74. Editorial Note

On May 10, 1966, President’s Special Assistant Rostow asked NSC staff members to prepare interim reports on a number of organizational and policy initiatives in foreign affairs, including the Interdepartmental Regional Groups. The report prepared by Edward Hamilton and Francis Bator is Document 75. In a May 18 memorandum to National Security Council Executive Secretary Bromley Smith, Harold Saunders reported on the IRG for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs. He stated that the discussions had been “meaty” with the “meetings devoted so far to major short-run issues.” Assistant Secretary of State Hare had “indicated interest in discussing one or two longer term general issues, but we haven’t yet.” Saunders observed that “IRG/NEA has yet to sign off on any finished paper” and concluded that it was “not yet a decision-making forum.” (Johnson Library, Agency File, State Department, IRG)

James Thomson reported on the Interdepartmental Regional Group for Far Eastern Affairs in a May 20 memorandum to Bromley Smith. He stated that “on the plus side, this IRG has surfaced some major inter-agency disagreements and misunderstandings which might otherwise have gone undetected for some time” but that “on the minus side, the IRG involves a considerable expenditure of executive time (up to 2–1/2 hours for each meeting) on items of business that could be dealt with more speedily via the telephone, lower echelon meetings, etc.” In his summary comment, Thomson stated: “FE is a bureau in which a strong Assistant Secretary habitually takes the lead on policy and operational questions; the IRG is therefore only a supplementary device which he uses twice a month to aid and review issues that require no immediate action. The institution’s future is doubtful.” (Ibid.)