292. Memorandum From the Counselor-Designate (Pedersen) to Secretary of State-Designate Rogers1


Executive Leadership of Department

A number of studies over recent years have advocated designating the number three man in the Department as either “Executive” Under Secretary or “Permanent” Under Secretary. They recommend appointing a career officer to the position, and giving him full responsibility for the management of the Department, both in administration and in the execution of policy decisions. The concept is that the Secretary has so many responsibilities to the President, with foreign diplomats, in decision making, and in crises that he cannot “run” [Page 661] the Department; similarly that the job has become so large that the Under Secretary must be a true alter-ego and therefore does not have time to run the Department either.

The Herter Committee made such a recommendation in 1962 and the Foreign Service Association, under new and younger leadership, did so also in a report in 1968.2 Legislation would be required to establish such a title (and the supporters of such a change favor it); the function could, however, be bestowed without legislation.

Three main motivations are involved in the recommendations for an “Executive” Under Secretary: (a) A feeling that the Department has not been adequately “managed” either from an administrative or substantive point of view and is therefore not fully responsive to policy decisions, (b) a feeling that the Department does not adequately exercise its policy authority over operational activities of other agencies abroad, specifically AID and military assistance, but also USIA and others, and (c) a desire to further continuity and stability in policy and administrative practices at the professional level.

In spite of the persistence of such views, successive Secretaries of State have not adopted such recommendations. Politically-appointed Under Secretaries such as Ball and Dillon have exercised varying degrees of control over the operations of the Department, partly determined by their own personalities and partly by the nature of responsibility the Secretary was prepared to assign to them; professional diplomats have been given influential advisory but not really executive roles. Rusk’s own view is that the secret to effective operation of the Department is delegation of authority (essentially to the Assistant Secretary level), and he does not favor an “Executive” Under Secretary.

After reading a great deal of the literature, my own view is that while it is correct that there is a need for better administration and execution of decisions in the Department, the designation of responsibility for the operation of the Department to one man at the third level would cause more problems than it would solve. If fully executed in accordance with the recommendations, the office would in my view have too much authority vis-à-vis the Secretary and political leadership; it would also centralize too many functions in one man, who in effect would have to filter and be responsible for all activities and functions of the Department before they reached the Secretary. To administer the Department, to recommend and execute policy decisions, and to supervise and coordinate the foreign policy activities of other agencies are immense and disparate tasks.

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On the other hand there are now seven people at Under and Deputy Under Secretary level (including ACDA, AID and Peace Corps), and fourteen at Assistant Secretary level, plus probably a dozen detached people, who report directly to the Secretary of State. While most (not all) of these people need to have direct access to the Secretary, the Secretary does need effective intermediate screening and executive assistance procedures. The Under and Deputy Under Secretary positions are, of course, intended for such functions. I believe that, with the right delegation of responsibilities to these positions (and the right people in them), the present system can be made to work effectively and responsively to the decisions of the President and Secretary, at the same time meeting the criticisms leveled at the current situation.

Top level policy and executive responsibilities might be allocated as follows (present and altered organization sheets attached):3


Under Secretary. The Under Secretary should be a real alter-ego of the Secretary. He should take on some of the Secretary’s conference responsibilities. He should receive many ambassadors. He should participate in policy decisions and he should undertake special responsibilities (e.g. Biafra).
Under Secretary for Economic (or Political) Affairs (title is optional under the law). This Under Secretary should have as his primary assignment responsibility for supervision and general direction of economic and military assistance programs as given to the Department by law. Primary coordination point within the Department on AID, Peace Corps, USIA matters. Supervision of the Bureau of Economic Affairs. Supervision of “non-operational” bureaus: Public Affairs, INR, Policy Planning Council, and of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Deputy Under Secretary for Political Affairs. This Deputy Under Secretary should have as his primary assignment responsibility for supervising the “operating” bureaus of the Department and for assuring “execution” by them of decisions made by the Secretary and President: African Affairs, European Affairs, East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Inter-American Affairs, Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, International Organization Affairs, Legal Adviser, and International Scientific and Technological Affairs, and of Politico-Military Affairs.
Deputy Under Secretary for Administration. This Deputy Under Secretary should have responsibilities as at present: Security and Consular Affairs, Administrative Offices and Programs, Director General of Foreign Service, plus Inspector General of Foreign Assistance (presently attached directly to the Secretary).
Auxiliary Positions. Protocol, Congressional Relations, Ambassadors at Large, the Counsellor, and the Executive Secretariat to report directly to the Secretary/Under Secretary. Ambassadors at Large to be appointed as needed and given responsibility for a specific task, e.g. Biafra, Israeli-Arab settlement. The Counsellor can supervise the Executive Secretariat, as you suggested, if you would like an extra substantive review of recommendations coming to you; if so it should be in the nature of independent advice, not line authority. The Counsellor could also supervise Policy Planning (which he formerly directed), although I have suggested above that it might be placed under the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs, who will be responsible for forward planning of operational programs such as economic and military assistance.
Methods of Operation. Maximum delegation of authority of decision to Assistant Secretaries within their areas of responsibility. Access to Secretary by Assistant Secretaries to be retained fully i.e., Deputy Under Secretaries to be a review point but not a decision point on policies. For example, policy memoranda from operating bureaus would come “through” the Deputy Under Secretary, who might comment on them, but would not require his concurrence or his resolving differences between bureaus. The Under Secretaries would work with you as a team in an inner cabinet and would meet with you regularly for that purpose. (The heads of ACDA, AID, Peace Corps, and USIA should also be included with this group at regular intervals.)

Comment: There might be a number of modifications of detail in how such an approach would be organized. I have not talked to anyone yet, and there may be technical or personnel problems of which I am not aware.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, ORG 8. Confidential.
  2. For text of the American Foreign Service Association report, “Toward a Modern Diplomacy,” see Foreign Service Journal, vol. 45, no. 11, part II, November 1968.
  3. Attached but not printed.