16. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Johnson 1


  • How the State Department Operates

When George Ball and I were talking with you the other day,2 you asked for a memorandum explaining how the State Department operates. With some over-simplification, the major elements of the Department’s operations can be described as follows:

Special Characteristics of Department

The most striking aspect of the Department is that it deals almost entirely with policy and negotiations. Except for its consular activities (passports and visas) and its cultural exchange program, it has no significant operating functions. AID, USIA, the Peace Corps, and the Disarmament Agency are separate entities, but receive policy direction from the President through the Secretary of State.
The State Department does not run armies or administer large spending programs. Its main responsibility is to recommend and administer foreign policy as the arm of the President. It does this by daily contacts with foreign governments through 293 posts abroad (111 embassies, 66 consulates general, 86 consulates, 17 consular agencies, 6 missions, 5 special offices, and 2 legations) and about 75 international organizations, and by constant discussions between 115 foreign embassies and legations and the Department in Washington.
Because the Department has no significant operating functions, it has one of the smallest budgets of any of the statutory departments. Because the Department is primarily concerned with policy, it has far more “field grade” officers than privates.
In spite of the vast growth of its responsibilities, the Department has kept a tight check on expansion. Although the United States maintains relations with 50% more countries than in 1952, and maintains a commensurate number of additional posts around the world, the State Department has approximately the same number of employees it had twelve years ago (15–16,000).
Most of the problems that concern the Department never reach the attention of the public. Those that do get into the newspapers are, [Page 29] for the most part, situations where the governments concerned have failed to prevent a controversy. The great bulk of the Department’s business does not come to public attention. For example, in 1963, US Government representatives attended 548 inter-governmental meetings on a great variety of subjects; of these only 105 were ever named by The New York Times.

Structure of Department

I. The Secretary and Under Secretary

George Ball and I operate on the basis that the Under Secretary is my alter ego. We organize our schedule so that one of us is present in Washington at all times. (During the past three years, there have been only a very few days when this has not been the case.) We each deal directly with the Assistant Secretaries.

II. The Regional Assistant Secretaries

The heart of the Department consists of five regional bureaus, each headed by an Assistant Secretary of State:
  • Bureau of African Affairs (Mennen Williams)
  • Bureau of European Affairs (William Tyler)
  • Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs (William Bundy)
  • Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Phillips Talbot)
  • Bureau of Inter-American Affairs (Thomas Mann)
In theory, each regional Assistant Secretary is a Secretary of State for his area. Subject to my broad direction, he gives the necessary guidance and makes the decisions that do not require the personal attention of the Secretary or of the President. The strength and effectiveness of the State Department depends very largely upon the competence and skill of the five regional Assistant Secretaries.
Other bureaus of the Department play essential but more specialized roles. United Nations problems are, for example, handled by the Bureau of International Organizations, headed by Harlan Cleveland. Foreign economic policy is directed on a day-to-day basis by the Bureau of the Economic Affairs, headed by Griffith Johnson. The Bureau of Congressional Relations is obviously basic to the success of the Department, and the same thing can be said of the Bureau of Public Affairs, now headed by James Greenfield.

III. The Under Secretary for Political Affairs

The third officer in the Department—the second Under Secretary—may, under the law, be designated either as Under Secretary for Economic Affairs or Under Secretary for Political Affairs.
This post was originally created to make a place for Will Clayton as Under Secretary for Economic Affairs. After the lapse of a few years, it was subsequently reestablished to provide a place for Douglas Dillon in the same capacity.
There are, I think, strong reasons for restoring this post to its economic origins.
The Department of State must of necessity provide central direction for economic policy. Not only are our foreign economic and political policies intertwined, but each of the other interested Departments (Commerce, Agriculture, and Labor) represents only a special sector of the economy.
During the eleven months that George Ball was Under Secretary for Economic Affairs in 1961, we were able to initiate a number of major economic programs—the Trade Expansion Act; the International Cotton Textile Agreement; the approval of the legislation creating the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the expansion of the functions of the Development Assistance Committee to provide an effective instrument for coordinating national programs of foreign aid. There has been no Under Secretary for Economic Affairs during the last three years however, and, as a result, the Department has not shown the same leadership in foreign economic policy.
There are other reasons also why I propose to change this post. As the Department is now constituted, the existence of an Under Secretary for Political Affairs tends to cloud the lines of authority. It is not practicable to interpose an additional officer between the Assistant Secretaries and the Secretary and the Under Secretary, and, as a consequence, the man occupying the third post (the Under Secretary for Political Affairs) has tended to concentrate on special problems. Mr. Harriman, for example, has assumed a particular responsibility for the problems of Africa, and to a lesser extent, the Far East.3

IV. The Deputy Under Secretary for Political Affairs

Contrary to a widespread misconception, the Deputy Under Secretary for Political Affairs (the post held by Alexis Johnson and now temporarily by Ambassador Thompson) has no major line responsibilities.

He performs the highly important task of relating foreign policy to our military and security operations around the world. He works in constant collaboration with the Department of Defense and the intelligence agencies.

