127. Final Report of the President’s Task Force on Foreign Affairs Organization1


Summary of Conclusions and Recommendations

To provide day-to-day leadership in policy and to insure that the diverse programs and activities of the agencies concerned with foreign affairs support established policies, the President needs a strong chief subordinate—an individual, not a committee—who can both advise him and act for him across the whole range of his international responsibilities.
In our judgment the Secretary of State should do this job. He should be the President’s first adviser on foreign and national security affairs, and under the President he should coordinate the programs of all U.S. agencies which support our foreign policies.
If the Secretary of State is to discharge these massive responsibilities regularly and systematically, organizational changes must occur. These changes fall into two categories:
Those which require direct Presidential determination, and
Those which should be left to the executive judgment of the Secretary of State.
At the level of Presidential determination, we recommend that:
Secretaries of State, now and in the future, be authorized to free themselves personally, to the maximum extent possible, of social and ceremonial functions and participation in overseas conferences. They should also be encouraged to reorder their relations with Capitol Hill so as to reduce their pro forma appearances and increase their real political effectiveness.
The second-ranking position in the Department of State be elevated to “Deputy Secretary.” This proposal, which would require [Page 290] Congressional approval, would provide the Secretary with a true “alter ego” and provide the President support from a top team.
The Secretary and his Deputy be authorized and instructed to establish a substantive, analytic staff to serve them directly, somewhat comparable in character and function to the White House/NSC staff.
The Department of State be directed to establish, over time in close consultation with BOB, programmatic budgetary review of the proposals of other agencies whose activities support U.S. foreign policies to insure that all available resources are programmed to support priority foreign policy objectives and requirements. The Task Force believes that the process of establishing a Foreign Affairs budget should be evolutionary in character. The group unanimously recommends that the President direct the State Department to develop the analytic capacity and procedures at the regional level at an early date to discharge this assignment vis-à-vis the AID, MAP, USIA, and Peace Corps programs.
At the level of decision by the Secretary of State, we make the following recommendations, recognizing that one or more of them may be subject to sharp modification in the light of the President’s broader decisions and the specific preferences of the Secretary of State.
The Secretary rely upon regional officers even more heavily than presently for inter-departmental coordination and operations within their geographic jurisdictions and provide these officials with planning and analytic staffs unburdened by day-to-day operating responsibilities.
Several independent functional activities now in State be regrouped under the Department’s two Under Secretaries.
The current system for training foreign service officers be opened up to transfer out of the system and admit into the system more individuals at the middle and upper grades and to provide a broader apprenticeship in operating foreign affairs agencies and Executive-Legislative Affairs for those persons destined to assume major executive responsibilities in foreign affairs.


The Problem

In response to the President’s invitation, we have reviewed the organization of the government for the conduct of foreign and national security affairs.

In our judgment, that organization is not presently adequate. There are several related deficiencies:

Neither the White House nor the State Department is equipped to provide continuous, clear-cut policy leadership and guidance to all the various agencies of the government engaged in foreign affairs.
No agency in government systematically and regularly provides the President and other key decision-makers with comprehensive analysis of foreign affairs issues—with analyses which rigorously specify U.S. objectives, identify what various U.S. agencies think and why, and assess probable advantages and costs of alternative courses of action.
Outside the annual agency by agency budget review conducted by the Bureau of the Budget, no office or institution reviews the budgets of the foreign and national security affairs agencies from the perspective of the priorities, commitments and requirements of foreign policy.

The Results of Organizational Weakness

As a result of these weaknesses, the policies and programs of agencies concerned with foreign affairs frequently diverge—not because there is any intentional departure from policy approved by the President, but because internal inconsistencies are not resolved by prompt and firm decision. There have been difficulties of this kind in our policy toward the multilateral force, toward the Erhard regime, toward India and Pakistan, toward Africa, and toward arms control.

The Objectives of Organizational Change

We think the U.S. can do much better:

  • —in establishing, in a timely and orderly fashion, policies understood and accepted across the government;
  • —in planning ahead to take advantage of potential opportunities and to meet foreseeable crises;
  • —in applying the large budgetary resources now involved in our foreign policy towards identified and consistent goals.

Organizational Improvement in Perspective

Obviously reorganization alone will not solve all the problems of our foreign affairs. The international environment will remain volatile and unpredictable. We have scores of allies and adversaries in a world complicated by change in ways which cannot be readily predicted. We also face internal constraints—set by public and congressional opinion and by the human limitations of any government, however well organized.

