40. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State (Bowles) to Secretary of State Rusk 1


  • Regional Operations Conferences in Lagos, Nicosia and New Delhi

As you know from my preliminary reports on the Lagos and Nicosia meetings, these three conferences were extremely valuable from a number of points of view.

Our purpose, as you will recall, was twofold: to carry the Kennedy foreign policy message more effectively to our field personnel and to underscore the President’s recent letter re-emphasizing Ambassadorial responsibility for all phases of our overseas operations.

The agenda and the formula of interagency participation which we followed turned out to be generally sound, although we had to revise [Page 77] our schedule as we went along to allow more time for discussions of policy and less for operational matters.

We can make further improvements in the format of the meetings; one change should be to reduce slightly the overall number of people present since we were pressing the effective limit, particularly at Nicosia.

With these changes we can proceed with two meetings in Latin America in mid-October and one in the Far East in mid-November or early December with the assurance that they will be well worth the expenditure of time and funds.

Perhaps the major strength of these meetings was supplied by the interagency approach. The cross-fertilization of ideas among agencies produced some remarkable results.

The presence of the wives of the Mission Chiefs also proved to be an excellent idea. They were brought for the first time fully into the official family and made some real contributions to our discussions. We should include them in future conferences without reservation.

The region bureaus and the administrative bureau are hard at work trying to solve dozens and dozens of specific problems of policy, administration, and coordination raised in the meetings. I shall monitor their follow-up reports to make certain we get the maximum benefit out of the discussions.

There are, however, some overall conclusions both for our policy and for our techniques of operations which I would like to cite. These are areas which we should all be conscious of in the coming months, and where top level follow-up will be particularly important.

I. Operations

A. The principle of full ambassadorial responsibility outlined in the President’s letter of late May met with unanimous enthusiasm at all our meetings. Other agency representatives from Washington and the field approached the principles with a great deal of good will and I am heartened by my conviction that we are enjoying the best inter-agency relationships with our Defense, USIA and ICA colleagues that Washington has seen for a long time.

Joint meetings of this type proved to be a tangible demonstration of the sort of mutual trust we so often talk about but have not always demonstrated in practice.

The Ambassadors all accepted our assurances eagerly but several went out of the way to stress the importance of full support from Washington when they exercise their overall executive responsibility in ticklish cases.

Fully integrated operations should be easiest to achieve in Africa where no large, well entrenched bureaucracies are already in existence [Page 78] but I feel confident the situation will be satisfactory in the Middle East and Asia as well.

B. There are three essential areas in which we must follow up carefully here to make sure our Ambassadors are able to carry out their increased responsibilities effectively.

1. In selecting future Ambassadors we must pay a great deal more attention to the breadth of their backgrounds, their sensitivity to political dynamics, and their degree of understanding of aid, defense and information programs: if they are to act as chief executives for these programs in the real sense their training must include some prior exposure to problems in these fields.

One of the Ambassador’s most important responsibilities must be to fight the necessary battles with the other Washington agencies on behalf of his public affairs officer, his aid mission director, or his MAAG chief, just as he represents his State components to the regional bureau. Only if this sort of concrete support is demonstrated will our Ambassadors get the sort of wholehearted cooperation and loyalty from their other agency staff members.

This suggests that we should take a critical look at our present emphasis on specialization for younger Foreign Service officers. While the need for specialists is undoubtedly great, particularly language and area specialists, if Foreign Service officers are to be able realistically to aspire to ambassadorships they must at some stage in their careers get sufficiently exposed to other than traditional Department functions to fit them for the broad executive role we are assigning to our Ambassadors.

With this in mind, I intend to ask our personnel people to expand as rapidly as possible interchange of personnel between our Foreign Service, USIA and the aid program. Our exchange program with the Department of Defense, which is proving very successful, should also be stepped up accordingly.

2. While all agencies accept without reservation the new role of the Ambassador, there is some reluctance, particularly among the aid people, to include the Deputy Chief of Mission as the Ambassador’s alter ego in that role. We are going to make clear to all our missions that the DCM no longer is to be considered merely the operating head of the traditional embassy sections, but that he must be the Ambassador’s right hand and alter ego for executive direction of all agency programs.

We will also take steps to insure that our DCMs have sufficient rank, experience and ability to handle this sort of job satisfactorily.

We also were impressed that at large missions Ambassadors will need one or perhaps two personal staff assistants to assist them in coordination of all agency operations. Steps are being taken to provide for such positions wherever they are needed.

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3. We must keep up the steady campaign initiated at these conferences to instill in all of our State personnel, and especially our administrative people, a philosophical acceptance of the “embassy family” concept. Bill Crockett is working vigorously at this in the administrative area and we must see that our regional bureaus absorb the spirit as rapidly as possible.

