55. Memorandum From the President’s Special Representative (Bowles) to President Kennedy 1


  • Recommendations for Strengthening the Foreign Service

Summary and Recommendations:

Some progress has been made in streamlining and modernizing our operational techniques of dealing with the problems of foreign policy. Two key obstacles stand in the way of further movement:

There is no single focal point in Washington comparable to the Ambassador abroad where full responsibility for all U.S. programs and operations in a given country is lodged. The result is often delay in decision making and diffusion of responsibility.
Although the antiquated Foreign Service personnel system is being gradually improved, much remains to be done if we are to make the Service a more effective instrument of Presidential policy.

Therefore I suggest the following actions:

That you and the Secretary agree on the need to give a higher priority to improving the effectiveness of the Department and the Foreign Service, and that the Secretary communicate this priority on your behalf to the Department.
That you seek legislation to establish five regional Under Secretaries of State with full legal authority to supervise all U.S. Government programs in their regions on your behalf and that of the Secretary.
That the individual selected to fill Roger Jones’ position in the Department be given a mandate to carry out a series of specific changes in the Foreign Service personnel system within a maximum of six months. A few examples of the changes which I recommend are:
Grant “temporary rank” at higher grade for the duration of specific assignments, thus permitting a more flexible system of assignments for outstanding younger officers;
Speed up the promotion of outstanding young officers by eliminating any “time-in-grade” requirement for promotion and instructing Promotion Boards to use liberally their existing authority to make double promotions;
Detail one or two members of the White House staff to serve in rotation on promotion boards for the top FSO classes; also obtain the services of outstanding private citizens and representatives of other agencies to serve along with high caliber Foreign Service Officers on these promotion boards;
Increase the rate of “selection out” of marginal officers and obtain legislative authority to permit officers to retire after 20 years of service regardless of their age, with the Secretary’s permission;
Reorganize the Foreign Service Institute as an expanded National Academy of Foreign Affairs to meet the training needs of all government agencies operating abroad;
Assign a far greater number of qualified FSO’s to tours of duty with AID, Defense, USIA, and the Peace Corps, as well as a number of officers from those agencies to tours of duty with State;
Reorganize the Foreign Service Inspection Corps into inter-agency teams to evaluate the effectiveness of our total programs abroad;
Provide increased career incentives for cultural, administrative, economists and other types of specialists;
Reshape the Career Development program in the State Department to make certain that the top 25% of the FSO’s are better trained for command positions.

[Here follow 12 pages of discussion.]

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Departments and Agencies Series, Department of State, General, 5/18/62–5/25/62. Limited Official Use.