33. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State (Bowles) to All Chiefs of Mission1



Before World War II the Ambassador’s authority was seldom challenged by any other United States representative abroad. The limited responsibilities of the few representatives of other departments on his staff caused little difficulty.

After World War II this situation was dramatically changed by the United States new role of leadership and by the shrinking of the world through modern communications. Matters previously of domestic concern now impinged on foreign countries.

The immediate post-war years saw (1) the establishment abroad of numerous semiautonomous, strong special missions; (2) the retention and establishment of military bases and missions; and (3) the sending abroad of representatives by many Government departments and agencies.

The Ambassador during these years lacked the authority to supervise, direct or control these missions or representatives. By 1948 with the establishment of aid missions abroad largely independent of the Chief of the Diplomatic Mission, the Ambassador’s authority had reached an all-time low.

The first important step to rectify this situation was the Clay Paper of February 1951, a memorandum of understanding between State, Defense, and ECA. It established the Country Team concept and was the first clear statement of the primary position of the Ambassador with regard to the personnel of other agencies.

From 1951 to 1961 the Ambassador’s responsibility and authority were consolidated by a series of Executive Orders, Presidential letters and memoranda, and State Department instructions.

Key steps were Executive Order 10893 of November 8, 1960, the Presidential Memorandum of the same date, and the Department’s [Page 62] Circular Airgram No. 4334 of November 14, 1960. The President’s letter to all Ambassadors of May 29, 1961 was the most recent step in this development.


An able Ambassador is in a position greatly to improve the tone for all American officials in his country of assignment. If he has the necessary tact and skill, he can be of great help to the representatives of other U.S. Government departments and agencies in carrying out their missions. It is his task to create a satisfactory, easy working relationship with them and to encourage and support their activities in a way that will enable the Country Team to work more effectively in furthering our national objectives.

It is particularly important that an Ambassador make the representatives of other departments and agencies feel that they are an integral part of his official family. There are a number of ways by which this can be accomplished:

by making sure that they are fully informed concerning overall American objectives in the country;
by making sure that they are fully informed of the current and longer-term problems and obstacles in attaining these objectives and of the means best calculated, in the Ambassador’s judgment, to overcome these difficulties;
by having the Ambassador use his position socially and officially to assist them in accomplishing their specific missions;
by having members of the Country Team regularly attend the Ambassador’s staff meetings and members of the Embassy’s Political, Economic, and Administrative Sections attend staff meetings held by the USIA, AID and other Country Team members;
by including these Team members regularly in the small dinners or luncheons given for high-ranking officials;
by providing helpful advice and guidance while remaining sensitive to the danger and undesirability of interfering in the minutiae of their operational responsibilities;
by ensuring that the Ambassador is always available to members of the Country Team;
by ensuring that each group understands the functions and activities of the others;
by making sure that representatives of other departments and agencies know that the Ambassador will welcome their suggestions on any matter; and
by encouraging close working relationships among all personnel interested in similar fields.

Exercise of Ambassador’s Decision-Making Authority

The President is the focal point in the United States Government where divergent interests are reconciled in the national interest.

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The Ambassador, his personal representative, is best able to reconcile the divergent interests of the representatives of various departments and agencies in a foreign country. This is essential to prevent the export abroad of the perhaps inevitable bureaucratic conflicts of Washington.

An Ambassador and his Foreign Service staff do not and should not consider themselves as representing just the State Department. They represent and serve the entire United States Government.

The Ambassador is in a position to:

ensure that all United States activities in a given country contribute to the achievement of United States foreign policy objectives;
reconcile the special interests of the representatives of other Government departments and agencies with the national interest;
coordinate all United States activities in a foreign country;
identify in advance and forestall actions which in his judgment would adversely affect United States relations with the country concerned;
ensure that all United States representatives fully understand United States objectives, speak with a common voice and are not played off one against the other by a foreign government; and
provide advice, guidance, and leadership to assist the represent-atives of other departments and agencies in carrying out their responsibilities.

An imaginative, intelligent, and sympathetic exercise of leadership by an Ambassador should, in all but extremely rare instances, prevent situations from developing to a point where he must make a decision which will be appealed by the representative of another department or agency to higher authority in Washington.

The President’s letter makes clear that the Ambassador’s decision stands pending appeal, if any, to Washington. Similarly, circumstances which would make it necessary for him to request the departure of an individual should arise most infrequently.

When time is not an important factor, the Ambassador may wish to consult the Department by official-informal letter or “Eyes Only” telegram addressed to the Deputy Under Secretary for Administration prior to making a final decision affecting the activities of personnel of another department or agency.

New regulations will be issued soon setting forth the procedures to be followed by an Ambassador in obtaining the departure of a member of the Foreign Service.

Responsibility of Representatives of Other Departments and Agencies

The representatives of other Departments and agencies are responsible for keeping the Ambassador fully informed of their views and activities.

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This should be understood to include giving the Ambassador any information which they send to their departments and agencies, whether orally or through informal communications channels. This is particularly important if such information should reflect any disagreement with the Ambassador’s views


The Ambassador is the leader, the coordinator, and the supervisor of all official United States representatives in the country to which he is accredited. As such, he bears the responsibility for success or failure in achieving United States foreign policy objectives in his country of assignment.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Conference Files: Lot 65 D 366, ROCs Miscellaneous. Confidential. The memorandum, designated “Memorandum No. 1,” is attached to Document 32.