64. Memorandum for Record1


  • First Meeting of the Senior Interdepartmental Group (SIG) held at 1500, 8 March 1966


  • Mr. George W. Ball, Under Secretary of State
  • Mr. Cyrus R. Vance, Deputy Secy of Defense
  • Mr. David E. Bell, Administrator, AID
  • Ambassador U. Alexis Johnson, State Dept
  • VAdm W.F. Raborn, Director, CIA
  • Mr. Leonard H. Marks, Director, USIA
  • LtGen A.J. Goodpaster, OJCS
  • Mr. H.H. Schwartz, Staff Director, SIG
  • Attending:
    • MGen W.T. Fairbourn, J–5, Joint Staff
    • Mr. Frank A. Sieverts, Dep Staff Dir, SIG

2. Under Secretary Ball opened the meeting with the statement that the Senior Interdepartmental Group (SIG) would not be a place for casual conversation, but rather a group where hard decisions would be made. Every attempt will be made to keep down the paper work. He looks upon the SIG as having the function of being a “court of appeals,” so to speak, from the decisions made by the Interdepartmental Regional Groups (IRG). He visualizes that about 75% of the work will be done by the IRG and 25% of the work by the SIG. He considers that the SIG, while discharging the task of solving all interdepartmental problems promptly, should be selective in accepting problems. He noted that the SIG would take on functions of the Special Group (CI problems). He stated that he intended to organize no elaborate staff or complicated organization, but rather would start with Mr. Schwartz as the Staff Director and Mr. Frank Sieverts as his assistant. This staff would then be augmented when and as required.

3. He stated that an immediate requirement was for each agency to designate a point of contact for the Staff Director to commence his staff [Page 149] work. Later in the meeting, Major General W.T. Fairbourn was indicated as the point of contact for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

4. Mr. Ball further stated that each Assistant Secretary of State would run his IRG and that the majority of decisions would be made by the Assistant Secretary of State on the IRG level. Each Assistant Secretary, as Executive Chairman of an IRG, would have one deputy. Mr. Ball hoped that principals would attend each meeting whenever possible. He stated that other interested agencies outside the SIG and IRG would be invited to sit in when matters under their cognizance were discussed.

5. Mr. Alex Johnson then commented on a departmental reorganization. He stated that Country Directors who would be senior officers (FSO–1 or 2) would be appointed for each country. The Country Director would provide a single point of contact within the Department for the Ambassador of each country. Mr. Johnson stated that each Country Director would relate himself to other agencies represented on the IRG, but that the Assistant Secretary of State’s authority would not be delegated to the Country Director. He further stated that this would abolish the next higher level (Office Director) since the Country Director would report directly to the appropriate Assistant Secretary of State. He visualized this reorganization as a gradual process with each bureau working out its own reorganization. However, each bureau would have a Secretariat in charge of IRG business. This Secretariat would have a point of contact with each agency sitting on the IRG.

6. After some discussion, it was decided that the SIG should meet each Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. The agenda and papers for each meeting would be prepared and forwarded to the principals by the close of business on the preceding Friday. IRG meetings would be coordinated with SIG meetings.

7. Mr. Bell raised the question of appeal to the next higher level. After some discussion, it was decided that, while there would be decision on the Assistant Secretariat level (IRG), it could form the basis for an appeal to the next higher level. No conclusion was reached on the matter of appeal from a decision of the SIG.2

8. Admiral Raborn asked a question concerning 303 business. It was decided that 303 business would be processed outside the SIG. It was noted that there would be IRG decisions requiring 303 action. These actions would go the 303 route.

9. General Goodpaster raised the question as to the future of existing committees such as the Latin American Policy Committee and the [Page 150] Vietnam Coordinating Committee. It was decided that each member of the SIG would give a listing of these committees to the Staff Director (Mr. Schwartz) who would prepare recommendations in concert with Ambassador Johnson for action by the SIG.3 General Goodpaster then asked what record of meetings would be kept. It was determined that the Staff Director would maintain a record of meetings which would be circulated with the papers and agenda for the next meeting by the close of business on Friday. Parenthetically, Mr. Schwartz has since stated that the record of meetings would take the form of a “Record of Actions and Decisions.”4

10. A discussion followed as to the relation of EROP actions to be taken. Ambassador Johnson stated that these would be considered separately from the SIG.

11. Admiral Raborn raised the question as to who would accomplish the unfinished business of the Taylor Committee. It was decided that this would be considered by the Staff Director, with the work being done at the IRG level wherever possible.

12. It was noted that there was unfinished business with respect to the Special Group (CI). This would be addressed in a memo from Ambassador Harriman with subsequent action by the SIG.5

13. It was further noted that General Taylor had made seven proposals to the President in his recommendations. These will be considered by Mr. Schwartz and proposals made to the SIG with respect thereto.

14. Mr. Ball noted that any decision taken by the SIG should include a timetable for its execution.

15. With respect to the unfinished business of the Special Group, Mr. Vance raised the question of the Thailand problem, stating that in his judgment we had now reached a fork in the road with respect to Thailand-that what was needed was a population control program. He defined “population control” as being true pacification, similar to that accomplished by the British in Malaysia, noting such things as universal ID cards, dossiers on certain individuals, and an adequate police force. He noted that the question of a survey to Thailand was still not resolved. Ambassador Johnson stated that the matter of the survey in Thailand would be left to Mr. Sam Berger to decide, and that the Thailand problem would be referred to the appropriate IRG for recommendations to the SIG or a report with respect to what is being done.

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16. Mr. Ball then raised the question of the new regime in Ghana. After some discussion, it was decided to ask the appropriate IRG for a policy statement with respect thereto.

17. The meeting adjourned at 1600.

W.T. Fairbourn
Major General, USMC
Deputy Director for Plans and Policy
  1. Source: Johnson Library, Agency File, State Department, SIG, Memos & Misc, IV, Confidential. Drafted on March 9 by Major General W.T. Fairbourn, Deputy Director for Plans and Policy, J–5 (Plans and Policy) Directorate, Joint Staff, Joint Chiefs of Staff. A “backgrounder,” talking points, an agenda, and other material provided to Ball for this meeting are attached to a March 8 memorandum from Schwartz to Read. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S/S-SIG Files: Lot 70 D 263, SIG/Administrative)
  2. Schwartz addressed Bell’s concern about the referral of dissents from the IRGs to the SIG in a memorandum to Ball, March 9. (Ibid., S/P Files-SIG Papers: Lot 74 D 344)
  3. Schwartz’ recommendations were incorporated in SIG Memorandum #16 to SIG members, March 17, and agreed to at the SIG meeting on March 22. (Ibid., S/S-SIG Files: Lot 70 D 263)
  4. Official numbered SIG documents, including Records of Actions, Agendas, Memorandums, and Documents are ibid.
  5. See Document 63.