331. Information Memorandum From the Director of the Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs (Spiers) to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson)1


  • Establishment of Defense Sections
[Page 736]

I have heard informally that Mr. Packard has passed down to the JCS and ISA for review our draft message on the establishment of Defense Sections in Embassies which you sent him under cover of your letter of February 9, 1971.2

As expected the reactions at these levels are strongly negative. Essentially the position is that things are just fine the way they are, and in any case why should the State Department meddle in what is essentially Defense business. As it was described to me, most of the “Colonels” working on the subject have very little idea of the functions of Embassies, the responsibilities of Ambassadors, or the role of the State Department in foreign relations.

Our problems in dealing with this question stem from two sources:

A deeply ingrained suspicion that the State Department is out to corral the military and ultimately to control their activities overseas; and
The military, at least at this level, have never accepted the President’s letters to Ambassadors, which they regard as the product of an “end-run” by the State Department. In their view the Ambassador is a State Department functionary, and there is no reason why the military overseas should be under the Ambassador’s jurisdiction.

This preliminary reading reinforces my own view that if we are to make any headway with this project it is not going to be through the normal processes of “staffing out” the proposal. It is going to have to be handled at your level with Mr. Packard, and it is at this level that we are going to have to convey the conviction that this reorganization is as much in the military interest as ours, that the present system is far from satisfactory, that an Ambassador represents the President and not just the Department of State, and that the President’s letter establishing this principle is not just a passing phenomenon that will “go away.” I believe it would be worthwhile sometime when you see Mr. Packard to mention again your desire to talk this project over with him before he becomes the prisoner of negative recommendations developed at the staff level in Defense.3

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, ORG 8. Confidential.
  2. The draft message and February 9 letter are attached but not printed. The draft message established within each mission, as soon as feasible, “a single Defense Section, in which responsibility is centralized for all functions which are usually performed by uniformed military members of Embassy or mission staff, under a single, appropriately ranked military officer. The Section Chief would be responsible for supervision and coordination of all functions normally handled by military personnel, including representation, reporting (including Defense Attaché reporting), liaison with host government military, advice to Ambassador on military affairs, liaison between Embassy and U.S. commanders in areas under Ambassador’s jurisdiction, and the like. As appropriate the Defense Section would handle military sales matters, overflight clearances, military visits, and other similar subjects which are usually carried forward in military-to-military channels.”
  3. Packard informed Johnson in a February 23 letter that “the Department of Defense continues to support retention of MAAGs and Attaché offices as organizationally separate entities with existing command and administrative relationships.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, ORG 8)