156. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson1


  • Promotions in your National Security Staff
I am now in a position to recommend formally that you appoint Robert Komer as Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs.2 I also recommend that, at the same time if possible, you appoint Francis Bator as Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Economics), (a cumbersome title, but one which is precisely accurate). I have cleared these recommendations with John Macy.
The best reason for recommending Bob Komer is that I do not have to tell you anything about him you do not already know. After wartime service in combat intelligence in Italy, he joined the CIA in 1947 and has been a career public servant ever since. But he is a career serv-ant of a very unusual and energetic sort, as befits a graduate of Valenti’s favorite business school. He has extraordinary range, and a steadily growing mastery of the processes of international politics. He is a tiger for work, and he has a temperament which allows him to bounce back easily when his advice is not taken. This makes him the kind of staff officer one dreams of and seldom finds.
Moreover, Komer is discreet. He has been dealing with knowledgeable press people for four years, and I have never known him to make a serious slip—something which I could not claim for myself. He has the respect of the best of them, like Phil Potter.3 He also has the high regard of the ablest men in the Diplomatic Corps in his areas.
What is much more important is that he has the confidence of the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, both of whom have tried to lure him away from the White House.
More important still is that Komer is enthusiastically loyal to you. He will give you arguments, but he will always do his energetic best to carry out your orders just as you want them executed. He will be still more effective in this latter task with the additional rank and visibility which this new appointment will give him.
Finally, and most important of all, Bob Komer is one of the handful of men in the Government upon whom you can rely for sound and prompt judgment in the event of a sudden crisis. He will instinctively alert the right officers and ask the right questions, and he will never hesitate to turn to you directly when he is in doubt. This set of qualities makes me confident that it is right to recommend him for an appointment which will make him the senior officer on this side of the White House when I am not here. In my judgment, it is highly important that there be such an officer here, and I believe Komer is plainly the best qualified man in sight. After this new appointment is made, I expect that either Komer or I will always be on the spot here, and I would expect him to be fully informed on the broad range of National Security issues so that he can always act for me in my absence. Komer is 44.
The case of Bator is somewhat different and the need for a promotion somewhat less compelling. Nevertheless, I strongly recommend that the proposed appointment be made and announced at the same time as Komer’s. Francis Bator, at 40, is probably the best all-around international economist in the Government, and he has fully earned the recognition which this appointment would give him. He has won the extravagant admiration of men as different as Joe Fowler4 and Walter Lippmann. In the last year Bator has had a major role in the defense of the dollar, the defense of the pound, and the coordination of the Kennedy Round. Working with Joe Fowler, he has helped to make Treasury-White House relations closer and more effective than ever before. He has an analytic intelligence of a high order, but he is also a man of good practical sense. He firmly understands the role of a White House staff officer in defending and advancing the President’s own interests, and he is wholly loyal to you. His promotion has the warm support of Joe Fowler and Tom Mann, who are the men he has to deal with most.
Bator has one disadvantage, which is that for personal reasons his family have been unable to join him in Washington. He therefore goes regularly for weekends to Massachusetts. He compensates for this disability by working morning, noon and night five days a week down here, and he has always been willing to stay over when there is any immediate economic issue to be dealt with. But there is a sense in which [Page 364] this arrangement, coupled with his relative lack of intense political experience, makes him more a staff than a line officer, and for that reason I think it important to distinguish his assignment from Komer’s by the parenthetical word (Economics).
Finally, I should say a word about the administrative aspects of these appointments. Ideally, I would wish that the Deputy Special Assistant should have a salary in the range of Category IV, and a Deputy for Economics in the range of Category V. When Walt Rostow and Carl Kaysen held the Deputy’s post they had the salaries of Assistant Secretaries, which would correspond to these categories. But neither Komer nor Bator is in immediate financial need, and there is no way to get such high-level appointments without putting their whole salaries directly on the White House budget, which I am reluctant to recommend. It is therefore my suggestion that their salaries continue to be paid, at the present GS-18 level, from the National Security Council budget, unless and until it becomes convenient to make a change. I am confident that this arrangement will be acceptable to them.
Both Komer and Bator have up-to-date security clearances, and neither has ever had any trouble whatever on this score.
I attach a brief statement5 which might be put out by Bill Moyers at such time as is convenient to you although I doubt there is much news value in these appointments, except within the Government and among local Government-watchers. Alternatively, you might wish to save these announcements for your next press conference.
McG. B.

Go ahead6

Speak to me

Have Moyers put out

Save for press conference

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President-McGeorge Bundy, Vol. 14. No classification marking.
  2. In a March 15 memorandum to the President, which Bundy signed but decided not to forward, he proposed that Komer be made an Assistant to the Special Assistant for National Security Affairs, explaining that “I would like to make him a member of the White House Staff, while keeping his pay and administration in the National Security Council. This would end an anomaly which has troubled him and two or three of my other senior people ever since 1961—they work directly for me and at least indirectly for you, but their official standing is that of staff officers of the National Security Council, and unfortunately the term ‘NSC Staff’ has no real weight in the government. Actually, knowledgeable people already think of them as members of the White House Staff, or at least the ‘Bundy staff,’ and that is what I would now like to make official.” (Ibid., Vol. 9)
  3. Washington Bureau Chief for the Baltimore Sun.
  4. Henry H. Fowler, Secretary of the Treasury.
  5. Attached but not printed.
  6. The President checked the first and third options. Moyers announced the promotions at his news conference on October 19. (News Conference #160–A; Johnson Library, President’s Appointment File, October 19)