28. Letter From the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Administration (Crockett) to the Ambassador to Germany (McGhee)1

Dear George:

I was pleased to receive your letter of February 152 concerning the role of the Ambassador in the planning and direction of CIA activities. The questions you raised are indeed timely.

Background. To provide a context for my answers, let me refer to some of the historical background. You will recall that the extent of Ambassadorial authority has been a matter of concern to every President since the United States embarked upon complex multi-agency foreign operations during the 1940’s. The last five Presidents have each affirmed the authority of the Chief of Diplomatic Mission over all U.S. programs except those carried out by the unified and specified military commands. President Franklin D. Roosevelt on May 20, 1940 wrote:

“… The Chief of the United States Diplomatic Mission in a foreign country is the officer of the United States in charge in that country under whose supervision are coordinated the activities there of all the official representatives of the United States…

“All activities should be fully reported to the Chief of the Diplomatic Mission and be conducted under his advice and instructions.”2

On January 13, 1949, a Hoover Commission Task Force on Foreign Affairs—consisting of two former Assistant Secretaries of State, Harvey H. Bundy and James Grafton Rogers, with the advice of former Secretary of State and War Henry L. Stimson—reported:

“In 1939 the principle that all United States employees abroad should be responsible to the ambassador or minister in a particular country was recognized by the consolidation of the Commerce and Agriculture Departments’ overseas service with the Foreign Service…

“The presence of separate missions abroad, each with its own head, is confusing to the foreign governments and weakens the effectiveness [Page 60] of United States representation. Coupled with the present tendency to send other official and unofficial emissaries abroad, it is distinctly detrimental to the conduct of foreign affairs by the United States.

“The establishment of a single American spokesman for all United States activities in a particular country can be accomplished without the assumption by the State Department of responsibility for the various operational tasks involved. These special operational tasks… can be separately administered in Washington, but it is both impractical and dangerous for them to have spokesmen and operators abroad who are not responsible to the American ambassador or minister for supervision and coordination. If the operational task should ever transcend the regular diplomatic job in importance, it may be desirable to make the head of the special mission the ambassador for the duration of the particular program.”

President Hoover’s Report to President Truman concluded that the Chief of Mission should have “the ultimate authority overseas with respect to foreign affairs aspects of program operations.”3

On April 5, 1951, President Truman wrote to Secretary Acheson:

“The Secretary of State, under my direction, is the Cabinet officer responsible for the formulation of foreign policy and the conduct of foreign relations, and will provide leadership and coordination among the executive agencies in carrying out foreign policies and programs…

“At the country level all U.S. representatives to that country must speak and act in a consistent manner. The U.S. Ambassador is the representative of the President of the United States to the country and he is responsible for assuring a coordinated U.S. position. He should be fully supported in the exercise of this responsibility by all U.S. representatives to the country.”4

President Eisenhower, on July 24, 1956, sent instructions to all Chiefs of Mission, which stated:

“The representatives of all United States agencies in each foreign country are subject to the supervision and leadership of the Chief of Mission in connection with any of their activities which in his own judgment affect relations between the United States and the country to which he is accredited…

“The ultimate responsibility of the Chief of Mission cannot be delegated, but when directing large complex operations he necessarily carries [Page 61] out his executive and coordinating functions in some degree through subordinates.”5

President Kennedy wrote to Chiefs of Mission on May 29, 1961, as follows:

“In regard to your personal authority and responsibility, I shall count on you to oversee and coordinate all the activities of the United States Government in [country].6

“You are in charge of the entire United States Diplomatic Mission, and I shall expect you to supervise all of its operations. The Mission includes not only the personnel of the Department of State and the Foreign Service, but also the representatives of all other United States agencies which have programs or activities in [country]. I shall give you full support and backing in carrying out your assignment…

“As you know, your own lines of communication as Chief of Mission run through the Department of State.”7

The Ambassador and CIA Coordination. To my knowledge, there is no hidden exception or reservation to the Kennedy letter. It applied, and applies, to all agencies, activities, and programs attached to U.S. Missions. Moreover, the entire fabric of Secretary Rusk’s relationships with President Kennedy and President Johnson over the past four years has demonstrated consistent Presidential determination that all American employees abroad, except command troops, will be responsible to the Chief of Mission, not only for their personal conduct, but for the efficiency and economy of their activities and the relevance of those activities to American foreign policy.

My staff and I have carried on a dialogue with CIA, at the Deputy Director level and below, over the past two years on the subject of integrated planning and direction of Agency activities in the field. CIA maintains that Chiefs of Mission now have access to most field program information and recognizes the Ambassador’s responsibility for over-all program coordination and direction within his Mission.