[Page 31]

V. The Deputy Under Secretary for Administration


Mr. Crockett, the Deputy Under Secretary for Administration, is the man who, in one sense of the word “runs the Department.” He has charge of administration and all operating functions.

He has prime responsibility, for example, for the offices issuing passports and visas and for the administration of security. He also has over-all supervision of personnel matters. The Department is peculiar in that it not only has Civil Service employees, but also a Foreign Service that administers itself with some measure of autonomy-subject, of course, to my overriding authority.

As the senior officer in charge of administration, Mr. Crockett has primary responsibility for personnel matters. In this capacity, he exercises considerable discretion in the assignment of officers to posts overseas and makes recommendations with regard to the filling of ambassadorial assignments.

Handling the Department’s Business

The Department conducts most of its business with foreign governments through its posts abroad, but the key decisions concerning this business are made in Washington. Only in Washington is it possible to develop our policy toward a particular country in light of all the factors that may bear upon it.
The Secretary and Under Secretaries direct and control the Department in a variety of ways:
The Secretary holds a staff meeting every morning. Each bureau chief reports on the problems of principal current interest and receives the advice of the Secretary and other principal officers.
The Secretary and Under Secretary meet throughout the day with the Assistant Secretaries and their staffs on specific problems of special current importance.
The Under Secretary meets each day with one of the regional Assistant Secretaries for a full review of the work of his bureau.
A significant portion of the Department’s affairs is handled through telegrams to and from the field. The Department now sends on the average 1,000 telegrams a day, and receives 1,300. In addition, there is a regular flow of letters, airgrams, despatches, etc. Of the telegrams sent by the Department, the vast majority are cleared at the bureau level. Only a small proportion require clearance by the Secretary or Under Secretaries.
The most important telegrams sent by the Department pass through the Secretariat, which is the nerve center of the Department.
Telegrams may reach the Secretary or Under Secretary for clearance for any one of several reasons: [Page 32]
The relevant Assistant Secretary may decide that a particular matter is of sufficient importance to be brought to the attention of the Secretary or Under Secretary who may, in turn, wish to obtain the decision of the President;
The problem may concern several bureaus that have different views as to the policy to be followed;
The Secretary or Under Secretary is actively following a particular matter and has indicated a desire to see outgoing messages; or
The head of the Secretariat, Ben Read, decides that, for any one of a number of reasons, a particular message should be cleared at the top level.

Proposed Reorganization of the Department

With the beginning of your new Administration, I propose to adjust the structure of the Department to make it more responsive to present-day problems.
I plan to divide the present Bureau of European Affairs into two parts: (a) a Bureau of Western European and Atlantic Affairs; and (b) a Bureau of Eastern European and North Asian Affairs.4

The Bureau of Western European and Atlantic Affairs would include:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Cyprus*
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Greece*
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Luxembourg
  • The Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Turkey*
  • United Kingdom
  • West Germany

* Cyprus, Greece, and Turkey are now part of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, but, in my view, properly belong in a new Bureau of Western European and Atlantic Affairs. Turkey and Greece are members of NATO and each has recently been negotiating an associate membership in the European Common Market. Neither of these states is Arabic-speaking and each has a strong desire to be treated as part of Western Europe.


The Bureau of Eastern European and North Asian Affairs would include:

  • Albania
  • Bulgaria
  • Communist China*
  • Czechoslovakia
  • East Germany
  • Hungary
  • Poland
  • Rumania
  • USSR
  • Yugoslavia

* Under present arrangements, Red China is being handled by an Office in the Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs. This means that there is no single focus in the Department on the problems of the Communist world. In view of the tensions between Russia and China, there are real advantages in charging one bureau with attention to this central issue. The split countries—Korea and Viet-Nam—would, however, remain in the Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs.

I also plan to transfer the Maghreb (Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia) together with Libya, from the Bureau of African Affairs to the Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs. These four countries are almost as much a part of the Arab world as the United Arab Republic. They should be treated as such.
Finally, I propose to eliminate the Bureau of Administration and the Bureau of Security and Consular Affairs. These Bureaus are presently under the general supervision of the Deputy Under Secretary for Administration. After these changes, direct responsibility for the functions of both Bureaus will be carried out by him.5
None of these changes will require the addition of personnel. While one new regional Assistant Secretary will be added, I propose to make this slot available by eliminating the position of Assistant Secretary for Administration. With the exception of legislation to eliminate the Bureau of Security and Consular Affairs and the position of its Administrator, no new legislation will be needed to carry out any of these changes.
Dean Rusk 6
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S/S-Ball Files: Lot 74 D 272, Under Secretary Ball-1964. Confidential. Drafted by Ball.
  2. December 20; see Document 15.
  3. On March 11, 1965, the President appointed Under Secretary for Political Affairs W. Averell Harriman to the position of Ambassador at Large and appointed Thomas Mann to the position of Under Secretary for Economic Affairs.
  4. The changes proposed in points 2 and 3 were not implemented.
  5. See Document 29 regarding implementation of this proposal.
  6. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.