68. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council (Smith) to President Johnson 1

SUBJECT

  • White House/NSC Staff Relations with New Interdepartmental Committees

In response to your recent directive, the Secretary of State has established six interdepartmental committees to assist him in directing, supervising and coordinating U.S. activities overseas. A White House/NSC Staff member will sit on each of these committees. The existing White House/NSC Staff pattern is well suited to meet this new requirement without additional personnel.

a.
The White House member of the Senior Interdepartmental Group (SIG) is the Special Assistant to the President for National [Page 154]Security Affairs. For the present, the regional White House/NSC Staff officers can back-stop the Special Assistant on papers and proposals to be considered by SIG.2 Experience will show whether he will need later a personal assistant working solely on SIG problems.
b.

To date, the Assistant Secretaries of State have established five regional committees-Europe, Latin America, Near East, Far East and Africa. Five officers now on the White House/NSC Staff have been assigned to these committees. They are:

  • African Affairs—Ulric S. Haynes
  • European Affairs—Francis M. Bator; assisted by Edward Hamilton
  • Far Eastern Affairs—Chester L. Cooper (until his departure); assisted by James Thomson); Donald Ropa
  • Inter-American Affairs—William G. Bowdler
  • Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs—Robert W. Komer; assisted by Harold Saunders; Ulric S. Haynes

Each officer will be responsible for ensuring that appropriate White House interest is reflected in regional group meetings. Each will serve as an information channel to the Special Assistant and through him, to you.

He will be able to follow interdepartmental problems at the Assistant Secretary level, alerting the White House to future problems, learning of departmental differences which at some later date may be referred by the Secretary of State to you for decision. He will be in a position to keep in close touch with situations in his region which may suddenly require your attention. He will advise the Special Assistant of problems he believes are not receiving adequate attention by the departments and agencies and recommend White House intervention, either through SIG or directly by you.

His role will be that of a staff officer and he will not speak for you unless, in an unusual case, he is authorized to do so by the Special Assistant or by you.3

No additional personnel will be required to handle the new work resulting from the establishment of the regional groups. It is expected [Page 155]that these groups will simplify the task of the White House/NSC Staff member in some instances.

c.

Many problems in the national security area will not, at least in the beginning, be dealt with by the new machinery. These problems, such as those involving only one department or agency, or functional problems, e.g., disarmament, will continue to require the attention of White House/NSC officers now handling them. Current assignments will remain unchanged until experience shows how the new interdepartmental system is working.

Conclusion: No change in the NSC Staff budget request for FY 1967 need be made to meet additional requirements on the Staff arising out of the establishment of the new interdepartmental committee structure.

Bromley Smith
  1. Source: Johnson Library, White House Central Files, Subject Files, Ex FG 600/S. No classification marking.
  2. According to a memorandum of a telephone conversation that began at 9:40 a.m. on March 16, Moyers told Ball that the President was “trying to maintain his flexibility” on the question of McGeorge Bundy’s successor and therefore “thought he would have someone just sit in and not be appointed” to SIG meetings. Ball responded that “he would be delighted to have Komer attend but thought the press would interpret this as a step toward further crystallization of the situation.” (Ibid., Ball Papers, General II)
  3. In a memorandum for the record, April 18, Saunders outlined four principles that, at an NSC staff meeting that day, Rostow had suggested should guide NSC representatives at IRG meetings. These included: “generally, do not vote on controversial issues-unless we have a clear Presidential position”; “observe and report”; “open up options not being considered”; and “see that issues are moved up to the SIG and higher and not buried in the bureaucracy.” (Ibid., National Security File, Saunders Files, NSC, SIG, IRG)