133. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State (Katzenbach) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Administration (Rimestad)1


  • Personnel Administration

Now that your congressional hearings are out of the way, I would like to push ahead with some real speed on a number of matters in the personnel field. On several of these I am frankly disappointed that we are not further along already. The first three are these.


Several months ago I asked for your comments on a proposal regarding assignments to key positions, the heart of which was that competition for our most important jobs should be open to all our best men—to FSO–3s and 4s, as well as to FSO–1s and 2s. I know you have already been thinking, and to some extent moving, in the direction suggested by the proposal.

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In my view, the statistics speak for themselves. As the middle of last year we had only seven officers above the level of FSO–3 who were forty years old or younger, although almost half of our 3,500-man officer corps was less than 40 years old. It simply makes no sense to exclude almost all of the most able officers under 40—and there are some extraordinary ones—from the most responsible positions in the Department. Specifically, we have to be able to tap the 1300 FSO–3s and 4s for any job we have available if, notwithstanding less experience, the best man is an FSO–3 or an FSO–4.

The President, who has been pressing vigorously for younger ambassadorial candidates, wants to review personally assignments to a number of our key positions (DCM and Deputy Assistant Secretary levels). We have to be able to show him that ability is the sole criteria as to assignments, even at this level, and that we haven’t created “no poaching” preserves in the Department for part of the Foreign Service.

Finally, unless we adopt ability as the sole criteria, we are going to rule ourselves right out of the market for the most ambitious, talented and able young men graduating from colleges in the next years. I am, of course, not suggesting a preference for youth; I am saying that we will have to end discrimination against youth.

The memo I sent2 included several other suggestions as well. I would like your comments on all of them, as well as concrete proposals on how we can proceed.

Several weeks ago I asked for target figures for temporary and permanent out-placement of FSOs; for proposals as to the steps we would have to take to meet these targets; and for comments on the desirability, as a first step, of setting up a separate operation in “O” to handle reimbursable assignments, training assignments, assignments with universities, etc. I want to push ahead with this promptly and would like your specific proposals.

If we’re really going to deal with the problem of too slow advancement in the Foreign Service and if we want to increase the confidence and independence of our officers, then—far more than incentive retirement legislation—we are going to need a phenomally effective and aggressive out-placement service that can find all-but-irresistible outside opportunities for any Foreign Service Officer, but especially for those in the senior grades. Everything I hear indicates that our present operation, even expanded as it now is, is in the “horse and buggy” stage. In particular, as far as I know, we have no professional assistance and are not systematically calling on the advice and help of businessmen and educators who could assist us in setting up a truly effective [Page 313]operation. I would like some dramatic proposals from “O”, as well as your views on whether we will not have to give some general retirement counseling to all officers of retirement age (and encouragement to many) if we are going to really deal with our present problems.

I’d like to discuss these three issues with you at your convenience next week. Then we can move on to additional personnel matters.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S/S-Katzenbach Files: Lot 74 D 271, NK Chron 1968. Personal and Confidential.
  2. Not found.