42. Paper Prepared in the Department of State1

IMPROVING STATE DEPARTMENT FOREIGN POLICY LEADERSHIP IN MATTERS OF MAJOR USG CONCERN

There have been significant changes in the method of conduct of foreign relations and in the demands placed on the State Department during the 20 months of the Johnson Administration. The Department has had to learn to operate with long-sustained, serious crises in SEA and elsewhere which take a substantial percentage of the time and thoughts of top officials. Military matters have required increasing attention. The NSC apparatus, which used to initiate a variety of foreign policy demands and initiatives, has become much less active. The Department is clearing far fewer matters with the White House staff than was the case before November 22, 1963. In short, a greater premium is now placed on effective, independent operation of the Department at all levels.

None of these changing requirements has led to responsive changes in the Department’s method of handling its business. This paper contains several suggestions for improving the Department’s ability (1) to cope with key problems—at the bureau level, at the seventh-floor level, and interdepartmentally; and (2) to respond better to the President’s needs.

1.

Strengthening bureau leadership

There is no disagreement with the view often stated by the Secretary that primary responsibility for the proper handling of foreign affairs must rest with the bureaus and the regional Assistant Secretaries. From the point of view of the 7th floor, however, it would seem fair to say there is increasing concern about the ability of the bureaus to fulfill their responsibilities under present circumstances. At least three main points of criticism can be cited.

(1)
The Assistant Secretaries and other bureau officers do not seem to be bringing to the attention of the 7th floor the major issues on which high-level information and attention is most needed in a consistent and timely fashion.
(2)
With one or two notable exceptions, the Assistant Secretaries do not appear to be exerting sufficient leadership among their counterparts in the other agencies dealing with national security problems.
(3)
The bureaus do not seem to be organized in such a way as to assure satisfactory handling of other affairs when seized with a major crisis which occupies most of the time of the Assistant Secretary.

One method of improving the Department’s leadership position in foreign affairs and of promoting more systematic consideration of major problems would be to set up interdepartmental regional policy committees in each of the bureaus under the chairmanship of the respective regional Assistant Secretary.

In addition to the desired representation from the bureau itself, other functional bureaus and offices within the Department would attend when problems to be addressed affected their areas, and the Secretariat line officer for the bureau would be present to report the proceedings to the four principal officers of the Department. The Assistant Secretary would have full authority to limit the invitations to essential participants and unnecessary “professional meeting goers” would be excluded.

Members would include, as the problems to be dealt with would dictate, the Assistant Secretary’s counterparts from AID, USIA, ISA and CIA, and, as appropriate, representatives of Peace Corps, Treasury, Ex-Im, Commerce, Agriculture and HEW. Every effort would be made with seventh-floor assistance necessary to get the high-level counterparts from other agencies to attend regularly, and to combat the usual committee tendency to permit progressively lower-level representatives.

The regional Committees would have jurisdiction over any and all aspects of US policy toward the countries covered by the bureaus, although subjects such as counter-insurgency and covert action policies would probably be better handled in subcommittee or small executive committee in the discretion of the Assistant Secretary. The bureaus would be directed to bring up for consideration in regular meetings of these Committees on a systematic basis the most significant short- and long-term policy problems confronting the USG in the area. The Assistant Secretaries would be asked to give the Committee process their close, personal attention and supervision as a matter of high priority. Advance agendas and timely records of action would be required.

Only two of the five regional bureaus, ARA and AF, presently have established bureau-level machinery for addressing interdepartmental problems. The membership of these two committees is set forth as an attachment to this paper.2 The Latin American Policy Committee (LAPC) has met fairly regularly, usually weekly, to address country or [Page 91]regional problems with Government-wide implications. The African Policy Committee (AFPC), on the other hand, has met only once in 1965 and seven times last year. The two committees have varied greatly in effectiveness and objectives. The LAPC has tended to concentrate on long-range planning tasks, while the AFPC meetings have tended to be reporting sessions on recent events. Neither committee serves the broader purposes outlined above, but there is a general consensus that both have served a useful purpose in exerting State Department leadership and exhorting greater cooperation from the other agencies.

NEA has attempted to coordinate interdepartmental problems in its area by fairly regular weekly luncheons including the Assistant Secretary, the regional Administrator of AID, the USIA Near East Deputy Director, and the Deputy Director of ISA for Near East Affairs. In addition a staff meeting has been held weekly to which other agency participants are invited, and send relatively junior representatives. These informal contacts, useful as they undoubtedly have been, cannot be considered an adequate substitute for a regular recognized forum for interdepartmental consultation and decision, where the hardest problems can be addressed systematically, differences of view presented and cooperation sought. When the Assistant Secretary has had a crisis to deal with or is absent from town, coordination has suffered, and the reporting back from the weekly luncheons has left much to be desired.

