333. Letter From Secretary of State Rogers to Secretary of Defense Laird1

Dear Mel:

My attention has been drawn to a number of recent instances where senior DOD officials have engaged in conversations with foreign officials on sensitive questions which were either directly inconsistent or at least subtly at variance with current U.S. foreign policy. I am sure you are aware of the cases I have in mind, as some of our concerns have already been communicated to your staff.

My purpose in writing you is not to belabor the incidents of the recent past but to look to the future in an effort to avert situations which could further embarrass the United States in our overseas relations. With this in mind I propose that the following procedures be instituted forthwith:

That DOD Directive 5000.7, as most recently revised on December 10, 1970,2 be scrupulously adhered to in seeking formal State Department clearance for visits to special areas by General or Flag officers and civilians of the rank of GS–16 or above. To minimize any misunderstanding, requests for the concurrence of this Department of [Page 740] visits by personnel of this rank, as provided for in DOD Directive 5000.7, should be made in writing to the Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs. This procedure should equally apply for proposed senior level visits to those countries cited in DOD Directive 5000.7 where notification only to the Department is required.
That in circumstances where the senior officer will, or may be expected to, engage in substantive discussions with foreign officials or be exposed to local information media the officer in question will be briefed by this Department in advance of his departure from Washington. (If time or space problems make it infeasible to fulfill this requirement, we propose in paragraph 3 below the alternative formula of a briefing by our appropriate diplomatic posts.) Furthermore, briefing materials prepared in DOD involving foreign policy or politico-military considerations should be coordinated with the Department of State to insure that the materials in question are consistent with established policy. We will also provide any supplementary briefing materials that may be appropriate.
In those circumstances where a senior DOD official contemplates discussions with foreign officials where issues of U.S. foreign policy may be anticipated to arise I recommend that we leave to the discretion of our Ambassador the utility of having a member of our mission staff in attendance. In those cases where we judge it advisable, the visiting DOD official will be briefed on his arrival by our local diplomatic mission. In such instances we would so advise DOD in giving our concurrence to specific visit requests as outlined in paragraph 1 above. In proposing this procedure, let me emphasize that our Embassies are at the disposal of visiting DOD officials, and I am confident that our diplomatic missions can, and will, provide useful supplemental guidance to support your senior proposal.

In addition to the foregoing, if you considered it desirable we would be prepared to make an officer from the Department of State available to accompany senior DOD officials abroad in selective instances. I would appreciate your views on this suggestion.

I am convinced that immediate adoption of points 1–3 above will materially strengthen our objective to have our foreign policy articulated in a consistent and coordinated manner by senior officials of the Executive Branch.

With best personal regards,


William P. Rogers
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Agency Files, Box 283, Dept of State, Vol. X, 1 Dec 70–15 Apr 71. Secret.
  2. Copies of directives are maintained by the Department of Defense, Washington Headquarters Services, Directorate for Correspondence and Directives, Pentagon.