301. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State (Richardson) to Secretary of State Rogers1


  • A Seventh Floor Planning and Coordination Staff2
[Page 675]

The Problem:—The Secretary of State, in directing the conduct of foreign policy and advising the President on foreign policy issues, should be in a position to take into account all relevant global, functional, and long-range considerations. The Secretary’s principal Seventh Floor associates, to the extent that they exercise comparable functions, should be in a similar position. They should be able to draw on the resources of a compact staff for analysis and advice not subject to the understandable—and even desirable—parochialism of the regional bureaus. Similarly, they need a centralized organ for substantive follow-up and monitoring of action decisions. As matters stand, the Secretary of State and his principal associates lack the staff back-up necessary to meet these requirements.

The NSC staff has the function of seeing to it that all pertinent points of view—not that of any one Department or combination of Departments—are systematically brought to bear on major national security issues requiring Presidential decisions.

Within the Department of State, the regional Assistant Secretaries, with the assistance of their deputies and the regional Interdepartmental Group secretary, are able to ensure that recommendations coming up from a country director or ambassador are reviewed in the light of policies applicable to the region as a whole.

The Seventh Floor should have a capability which meets broader geographic and more complex functional problems. A regional or functional bureau’s recommendations to the Secretary with respect to a matter affecting its own interests should be looked at from other perspectives. Politico-military recommendations should be considered in the light of their economic implications. Before an immediate operational decision is taken, its longer-range aspects should be examined.

The revitalized NSC system, meanwhile, has placed increased responsibility on the Department, notably the Assistant Secretaries, for coordinating the definition of policy issues and options within the Executive Branch. This in turn calls upon the Seventh Floor to provide effective policy guidance and review for the bureaus with respect to NSC projects from the standpoint of Seventh Floor interests.

The closest we now get to the kind of across-the-board substantive staff backup required for these purposes is through the Policy Planning Council and the staff of the Under Secretaries Committee (formerly the SIG staff). In fact, however, the deliberations of the Policy Planning Council all too seldom affect operational decisions, and the role of the Under Secretaries Committee staff extends only to matters referred to the Committee by the NSC.

The Proposal:—Having now had the chance to observe the operations of the Department for a couple of months and to talk to a good many people, I believe that the Policy Planning Council and the Under [Page 676] Secretaries Committee staff should be modified and brought into a direct relationship to each other as elements of a Planning and Coordination Staff, which would have the following functions:

To assist the principal officers of the Department in reviewing and coordinating bureau recommendations, not only within their own framework, but also from the perspective of other regions, other functions, and longer time spans.
To assist the principal officers in guiding the Department’s participation in the NSC system through: (a) the substantive review of NSC/IG papers; (b) preparation for meetings of the NSC, NSC Review Group, and NSC Under Secretaries Committee; and (c) monitoring the follow-up of NSC decisions.
To carry out planning and program analysis activities transcending bureau lines—a function which would also back up and tie in with Departmental research programs.

Modification of the Policy Planning Council, which is an integral element of this proposal, will encounter the objection that it involves a symbolic lessening of the importance State attaches to policy planning. The short answer, I believe, is that it would make policy planning more relevant—and thus more important—by taking it out of limbo and relating it directly to the Department’s on-going responsibilities.

The Staff:—Under a Staff Director with rank equivalent to an Assistant Secretary, the new staff would serve as a collective resource for all of the principal Seventh Floor officers. It would not insert itself in the line of authority between Seventh Floor officers and Assistant Secretaries. Nor would it take on bureau functions for itself. Much of its work, rather, would involve coordination among the bureaus and obtaining a hearing for other viewpoints in the Department outside the regional bureaus.

The staff should be composed of high caliber officers of broad-gauge abilities, who can handle both short-range operational problems and longer-range program planning and analysis. Their number should, for the present, be limited to about seventeen in all, including the Staff Director.3 The staff would be made up of two groups. One would include five officers with expertise in each of the geographical regions, one for politico-military affairs, one for economic assistance, two system analysts, one economist, and one political or social scientist.