FE lacks any established interdepartmental machinery, other than the Vietnam Coordinating Committee, and in recent months the Assistant Secretary has negotiated most important interdepartmental business personally on an ad hoc basis. The lack of a broader forum is said to have increased unnecessarily our difficulties in obtaining government-wide cooperation in such controversial areas as our economic relations with Japan and the increasingly difficult problems with Indonesia. Obviously, the existence of the everyday crises in SEA has made far more difficult the handling of other affairs.

In European matters as well, interagency regional policy machinery is completely lacking, and there is no systematic organization for handling the numerous complex issues affecting Defense, Commerce and other agencies of government.

Regional policy committees would be expected to function in time of crisis in the area as well as in normal periods, and could keep a watch over other problems which might presently escape the attention of an assistant secretary preoccupied with a given crisis. Acting or deputy assistant secretaries would chair meetings in the necessary absence of the assistant secretary.

When confronted by a situation that might well develop crisis proportions, the policy committees would be directed to establish actual and [Page 92]standby interagency task forces to coordinate our policies towards the country in question and to serve as the focal point for requirements of and information needed by the 7th floor or White House. A full roster of operating task forces would be kept current at the White House and in S, U, M and G.

Summaries of the major items of business dealt with by the regional committees and task forces would be prepared after each meeting by the secretariat for the information of the principal officers. By this means it should be possible for the Secretary and the Under Secretaries to have a better grasp of what the bureaus consider to be their principal business and what they were doing about it, and to let them give more effective and timely policy guidance to the assistant secretaries. G would have special responsibilities in this regard and these are spelled out in the next section.

The Assistant Secretaries weekly individual and biweekly staff meetings with Assistant Secretaries would be utilized to seek guidance or approval for the actions of the regional policy committees in key areas and, as well, to keep the principal officers of the Department informed of major developments.

In summary, it can be said that the Department of State is missing a good bet in not exerting leadership through the means of regional policy committees in NEA, FE and EUR and in not making the other committees more broadly effective. Such committees could provide a powerful impetus for forcing important problems to the fore in a comprehensive and timely fashion.

2.

Strengthening 7th Floor Control

Improvements in bureau operations should be accompanied by improvements in seventh floor conduct of business. Sustained serious crises have occupied an ever increasing percentage of the time of the Secretary and Under Secretaries, and utilization of their remaining time must be planned with increasing care.

Several problems can be identified:

(1)
There is not enough information flowing to the bureaus from the principal officers. Decisions taken by them are sometimes learned about in the bureaus from contacts with counterparts in other agencies. Debriefing is rarely full or prompt enough.
(2)
There is no systematic means of bringing seventh floor leadership to bear on problems which are beyond the competence of a single bureau because they require the cooperation of other agency heads or because they affect all or more than one region.
(3)
Seventh floor knowledge of major bureau concerns seems spotty and sometimes even haphazard.

The last problem cited should be partially solved at least by regular receipt of summaries from bureau regional policy committees. It would be desirable to supplement this information flow to the top officers of [Page 93]the Department with summaries of major developments at the regular bureau staff meetings, which could be prepared by the Secretariat officers who already attend such meetings.

The first two problems cited could be tackled by the establishing of seventh floor machinery to help direct and coordinate the most important area and interregional problems.

The only existing seventh floor committees—the CI Group and the 303 Group—have jurisdiction limited strictly to counter insurgency and covert intelligence matters. The great strength of these committees has been their ability to attract the highest level of other departmental representation; their weakness—the leadership role they have taken away from the regional bureaus on matters not always requiring attention at the highest levels.

Ad hoc committees have been set up in the past, usually under the leadership of G, to wrestle with a variety of problems, but the desired high level of representation from other agencies has not been forthcoming, and there has been considerable dissatisfaction with the results.

On a number of occasions in the past leadership has been taken away from the State Department by the White House by the convening of meetings in the NSC area. Frequently these meetings have been convened prior to the development of a policy within the Department, much less before any effort has been made by the Department to coordinate policy on a government-wide basis.

It is recommended that a seventh floor State Coordinating Committee be established to deal with the most important problems requiring highest level inter-agency consideration. The chairmanship and membership on the State Coordinating Committee would be kept as flexible as possible to meet the widely varying demands which would be placed on the committee. Normally, however, the committee would be chaired by the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and the represent-atives from other agencies would include the AID, USIA and CIA Director or Deputy Director, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, the ISA Assistant Secretary of Defense, and the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs. Assistant secretaries and area experts would be added as appropriate. US Ambassadors must be able to attend. When the nature of the problem warranted it, the Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, the Under Secretary or even the Secretary (if other Cabinet members were invited), would chair the meetings. G would have this responsibility normally, however, and it would be his primary responsibility to review regularly the reports of the Regional Policy Committee meetings to determine whether higher level consideration of problems was desired and to determine when other problems beyond the competence of any one bureau required such consideration.

