160. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Valenti) to President Johnson1


  • Organization of the Bundy shop

What Should Duties Be


Alternative plotting. The key, essential responsibility of your foreign affairs group in the White House ought to be cataloguing, illuminating, bringing forth alternative courses of action to every recommendation from State and Defense.

Every recommendation from State and Defense ought to be put under a coldly appraising eye: What else can we do—what other paths can we take—what are the alternative costs in money, treasure, prestige results?

Planning. There ought to be a small cadre in your Bundy shop who do nothing but try to figure out how to solve a particular problem. For example, there ought to be a small group thinking, all day and all night, on how we can break the Viet Nam logjam.
Briefing and digesting. This is an obvious task, briefing down cables, digesting reports—in other words making available to the President a full flow of information.

Does This Conflict with State and Defense

No matter how much the President relies on his Secretaries, he ought to have, indeed must have, a checking mechanism, a competitive [Page 372] force that gives him flexibility. (State and Defense will perform with more agility and imagination if they know they are being counter-checked by someone else. This is the reason many business firms have two or more advertising agencies—it keeps each agency working harder to outdo the competitor—no one grows lax or lazy.)

Is The Bundy Shop Too Large Now

The large majority of people now in the Bundy shop are technicians, custodians who deal with cables, the Situation Room and all its paraphernalia. There are less than two dozen professionals and their assistants. This is a small price to pay for an indispensable Presidential asset.

No doubt the hangers-on could be eliminated. But the hard-core thinkers and planners ought to be kept or even added to, if after a thorough search it was found to be useful.

The decisive point: Anything or anybody that helps the President come to sound foreign policy decisions is worth the price, whatever it is.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Office of the President File, McGeorge Bundy. No classification marking.