339. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Department of State Task Force VII Committee (Petrow) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Management (Macomber)1
- Findings of Task Force Chairmen
The following represents a consensus of the views of the Task Force Chairmen. It is a summary of their findings during their week-long inquiry in the Department and of their recommendations for the future.
The first and the most important thing to report is our satisfaction with the very large measure of progress which has been achieved in carrying out the recommendations of the task forces. This is a real tribute to your leadership; you can be proud of what has been accomplished to date. Ten years from now it is possible that we will look back on the establishment of the PARA and the new management evaluation organization as landmarks in the history of the Department, comparable in importance with the reorganization which resulted from the recommendations of the first Hoover Commission.
We also found that there had been major innovative accomplishments on the personnel side. The provision of more assured tenure for Classes 5 to 3, the junior threshold review procedure, the establishment of the Foreign Affairs Specialist Service (even though it is temporarily stymied in the courts), and the measures designed to bring about improved personnel management and are all important achievements. In short, this is an outstanding record, and one which we believe is inadequately understood and appreciated throughout the Service. It would probably have been even better if the budgetary stringencies resulting from the President’s economic program had not intervened.
Our second major finding is that, although much still remains to be done in carrying out the recommendations of the task forces, the Department’s ability to make further progress, particularly in the important fields of creativity and openness, is being seriously hindered [Page 754] by a crisis of confidence among its personnel. Some of us were more alarmed about this than others, but all of us believe that it is the most serious problem facing management today. Many officers in the Department, including some occupying key positions, are experiencing agonizing doubts about the role of the Department and the Foreign Service in the management of our foreign affairs. They believe that the highest levels of administration there is a loss of faith in the discretion and discipline of the Service which has led to what appears to be a conscious decision to exclude the Department from more and more of the important work being done in the management of our foreign policy.
This loss of faith in the Department, which has been openly reported in the press, is attributed in part to the rash of press leaks, many of which the Department is suspected of being responsible for. Evidence of the Administration’s decision to rely less and less on the Department is seen in such things as Ambassador David Kennedy’s practice of negotiating important textile agreements with Asian countries without bringing FE or our embassies into his confidence, or the fact that Ambassador William Eberle, the President’s Special Trade Representative, on at least one occasion dealt directly with foreign officials abroad without going through our Embassy. Nor surprisingly, all this has led to a defensive reaction on the part of many officers in the Department that the loss of faith in them is unjustified and that the Department has been inadequately supported and defended by it leaders.
The sense of malaise in the Department has been exacerbated by the turbulence caused by the labor management dispute and the attack against selection out which has culminated in the effort to block the confirmation of Howard Mace. The resulting decline of morale has had the effect of lessening officers’ interests in and support for the reform program. People are discouraged about the future of the system and their place in it, and this has deprived them of the incentive to support further reforms. There is also some evidence that management’s justifiable concern about leaks has damaged the climate for openness and creativity in the Department. Many officers feel that, because of the danger of leaks, the Department’s leadership actually wishes to discourage independent thinking and discussion. If this feeling should become widespread, we believe that it could seriously damage the effectiveness of the Department. Needless to say, it would also block further progress in carrying out the task force recommendations on creativity and openness.
- One of the principal purposes of the management reform program is to strengthen the role of the Department in the coordination of foreign policy. Our third major finding is that the ability of the Ambassador to carry out his responsibility for the overall direction, coordination, and supervision of the interdepartmental activities of the U.S. Government in the country to which he is assigned is being seriously [Page 755] impaired by the constantly declining ratio of State Department personnel to personnel of other agencies abroad. The continued proliferation of representation abroad by other agencies has been accompanied by a significant reduction of State Department personnel resulting from the fact that, unlike the other agencies, the Department has been taking the BALPA and OPRED cuts across the board in the field. In some posts, the proportion of State Department personnel has fallen so low that the Ambassador finds it difficult to maintain control over the operations of other agencies. Our concern at this development was heightened by reports such as the one that the FBI was seeking to acquire an independent communications system for its representative in Beirut.
- Looking ahead, we concluded that, before you could reasonably hope to give the reform program a new impetus, something would have to be done to deal with the crisis of confidence from which the Department is suffering. We had no particular remedies to propose beyond a frank discussion with the Secretary at his lunch for us: the primary responsibility for dealing with this problem lies with the Secretary.
Assuming that the Secretary succeeds in restoring a much needed sense of confidence in the Department, we believe that a good case can be made for creating some kind of permanent institution to assist you in mobilizing support within the Service for the management reform program and for backing you up in your often lonely and beleaguered fight to keep the program going. We have in mind a kind of blue ribbon advisory panel of Department and Foreign Service officers, preferably not drawn to any significant degree from among the task force chairmen. Such a group could not only lend you visible support, it could also serve as a channel of communication between you and the rank and file. This group could also serve as a source of new ideas. The Department, like the world outside, is constantly changing, and the agenda of reform is in need of periodic renewal. A permanent advisory panel on management reform could well act as the initiator of new proposals for reform.
We concluded that it would also be helpful in restoring and maintaining the program’s momentum if you had a more effective mechanism for following through on decisions implementing task force recommendations than you now have. We think it might be desirable for you to have someone on your staff working full time on the reform program. Ideally, this should be an officer with sufficient rank to command access to senior departmental officers. This is in no way a reflection on Bob Stevens, who in the time he has available for task force work has been doing a most effective job.
- Finally, we recommend that any future cuts in State Department personnel be taken, to the maximum possible extent, in Washington rather than in the field in order to prevent the further withering away of the Department’s strength relative to that of other agencies in the field.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Deputy Under Secretary for Management, Management Reform Task Force Papers: Lot 74 D 394, Management Reform—Task Force Chairman’s Meeting—Report. Confidential; Eyes Only. The 13 Task Force chairmen convened in Washington December 13–17 to be briefed on implementation of the Task Force recommendations and to provide their evaluation of the progress so far and their advice on handling outstanding issues. (Memorandum from Robert Steven to Macomber, October 8; ibid., MR: TF Chairmen’s Meeting, December 13–17, 1971)↩