Only when our people really begin to think of their other agency colleagues as equals in the Embassy will we begin to achieve the real meaning of the President’s letter. This will be slow in coming in some places. Our top people have the concept, but there are still many old wounds which must be closed and many bitter memories to be forgotten all over the world.

C. It was strikingly clear at all these conferences and particularly in Lagos that our administrative procedures are incredibly burdened with red tape.

Roger Jones and Bill Crockett are slashing it as rapidly as possible and are preaching to their own staffs the right doctrine. This is a doctrine of decentralizing Washington’s administrative monopoly, reducing reports of all sorts, simplifying and clarifying regulations and relying on a test of common sense in their interpretation and, most important, trusting in the judgment of our Ambassadors and our administrative officers overseas.

One reaction common at all meetings was the desire for speed in making these major administrative changes, even if we make a few mistakes. I am asking Bill to move ahead with all possible dispatch, even at the risk of stepping on bureaucratic toes.

D. With a few exceptions we can be proud of our Ambassadors and their staffs in these areas. While it is unwise to conclude too much from brief observation in meetings, most of us from Washington came away with the impression that our personnel in Africa are an able and particularly dedicated group. Their morale is excellent in spite of the staggering administrative problems with which most of them are faced and they are well versed in the philosophy and policies of the Administration.

We had similar good impressions in New Delhi from our South Asian and Southeast Asian posts. I think we have about the right mixture in that area of career and noncareer Ambassadors. Man for man, that was the most impressive group of chiefs of mission with whom we met.

While several of our top career people, such as Ellis Briggs, Ray Hare, and Phil Bonsal, were outstanding at Nicosia, the group as a whole from North Africa and the Middle East were somewhat less impressive at that conference. However, I am convinced that the problem there is partly one of over-exposure to the area. Many Arab specialists [Page 80] have been concentrating too long without a change of scene on the immensely frustrating problems of that region.

I think this problem is another reason for taking a hard look at our current emphasis on specialization. While it is undoubtedly necessary to build a corps of well qualified specialists for language areas, such as the Arab world, we must make certain these officers serve frequently enough in other areas to bring fresh perspective and breadth of view to problems within their field of specialization. This concern may clash head-on with our current drive for longer tours of duty and fewer separate assignments in the course of an officer’s career. I am asking our personnel people to suggest some ways in which we can accomplish both worthwhile objectives.

E. It is apparent that we have significant communications gaps between the Department and our field posts on policy. Meetings such as these short-cut many months of written communications and avoid cumulative misunderstanding.

In order to close this gap we must encourage more consultation in Washington by our top people from the field and more intra-regional travel, as well as periodic regional meetings. We found it was very helpful to have Ambassadors from two regional bureaus meeting together, as was the case in Nicosia and New Delhi.

Our bureau lines are often artificial and tend to make it more difficult to solve questions which affect a number of missions. Not only travel but our mechanical communications net must be greatly improved if we are to get maximum usefulness from our missions abroad. This will cost more money but it will be money very well spent.

F. While we all agree it is desirable to cut our staff where possible to eliminate waste and non-essential functions, we must be extremely careful to do so in ways which will really forward our policy objectives.

Our Foreign Service personnel abroad are working long hours and what fat there is overseas is more likely to be found in other agency programs. We must concentrate first on reducing unnecessary reporting requirements to free our people for more local travel and broader contact with people of their areas and then look at possible staff reductions.

I have instructed Phil Sprouse, of the Foreign Service Inspection Corps, to carry out an experimental inspection in Paris covering other agencies as well as State. If this is successful, we will set up joint inspection teams to allow us to look at the whole range of mission activities and make cuts where they are really meaningful.

G. I am increasingly led to believe from this trip that some redefinition of regional bureau lines is desirable. For example, the Arab states of North Africa share many common problems with those of the Near East and few with those of Africa south of the Sahara.

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As another example, the problem of China weighs heavily in South Asia as well as Southeast and East Asia and it may be that closer organizational ties between our missions in South Asia and those to the east would assist us in evolving sound policies all around the Chinese periphery.

I intend to explore this problem in the coming weeks with the regional bureaus, Alex Johnson and George McGhee and will have some firm recommendations ready by October.

[Here follows section II, Policy, comprising 6 pages of discussion under the following headings: A. Berlin; B. Africa; C. Arab World; D. Communist China; E. India-Pakistan; F. AID; G. Nuclear Testing; H. Race Relations.]

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration RG 59, Conference Files: Lot 65 D 366, ROC Lagos. Secret. Secretary Rusk transmitted a copy of the memorandum to President Kennedy under cover of a brief undated memorandum that stated in part: “I believe you will find it of interest. Reports from many quarters indicate that the conferences were highly successful.” (Ibid.)