Yet within this larger perspective we still believe that organizational improvement is a prerequisite for improved U.S. performance in world affairs.

Defining the Organizational Requirement

There are many instruments of American foreign policy. They include policy declarations, diplomatic persuasion and pressure, military strength, technical assistance, provision of food, capital lending, propaganda, arms deliveries and covert operations. The agencies and individuals that operate these instruments inevitably have differing perspectives as to priority of competing regions, functions, and policies. An effective foreign policy requires that the conflict among those perspectives be resolved by reference to broader considerations, and that the uses of those instruments be made consistent with each other and with the dominating purposes of national policy. No such consistency and coherence arises automatically. It must be imposed.

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In large part, the imposition of order and cohesion must come personally from the President. Accordingly, since the late 30’s every President has been deeply and continuously immersed in foreign and national security decision-making, and future Presidents will give the same priority to these problems.

But the problems have grown and are growing. In 1945 there were 55 countries. The crucial questions related very largely to one region—Europe. The U.S. alone had nuclear weapons. Our foreign policy aims, though challenging, were conceptually simple: to contain one great adversary and to aid in the reconstruction of half a continent of exhausted but advanced and cohesive societies. In 1967 there are 135 nations. The events of three regions vitally affect us. Five nations possess nuclear weapons. And U.S. purposes are more complex and more ambitious: to check several adversaries, themselves in shifting relation, and to aid in the development of three continents of largely backward, fragmented and unstable societies. The future is likely to pose even more complex tasks for U.S. foreign policy.

The consequence is that no President, faced as he will be by other demands on his attention, can alone produce the direction, the integration and the consistency which U.S. foreign policy must have. To be sure, the President will be available in crisis situations. In our judgment, crisis has often produced especially good U.S. performance precisely because it commands the full engagement of the President, who is then available to probe, to monitor, and to decide.

To produce clarity of policy and a coherent relationship of resources to policy in the absence of crisis, however, responsibility short of the President must be assigned to some person or institution. No such person or institution now exercises that responsibility.

The Legacy of Organizational Weakness

The organizational deficiencies that we have identified are not of recent origin. They can be explained, in large measure, by the massive growth of U.S. involvement in world affairs in the last quarter century and by the inability of our institutions to adjust fully to America’ s new world role.

There have been other attempts to address these organizational problems. President Eisenhower relied without notable success on formal, multi-layered inter-agency committees. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson have formally asked the State Department to provide interdepartmental leadership and coordination, and tended to rely on informal groups, frequently led or strategically managed in the White House. We do not believe that either the formal arrangements of the 1950’s or the informal approaches of the 1960’s have yet met our fundamental organizational needs.

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We do believe that earlier efforts to strengthen the Secretary of State and to energize and redirect his Department have been correct in their aim. In our judgment they have failed because they have not produced the basic changes in the State Department which are required. We believe that a transformation of the State Department is both necessary and possible, and we have set out below the major actions required to produce it.


I. The General Objective: to make the Secretary of State a Presidential leader and coordinator.

Both the powers and the responsibilities of the President in foreign affairs have grown enormously since World War II. Only a strong President can hope to exercise these powers effectively. But, in our judgment, even a strong President must have a top subordinate—an individual, not a committee—who can both advise him and act for him across the whole range of his international responsibilities.

We are convinced that this individual must be the Secretary of State.

The Secretary of State must assume these responsibilities because his office alone, of all the positions in the government short of the President, possesses the stature and authority to discharge them.

There is no alternative. No lesser office could attempt the task. It is politically impossible to create a new position of supra-departmental authority. And, while the President’s personal (NSC) staff can attempt this function, it would perform it only at the cost of an expansion in size and an absorption in general operations that would both diminish the stature of the Secretary and Department of State and compete with its own obligation to serve the personal requirements of the President.

We do not agree with those who argue that narrow, institutional perspectives of the Office of the Secretary of State will inevitably prevent any Secretary from assuming a Presidential perspective. To be sure, there are issues—food aid, international finance, trade policy, the balance of payments—which frequently involve deep conflict between domestic and international interests. Not all of these conflicts can be resolved at the level of the Secretary of State, and some will come to the White House for independent assessment by the President’s own staff and decision by the President himself.

