321. Memorandum From the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Administration (Macomber) to Secretary of State Rogers1


  • Task Forces

You might wish to make the following points with respect to the task force effort the next time you see the President.

You are convinced that one of the most significant contributions the Administration could make would be to leave a much strengthened State Department, far better equipped than it is now to meet the changing and increasingly complex foreign policy challenges this country will face in the remaining decades of this century. If the Administration [Page 714] can do this it will be of far more lasting significance than how we handle a great many problems the headlines focus on each day.
You have launched a unique effort to accomplish this. Instead of carrying out a reform and modernization effort in the usual way, i.e. by a “meat-ax” approach from the top—which is the way McNamara proceeded in the Defense Department and which is the traditional way to reform a large bureaucracy—you have decided that the best way to proceed is to turn the State Department-Foreign Service professionals loose on reforming and upgrading themselves. Your theory is that, if they will approach this with open minds, and if they will honestly look at all the real and alleged shortcomings which have been ascribed to them, they can do a better job in gearing up the Department than any group of outsiders.2
To the extent this effort needs to rely on the work of outside study commissions, there are already a series of excellent such reports in existence. We have never suffered from not having enough outside suggestions. Our problem has been when good suggestions have been made, the Department has been very reluctant to adopt them.
In order to get on with this effort you have set up thirteen task forces manned by 250 professionals, made up mostly from the State Department and the Foreign Service but also drawing on others in the foreign affairs community. They have been asked to look at all the suggestions that a change-resistant establishment had pushed side over the years, refine these or develop new proposals, and come up with an action program designed to modernize the State Department’s way of doing business.
The thirteen task forces have now submitted draft reports which make 468 recommendations for improvements. These run the gamut from the installation of improved substantive management tools to the improved recruiting of FSO–8s. The reports are now being reviewed for omissions and inconsistencies and are being exposed in a series of seminars in the building to those who were not on the task forces. Our Embassies abroad have also been asked to comment. When these consultations, here and abroad, are completed, the task force studies will be put in final form, an overview paper will be drafted, a listing of all the recommendations will be finalized and a schedule for implementation [Page 715] of these recommendations will be put into effect. A number of recommendations can be implemented promptly. Others will take longer.
The task forces are not recommending any new Presidential directives designed to strengthen the role and authority of the State Department. The theory is that in the long run the role of the Department can only be strengthened by improving its capabilities and performance and that a stronger leadership role for the Department should be earned rather than accorded to it by Presidential fiat.
Finally, many people say a great bureaucracy cannot reform itself. You think it can and, if this effort is pulled off successfully, it can well be one of the lasting ornaments of this Administration.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Deputy Under Secretary for Management, Management Reform Task Force Papers: Lot 74 D 394, Task Force File, July 1970. No classification marking. Drafted by Macomber. Printed from an unsigned copy.
  2. In his book The Angels’ Game: A Handbook of Modern Diplomacy, Macomber expressed his satisfaction with the decision to use active duty Department of State and Foreign Service personnel rather than “experts.” “Their product, while uneven, was remarkably perceptive and constructive. It also benefited from the insider’s license to be critical. They said things which needed to be said and which, coming from insiders, were far less resented than they would have otherwise been,” and “much easier to implement, than identical criticism and recommendations from outsiders.” (New York: Stein and Day, 1975, p. 200)