138. Memorandum From the Staff Director of the Interdepartmental Regional Group for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Duemling) to the Staff Director of the Senior Interdepartmental Group (Hartman)1


  • Staff Study on the Role of the SIG

I found your paper2 on the SIG’s role in the coordination of foreign affairs and national security policy to be quite a fair appraisal of the SIG/IRG mechanism, with respect to both its potentialities and current level of performance. The paper will be most useful in briefing new principals in this Bureau; a copy is also being circulated to Mr. Bundy and his Deputies.

I have only three specific comments on the paper:

Like the SIG (see your page 4, first paragraph),3 we have found that the IRG/EA can serve as a forum for ventilation of issues on which there is disagreement within Defense.
The IRG/EA, perhaps in contrast to the SIG, has often functioned as an exploratory body. We have therefore welcomed participation by representatives of offices and agencies outside the stipulated membership, to a degree well beyond the limits mentioned on page 8 of your paper.4 A measure of candor and confidence may be sacrificed thereby, though we have not been aware of it. In any case, this difference points to a functional variation within the SIG/IRG mechanism.
I would dissent mildly from your view (page 5)5 that the stature and authority of an Assistant Secretary is enhanced by his being concurrently Chairman of the IRG; in this Bureau, the opposite has been true.

My own view is that the principal value of the SIG/IRG mechanism, and of the SIG’s action on the IRG, derives from its catalytic function. Without exception an expression of SIG interest has resulted in more intensive efforts by EA operating levels to explore the ramifications of problems and to identify more clearly the options available. This procedure might be enhanced if the SIG staff directed more of its efforts through the IRG/EA staff (such as it is!) rather than obliquely and sometimes ambiguously to the Country Desks concerned. I would even expand the point by observing that SIG/IRG relations—both on the formal, and informal staff levels—should be a two-way street, and that past performance could certainly be improved.

Another plus is the multiplier effect resulting from SIG or IRG interest. Let me illustrate. In attempting to produce an SAFC on the Taiwan Straits, the IRG/EA discovered that greater elucidation and precision was required on certain matters involving intelligence estimates and current policy. Accordingly, the IRG/EA directed preparation of ancillary studies which will be valuable not only in preparing an SAFC on the Taiwan Straits, but in connection with a concurrent policy review on force levels and structures in Taiwan.

Finally, I would stress the usefulness of the IRG as an open forum for discussion of problems often dimly perceived. Some of the most fruitful meetings of the IRG/EA have not resulted in specific decisions or in approval of action papers, but rather have clarified and advanced collective thinking within that area of the Government charged with responsibility for U.S. policy toward East Asia.

The experience of this Bureau clearly supports the continuation and strengthening of the SIG/IRG mechanism. The imperfections of the system are as clear to us as they are to you. But the mechanism has had a rationalizing effect on the decision-making process and has helped guard against decisions flawed by imprecision or parochialism.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S/S-SIG Files: Lot 70 D 263, SIG/Administrative. Confidential. A copy was sent to William Bundy.
  2. Document 137.
  3. Part I, paragraph beginning: “Two important aspects of the SIG should also be noted…”
  4. Part II B, paragraph beginning: “Third, informality and confidentiality.”
  5. Part I, paragraph beginning: “The SIG is the outgrowth of efforts of the last three Presidents…”