121. Letter From the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Ingersoll) to the Ambassador to the Republic of Korea (Habib)1

Dear Philip:

As you know from our discussions with the Secretary at the Chiefs of Mission Conference in Tokyo, he attaches great importance to improving field reporting.2 In State telegram 209583,3 he set forth his views with respect to the quality and quantity of Foreign Service reporting. As a follow-up to that message, Ambassador Porter asked the regional and functional Bureaus to provide specific suggestions for improving reporting to better meet the needs of the Department and the Washington community. EA submitted a series of such recommendations, based on contributions from country desks.4 Synthesizing suggestions from the Bureaus, Ambassador Porter found that five specific recommendations were widely shared and were, moreover, well [Page 429] within the authority of the Bureau to implement. He therefore asked that each Bureau take the necessary steps to implement these measures without delay.

The approved recommendations are as follows:

  • 1) The Department should provide systematic guidance to the field on what is wanted and, conversely, what is not needed.
  • 2) The Department should attempt to evaluate reports that are received, and should inform posts of its evaluations.
  • 3) Posts should submit more reports of a specifically analytical nature, perhaps on a fixed and regular basis.
  • 4) Greater use should be made of airgrams in reporting.
  • 5) At the Bureau level, more rather than less factual reporting should be submitted.

Let me stress at the outset that the last recommendation, discussed in more detail below, should not lead to an increase in the overall volume of reporting. Rather there should be an appropriate readjustment in the reporting program, giving more emphasis to some areas, but concurrently decreasing coverage of less important areas.

With respect to recommendations (1) and (2)—providing guidance to the field and evaluating reports from the field—action responsibility obviously resides here. Country directors have begun to draw up guidelines on what should and should not be emphasized in reporting and these will be communicated to you in the near future, either by telegram or Official-Informal letter. These will be changed and updated as necessary.

We will periodically offer you our comments on reports which are particularly well done and useful as well as those which for one reason or another seem marginal. With respect to the latter, our comments will be intended to make reporting more responsive to the Secretary’s directive as seen from Washington; they will not be intended, nor should they be taken, as a form of censure. We shall also provide you on a more systematic basis papers—NSC, INR and others—that are of particular interest to you. In return, we would ask that you let us know what you are missing from Washington. We realize only too well that the field has at times an impression of resounding silence from this end. The objective of this interchange is to insure open communications among us and the maintenance of a high-quality, professional product.

The intent of recommendation number 4)—increased use of airgrams—is to take advantage of the greater leeway the airgram format can provide, in terms of length and style, for in-depth reporting of both factual and analytical nature. We will attempt to insure speedier distribution of airgrams than often exists now and will see to it that they receive prompt attention at as high a level as the subject requires.

In the referenced telegram, the Secretary expressed the view that too much emphasis was given to factual reporting at the expense of [Page 430] analysis. At the same time, EA and the other Bureaus feel that a certain amount of factual reporting on particular topics is essential to enable working levels of the Department to pursue their own analyses of trends and developments overseas as well as to provide necessary basic information to other Washington agencies. We shall be seeking to identify more precisely those high priority areas where more factual reporting would be useful and, at the same time, point out areas where factual reporting could be reduced. Recommendation 5) therefore should be applied selectively, within existing personnel resources.

We have given considerable attention to recommendation 3), calling for more analytical reporting, perhaps on a periodic basis. In our overall guidance for individual posts we will discuss areas in which analytical reporting might be increased and whether some of that reporting should be placed on a fixed schedule. However, with the exception described below, I do not intend to establish at this time a bureau-wide schedule for analytical reporting. In my opinion, each of you is the best judge of developments in your country requiring greater analytical consideration.

As you recall, in the Chiefs of Mission Conference in Tokyo, the Secretary specifically asked that you submit periodic assessments of trends and developments in your countries. It was agreed that this would be done on a quarterly basis. These reports, which will receive the Secretary’s personal attention, should be relatively brief and should be interpretive in nature—conveying your personal judgment as to the meaning for US interests and objectives of trends in the country, and highlighting potential problems of which the Secretary should be made aware. It will not be necessary to describe in detail problems or issues already familiar to the Secretary, the intent instead is to provide a thoughtful appraisal of general trends and to flag problems or opportunities on the horizon. These reports should be submitted according to the following staggered schedule:

—Saigon, Phnom Penh, Vientiane, Bangkok—no later than the end of the first month of the quarter (January 31, 1974).

—Rangoon, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Singapore, Manila, Canberra, Wellington, Suva—no later than the end of the second month (February 28, 1974).

—Peking, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei—no later than the end of the third month (March 31, 1974).

Finally, I need not remind you that all reporting—factual or analytic, airgram or telegram—is greatly improved in value by including a short summary of its content and closing with a concluding comment, unless the report is brief. This will help to insure that it is given the attention it deserves at the highest level necessary.

I recognize the heavy reporting burden borne by many EA posts, and I know too that reductions in your staffs have made the problem [Page 431] even more acute. I hope that the foregoing recommendations and requests will be manageable and we will be mindful of your problems in formulating specific guidance for each of you. If you feel that the guidance you are receiving is insufficient, or that any of these measures are unnecessary or ill-advised, please let me know. As I noted earlier, their purpose is simply to carry out the Secretary’s directive and refine what we consider to be excellent reporting from the field.

Sincerely yours,

Robert S. Ingersoll5
  1. Source: Department of State, Files of Philip C. Habib: Lot 81 D 5, Chiefs of Mission Conference, Dec. 6–8, 1974—Honolulu. Limited Official Use. A handwritten note on the letter indicates that it was received on December 31. Similar letters were sent from Ingersoll to all Ambassadors in the East Asia and Pacific region.
  2. Kissinger made the comment in his introductory remarks to the Conference of Chiefs of Mission to East Asian countries in Tokyo on November 15. (Ibid., Chiefs of Mission Conference—Tokyo—October 23–26, 1973)
  3. Document 119.
  4. Not found.
  5. Ingersoll signed “Bob” above this typed signature.