119. Telegram From the Department of State to All Diplomatic and Consular Posts1

209583. Subj: Reporting From the Field. For the Ambassador from the Secretary. Inform Consuls.

1. Over the coming months I plan to share with you my thoughts on how we can best work together. In return, I welcome, and in fact will rely heavily on your opinions as to how we can improve the conduct of our foreign policy.

2. My purpose in this cable is to make clear my views on reporting from the field. The emphasis I placed on the subject in my remarks to the Department on September 28 underlines the importance I attach to this process.2

3. We must have timely, accurate and useful reporting from abroad. Such reporting should be characterized by: (A) analysis, not just description; (B) quality over quantity; (C) open and free expression of differing views.

(A) Analysis. I have the highest respect for the knowledge and capabilities of the career professionals in the Foreign Service. Over the last four years I have been struck however by the sheer volume of information which flows into the Department, contrasted with the paucity of good analytical material whether from the Department or the field. Mere reportage of events which have already taken place and about which in many cases we can do little is not sufficient. For that reporting to be useful to me, I require not only information on what is happening, but your most thoughtful and careful analyses of why it is happening, what it means for U.S. policy, and the directions in which you see events going.

(B) Quality. I want to ask the Chiefs of Mission in each post to review most carefully field reporting. I have the impression we can eliminate many items of minimal and marginal interest. This will help to cut down the volume and will allow reporting officers more time to think about events and developments and to analyze them for us here in Washington. I ask also close attention to making your reports cogent and concise. Verbosity too often seems to substitute for careful thought. I am asking the Under Secretary for Political Affairs to study reporting [Page 425] requirements to eliminate as many marginal requirements as possible as well as to ensure that important areas not now being fully reported on and analyzed are covered in the future.

(C) Free Expression. I urge Embassies, and officers within Embassies who have differing views on major issues from those reported by their colleagues, to make them available to me in the special and controlled channels provided by the Department for that purpose. I expect that all officers in the Foreign Service and the Department will keep dissenting views in the channels provided for; we cannot operate the government or the Department if dissent is taken to the press. I of course will look directly to the Ambassador for advice; but on fundamental questions I believe that dissenting views and opinions should be heard. This should help to produce a more open spirit of the kind I am trying to encourage between the Department and the Congress and the Department and the American public. If we cannot have it within the Department we have little reason to expect it in our relations with those outside. Expression of differing views will of course be subject to the Ambassador’s control; however, I will expect that when his views are submitted, opposing views and compromises will be noted as well.

4. I have asked my colleagues in the Department to pay attention to your reporting and analyses. You can expect to hear from me when its quality merits praise or censure.

5. Please bring these thoughts to the attention of your colleagues at your Missions and constituent posts.

6. I look forward to working with you during this crucial period for American foreign policy.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973. Unclassified. Drafted by Pickering; cleared by Porter, Lord, and Eagleburger; and approved by Kissinger.
  2. Kissinger’s remarks to Department employees were transmitted to all posts in telegram 193812, September 28. (Ibid.)