166. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bator) to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1



  • Internal Communications

I promised you a memo on this, because—for an operation which lives on speed and wits—it is obviously important that there be minimum slippage in communications. Physical separation makes the problem more important. (If we were all sitting in the basement, the chance of not getting hold of relevant papers would be much reduced. Although I enjoy the exercise, foraging expeditions across West Executive Avenue are only a partial substitute.)

In any case, I would suggest the following—most but not all of it already SOP:

Outgoing Cables for Clearing: We will have to work out what cables State does and does not send over for clearance as we go along. This is obviously a delicate question. As regards the European and non-regional economic cables which do come over, I suggest that they be routed automatically to me. I will clear, haggle, check with you, check with the President (routing through you), as appropriate. But primary responsibility for the cable-clearing business on Europe and non-regional economics should, I think, be here.
Incoming Memoranda to the President (or from Read to Rostow): Again, on Europe and non-regional economic matters, all such memoranda should come here for processing. If very quick action is needed, an alert by telephone might be the first step.2 (We should watch out for, and discourage as appropriate, foreign policy memoranda going elsewhere in the White House.)3
Nodis and Exdis Cables: This has worked very well recently. I would suggest that copies of European and non-regional economic Nodis/Exdis cables be given simultaneously and automatically to you [Page 381] and myself.4 (It is exceedingly irritating and even costly when one finds out about important incoming or outgoing cables inadvertently, on the telephone with Ball, Leddy or whoever.)
Correspondence with Heads of State: Harold Wilson is, of course, the major correspondent. The present procedure: Bromley sending the message up to the President, with simultaneous copies to you and me (as a matter of automatic rule) makes good sense.5 It would even be worthwhile to have the Situation Room telephone my office when anything comes in. (I assume that distribution to the Secretary of State is automatic, except when the subject is sterling. In that case, there should be no distribution outside the building and I will personally manage the problem with the Secretary of the Treasury.)6
My Memoranda to the President: Except on balance of payments and international money—where I have been sitting on the Cabinet Committee for over a year—I will send everything I send to the President through you, subject to our side agreement of yesterday. On balance of payments and money, you will of course have a copy at the same time the original goes to the President.7 (The only exception to the above would occur if something has to go up in a great hurry, when you are not available. This was the procedure I followed with Mac.)
Your European and Economic Memoranda to the President: It would be helpful, and avoid crossed wires, if you could let me see copies of your memoranda to the President on Europe or non-regional economic matters.
Exdis Daily Summaries, State Evening Report, President’s Schedule: Because the inflow of relevant cables is enormous, the Exdis Summaries are useful in giving a quick lead to what is hot. As regards the Secretary’s Daily Report, it is important and useful to know what information the President is getting. I am aware that these are delicate documents, but rather less delicate than a lot of the standard business for which I have responsibility. (If these were held for me in the Situation Room on a routine basis, I would be prepared to read them over there. This is a nuisance, but less of a nuisance than foraging, which is what I do now.)
SIG and IRG Papers:8
Return Memoranda from the President’s Office: Obviously, either the original or a Xerox copy of my own memoranda should come back here [Page 382] for execution9 via White House messenger. In general, on Europe as well as non-regional economics, action instructions especially at the Assistant Secretary level ought to continue to go out from here. It should be clear to John Leddy as well as to my Economic Assistant Secretary network that their incoming and outgoing White House link continues to be right here. (Obviously, exceptions prove the rule—sometimes speed and availability must govern. However things would get entirely out of hand if there developed any ambiguity about who is the primary contact. Even Mac, who was hardly an organization man, was very careful about this.)

Weekends: Ed Hamilton, who is really a gem—as discreet and sensible as he is able—will continue to be my stand-in and communication center on weekends. For some months he has been privy to everything going on in my office and, whenever I am not available, should have full access to all the above. He will be in close touch with me on the telephone.

I put all this on paper because it is critical to our providing the President with efficient and effective service. Every one of us is operating on very, very thin margins on speed, wits and 12-plus hours worth of energy per day. If our own internal information system bogs down the job becomes entirely unmanageable.

Francis M. Bator 10
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Rostow Files, Personnel, April 1, 1966—. No classification marking. The document was presumably written soon after April 1, 1966, when Rostow succeeded Bundy. Rostow wrote numerous fragmentary notes on the memorandum, presumably reflecting his thoughts and reactions while reading it. Some have been noted below. At the top of page one of the memorandum Rostow wrote “Talk to Brom” (Bromley Smith).
  2. Rostow wrote “if possible—we’ll try real hard” above the line at this point.
  3. Rostow wrote “I know” in the margin next to this sentence.
  4. In the margin next to this sentence Rostow wrote “in general yes-but can’t guarantee 100%. I will decide.”
  5. Rostow wrote “Decision made here” in the margin next to this sentence.
  6. Rostow wrote “me” after “Treasury.”
  7. Rostow wrote above the line at this point “no—all.”
  8. Bator left this section blank.
  9. Rostow circled “for execution” and wrote in the margin “reserve—check with me.”
  10. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.