This permanent group should be supplemented by a separate but connected group of about five Senior Policy Planning Advisers drawn in part from the academic community and research institutions. Those drawn from outside the Department should serve for at least one year.

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The senior advisers would undertake particular planning or program evaluation projects. Their role, in general, would be to challenge established points of view, develop new ideas on how to solve difficult programs, and serve as a communications link with academic specialists in foreign affairs.

The Staff Role:—Ideally, the Staff Director should be the Department’s representative on the NSC Review Group. This is desirable given the staff’s responsibilities in assisting the principal officers in guiding the Department’s participation in the NSC system—through briefings for the Secretary and the Under Secretary prior to NSC meetings, maintaining close liaison with the NSC/IGs and ad hoc groups, reviewing the output of these groups, and absorbing the functions of the staff of the Under Secretaries Committee.

In carrying out its functions, the proposed staff would not compete or overlap with S/S, the other collective, common staff service on the Seventh Floor. S/S would continue to handle informational and administrative aspects of the NSC system. In addition, S/S would see to it that the new staff received all appropriate material going to the Secretary and Under Secretaries. INR and J/PM would remain as sources to be drawn upon by the Seventh Floor and would continue to operate as bureaus.

In a word, the staff would supplement, but not supplant, the bureaus. Its aim would simply be to assure that the Seventh Floor will have available on important issues the full spectrum of responsible advice the Department has to offer. It would not be a “layer” between the Assistant Secretaries and the Seventh Floor. It would receive lateral distribution of papers destined for Seventh Floor principals, but would not “clear” such papers.

A similar restraint should be observed in its monitoring or follow-up function. In many cases, this would be manifested only in providing assurances to the principals that necessary actions were being taken; in other words, it would exercise a watching brief.4

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Richardson Papers, Box 102, Seventh-floor Staff. No classification marking. Printed from an unsigned copy.
  2. A Seventh Floor planning and coordination staff was first proposed to Richardson by two members of his office, Jonathan Moore and Arthur Hartman. Moore forwarded the proposal to Richardson under cover of a lengthy explanatory memorandum, March 1, in which he stated that their “basic pitch” was “to improve analytical, evaluative and coordinational staffing of the Seventh Floor” through “better organization of existing resources” and thus without creating a larger bureaucracy. “A strong feature of the plan is that it would establish an integrated staff in place of a system of fragmented, uncoordinated, and even competing staff elements. This is so, even though small personal staffs would still remain for each of the principal officers on the Seventh Floor.” (Ibid.) Richardson discussed the proposal with Rogers and on April 2 circulated a draft for comment to Johnson, Samuels, Rimestad, and Pedersen. (Memorandum from Richardson, April 2; ibid., Box CL 2, Chron File)
  3. This would be three less than the total number of slots now allotted to the Policy Planning Council (15) and the Under Secretaries Committee (5). [Footnote in the source text.]
  4. On July 3 Rogers announced the formation of the new Planning and Coordination Staff (S/PC) and the designation of William I. Cargo as its Staff Director. He indicated that the Policy Planning Council’s functions would be “amalgamated into and given special identity within the new staff” and policy planning would thereby gain “more impact on continuing operational decisions.” For text of the announcement, see Department of State Bulletin, July 28, 1969, pp. 74–75. In an October 13 memorandum, Cargo notified his staff that henceforth S/PC would be responsible for coordinating NSC action assignments within the Department. (National Archives, RG 59, Policy Planning Council, Subject Files: Lot 73 D 363, S/PC Organization) Cargo discussed his activities and experiences as Staff Director for 4 years in his memoir, Wherever the Road Leads. (pp. 636–691) He noted that Richardson was a strong supporter of S/PC but that Richardson’s successor as Under Secretary, John Irwin, who took office in September 1970, “seemed to have little interest in policy planning” and thus “the relationship of S/PC to the top of the State Department changed rather radically with Richardson’s departure.” (pp. 647–649)