132. Information Memorandum From the Legal Adviser to the Department of State (Meeker) to Secretary of State Rusk1


  • Allocation of Resources—A Budget for Foreign Affairs and the Relation to National Goals

Sinews for the Department of State

The urgent requirements voiced by President Johnson for reductions in U.S. Government expenditures compel a searching scrutiny of the [Page 308] budgets of the foreign affairs agencies of the Government,2 along with all the rest. This must, of course, include efforts to prevent or eliminate waste. It must include also a rigorous assessment as to whether there are activities and functions that can and should be pared, or pruned away entirely.

Ambassador Tuthill’s launching of Operation Topsy for the United States Mission in Brazil exemplifies the kind of evaluation that each and every element of the foreign affairs agencies should consider a continuing responsibility. Within the Department of State, presumably the Corps of Foreign Service Inspectors and certain other officers reporting to the Deputy Under Secretary for Administration have as part of their responsibility the overseeing of personnel and funds in relation to functions expected of the Department. Other foreign affairs agencies doubtless have inspectorates and management experts.

But no rational judgments can be made about functions and budgets except in relation to standards fixing what the foreign affairs agencies are to accomplish. These standards in turn are related to the view one is going to take of the role of diplomacy in the contemporary world, of the part the United States is to play, of our objectives in foreign affairs, of the human values we aim to protect and increase.

Thus, simply to take the existing budget of the already undernourished Department of State, for example, and make flat percentage cuts in personnel and funds strikes me as irrational.

When the Department of Defense requests additional billions of dollars for an F–111, for an ABM system, or for the war in Viet Nam, the Administration very properly considers the requests in relation to needs, and the Congress appropriates funds on the same basis. There may be debate as to whether the requested funds fit the needs and will meet them. This is proper, and puts the consideration and decision in the right framework.

Department needs in relation to function

Have the needs of the Department of State really become less? Is the current relationship of needs to personnel and funds such that a percentage of both should be cut? I very much doubt it. The level of waste is probably low, and the percentages decided on for cuts bear, apparently, no relation to waste or any other rational factor.3

[Page 309]

Let us look at the needs. The United States has diplomatic relations today with 120 countries; ten years ago the number was 84; in 1945 it was 57. Part of the expense of fulfilling the increased foreign affairs responsibilities reflected by these statistics has been pieced out by closing a large number of American consulates in many parts of the world—an economy that is obviously very costly in political terms.

Moreover, the range now covered by diplomatic relations has greatly enlarged. The U.S. Government has need to know a great deal about the economies of other countries and their trade; about scientific research, developments, and new technological undertakings abroad; the requirements for knowledge and understanding of the political life of other national societies continue to grow.

There is a further area for consideration. At a time when the United States is spending such enormous sums on the activities of our military establishment, we need to ask ourselves whether the allocation of resources we are making strikes a rational balance.4 Can some of our specific objectives in different parts of the world be better pursued through means other than the presence or use of military forces or programs of military assistance? What would be a rational level for foreign aid? To what extent do U.S. military expenditures and activities stimulate military escalation by the USSR? Have we related our military levels too much to Soviet capabilities, without taking proper account of Soviet intentions? Is there more that we can do in the political field to advance toward some measure of disarmament? Taking account of totalitarian purposes in the USSR, China, and Cuba, are there new measures we can adopt to promote stability and progress around the world and frustrate revolutionary “wars of national liberation”?

I should suppose the Department of State ought to have continuing task forces at work on a whole range of questions such as these. They are the Department’s province. The operating bureaus are too pressed with the despatch of current business to address the longer problem systematically and effectively. The Policy Planning Council should be at work on them, but should be supplemented by the efforts of task forces drawn from the universities, business, and public life as well as from the current Government service.

In order to fulfill its foreign affairs responsibilities, even when broadly rather than narrowly conceived, the Department of State would not require great appropriations. The amounts would still be minuscule in comparison to the Department of Defense appropriations. But there will be no hope of fulfilling foreign affairs responsibilities unless the resources available to the [Page 310] Department of State are rationally related to its proper needs. A flat percentage cut in existing personnel and funds can only remove to a greater distance the possibility of the Department’s doing its job.

Some false economies

Some of the subsidiary devices currently being used in the name of economy deserve to be mentioned here.

I have referred already to the closing of consulates.

Next, there is the substantial reduction in travel funds. The foreign affairs arm of the U.S. Government needs to be able to travel from this country to places abroad; within foreign countries from our missions there; and to attend all kinds of international gatherings. Loss of mobility is disabling. Ability to travel is essential to the Department of State before all other parts of Government. If gaps left by this Department are filled by Defense and CIA—whose appropriations are relatively much more generous—there is an inevitable effect on the power over foreign affairs within the U.S. Government; there is also an effect abroad in the image of the United States thereby created.

Then there is the freeze on promotions. Recently, in trying to bring about the much deserved promotion of a younger colleague in L, I was told that all promotions were frozen until May 15.5 If there is one thing above all that is important to the Department of State, it is quality of personnel. We have difficulty in remaining competitive with private enterprise for the services of the ablest young Americans. Differentials in pay have long existed and will doubtless never be eliminated. But the Government should be moving in the direction of narrowing the gap, not widening it. A freeze on promotions—particularly one that has uneven impact and seeks to finance a tiny fraction of Government expenditure through sacrifice made by an individual in the withholding of a deserved promotion—runs counter to the Government’s interests.

Issues of politics and national goals

The foregoing discussion has a budgetary point of departure. It soon becomes involved with large questions of policy. This seems to me intrinsically appropriate.

I recognize the deep political problem created when Congressman Mills says he will not proceed with fiscal measures requested by the President until the Administration has made cuts in non-military expenditures running into the billions of dollars. I wonder if the [Page 311] President would not be wise to reject such blackmail, particularly when it means the sacrifice of funds urgently needed for a meaningful war on poverty in the United States. This seems to me the kind of case that should be taken to the people of the country and made a great campaign issue in this election year.

In fiscal terms, the additional amounts of money properly needed by the Department of State are small—apart from foreign aid. But an excellent Department of State should be seen as national necessity of the first order. If there is difficulty in persuading Congress to increase appropriately the resources available to the Department, it might be helpful to have a survey, report and recommendations by a Presidential task force—on the range of functions the Department ought to be engaged in and the resources appropriate for the enterprise.

I believe the very waging of the war in Viet Nam makes it the more imperative that we improve and strengthen the arm of diplomacy. We need it at its best now and in the future.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, ORG 1–1. No classification marking. The memorandum indicates Rusk saw it.
  2. Authorized expenditures for fiscal year 1968 were as follows: the Department of State: $428.19 million; the Agency for International Development: $1.214 billion; the United States Information Agency: $187.32 million; the Peace Corps: $107.9 million; the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency: $9.3 million. [Footnote in the source text.]
  3. The State Department budget requests are carefully prepared—we are all urged to cut our budgets to the bone before they are even sent to the Bureau of the Budget. The treatment accorded State Department budget requests in the Congress needs no elaboration. When the budget process is completed, our requests for resources have been refined again and again into smaller figures. [Footnote in the source text.]
  4. The Government’s budget for the next fiscal year is $186.1 billion. Of this, military expenditures account for $82.3 billion. The total for all the foreign affairs agencies and their programs is $4.7 billion. [Footnote in the source text.]
  5. The choice of May 15 as the date has the effect of discriminating against Civil Service personnel in the Department, since the Foreign Service promotion lists are issued only in the late spring. [Footnote in the source text.]