306. Telegram From Acting Secretary of State (Richardson) to Secretary of State Rogers and the Counselor of the Department of State (Pedersen)1

Tosec 48/123315. Subject: Reduction in Overseas Personnel.

[Page 685]
State 123273, July 24, 1969,2 contains Kissinger’s July 21 directive on overseas personnel reduction3 and a brief explanation of how we plan to conduct the exercise, but I thought that you would want to have additional details both for your own information and in order to answer questions which will no doubt be put to you by the Ambassadors and others as you go along.
The principal points in the directive are that it: (a) requires a 10% reduction in directly hired overseas American civilians and certain American overseas military which will total approximately 14,900 military and 5,100 civilians; (b) each Agency with overseas personnel “will be required to meet the 10% quota and reductions will be made on a country-by-country basis, insofar as practicable”; (c) civilian personnel in South Viet-Nam will be cut by more than 10%; (d) account should be taken of “national security priorities and special local problems, without prejudice to the objective of 10% for each agency”; and (e) the reductions do not apply to “US military forces committed to NATO or in Berlin or essential to their support, to forces stationed in Korea or Viet-Nam, or to units stationed elsewhere in Southeast Asia that are directly engaged in related military operations.”
Although the Under Secretary’s Committee to which responsibility has been assigned for planning the reductions will meet to resolve disputes and to make the final report, much of the actual work will be carried out by a Working Group of the Committee chaired by Findley Burns and on which State, DOD, CIA, USIA, AID, BOB and the NSC Staff are represented and by a State staff reporting directly to me headed by Robert Brewster.
Primary responsibility to make the reductions will rest with the agencies themselves. As I see the process working, the agencies will in late August inform the Working Group of their proposed reductions. Where these reductions affect either policy objectives or the responsibilities of the Chiefs of Mission they will be reviewed by the Department’s regional Assistant Secretaries who will in many cases wish to consult the respective Ambassadors regarding them. While I have not informed the other agencies of this, I am meeting July 28 with our regional Assistant Secretaries and certain other Departmental officials to ask them to identify 10 or 12 major “target areas”: countries such as India, Germany, the Philippines, Thailand, etc., where we may wish to press agencies to take larger than 10% reduction.
I have asked John Burns, Director General-designate, to direct and coordinate the reduction in the State Department’s overseas operation. I would think that, given the brevity of the September 30 deadline, the regional geographic bureaus and other Departmental offices will have to take the initiative and propose reductions in State personnel and clear these with Ambassadors.4
I would expect that some of our Ambassadors and other US officials as well will have questions regarding the reduction. Three questions I would anticipate are the following: (a) “Why is there another reduction abroad after the BALPA (Balance of Payments Reduction Program) exercise carried out by the last Administration?” I suggest that in reply you outline frankly the President’s personal and continuing concern at the size of the American presence abroad and emphasize that this current directive had its origin in the President’s firmly-held view that there were too many Americans abroad. (b) “Are Ambassadors going to be given a chance to make our recommendations on where cuts should be made?” The September 30 deadline is so short we do not have time to seek Ambassadors’ recommendations on specific reductions as was done in the last Administration’s BALPA exercise. All Ambassadors will, however, have an opportunity to comment on the proposed State reductions, and they will be consulted on other agencies’ proposed reductions by State Assistant Secretaries as need arises. I would also think that Ambassadors in the “target” countries would be asked their views and recommendations by our Assistant Secretaries. (c) “What will Department do with the people who will be returning to Washington as a result of this exercise?” There is no easy answer to this one. I have asked John Burns to study the problem urgently, including the question of whether some type of special legislation is required. I think the most you can say at this juncture is that we are very aware of this problem, are studying it on an urgent basis, and will advise the field as soon as we have some answers.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, PER 4–1. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Brewster on July 24, cleared by Findley Burns and Brown, and approved by Richardson.
  2. Not printed. (Ibid.)
  3. Printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume III, Foreign Economic Policy, 1969–1972; International Monetary Policy, 1969–1972, Document 25.
  4. In a November 7 memorandum to the President, Kissinger reported that, in response to the directive, reductions had been agreed upon of 5,777 directly-hired American civilian employees, 1,408 directly-hired local employees, and 14,937 overseas military personnel. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Subject Files, Box 372, Presidential Directive on Reduction of U.S. Personnel Overseas) In a November 26 press release, the White House announced that a review conducted by the Department of State of its overseas offices in connection with the directive had resulted in a decision to restructure its consular posts. Nineteen consular posts slated for closing were listed. (Ibid.) Documentation on further overseas personnel reductions (OPRED) is ibid.; and also ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, PER 4–1.