310. Letter From President Nixon to All United States Ambassadors Abroad 1

Dear —:

Your mission as American Ambassador to—is of the utmost significance to our country and to me personally. I wish you every success in this endeavor.

I attach the greatest importance to my Constitutional responsibilities for the conduct of our relations with other countries. As the personal representative of the President of the United States, you share these responsibilities in the country to which you are accredited.

You will, of course, report to me through and normally2 receive your instructions from the Secretary of State who has responsibility not only for the activities of the Department of State but also for the overall direction, coordination and supervision of United States Government activities overseas.

I believe that all possible measures should be taken to improve and tighten the processes of foreign policy implementation abroad. I know I can count on your full support in directing the activities of all elements of the United States Mission to achieve this objective. To assure you and all concerned that you have my full personal backing, I want to make the following comments on your own authority and responsibilities.

As Chief of the United States Diplomatic Mission, you have full responsibility to direct and coordinate the activities and operations of all of its elements. You will exercise this mandate not only by providing [Page 694] policy leadership and guidance, but also by assuring positive program direction to the end that all United States activities in—are relevant to current realities, are efficiently and economically administered, and are effectively interrelated so that they will make a maximum contribution to United States interests in that country as well as to our regional and international objectives.

I am concerned that the size of our representation abroad be related to a stringent appraisal of policy and program requirements and that the number of personnel of all agencies be kept at the very minimum necessary to meet our objectives. I shall expect you to maintain a continuing personal concern on this matter and to inform the Secretary of State when you believe that the staff of any agency or program is excessive.

I shall expect you to assure the highest standards of personal conduct by all United States personnel, civilian or military; you have authority to take any corrective action which in your judgment is necessary.

You have, of course, the right to be kept informed, to the extent you deem necessary, of all the information or recommendations reported by any element of the Mission. The Secretary of State and I have made it clear that we will welcome the opportunity to consider alternative policies and courses of actions before making final decisions. When you or other members of your Mission believe such alternatives merit consideration, we encourage your putting them forward along with your own recommendations.

I will reserve for myself, as Commander-in-Chief, direct authority over the military chain of command to United States military forces under the command of a United States area military commander, and over such other military activities as I elect, as Commander-in-Chief, to conduct through military channels.

However, I will expect you and the military commanders concerned to maintain close relations with each other, to keep each other currently informed on matters of mutual interest and in general to cooperate in carrying out our national policy. If differences of view not capable of resolution in the field should arise, I will expect you to keep me informed through the Secretary of State.

I deeply believe, as I said in my Inaugural Address,3 that forces now are converging that may make possible the realization of many of man’s deepest aspirations. If “the times are on the side of peace,” I also deeply believe that you, and the dedicated personnel of the Foreign [Page 695] Service and the other departments and agencies who comprise the staff of your Mission, will insure that we take maximum advantage of the opportunities that are so clearly before us.4

With my best wishes,


  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, Subject Files, Box 10, Ex FO 2. No classification marking. Printed from an unsigned copy. The letter was initially drafted in the Department of State and forwarded to the President by Richardson under cover of a May 21 memorandum, following which the letter underwent revisions. (Ibid., NSC Files, Subject Files, Box 337, HAK/Richardson Meetings, May–Dec 1969) It superseded President Kennedy’s letter to Ambassadors dated May 29, 1961. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, volume XXV. Members of the Johnson administration proposed sending such a letter on several occasions, but none was sent while Johnson was President. (Ibid., 1964–1968, vol. XXXIII, Document 130)
  2. During a telephone conversation with Halperin on August 26, Johnson stated that he had spoken the previous day with Kissinger about the letter to Ambassadors and that the only problem raised by the President “was his ability to communicate directly with ambassadors if he wanted to do so.” Therefore Johnson suggested adding the word “normally” so it would read: “You will, of course, report to me through and normally receive your instructions from the Secretary of State.” (Notes on Telephone Conversation; National Archives, RG 59, Executive Secretariat, U. Alexis Johnson Files: Lot 96 D 695, Telcons, Personal)
  3. For text, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pp. 1–4.
  4. Under cover of a February 18, 1970, memorandum, Kissinger forwarded to the President highlights of ambassadorial replies to the December 9 letter and an outline of issues they raised. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Agency Files, Box 288, State, Ambassador’s Replies to Your December 9 Letter)