77. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Johnson1

In your meeting tomorrow with the Assistant Secretaries you might wish to make some of the following points:

Your conversation with them is confidential. If anything is to be said to the press about it, you will do it yourself.

Presidential appointees represent the Administration—your Administration. As far as the Career Service is concerned, they have a major commitment to the full support of the Government of the United States. The people have elected the present Administration as its government. The British experience with the Civil Service and a Career Foreign Service illustrates a central idea of great importance: a professional service is not expected to be neutral, that is without loyalties; a professional service is expected to be loyal to the government of the day.

In your case, that loyalty is a two-way street. No President has relied upon or called upon a Career Service more than you have.

The duty of the Department of State is to represent the interests of the American people and the American Government. When we have major problems such as Viet-Nam, a balance of payments problem, or other matters of major national importance, our diplomacy must support United States interests in every possible way. We are the representatives of the American people and Government to the foreigner; they have representatives of their own to represent their interests to us.
There are some problems on which we must exact a high level of discipline from other governments if they and we are to achieve the desired results. Unless we are tough on food production, for example, the human race simply cannot feed itself over the next ten years. Unless we are tough on such matters as self-help and foreign aid, our resources will be wasted in a swamp. We should not be reluctant to be tough in [Page 168] order to get the job done-at least if we are to make any contribution toward the job. We cannot use American resources simply to create feelings of amiability toward the United States.
The Assistant Secretaries occupy a crucial position of leadership and judgment. They are the ones who know about the one thousand cables a day. They are the ones who ought to alert the Secretary of State and the President to oncoming crises. They are the ones who should spend twenty-four hours a day thinking about new ideas and new approaches to solve some of our problems. The Assistant Secretaries will be given full confidence but we expect them to occupy fully the horizons of their responsibility.
There is always a need for talented people. The Assistant Secretaries should be engaged in a constant search, inside and outside of Government, for people of talent who can help us do our job better.
The President does not have a single dollar or a single man which is not provided by the Congress and the American people. The Assistant Secretaries should not rely upon Douglas MacArthur to do their work in the Congress. Each one of them should spend a considerable amount of time and effort in cultivating and developing the support required in the Congress if our programs are to succeed.

Dean Rusk 2
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, State Department, Vol. 8. Confidential. Forwarded to the President under cover of a May 30 memorandum in which Rostow proposed additional talking points. On May 31 the President met in the Cabinet Room from 1:25 to 2:32 p.m. with the following Department of State officers: Assistant Secretaries, Acting Assistant Secretaries, Presidential appointees with the rank of Assistant Secretary, and officers with the equivalent rank of Assistant Secretary. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary) No record of the discussion has been found. During a telephone conversation with Rusk that began at 12:45 p.m. on May 28, the President indicated that at the meeting he wanted the Assistant Secretaries to “give me their area of the world and what the problems are and what the solutions are as they see them.” (Ibid., Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of a Telephone Conversation between Johnson and Rusk, Tape F66.15, Side B, PNO 2)
  2. Printed from a copy that indicates Rusk’s Special Assistant, Arthur Borg, signed the original for Rusk.