132. Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs (Laise) to Secretary of State Kissinger1

“Consensus” Begins at Home

It is my perception that only a limited number of officers in the Department of State understand your view of the world, see how the parts [Page 458] of it for which they are responsible fit into the whole, and act accordingly. Moreover, some of those who do understand do not have line responsibilities.

The institutional implications of this “understanding gap” are important: for the conduct of our affairs with other governments, for the Department’s ability to conceptualize—and from a more limited perspective for PA’s ability to enlist the services of officers competent to participate in the kind of dialogue which might lead to a new national “consensus.”

If consensus is going to begin, it will have to begin within the Department.

We wish to propose a simple and—in terms of your own investment—a relatively low-cost way to get at this problem over the next several months. Between now and August 1, for example, it would require only some 20 hours of your time, but repay disproportionately high dividends in terms of institutional cohesiveness and effectiveness.

The proposal is that you meet with the 12–15 senior officers (down through country director) of each major bureau for approximately two hours. By combining some of the smaller functional offices the number of sessions could be held to approximately ten.

These sessions would offer an opportunity for you to convey directly your world view, the Administration’s larger purposes and some of the operating principles and style of diplomacy which you consider central to our foreign affairs—to give life, for example, to the phrase “a stable international structure.” The pay-offs would be in terms of getting the bureaus better attuned to Seventh Floor thinking and encouraging Department officers to think in more conceptual terms. You should find the meetings a convenient way to profit from some of the thinking that percolates in the Department below the levels with which you are normally in direct contact.

If you approve the S/P recommendation for setting broad goals (forwarded together with this memorandum),2 the goals and bureau responses would provide a natural structure for your discussions. In this case, it would be wise to hold these meetings after the bureaus had a chance to respond to the procedure recommended by S/P. PA and S/P would prepare talking points and issues for you to raise, based on the goals and bureau responses.

[Page 459]

The “trickle-down” to subordinate officers could be substantial. It could be enhanced, and posts abroad could be included by proxy, if transcripts were available.

Your subordinates would welcome and benefit from this kind of opportunity.

Action Requested:

That you authorize S/P and PA to arrange such sessions with the appropriate bureaus and offices.3

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, General Administrative Correspondence Files of the Deputy Under Secretary for Management, 1968–75: Lot 78 D 295, MBO 1973–74. Limited Official Use. Drafted by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Charles W. Bray III and Thomas P. Thornton (S/P).
  2. The memorandum from Brown and Lord to Kissinger, April 26, is attached but not printed. In it, they propose responding to an OMB request to introduce a Management by Objectives (MBO) system for the Department by setting a series of broad U.S. foreign policy goals for the coming year.
  3. Kissinger initialed his approval on April 29. No evidence indicating when the sessions were held has been found.