36. Memorandum From the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Administration (Crockett) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Solomon)1


  • State-Commerce Relations

Although I realize you are burdened with the task of acquainting yourself with a host of operations and problems, there is one subject I [Page 77] would like to bring to your attention at this time-the general relationship between the State Department and the Department of Commerce and between the Foreign Service and the American business community.

Traditionally, the Bureau of Economic Affairs has neither been deeply concerned about the modus vivendi between State and Commerce nor about the quality of services offered by our posts to the American businessmen seeking or developing markets abroad. It is imperative that your Bureau’s interests in these areas be intensified.


State and Commerce—The history between these two agencies and the question of who has what responsibilities abroad has undergone a host of bureaucratic permutations. Suffice to say that in the past few years Commerce strongly insisted upon, and we grudgingly agreed to, a separation of the commercial function from the general activities of the economic sections of our posts. The creation of a commercial specialist program included a complex effort to develop officer specialists in commercial activities, to give them status through the use of appropriate diplomatic titles and to ensure that these officers were able to deal directly with the Department of Commerce.

It is all summed up in the “Agreement” of November 15, 1961 between State and Commerce.2 Some people felt that this separation of the commercial activity was the first step towards a separate commercial Foreign Service. Indeed, the bureaucracy in Commerce had long pressed for a separate Service.

Therefore, we were somewhat surprised when Commerce reversed its position early this year. The new stance was that commercial and economic work were inextricably related, ergo, Commerce had to have a major interest in the operations of the Economic sections and in the choice of economic officers.

Hodges, of course, departed the scene and Connor probably does not intend to take on this bureaucratic problem until he is firmly in the saddle.

This problem bears directly upon you and your bureau since if Commerce is successful in this new bid you may very will find yourself the head of a bureau with limited responsibilities in foreign economic policy.


The Commercial Operation Overseas—Although it is difficult to evaluate many of the complaints businessmen raise about the lack of cooperation from our posts abroad and the general ineffectiveness of our commercial officers, there is no doubt in our mind that our commercial services are little more than surface gestures and that our commercial officers, for the most part, are engaged in amateur activities.

And it is not just our fault. Commerce has failed to establish priorities for our people and has not come through with professional backstopping. [Page 78] The various bureaucracies within Commerce demand and thrive upon a multitude of reports, surveys and lists so that our officers are primarily involved in a paper production.

What to Do

We are moving on a number of planes to meet with and resolve the problems outlined above.

We intend to take the initiative from Commerce and urge them to establish a list of priorities for commercial activities overseas. Marginal activities, despite their benefits or traditions must be discarded. We have to get younger, more vigorous officers involved in commercial activities. We need to get them out of the routine of trade reports and into the streets where they can develop primary contacts. They need the time, impetus and encouragement to professionally analyze the problems and prospects for American business in their country.

We have to foster a more sympathetic attitude on the part of the entire Foreign Service towards business. We are approaching this through exchanges of personnel with industry, through meetings and through publicity within the business communities.

Recently we have begun to establish systematically liaison with the major business groups (NAM, BCIU, etc.). We now use the BCIU as the vehicle by which newly appointed Ambassadors meet with the chief executives of major corporations with interests or potential interests in their country of assignment.

In a real sense, and more so today than ever before, the responsibility for commercial activity is diffused throughout the Embassy and is a major burden of the Ambassador. We are beginning to encourage our officers to proudly use American products and to aggressively seek markets for American products-in the same manner and with the same intensity that our British, French and German colleagues do.

Your Bureau must begin to identify itself more closely with economic and commercial officers, to look after their interests, to ensure their professional development, to make them feel they have a Washington base that speaks their language and understands their problems.

I suggest that you meet with and use the energy and talents of Benjamin Weiner, who has the somewhat opaque title of Director of the Office of American Business Services. Ben is assiduously cultivating the business community, and will serve as a point of contact and irritation between State and Commerce.

[Page 79]
William J. Crockett 3

P.S. I planned to refer to this on Tuesday, but now that you have this paper, we can discuss it in greater detail on Friday.4

W.J.C. 5
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, Crockett Papers, MS 75–45, Org 1, General Policy. Limited Official Use. Filed with the memorandum are five 1964 memoranda concerning relations between the Departments of State and Commerce: Assistant Secretary of Commerce Jack Behrman to Crockett, March 6, 1964; Crockett to Under Secretary of Commerce Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., June 6, 1964; Roosevelt to Crockett, June 16, 1964; Secretary of Commerce Luther Hodges to Rusk, June 16, 1964; and Crockett to Rusk, October 22, 1964.
  2. Not found.
  3. Printed from a copy that indicates Crockett signed the original.
  4. April 30.
  5. Printed from a copy that bears these typed initials.