119. Memorandum From Peter Rodman of the Planning Group, National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Improving the Efficiency of the Department of State

Attached are two reports produced in the Department of State on the subject of reform and reorganization of the Department.2 Rogers brought them to the President’s attention; he wrote a brief note to you on the front page of each, suggesting that we might want to look them over to see if they contain anything useful.

The documents are:

  • —(Tab B) A report on “Management Tools,” by a Task Force chaired by Robert A. Hurwitch. [The President wrote on it: “Maybe there are some goods ideas here.”]3
  • —(Tab C) A paper by Robert Dickson Crane entitled “The New State Department: Harnessing Research and Resources to Policymaking.” [The President called Crane “a bright (erratic) guy,” and suggested “perhaps we should look this over”.]

I have done brief summaries, which follow at Tab I (in the form of a memorandum to the President, which you might want to send him in view of the interest he expressed).4

The papers are mediocre and cluttered with jargon. The Hurwitch Task Force report does, however, contain some concrete recommendations. Of particular interest are its critical comments on the NSC system, which I have extracted for you (but not for the President) at Tab II.5 (I have given them to Dick Kennedy as well.)

I see no need for further action. Since both papers are State products, the Department is presumably in a position to benefit from whatever [Page 261]wisdom they contain. This is not the occasion for a White House démarche to State on State’s reorganization.

Recommendation: That you sign the memorandum to the President at Tab I if you think his expression of interest warrants a reply.


Comments on the NSC System
From Report of Task Force XIII

I. State’s Role in the NSC System

The Task Force found that while there are some concerns in the Department that the re-invigorated NSC machinery has usurped certain State Department functions and responsibilities, on balance, this machinery, if properly used, provides excellent opportunities for the Department to exercise leadership in the foreign affairs community. The principal advantage of the NSC machinery is that it provides the Department with a Presidential enabling authority for exercising leadership in reaching and enforcing policy decisions in an interdepartmental context at all levels of the NSC system.

Both in the Department and elsewhere in the foreign affairs community, we found a growing appreciation that the number of U.S. agencies involved in foreign affairs and the complexity of foreign affairs problems required some inter-agency system such as the NSC mechanism to ensure full and orderly examination of the issues. However, procedures that prescribed a channel from the Bureau Assistant Secretaries’ (Inter-departmental Groups—IG’s) to the NSC Review Group without Seventh Floor involvement were found to be unrealistic in practice and potentially disruptive of the Department of State as an integral institution. A further weakness in the NSC system is the absence of an explicit direct relationship between IG’s and the Under Secretaries’ Committee. For example, in the process of formulating annual AID programs, the interaction between political considerations and economic development considerations takes place at the Bureau level. But there is no entity on the Seventh Floor that is adequately staffed to vet the total AID package or military and intelligence programs against world-wide political and foreign economic policy considerations. The 7th Floor is obliged to play a relatively passive role in reviewing these programs and other similar matters. This type of situation, resulting largely from inadequate Seventh Floor staff, was found to be one of the major reasons why many entities in the foreign affairs community either no longer looked to the Department of State for leadership or found it inadequate when they sought it. (p. 35)

The Task Force recommends that Seventh Floor principals deliberately promote wider use of regional and functional IG’s to forge [Page 262]policies by referring to them issues that involve more than one agency of the foreign affairs community. The IG’s should also act as the vehicle through which regional components of the planning process outlined in part A of this chapter (“Decision-Making”) would be determined and integrated into the various planning and program budgeting cycles of the other agencies.
The Task Force recommends that the Under Secretaries Committee (USC) be empowered to consider policy issues of a broad functional nature and/or involving more than one region that are beyond the scope of a regional or functional IG and do not need to go directly to the NSC. Also it would act as the next court of appeal for issues that could not be resolved at a lower echelon. This recommendation will involve modification of the USC Charter as set forth in NSDM 2.6

Adoption of this recommendation would result in a series of hierarchically dependent decision centers, proceeding from the IG’s to the USC, finally to the NSC (through the Review Group) and ultimately to the President. Such a system would be analogous to the practice of jurisprudence which has appropriately layered courts and the built-in provision for appeal to higher authority.

The value of a hierarchical appeals system is that it will expedite decision making by inducing decisions to be made at the lowest possible level so that higher levels can concentrate on broader issues. This appeals system would not prevent issues from being introduced at other points in the NSC mechanism as required by the nature of the issue. (p. 46)

2. Identifying Issues

In the foreign affairs community as a whole the principal formal tools which now exist for issue identification are the National Security Study Memoranda (NSSMs) issued by the NSC and the Country Analysis and Strategy Paper (CASP) used in the Latin American area. The NSSMs reflect issues of concern to the President and NSC staff and have generated some longer-range planning on an inter-agency basis. This process, which is almost always in response to an initiative from outside the Department, now encompasses the bulk of the Department’s longer-range issue identification. But it is not a systematic method of identifying long-range issues, and several officials we interviewed felt that issues were often poorly posed in the NSSMs. (p. 22)

3. Implementation

Specific decisions are generally communicated promptly and clearly to the implementing units. On occasion, however, the implementing unit is not specified precisely, and the system suffers. More [Page 263]often, the specific decision is transmitted without reference to the broader objectives which should guide the action office in carrying it out. Action offices thus must rely on rather rough and ready guidance of their own making, extrapolating from the specific decision and the very broad-brush generalizations contained in public pronouncements by the President and the Secretary. The result can be either inconsistency in implementation or excessive caution. One reason for this lack of guidance is that Departmental inputs to NSSMs are often not framed in such a way as to produce it. Also the Department usually does not participate in the drafting of National Security Decision Memoranda (NSDMs) which it is required to implement.

Problems in the NSC machinery compound this difficulty. There was almost universal agreement among those interviewed that the NSC mechanism is not as effective in downward communication of its decisions as in the upward flow of decision-making. If, as frequently happens, the mechanism operates slowly, conditions to which the decision was originally applicable may have changed. Over-classification often means that not all the action areas affected by a decision are fully aware of it. (pp. 25–26)

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Agency Files, Box 283, Dept of State, Vol. IX. No classification marking. Sent for action.
  2. See Document 31 for information on the task force project that produced the two reports. Neither report is attached. Copies are in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Agency Files, Box 283, Dept of State, Vol. IX, attached to a September 23 memorandum from Kissinger to the President that Kissinger signed but that apparently did not go forward.
  3. All brackets in the source text.
  4. Not attached.
  5. Printed below. The pages of the report from which the excerpts were taken are noted at the end of each excerpt. The portion of text in the parentheses added by hand.
  6. Document 11.