On June 23, 1964, Richard Helms, CIA Deputy Director for Plans, sent a memorandum to the chiefs of all stations and bases entitled, “CIA Positions on National Policy Papers and Comprehensive Country Programming System.” This letter was useful in: (1) clarifying for CIA field personnel the nature and inter-relationship of CCPS and the NPPs; (2) describing the part that the Agency plays in developing NPPs; (3) recognizing [Page 62] the parallel between CIA country operations programs and CCPS; (4) requiring the cooperation of CIA chiefs in discussing substantive country situations with CCPS field teams; and (5) indicating that CIA programming information will be made available on a need-to-know basis to show allocation of resources to support achievement of national objectives. However, the letter also instructed CIA chiefs to refer the team to CIA headquarters for information concerning Agency personnel, programs, and expenditures. It did not provide guidance on the question of responding to the Chief of Mission’s own request for program information.8

Situation [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. This background leads me to submit the following comments with respect to the specific questions raised in your letter.

The Chief of Mission’s authority and responsibility under the Presidential letter of May 29, 1961 not only permits but requires him to supervise the CIA operations and programs in the country of his assignment and to coordinate those operations with the activities of the other components of his Mission.
This responsibility clearly requires that the Ambassador have access to program information at any level of generality, in any detail, and in any format he considers necessary.
My discussions with CIA/Washington indicate that top officials here recognize these principles and, if pressed, are prepared to authorize field personnel to furnish such information as the Ambassador may request.
The Helms June 23, 1964 memorandum is a reflection of the Agency’s recognition and acceptance of the authorities and responsibilities conferred on the Ambassador by the President’s letter.
There is no new authority beyond that expressed in the President’s letter.
To my knowledge no Ambassador has yet fully exercised the authorities enunciated in the President’s letter.
With respect to your question about your authority to take action, I believe that the President’s letter and the statements of his predecessors make it clear that you not only can but must “take action” any time you believe the activities of a U.S. agency jeopardize the interests of the United States. At the same time, I think you would be well advised to reserve drastic action to the most serious situations, and to communicate your judgments concerning ongoing programs in the form of budgetary recommendations which, as you know, are subject to appeal and review in Washington before they take effect.
With respect to your question concerning involvement in CIA budgetary processes, the foregoing supports an affirmative answer.
I would suggest the following review procedure for [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]:
Request and assemble program data using the CCPS format. This should be a relatively simple process in view of the claimed similarity between the Agency’s country operational program and CCPS.
Conduct formal review sessions with the senior CIA executive [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] for the purpose of: (1) relating CIA program activities and resource inputs to the objectives of U.S. foreign policy; and (2) evaluating CIA programs in terms of efficiency, economy, priorities, and possible gaps and duplications when juxtaposed with other U.S. programs. This should lead to your quantitative and qualitative judgments of both activities and resource levels, including staffing.
Unless you feel this information reveals a situation requiring immediate action, request the CIA [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] to reflect your decisions in [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] next budget submission.
If at any point the CIA [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] informs you that [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] cannot abide by your decisions, make your own recommendations to the President through Secretary Rusk.

Throughout the review process the Department and CIA would have a joint interest in protecting CIA program data by using prescribed special classification and communication channels and by not expanding access to this data. The data should not therefore be included in the CCP book, but should be set out in a properly classified and controlled annex to the book. There should be no objection to one member of your personal staff working with you and the CIA component to relate program data to the CCPS grid and to assist in interpreting and reviewing it.

I assure you that the Department and I will support any efforts you undertake to exercise the authority assigned to you by the President. If you think it would be helpful, I will inform CIA at the Deputy Director level of your concerns and your intentions. But you should recognize that no official in Washington has as strong a mandate for supervising overseas programs as you have been given. I would, therefore, urge that you take the initiative in this matter and use our support if it becomes necessary.

The matters you have raised are of concern to many Chiefs of Mission. The Department welcomes your inquiry and offers all possible assistance.

With warmest regards,


William J. Crockett 9
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, Crockett Papers, MS 74–28, WJC Book. Secret; Official-Informal. Drafted by Robert Cox (O/MP). Crockett forwarded a copy of the letter to Rusk under cover of a March 10 memorandum in which he noted that Helms had been advised of his correspondence with McGhee. (Ibid.) For CIA’s reaction to Crockett’s letter, see Document 220.
  2. Not found.
  3. Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of Government, The Organization of the Government for the Conduct of Foreign Affairs: A Report with Recommendations (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1949), pp. 120–121.
  4. Not found.
  5. Department of State Circular 58. (Eisenhower Library, Records of the President’s Advisory Committee on Government Organization, Box 14, #98-Coordination in Overseas Missions)
  6. Brackets in this and the following paragraph are in the source text.
  7. Printed in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1961, pp. 1345–1347.
  8. Not found.
  9. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.