323. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Hillenbrand) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Administration (Macomber)1


  • Task Force Reports

As you are aware, a number of the Task Forces’ recommendations relate directly to the organization and operations of the regional bureaus. I have therefore encouraged the officers of EUR to submit comments on those recommendations. A number of the more cogent of these comments I attach for your consideration and that of the Task Forces in their further work.2

While I believe that the points made represent reasonable criticisms or suggestions, I would not personally press them all with the same vigor. They are, however, worth bringing to your attention as representing the views of a group of officers in EUR who have read, given thought to, and discussed among themselves the various Task Force reports.

Having read the Task Force reports myself and having attended various discussion sessions arranged by you, I could not help but be struck by the sheer mass of the reports and the breadth of the subjects covered. At the present stage, it is difficult to come to grips with the various recommendations except in a diffuse way. The next step, which I know you have under way, must necessarily involve the development of a single comprehensible and internally consistent program which focuses on the main problems. The Task Forces have done an admirable job in pinpointing many of the problem areas which presently confront us. However, they were unfortunately too compartmentalized to develop logically consistent remedies for the problems identified. Consequently, while many of the specific recommendations would, if adopted, represent much needed improvements, others are ill-advised and should be revised or discarded.

In very broad terms, the Task Forces address themselves to two fundamental questions: (1) How can the State Department and the Foreign Service be organized to meet the needs of U.S. foreign policy? and [Page 718] (2) What type of personnel does a modern Foreign Service require? If we can devise acceptable answers to these two questions in logical, coherent form within a comprehensive conceptual framework, we will have made a giant step forward.

If we were to try to isolate the one most characteristic feature of the Foreign Service today it would be the deep feeling of dissatisfaction with the present personnel system. This, of course, refers not only to method of assignment (which is only a small part of the picture) but also to every other aspect of personnel administration. If this feeling is well-founded, first order of business should be a thorough reform of the personnel system. Some of the elements of an improved personnel system might be the following:

The establishment of a stable personnel system which would avoid the uncertainty and inequities created by the constant changes of the past two decades. Even a less than ideal system, consistently administered, would permit both individuals and personnel administrators to plan ahead rationally;
Inventory of personnel and positions;
Careful screening of young Foreign Service Officers;
Promotions geared to grade requirements;
Humanization of the selection out of time and grade provisions so that they are used to eliminate those guilty of incompetence or malfeasance and not to correct personnel imbalances created by incompetent planning;
Improvement of the efficiency report system; and
Assignment aimed at developing human talent.

As I pointed out at one of your discussion meetings, a consideration troubling me in trying to appraise the relevant Task Force reports is the unproved assumption that there are really enough “interesting” jobs in the Foreign Service and the Department of State to meet the requirements of a Foreign Service of some 3000-plus officers for such jobs. A mere inventory of available positions will not answer the question as to how many of these are actually of a type which will meet the need, on which young officers now seem to place so much stress, for challenging and responsible positions at all stages of a Foreign Service career.

The cone system, I know, with its introduction of varying recruitment criteria for the different cones, is supposed to take care of at least part of this problem, but I am not sure that it will entirely. I am personally confronted with a steady stream of officers at all levels who want a line job within one of the EUR country directorates, and I would imagine that the other regional assistant secretaries find themselves in the same position. The fact is that only a small percentage of officers can actually be accommodated on country desks or in functional positions, mainly economic, within the regional bureaus or the E area. What happens to the others is part of the problem of finding constructive and challenging work for all.

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The foregoing remarks are not meant in criticism of the Task Force enterprise, which has certainly been one of the best things that has happened around the Department in many years. I shall look forward to the product of the group charged with pulling together the various Task Force reports into a comprehensive whole. I should then hope to have further comments on specific proposals for change which might be sponsored by this group.

  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, August 14 thru 31, 1970. Unclassified.
  2. Attached but not printed.