But subject to such inevitable limitations, we strongly believe that the Secretary of State is the best possible Presidential subordinate for the coordination of the activities of the agencies concerned with national security and foreign policy—State, Defense, CIA, ACDA, Treasury, AID, and USIA. He must enjoy the President’s confidence and possess a recognized mandate to exercise power in the President’s name. He [Page 294] must be a man whose knowledge and insights equip him to do much of the President’s work himself, who knows when to act on his own and when to refer problems to his chief, and who can be the President’s first adviser on those decisions which only the President himself can make.2

II. Specific Recommendations for Presidential Determination


To redefine the role of the Secretary.

The principal task of the Secretary of State must be changed. The Secretary of State must become not primarily a diplomat, a defender of policy, or an international negotiator (although he will on occasion be all of these) but pre-eminently the director and coordinator, for and on behalf of the President, of all U.S. foreign and national security policy.

If a Secretary is to provide this kind of policy leadership and coordination, he must, to the maximum extent possible, delegate social and ceremonial functions, rationalize his personal appearances before the Congress, and minimize his personal participation in intergovernmental representation and in overseas conferences. These activities currently consume 70% of the Secretary’s extraordinary work week, and leave him little time to act as the President’s chief agent.

Much of the work of high-level representation at overseas conferences might be delegated to the Secretary’s Deputy or to a new official appointed explicitly by the President (with the active concurrence of the Secretary) as a chief negotiator. Such a man might be named our one Ambassador-at-large, or given another appropriate title, if this one has been devalued through overuse. The role and performance of recent U.S. Ambassadors to the United Nations, despite the relatively limited importance of many of their duties, is evidence that prestigious appointees with a recognized personal relationship to those in the highest councils of policy can be accepted as speaking for the United States Government on important and delicate matters.

Ceremonial functions, overseas conferences and, to the extent possible, congressional presentations of a clearly regional nature should similarly be delegated to the Department’s ranking regional officials, particularly if these offices are enhanced in stature, as we recommend.


To establish a Deputy Secretary—a new position with a new role.

However his job is reshaped, the heavy pressure on the Secretary’s time will make it essential that he be provided a true deputy, an alter ego across the whole range of Secretarial responsibilities.

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This deputy must be a man of stature, personally congenial to the Secretary (who should have a full share in his selection) and fully capable of sharing the Secretary’s responsibilities across agency lines. He should be given the appropriate title: Deputy Secretary. This will both symbolize the change and provide the needed mandate. This change will require legislation.

Such a true alter ego relationship is never easy to achieve. It requires determination and judgment in both men to make it work. But it produces a very large increase in the effectiveness of each. Moreover, despite organizational ambiguities, the position of Under Secretary of State has traditionally been filled by men of conspicuous ability who have commanded considerable authority. We believe the redefinition of title and scope would be readily accepted.

Strong internal management is vital to departmental effectiveness. Either the Secretary or Deputy Secretary, therefore, should have a demonstrated effectiveness in such management. But we are not proposing a “Mr. Outside-Mr. Inside” relationship with management of the Department delegated to the Number Two man. While the top men will doubtless agree to some ad hoc division of labor, we think the Deputy must remain a true alter ego, with coterminous authority and responsibility.


To establish a senior staff for the Secretary and his Deputy.

With a single exception, we believe that organization below the Secretary and Deputy Secretary should not be a matter for immediate and direct Presidential action. Presidents who have tried to organize the Department of State around or behind their Secretaries of State have not usually been successful. But on one matter of organization we feel so strongly that we believe the President himself should insist upon it. It is the establishment of a senior substantive staff able to give effective direct support to the Secretary and his Deputy in the discharge of their enormous personal responsibilities.

We recognize that able and experienced men believe that the whole Department, from desk officers upward should be the Secretary’s staff. In one sense these men are obviously right. But in a larger sense, we are certain that they are wrong. The Secretary and his Deputy must be able to call upon analytic resources of their own—free from the perspectives of country desk officers or even of Assistant Secretaries.

These staff officers must be wholly free of ordinary day-to-day line responsibilities—on the cables, on the Hill, or elsewhere. Moreover, if thoughtful policy planning and analysis is to affect decisions and actions, the key officials charged with this responsibility cannot be viewed as a “council of wise men” outside the regular chain of command. They must communicate and report directly—in a staff relationship—to the Secretary and his Deputy.