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The State Coordinating Committee would consider only problems of major import which could not be resolved at lower levels, by G in consultation with one or more assistant secretaries, bilaterally with another department, or by other devices. It would not meet regularly unless the importance of business to be considered required it.

In a major crisis the State Coordinating Committee might be asked to act as a top level task force, freeing the Cabinet level officers from many of the coordination problems they now face in time of crisis.

Staffing for the seventh floor committee would be done by the bureau whose problems were being considered. The Secretariat would coordinate staffing responsibilities when the problems fell within the jurisdiction of several bureaus. The Secretariat would also have responsibility under G’s supervision to set agendas and circulate records of action.

Regular and appropriate dissemination of the records of action of the committee should go a long way towards meeting the urgent need of the bureaus for better information flow from above.

3.

General Comments on Proposed Bureau and 7th Floor Machinery

The proposals made above might be criticized as revival of the Operations Coordinating Board machinery in another form. The answer to such criticism lies in strict adherence to a few simple rules: (1) State responsibility for leadership would be retained, by a) chairmanship of the regional committees by State, b) provision of staffing services by the bureaus in State, and c) maintenance of the closest possible connection between committee deliberations and action processes; (2) Creation of ad hoc or country working groups with independent lives would be avoided by insistence on the informality and temporary existence of task forces; (3) Elaborate minutes or reports of meetings would not be required, other than those papers prepared to record decisions not otherwise incorporated in action papers or summaries written to inform the seventh floor of significant problems; and (4) Action would be completed and taken at the lowest possible level at which the agencies vitally involved could agree, except where the significance of the action required higher level approval.

The purposes of the several groups proposed in this paper should be clearly distinguished for maximum economy of effort: (1) The regional policy committees would be the only groups meeting on a regular schedule for wide-ranging discussion, as well as for consideration of specific problems which may or may not be reduced in advance to written form; (2) The task forces would meet, or work separately or as a group, only in the pursuit of specific tasks assigned by the parent regional committees or by the State Coordinating Committee, upon completion of which their affairs would be returned to normal methods [Page 95]of operation and coordination as soon as possible; (3) The State Coordinating Committee would meet only for the consideration of specific problems on which the agreement or disagreement of vitally concerned agencies would be clearly identified in advance and, normally, circulated in written form prepared individually or in a task force. Problems affecting only two or three agencies might be discussed in these bodies but would not normally become the business of the full group when decisions had to be made.

4.

Improving Information Flow to the President

On at least four occasions in recent days the President has expressed dissatisfaction with the information flow which he received on Dominican problems prior to the April 28 crisis, and his concern about the adequacy of information reaching him about other dangerous contingencies. He has suggested the formation of high-level interagency task forces to deal with dangerous country problems such as Colombia, Guatemala and Bolivia and other countries as required.3 As articulated, the purpose of these task forces would be to serve as the source of information and ideas to the highest level of Government officials. In developing plans of action a task force would:

(a)
Identify alternatives and contingencies
(b)
Identify local leaders’ actual potentials
(c)
Identify the extent of Communist subversions and infiltration and means of coping with it.

It would be concerned with briefing the appropriate subcommittees on the Hill and undertaking appropriate consultation with other governments.

It is submitted that putting into effect the suggestions in Sections 1 and 2 of this memo would provide the best answer to the President’s needs. The specific subjects which he has suggested for inclusion in “plans of action” would be part of the job given to the regional policy committees and task forces. When the urgency of the situation warranted, these plans of action and others on broader matters would be reviewed by the State Coordinating Committee at the highest levels of government.

Since the White House would be provided with current lists of task forces in operation, the President would be apprised at all times of the focal point of action and information on urgent problems, and would know which assistant secretary or senior officer was charged with primary responsibility. If desired, the records of action of the regional policy committees and State Coordinating Committee could be made available [Page 96]to him regularly as well to give a fuller grasp of problems which were being wrestled with at the top echelons of the Department.

If the State Coordinating Committee operated as outlined above, the President could be assured of far better coordination among the members of the National Security Community than now exists.

The new procedures suggested for the bureaus and seventh floor would permit far greater confidence that problems of highest priority were being handled systematically and at the appropriate level within the Department itself.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S/S-SIG Files: Lot 70 D 263, SIG/Administrative. Limited Official Use. Internal evidence indicates that the paper was prepared in July or August 1965 although it contains no drafting information. Handwritten notations on the paper indicate that the original was sent to Mann, with copies to Ball, Deputy Executive Secretary John Walsh, S/S Staff Director Herbert Gordon, and S/S Assistant Staff Director Jeanne Davis.
  2. Not found.
  3. The President proposed forming such a task force during a telephone conversation with Mann on June 5. (Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, June 5; Johnson Library, Mann Papers, Telephone Conversations with LBJ)