount of desire in many quarters in Washington for stronger leadership and more effective guidance from the Department and an inability to understand why the Department does not assert itself. For example, in some of the briefings which Mr. Harriman received from his staff prior to his presence before the Congress, I noticed that many decisions which were taken were made subject to the approval of the Department. In brief, I believe that the Department leadership in the aid programs can and should be reasserted but I also believe it can only be done by a drastic tightening up of our own internal organization.

Two ways of accomplishing this objective occur to me. The first one would be a new Departmental directive on the functions and authority in S/MSA which would make it clear beyond any shadow of a doubt that directive and coordinating authority for the discharge of the Department’s responsibility in the aid programs resides in S/MSA, that all Mutual Security matters must be cleared through that office, and that the office is the point of contact for other agencies with the Department. Any such directive should of course be brought to the attention of the other agencies.

[Page 492]

There is another solution which offers advantages in view of the previous piebald record of the Department in exercising its authority on these matters. This solution would be to request the Congress to write into the legislation authority for the creation of a new Assistant Secretary of State for Mutual Security. This position would be authorized to continue for the duration of the aid programs and would automatically go out of existence with their termination. The principal advantage I see to this solution is that the position would carry a title and authority of long and recognized status in the hierarchy. The titles which have been used for this position have been either extemporaneous invention and, therefore, lacking the necessary weight, or they have become so hackneyed through casual use or misuse to a point where they have largely become meaningless. In my experience I have noticed that conventional titles and designations have generally been more effective. I am convinced that the Congress could with little difficulty be persuaded to write such a provision into the legislation now under consideration and I also believe that the position would greatly facilitate and improve effective coordination within the Department.


That you either authorize the issuance of a Departmental announcement greatly strengthening the authority of S/MSA, as outlined above, or approve asking the Congress to authorize a new Assistant Secretary of State for Mutual Security Affairs.3

Myron M. Cowen
  1. See footnote 1, p. 471.
  2. See the memorandum by Sheppard, Oct. 27, 1951, p. 460.
  3. Enclosed with the source text was a one and one-half page draft Department Announcement formally designating Ambassador Cowen as Special Assistant to the Secretary of State for Mutual Security Affairs, and outlining in some detail the nature and scope of the position. Examination of the Department of State Bulletin and of Department of State Press Releases for this period gives no indication that this draft Announcement was ever released.