1. Letter From Secretary of State Rogers to President Nixon 1

Dear Mr. President:

I respectfully propose for your consideration the enclosed joint resolution to authorize a grant of not more than $15 million to defray a portion of the cost of expanding the Headquarters of the United Nations in New York.2 If you approve this legislation as part of your program, I should greatly appreciate your so informing the Congress.

There is an urgent need to adapt the physical facilities of United Nations Headquarters to meet the requirements of an organization that has more than doubled in membership since its original plant was constructed almost twenty years ago and has expanded substantially the scope of its activities. There is a serious shortage of office space with consequent overcrowding and scattering of components of departments which should function as integral units in adjacent accommodations. There is as well a major problem of space for document storage resulting in the inefficient and hazardous use of corridor areas for this purpose. Moreover, facilities for reproduction of documents and language training are both makeshift and inadequate, as are the organization’s conference and staff dining arrangements. The only available recourse has been to rent office space outside the original Headquarters site. But the use of rented space is both expensive and [Page 2]inefficient in its scattering of office units. It adds over $1 million annually in rental charges alone.

At its most recent session last fall, the UN General Assembly examined a feasibility study prepared by the Fund for Area Planning and Development, Inc. on expanding UN Headquarters facilities through new construction and major alterations to existing premises. After consideration, the Assembly authorized the UN Secretary-General to proceed with the preparation of plans and specifications on the basis of which cost estimates could be presented to the Assembly for decision at its 1969 session. At the same time, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to report on the over-all problem of accommodations at the New York Headquarters in relation to available or potential space at all locations utilized by the United Nations. One reason for this latter request is that some members are interested in moving the focus of United Nations activities to locations outside the United States.

In my view, both the United Nations and the United States would benefit from a decision to expand the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The UN would benefit by being able to keep related activities together and thereby provide unified and efficient direction to them. Similarly, the United States would be better able to supply the constructive leadership required for an effective United Nations. Moreover, American citizens who are needed for many tasks of the United Nations can be more readily recruited for service in this country thereby making significant contributions to the organization’s efficiency.

One of the most important considerations that will influence the decision of the General Assembly on expansion will be the magnitude of the burden that would fall on the regular budget of the United Nations. As host government, the United States would be expected to assist Headquarters expansion as, among others, the Austrian and Swiss Governments have aided the construction of facilities for UN activities within their borders. The City of New York plans to make the necessary land available south of 42nd Street and has indicated it will give favorable consideration to matching such funds as may be appropriated by the Congress for capital costs. It is also expected that private philanthropic sources will assist in financing this project. Should these contributions all materialize, our Mission to the United Nations believes it likely that the UN will decide in favor of expanding its Headquarters in New York.


William P. Rogers
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 298, Agency Files, USUN, Vol. I. No classification marking.
  2. A memorandum from Rogers to President Nixon, also dated May 10, elaborated on the reasons why the U.S. contribution was in the national interest: “(1) The existence of a strong UN Headquarters in this country enables the U.S. more effectively to maximize its influence in the organization. (2) Expansion in Geneva at the expense of New York could cost the U.S. economy millions of dollars annually just in UN salaries now spent in the country. (3) A special contribution by the country hosting an international organization is customary. (4) Concentration of the functions of the United Nations in one location is conducive both to the organization’s efficiency and its economy of operation.” A draft letter of transmission to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and to the President of the Senate and a draft joint resolution authorizing a grant to defray part of the cost of an expanded UN Headquarters were attached to this memorandum. (Ibid.)