116. Memorandum Prepared by the Inspector General of the Foreign Service (Wilkins)1


  • Inspection Corps’ Views on Policy Management

In their partial inspections November 21–December 16, 1966 of EUR, AF, ARA and NEA, the Inspectors focused their attention on two specific subjects: (1) the functioning of the new Country Director system in terms of foreign affairs management within the Department and (2) the effectiveness of the new arrangements for inter-departmental policy coordination and decision-making through the SIG-IRG-Country Director machinery. Conclusions reached are regarded as tentative in view of the short period the new system had had to gather momentum.

Country Director System (within Department)

In general the new system is functioning within the Department quite smoothly under able, experienced Country Directors. The greater knowledge, understanding, and judgment that the Country Directors have brought to the problems of each country have in some cases resulted in more timely and effective handling of operational problems, particularly in the context of bilateral relations with single countries. In these instances, the Country Directors have been able to make more decisions at the country level than was true under the previous system. In single-country Country Directorates, a supervisory layer has been eliminated with beneficial effects, but in Directorates having responsibility for two or more countries the vertical layering problem is essentially the same as before. A commonly observed debit factor is that the proliferation of basic units has made additional horizontal clearances necessary and in some cases tended to impede two-way communication between the Assistant Secretary and his Deputies on the one hand and the Country Directors on the other. In the case of at least one Bureau (ARA), the new system seems to have contributed on the administrative side to the creation of additional support positions. In contrast to the beneficial effects with respect to bilateral relations with single countries, the ability to deal with area-wide issues and multilateral relations may have been impaired. In cases such as the Near East, where four Country [Page 258] Directorates have replaced the former Officer or Near Eastern Affairs, area problems which before were handled by the Office Director must now often be referred to the Deputy Assistant Secretary level. In another Bureau, ARA, the Inspectors specifically recommended that an Office of West Coast Affairs be reestablished. Finally, looking beyond the pres-ent initial stage of the new system, there are two potential developments which could have injurious effects. First, the narrowed focus of the Country Directors’ responsibilities could well engender a more parochial outlook on their part than was the case with Office Directors. Second, the importance and attractiveness of the desk or country officer position are likely to be downgraded.


That consideration be given after the shake down period, to the recreation of area-wide offices in certain cases (e.g. ARA-West Coast Affairs and NEA-Near Eastern Affairs).

SIG-IRG-Country Director Inter-Agency Machinery

The utility of the new inter-agency coordinating and decision-making machinery can be evaluated only partially and tentatively, because it has been used relatively little. That the SIG, the capstone of the structure, has not met since July 1966 has undoubtedly been a major factor behind the relative lack of activity at the IRG level.

To the extent that the new machinery has been employed at the IRG level, it has generally worked quite effectively. The Regional Groups have considered both policy and contingency planning papers and some action-oriented problems, but more of the former than the latter. They constitute potentially useful forums for coordinated inter-agency examination of major policy and operational matters, and the result generally has been a somewhat speedier and more clear-cut decision-making process than existed previously.

It is our conclusion that the SIG-IRG-Country Director System has great potential for the management of Government-wide foreign affairs. However, this potential has not to date been exploited.

Below the IRG level there has been no appreciable practical change in inter-agency relations. The Country Directors do not and cannot function as the leaders in Washington Country Teams, in the fullest sense as ambassadors in the field, because they have not been given decision-making authority. Under the NSAM and the Secretary’s statement of March 4, 1966, they are, in effect, more like DCMs than like Chiefs of Mission and they are DCMs whose authority has not yet been established as such. Moreover, their agency counterparts are not empowered to commit their principals and generally regard the [Page 259] Assistant Secretary as the first decision-making level in the Department. Lacking the requisite authority, the Country Directors have to rely, as their predecessor Office Directors did, on their persuasiveness and personal prestige in seeking to gain the agreement and cooperation of other agencies. Country Directors in ARA, who speak for AID as well as the Department, have of course much greater ease in this effort.

The role of the Country Directors in inter-agency relations should not be limited solely to one of coordination and clearance. As a minimum, they could be charged with responsibility for refining issues before they are brought to the IRG and ideally they should reach decisions at least of a preliminary nature. To enable the Country Directors to perform this latter function more effectively, their position and authority will have to be strengthened by action at the SIG and IRG levels.

Fraser Wilkins 2
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S/SSIG Files: Lot 70 D 263, SIG Documents—Instructions and Authority. Limited Official Use. Attached to a February 2 memorandum from John Steeves, Acting Deputy Under Secretary of State for Administration, to Katzenbach.
  2. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.