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The elements of such a senior substantive staff now exist in the Policy Planning Staff, in the growing staff of the Senior Interdepartmental Group, and in the Staff Secretariat. We do not presume to say in just what way these and other resources should be combined to establish an effective senior staff. Nor do we venture to recommend that the Secretary and his Deputy co-opt senior staff members from other agencies and departments, although many of us believe such a practice would be wise. What we do assert, unanimously and energetically, is that the Secretary cannot serve the President in the terms which this report recommends without a new order of staff work in his own immediate office.


Establish and develop an inter-agency “Foreign Affairs Budget,” managed and recommended to the President by State.

If the Secretary of State assumes the integrating role in foreign affairs, we believe he and his key subordinates will have to become more deeply involved than they presently are in the review of the budgets of other key foreign affairs agencies. The development of a capacity in the Department of State to analyze major issues of budgetary choice in the foreign affairs community would insure, we believe, greater clarity of purpose and consistency of priorities than now exists, in addition to providing State with a powerful instrument to insure coordination.

Budget-making is the action-forcing process par excellence. As large and complex a task as it is, it must be completed each year on rigid schedule. Budgetary influence is power, and modern techniques of budget analysis orient the use of that power toward the allocation of resources in accordance with an explicit set of priorities, and a long-range plan or program of action. The review of budgets, in short, now implies the systematic and routine review of policy and programs. Moreover, budget review conveys an undoubted influence over issues not involving resources, as the evolution of BOB’s power demonstrates.

We believe unanimously that State’s budgetary role and authority can and should be initially established at the regional level, vis-à-vis the programs of other agencies that are organized regionally—AID, MAP, USIA, Peace Corps.3 With support from the President, we urge establishment of a regular procedure whereby these agencies, plus those domestic agencies operating international programs that are regionally organized automatically submit budgetary proposals [Page 297] for these programs to State for comment before they are finally reviewed by BOB.4


To Create a Team at the Top.

The ability of the Secretary of State and his Deputy to lead in the development and coordination, throughout the government, of overseas policies and programs will depend upon their relationship with the President. The relationship must be direct and personal, and sufficiently intimate to enable the President to maintain a steady sense of what major issues are emerging, which are approaching decision, and what decisions are likely to be made, unless he intervenes. The President will then be able to engage in problems selectively at moments of his choosing and to prevent decisions he does not approve.

Even if the job of the Secretary of State could be redefined as we propose, and even if the Department of State were restructured to support the Secretary, the role of the President in foreign affairs will still be large and decisive.

For the Presidency is the only office of the government which can finally assess the relative weight of conflicting foreign and domestic interests on the major issues and challenges facing the nation. Even with an expanded role being played by the Secretary of State, the President—any President—will want to push and probe, to keep open many sources of advice and analysis, and to reserve a wide range of decisions to himself.

If issues are to flow to the President through the Secretary of State, the President must be thoroughly confident that he will have early and ample warning of changes in the international environment, of emerging international crises as well as emerging intra-governmental disputes and splits. The President must retain the freedom to change standard operating procedures, [Page 298] to get advice from external sources, and to handle some issues in a collegial forum, rather than through standard hierarchical channels centering on the Secretary of State. Therefore, the supporting staffs in State must be organized to serve the President and his staff, as well as the Secretary and his Deputy.

Both the Secretary and Deputy, in turn, must receive broad grants of authority from the President, a clear understanding of his personal definition of the limits of that authority, and assurance of support in heavy weather.

From the point of view of the Presidency, the measures we recommend would change the foreign policy machinery in two respects. First, with a control mechanism short of the White House, that machinery would be able to function (except in crises) with less active Presidential participation than is now required. Second, and again because of the existence of leadership short of the White House, Presidential control could be applied more effectively when needed. The machinery, at last, would include a handle.

As a result, some Presidents might wish to deal in foreign affairs problems more selectively, concentrating only on the crucial issues. Alternatively, they might wish to exercise greater authority across the board. In either event, the President would, as he must, remain deeply engaged in foreign and security affairs, and in either event the White House will still require personal staff of the highest caliber.

Concluding Comments

In the preceding pages, we have advanced essentially unanimous conclusions and recommendations for consideration by the President. We believe that our report advances and develops a new concept of the role of the Secretary of State, and of the way in which Presidents, today and in the future, might organize the most important dimensions of the Presidency—the conduct and control of Foreign and National Security Affairs.

