71. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1


  • Ideas for Foreign Policy: Inside and Outside the Government

You asked: how can we get more new ideas for foreign policy?

I propose the following program:

Outside Consultants.
Each regional bureau of the State Department would be instructed to develop a group of outside consultants, along the lines of those used by the Treasury, AID, the Policy Planning Council.
These consultants would be used for two purposes:
to initiate new ideas, as the spirit moved them;
to consider and staff out specific problems and ideas put to them individually and collectively by the relevant Assistant Secretaries.2
Members of my staff would be instructed to ensure that these consultants were effectively used and their ideas followed up in the bureaucracy.
Planning Inside the Government.
The Inter-Departmental Planning Group, which has met every week informally, should be converted into a group which would formally staff out problems which cut across the Departments; produce action recommendations; forward those recommendations to the Senior Inter-Departmental Group (SIG) or to other higher authority for decision and action. Starting this Friday the Inter-Departmental Planning Group will be considering a list of such possible planning problems and possibilities.
Members of my staff have been told that we shall be devoting a somewhat higher proportion of our time to generating ideas and planning proposals. They will each be submitting to me an initial list of such ideas and proposals. When we have screened them together I shall arrange to have those we select put into the governmental machinery at appropriate points.
Against this background, we shall try to use the influence of the White House foreign affairs staff to ensure that the work of the Inter-Departmental Regional Groups (IRG’s) is not merely addressed to inter-departmental negotiation and debate of current operational issues, but also to planning against contingencies and for the creative exploitation of opportunities for forward movement.

The Use of the President’s Panel of Consultants on Foreign Affairs.

I have reviewed the history of this group. I have concluded that they are not likely to be useful to you meeting as a whole, except under exceptional circumstances. They could be useful if broken into sub-panels, for particular occasions to examine specific major problems; for example

  • —Viet-Nam;
  • —major international monetary decisions;
  • —critical decisions on NATO;
  • —changes in China policy, should circumstances justifying such change arise.

The purpose of such sub-panels would be these: to render to you additional advice; to engage the support of influential citizens for major changes of direction in national policy.

There is one issue on which the whole panel might be concerned and engaged: the completion of Robert Bowie’s report to Secretary Rusk on the problems of the 1970’s.3 I started this at State. Bowie should be [Page 160]reporting by June 1. After we in the government have sorted out the major implications we might present these to the Panel as the start of a campaign of public discussion, at home and abroad, looking beyond Viet-Nam, Mao, and De Gaulle, to the world of the 1970’s. You will recall that Bill Moyers, Jack Valenti, and I raised this theme in connection with your State of the Union address in January 1966.

The questions, therefore, are:
  • —May I raise with Secretary Rusk the proposals for outside consultants to be attached to each regional bureau?



    See me

  • —May I proceed with planning inside the government along the lines indicated in Para. 2, a-c?



    See me

  • —In light of Para. 3, how do you wish to proceed with use (or non-use) of President’s Panel of Consultants on Foreign Affairs?6

    Instruction awaited.

W.W. Rostow 7
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President-Walt Rostow, Vol. 1. Confidential. Copies were sent to Moyers and Valenti.
  2. According to Saunders’ April 20 memorandum for the record, Rostow explained to his staff that “the dual purpose of this group would be to do work in depth on concrete problems that the bureaucracy just does not have time to do and to look into matters that everybody knows are important but are a little farther down the road.” (Ibid., Saunders Files, NSC, SIG IRG) In an April 23 memorandum to Rusk, Rostow indicated that the President had “reiterated his desire that the regional Assistant Secretaries develop new constructive proposals with the assistance of the best brains that can be mobilized from outside the Government.” (Ibid., National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. 51)
  3. Entitled “U.S. Foreign Policy in the Next Decade,” dated December 1966. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S/S-NSC Files: Lot 70 D 265, U.S. Foreign Policy in the Next Decade)
  4. The President checked this option and wrote “Excellent.” In a memorandum to Rostow, September 16, 1966, providing a status report on the State Department’s foreign policy consultants, Moose reported that the list of proposed consultants was still undergoing checks by the State Department and John Macy’s office. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Name File, Wriggins Memos 1966) For information on the consultants’ meetings, see Documents 111 and 125.
  5. The President checked this option.
  6. Written in hand below this paragraph is: “as outlined, see 1a.”
  7. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.