174. Memorandum From Harold Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1


  • Ideas on Staffing

Before we get into specific names of possible people to work with me after Howard2 leaves this summer, there are several basic questions I would like to discuss with you. The answers will set the criteria we are trying to meet:

Should this person be from inside or outside the government? Are we seeking someone of independent stature or someone from within the ranks who knows both the NEA area and the bureaucracy? My own feeling is that, although it may limit our scope, it’s extremely important to have someone who knows his way around the bureaucracy. Right or wrong, much of our role is knowing how to get the best possible job done for the President rather than staking out the far-reaching guideposts of strategy. We try to inject as much of the latter as possible, but I [Page 394] believe we lead chiefly by our ability to influence week-to-week proposals as they’re formulated for the President.
If we pick somebody within the Government, what background? There’s a good argument for staying away from Foreign Service officers because they may be reluctant unless unusually well connected at State to push the Department very hard. People like Bill Bowdler manage this pretty well because of their personal relationships. However, an honest skepticism of the Department’s approach to things does no harm in this job. I think the problem would be less so getting someone from Defense or AID, although they’re specialized agencies and it would take a pretty broad-gauged person to meet our needs. The one other possibility is CIA. My mind naturally runs in that direction since I know people there and came from there myself. Obviously a good man can overcome minor handicaps, but I’d like to know whether you have strong feelings.
What level officer do you have in mind? The choice, as I see it, is between a junior assistant (such as I was when I came to work for Komer in 1961) and an alter ego. In practical terms this choice is between (a) a fellow 28–33 with 7–10 years of experience (maybe GS 11–13, O–4–6) and one with ten plus years of experience (around GS-14 or O–3–4).

Obviously we want the strongest person possible. On the other hand, experience in this job shows that one person must clearly be in charge of the whole show and that it’s impossible to divide up the area in any way except by dividing the daily work load. This suggests a clearly senior-junior relationship. Although the supervisory relationship is largely a matter of personalities, it’s important to me not to have any question about who is in charge simply to avoid friction.

Once we’ve had a chat on these questions, I’ll run up a list of candidates for you, and we can be more precise.

[Omitted here is discussion of a minor administrative matter.]

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Saunders Files, NSC Personnel. Personal and Confidential.
  2. Howard Wriggins, an NSC staff member whose areas of responsibility were South Asia and the Middle East; Wriggins left the NSC staff in July.