163. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Valenti) to President Johnson 1

Mr. President:

Here are some thoughts and suggestions that you may want to consider in regard to the Bundy operation.


I suggest that you install Bob Komer as Acting Special Assistant in Charge of National Security.

I think it important that the job not go vacant for more than several days else we will incite stories about unfilled positions in the White House—such as Congressional relations and National Security.

I have been probing throughout the basement staff over the last several days and I think the Komer appointment would meet with approval of all the people now in the group.

There is no doubt that Komer has the ability to do the job. The principal drawback that I have found is he might feel some concern about not being able to talk at the level of Secretary McNamara and Secretary Rusk.

Also, there is a petulance about him that causes some concern with his co-workers. Moreover, there is the feeling that Komer lives close to the surface of these problems and sometimes becomes emotional about them.

But in general, my probings have brought forth the information that Komer is tough and able—and with the assurance that the President has confidence in him he would be able, I am persuaded, to disavow all these liabilities and do the kind of job that you would want to have done.

Once Komer was established in his own mind as your man, in whom you repose confidence and trust, he would be able to function with efficiency and dispatch.


Bright young men in the basement.


Ed Hamilton . He is 27 years old-a graduate of the University of Minnesota—did his Doctoral work at Harvard. He is a Political Scientist by trade and right now engages in European and Economic Affairs in the Bundy shop. For a time he was assistant to Kermit Gordon at the Bureau of the Budget. He is an excellent writer, whose mind is quick and daring—the kind of young man that I think could serve you well.

I have talked to him at great length and I think that he would be loyal as well as energetic.

Jim Thomson. He is 34, with a PhD from Harvard in Chinese history. In 1959 he was an assistant to Chester Bowles when Bowles was in Congress and moved with Bowles to the State Department. After that he worked for Roger Hilsman and Bill Bundy and then came to the Mac Bundy Operation. Thomson is by all odds the most imaginative and brainiest of the group downstairs. He and Hamilton would rank as No. one and two. Harvard has been trying to get him to come back to teach there. But I think that he would stay and do the kind of work that you need done if there was some indication that he was needed.
Rick Haynes. A young Negro and Yale lawyer who has been working on African affairs. From every source that I have investigated, Haynes comes out as being one of the smartest men in the shop. He has done an exceptionally good job working under Komer’s tutelage for a year. He is an excellent man and his credentials seem to be valid. He is the kind of man that you would certainly want to keep in the operation.
Francis Bator . Bator, of course, is a deputy along with Komer. He gets very high marks from his associates as an extraordinarily competent man in the economic field. There is little doubt what he ought to be kept on for his loss would produce a real void in the operation. He has your best interests at heart and from all I can gather has been totally loyal in every respect.

There are other bright young men in and around the government that we might want to consider bringing into the Bundy operation, such as:

  • Nick Farr, who is now on the Near East and Southeast Asia desk at AID is one such man. He is 40 years old and extremely competent.
  • Al Puhan—on the German desk at the State Department is another young man who seems to fit the bill as bright and able and imaginative.
  • Allen Whiting, who is the Chief of the Far Eastern Bureau of Intelligence. He works for Tom Hughes at the State Department and is considered to be one of the foremost scholars on China.
  • Tom Hughes, who is 40 years old—in charge of the Intelligence operation at the State Department. He comes up with high marks from everyone I talk to. He seems to be one of the ablest men at the State Department and someone that you may want to consider bringing over here.
  • David Klein used to work for Bundy in the European Affairs. Klein was with me at the Harvard Business School and is a very bright and able man.
  • Spurgeon Keeny, who is the Science and Technical representative on the Bundy staff has been favorably talked about by nearly everyone with whom I had conversation. Bundy depended upon him greatly in matters of Science and Technology.


The next stop: What I would choose to suggest is that the next week or so you might gather all these bright young men together in your office or in the Situation Room and chat with them about their views on Vietnam and the world in general. I think it might prove very beneficial to let these young daring minds explore with you some of the problems that are troubling you. Sometimes it’s very good to have access to new thinking, particularly from young people who aren’t constricted by tradition or bound by circumscribed limits.

The point is that a really formidable team can be enlisted to carry on in the wake of the Bundy departure. The more imaginative and able people that you can gather in your national security shop in the basement, the more options are open to you.

I attach a memorandum2 that I wrote recently about what I thought the outlines and dimensions of the job ought to be for this shop to carry out. From my conversation with a number of the bright young men these dimensions seem to fit.

I would suggest you might want to consider naming Walt Rostow as the equivalent of Ambassador Porter in the State Department. Rostow had great ideas about the viability of the Vietnamese political system and how to move from a position of war into peace with the least possible discomfort. From what I have been able to gather, if Rostow is given a specific job like this, he would do a very competent job. Moreover, by putting him in charge of the peace operation it would cover up the so-called “hard line” that he is expected to take in matters of military policy.
In my probings I have found that the idea of a military adviser to the President meets with very good favor. It is good for the President to have not only diplomatic options, but he ought to have military options also. Bringing General Goodpaster over in the Bundy operation as military adviser to the President would be a good move and would allow you to have someone to digest and brief down all the military recommendations. In this way you again widen your options and alternatives.
Jack Valenti 3
  1. Source: Johnson Library, Office of the President File, McGeorge Bundy. No classification marking.
  2. Not attached but presumably Document 160.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.