303. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to the President’s Counsel (Ehrlichman)1


  • Staff Cuts Abroad

In connection with the question of reducing the number of U.S. government personnel overseas, I have reviewed the following:

Your memo of April 18 to Bob Mayo 2 regarding the President’s desire to:
Reduce employment in Japan, the Philippines, India, Germany, and England by amounts varying between 50 and 66⅔ percent.
With regard to U.S.I.A., “abolish television news units abroad and retain only libraries.”
Cut MAAGs and “other military units” by 50 percent.
In Italy, “reduce the number of political counselors from eight to one and reduce the staff economists to one.”
BOB’s answer to your memo of April 13.3
Under Secretary Richardson’s reply to your memo of April 17 regarding the general applicability of the personnel reduction techniques employed during “Operation Topsy” in Brazil.4

BOB and Elliot Richardson have raised some questions about the validity of any selective approach to personnel cuts. As I see it, their most important points are:

Cuts in the areas indicated by the President should be undertaken as a part of a systematic effort to reduce all types of U.S. government employment abroad. Such an effort would recommend cuts in the number of employees reporting to Ambassadors from all agencies, civilian employees of the Department of Defense, the intelligence community, and perhaps U.S. forces. When all of these categories are included, U.S. government employment abroad totals roughly 1.5 million of which only 5,000 are American employees of the Foreign Service carried on the State Department rolls and only 2,000 are foreign service officers.
Substantial personnel reduction efforts have already been made. As a result, civilian employment in countries outside Southeast Asia will have dropped to 106,426 on September 30, 1969 as compared with 112,237 on June 30, 1967 (over the same period employment in Southeast Asia rose from 83,317 to 103,761). Much of this reduction is due to the “BALPA” program which cut the number of employees reporting to Ambassadors from 49,000 to 41,000.5 The six countries mentioned by the President were among these subjected to intensive review under “BALPA.” Personnel cuts in the six countries averaged 20 percent. By way of comparison, the cut in Brazil under Ambassador Tuthill’s “Operation Topsy,” which took [Page 681] place at the same time as the “BALPA” exercise and received considerable favorable publicity, was only 16 percent.
A number of studies are now taking place which have overseas manpower implications. They include studies of troop commitments in Europe, our foreign base structure and the organization of military groups in Latin America, Europe and Korea. All such efforts should be closely coordinated.
It was possible to make the “BALPA” cuts while leaving most of the services and programs of our missions abroad intact. On the other hand, future cuts may involve eliminating whole programs of lesser priority. According to Elliot Richardson this implies that future cuts will have to be planned in Washington, where program decisions can be made on the basis of interagency consultations.

I believe these points are well taken. I also concur with Elliot Richardson’s recommendation that what is needed now is a strong mandate from the President to pursue personnel reduction activities vigorously and the establishment of a mechanism with authority to initiate studies or require of agencies phased reduction plans. One way of emphasizing the President’s commitment to a streamlined presence abroad would be to appoint a “Blue Ribbon Commission” to study our overseas programs and make recommendations on personnel cuts. However, an “in-house” effort, which worked with a minimum of publicity, would probably give faster and more effective results.

The Presidential mandate envisaged by Elliot Richardson could appropriately be given in the form of a National Security Study Memorandum which would direct that one of the arrangements below be set up to make recommendations to the President on personnel reductions:

An interagency group under the Chairmanship of Elliot Richardson which would include representation from all agencies with employees abroad.
A State/BOB/DOD/NSC task force under the direction of the NSC Under Secretaries Committee. Such a task force could be required to consult with other agencies, with Ambassadors and military commanders in the field and with the NSC staff as appropriate.
An NSC-led task force.

The following considerations are relevant:

A group which included all agencies represented abroad would probably be too unwieldy although it would increase the agencies’ sense of being given a fair hearing.
State, BOB and DOD already have considerable experience in designing personnel reduction schemes.
An NSC-led effort would clearly be identified as a Presidential effort. A State-chaired effort under Richardson can work well also. It would have the advantage that the department most concerned with overseas activities would play a leading role. It would have the disadvantage that other agencies might want a State-chaired effort. On [Page 682] balance, I would prefer a White House-run effort chaired either by you, Mayo or me.

In accordance with the above, I would suggest the following:

Insure that the President is fully informed regarding the results of the earlier “BALPA” and “Topsy” exercises.
Inform the President of the current views of State and BOB on personnel reductions.
Seek the President’s concurrence in the implementation of a general and systematic approach to overseas personnel cuts which would consider the political, budgetary and balance of payment repercussion of such cuts as well as their program implication.
Discuss the alternative organizational arrangements for studying and implementing personnel reductions with Bob Mayo and Elliot Richardson.

If you agree, I will prepare a memorandum for the President outlining the issues and suggesting that an appropriate National Security Study Memorandum be issued. I would also be happy to discuss this matter with you further.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, Staff Member and Office Files, Ehrlichman Files, Box 32, Overseas Government Personnel. Confidential.
  2. A copy is ibid., NSC Files, Haig Special File, Box 1006, Suspense.
  3. A copy of Mayo’s April 25 response to Ehrlichman’s April 18 memorandum is ibid., White House Special Files, Staff Member and Office Files, Ehrlichman Files, Box 32, Overseas Government Personnel.
  4. Richardson’s May 1 memorandum is ibid. Operation Topsy was an exercise instituted in 1967 by John Tuthill, Ambassador to Brazil, to trim U.S. programs and reduce U.S. personnel in Brazil.
  5. BALPA was initiated by a January 18, 1968, memorandum to Secretary of State Rusk and Bureau of the Budget Director Schultze in which President Johnson directed that, as part of his program for dealing with the balance of payments problem, the number of American personnel overseas under the jurisdiction of U.S. diplomatic missions (except for Vietnam) be reduced by 10 percent and that “very large U.S. missions” undergo bigger reductions.” For text, see Public Papers: Johnson, 1968–69, Book I, pp. 34–35. Documentation on BALPA is in the Department of State, O/MS—Management Staff Files: Lot 70 D 474, BALPA Subject Files, 1968.