117. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson1

Mr. President:

Nick Katzenbach asks your approval to get Tom Schelling for the State Department as a Presidential appointee to drive forward the programming work in foreign affairs. A slot is available.

I strongly recommend that you approve this request for two reasons.

  • —The work will simply not be done unless a man like Schelling is brought into the State Department.
  • —Schelling is just about the best man I could conceive of for this, if Nick can hook him.

I would recommend to you a condition in granting Nick’s request; namely, that you will grant it only if Nick personally guarantees that he will hold a Senior Interdepartmental Group (SIG) meeting every two [Page 260] weeks at the minimum, and that he will personally assure that the Interdepartmental Regional Groups (IRGs) will press forward.2 My reason is this; and it derives from more than 4 years as a working stiff in the State Department: Unless the Under Secretary will find the time to insure this interdepartmental leadership is exercised from day to day, it won’t happen; and if it doesn’t happen, the programming effort that Schelling is being brought in for won’t be worth a damn.


Approve getting Schelling on proposed basis3


Approve Schelling appointment with SIG-IRG conditions4

See me


Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State (Katzenbach) to President Johnson


  • Foreign Affairs Management

I thought you might be interested in some observations and recommendations about which I perceive to be some of the management problems which exist among the foreign affairs agencies.

First of all, I am impressed by the number of steps which you and the Secretary have taken to improve the overall management of foreign affairs. The following steps, in particular, seem to me to have been significant: [Page 261]

Improvement of communications facilities;
The establishment of the Operations Center as part of the Executive Secretariat and the clear benefit it has provided to intragovernmental communication and effectiveness.
The Secretary’s sound insistence that operational responsibility rest primarily with the Assistant Secretaries;
The recent reorganization of P.L. 480 mechanics;
The directive6 which puts ambassadors in charge of all United States governmental operations abroad. (Incidentally, less than 20% of our governmental representatives abroad are otherwise responsible to the State Department or on its payroll);
The provisions of NSAM 341 which established the Senior Interdepartmental Group, whose potential I have, as its chairman, come to prize, and the Regional Interdepartmental Groups; and finally
The study done by the Hitch Committee,7 at the request of the Secretary, to make recommendations with respect to programming for foreign affairs.

It is with respect to implementing this last recommendation that I call particular attention. I do so for two reasons. The first is because the Secretary directed me personally to take charge of the Hitch Committee effort. The second, more fundamental reason is that we are not yet on top of problems which, fundamentally, stem from the greater overall United States governmental involvement in the post-World War II world.

The Hitch Committee pointed out that there was relatively little benefit to programming foreign policy activities of the Department of State, but potentially great possibilities in programming activities of the government as a whole relating to foreign affairs. This was, I believe, the same concept which led you to issue NSAM 341. The problem is now to implement it fully.

We cannot now do so because we are unable, in sufficient detail, to relate the main programs—AID, P.L. 480, MAP, Peace Corps, CIA, USIA, and others—and our foreign policy objectives in particular countries. We cannot now allocate our resources on the basis of sensible and moderately long-range priorities.

Granting that it would be far more difficult for foreign policy than it has been, for example, in the Department of Defense, I am persuaded that programming can provide a rational framework within which decisions can be more intelligently framed and decided. And I believe such a framework is urgently necessary.

[Page 262]

At present, programs tend to be oriented more towards their agencies than towards the countries or regions which they are designed to assist or influence. While the Department of State does coordinate such programs to a greater or lesser extent, I think it fair to say we do not use them sufficiently or efficiently in the pursuit of foreign policy objectives.

To take one example, a study this fall of eight overseas missions8 found that, “…even where the Ambassador undertakes seriously to review, criticize, and make recommendations on projected programs and budgets, he must deal with them on a piecemeal basis as they reach him at various times through the year; and their categories prevent effective comparisons and aggregations across agency lines…if PPBS continues and becomes congealed along the agency lines currently pursued, it will serve to weaken the managerial role of the Ambassador and make more difficult the elevation of his role in the future….”

In short, we must make greater effort to organize and distribute our resources, not according to agency objectives, but according to overall United States objectives. This is what programming might be expected to accomplish.

I believe the SIG mechanism provides a ready framework under which to undertake programming. Our budget requests include a modest amount (I assume Rooney will give us about $300,000) to hire a small group of skilled professionals who have experience in the substance of foreign affairs—and who have the technical expertise in programming.

This background is critical, because any such effort will fail unless we are able to do it well enough to involve all bureaus of this Department and all interested and affected government agencies. This will take both superior skill and time.

I have spent considerable time trying to locate the man who would be best equipped to assist the Secretary and myself in this endeavor and I have sought names from many people inside and outside of government. The unanimous view of all those consulted is that the two best men would be Charles Hitch himself or Tom Schelling, now Professor of Economics at Harvard.

Hitch would not be available, but I believe I could get Schelling to take on this assignment as a part-time consultant from now until June and full time after June. To do so, I would have to act quickly and be in a position to promise him a presidential appointment. You will recall that there is presently a vacant Assistant Secretary position, last used for Administration.

[Page 263]

Schelling has remarkably varied foreign policy and interagency experience and now simultaneously serves both the Departments of Defense and State. He worked for the-then AID agency from 1948 to 1950 and on the White House staff as an economic adviser to Averell Harriman and Linc Gordon from 1950 to 1953. He taught economics for five years at Yale, spent a year at RAND, and has been a Professor of Economics at Harvard, on the faculty of the Center for International Affairs there since 1958.

Schelling is an expert on military policy, is a member of the Defense Department’s Air Force science board, and has held a variety of advisory positions at Defense. I understand Bob McNamara has tried to lure him to Washington several times, without success.

In addition to his AID and Defense background, he also is highly regarded in the Department of State, which he now serves as a member of the Panel of Advisers for European policy, and he has been an adviser to the Disarmament Agency.

Schelling is 45. He was born and raised in California. He has a current security clearance.

I would like your approval to make an offer to Schelling on the above basis. The Secretary concurs in this recommendation.


Nicholas deB. Katzenbach 9
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSAMs, NSAM 341. Confidential. The memorandum was included in the President’s Night Reading. A handwritten note at the top of the memorandum reads: “Mr. Rostow notified Mr. Katzenbach.”
  2. Nick has thus far been busy and hasn’t given this high enough priority; and the machinery is beginning to rust, with considerable disappointment over your NSAM 341. [Footnote in the source text, handwritten by Rostow.]
  3. The President checked this option.
  4. The President checked this option. Attached to Rostow’s memorandum is a memorandum from Rostow to Katzenbach, March 18, indicating the President’s approval of hiring Schelling and stating: “It is the President’s understanding that you will also drive forward other elements in NSAM 341 and, in particular: hold a Senior Interdepartmental Group Meeting approximately every two weeks and personally see to it that the Interdepartmental Groups are actively carrying out their responsibilities under NSAM 341.”
  5. Confidential.
  6. A reference to President Kennedy’s May 29, 1961, letter, printed in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1961, pp. 1345–1347.
  7. See the attachment to Document 99.
  8. Not further identified.
  9. Secretary Rusk’s initials appear in his own hand below Katzenbach’s signature.