In the preceding pages, and in the attached appendix,5 we have advanced concepts and recommendations for today and for the years ahead. We have tried to outline the structure and intellectual capacity at the pinnacle of government that we believe essential in the years ahead if the Nation and its Chief Executives are to handle the international challenges that are clearly foreseeable, and to order and control the increasingly complex array of program instruments available to support international objectives.

We have looked at the organization of the Department of State in the course of this study. In addition to what we have said above, we [Page 299] believe a first-class Department of State, well-organized and stocked with talent at all echelons is also essential to the Nation’s future success in international affairs.

We believe that internal organization of federal Executive departments is pre-eminently a matter for determination by top line executives—the members of the President’s Cabinet. With clear recognition, therefore, of the primal role of the Secretary of State in ordering the internal affairs of his Department, we have advanced in the attached Appendix one possible approach to Departmental organization that appeals to a majority of us, and that seems consistent with our concept of the government-wide responsibilities of the Secretary of State as the President’s first advisor and coordinator in international affairs. We commend these suggestions for review by the Secretary and others who have day-to-day responsibilities for managing the Department.

We concede, in closing, that the management of U.S. foreign affairs will never be tidy or easy. Our necessary engagement with scores of allies and adversaries in a world riven by conflict and complicated by change can never be perfectly ordered. Moreover, it is beyond the power of any government, however manned and however organized, to foresee all events, to prepare for all contingencies, or even, in all situations, to see clearly its own best interests.

But the stakes are high. They are high in opportunities. They are high in responsibilities. They are high in resources. And they are high in risks.

If the complexity of foreign relations makes consistent wisdom impossible, the importance of foreign relations makes consistent adequacy essential. We do not believe that U.S. performance in world affairs has been consistently adequate. We believe, moreover, that improved organization and management of foreign affairs can produce far better performance.

For these reasons, and in spite of existing obstacles to change, forward movement on many of these proposals should begin as soon as possible.

  • Ben W. Heineman
  • McGeorge Bundy
  • William Capron
  • Kermit Gordon
  • Bayless Manning
  • Robert S. McNamara
  • Charles L. Schultze
  1. Source: Johnson Library, Task Force Reports. Administratively Confidential. The President’s Task Force on Foreign Affairs Organization was a subgroup of the President’s Task Force on Government Organization organized in late 1966 primarily to review domestic agencies (see footnote 2, Document 118). Ben Heineman chaired both groups. Heineman forwarded the report to the President under cover of an October 1 memorandum in which he noted that Katzenbach had attended and participated in all of the task force meetings and was in general agreement with the report’s recommendations. Califano forwarded the report to the President under cover of an October 14 memorandum in which he summarized its contents and noted that the Task Force on Government Organization considered it “the second most important report they have submitted.” (Johnson Library, White House Central Files, Subject Files, Ex FG 749)
  2. The internal logic of our view of the Secretary of State suggests the desirability of transferring from the White House to State the responsibility for chairing the special inter-agency committee which oversees covert action operations. Whether this change is made or not, we recommend strongly that the President direct the Chairman to provide this special committee with a larger staff, without ties or loyalties to any agency. [Footnote in the source text.]
  3. State and BOB have recently agreed on limited State participation in the BOB review process and on joint staff work to precede the review. [Footnote in the source text.]
  4. In time, a majority of the Task Force believes that involvement of the State Department in the budgets of foreign affairs agencies should be extended to include participation in the development of Defense and Intelligence budget programs. The extension of the concept of a Foreign Affairs Budget to include Defense and Intelligence would necessarily evolve slowly, and only as State’s analytic and programming abilities develop and there is more acceptance in the Congress and in the foreign affairs community of the Secretary’s leadership role. But undertaken progressively, and evolving informally over time, the development in State of the analytic competence which informs budgetary choices across agency lines would become the strongest single instrument of the Department’s coordinating charter.

    Secretary McNamara states that the complete Force Structure Program of DOD is submitted each year to the State Department for review before it is sent to the President. He doubts the necessity for expanding the Force Structure review into a detailed examination of the Defense Department budget by the Department of State. He also has reservations about State review of the CIA budget. Some other members of the Task Force, notably Mr. Bundy, Director Schultze and Dean Manning, have some reservations about the feasibility of the proposed extension of State’s budgetary review to the DOD and CIA budgets, but join the majority on the ground that this managerial innovation can be tested by experience as it develops. [Footnote in the source text.]

  5. Attached but not printed.