139. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
  • Robert S. Ingersoll, Deputy Secretary of State
  • Joseph J. Sisco, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
  • L. Dean Brown, Deputy Under Secretary for Management
  • Arthur A. Hartman, Assistant Secretary for European Affairs
  • Nathaniel Davis, Director General
  • Lawrence S. Eagleburger, Executive Assistant
  • L. Paul Bremer, Notetaker
  • Robert J. McCloskey, Ambassador-at-Large

Kissinger: Bob, would you like to lead off?

Ingersoll: Well, we had two one-hour meetings last Saturday2 after our meeting with you Friday.3 We went around trying to come up with [Page 476] some suggestions. You got during the last week the reductions in copies of cables. This, of course, won’t solve the problem completely. And another matter we are looking into is the control of the Xerox machines, which Dean is looking into. For example, he is trying to find a machine where if you Xerox a cable, it destroys the original.

Kissinger: It would be better if it then destroyed the building.

Ingersoll: Anyway, these are possibilities that are further down the road.

Now another question is the problem of putting the responsibility on the Assistant Secretaries to manage their Bureaus. This is the only way we can create the spirit so people will not leak. In addition, it will mean the Assistant Secretaries will know which people are leaking and after that we can have the security people act to trace down the leaks.

Another problem we addressed is the question of the quality of the work which is being turned out on various issues. Again, this is a matter of management.

Kissinger: What are the other people’s views?

Sisco: Henry, I have no concrete suggestions. I’ve thought about it all week long. There is no one answer. The principle of responsibility in the sense of assuring quality of work to minimize leaks rests with the Assistant Secretaries. Another thing which I, myself, am personally concerned with is what do you do about the things which are coming out which you don’t want to have come out, but which are not coming out of this building? This last one, the Eilts thing4 for example, I’m sure it was an AID source. Now the cable reduction might help with some of these problems, but there is no one solution. The fact is, no matter how you go about distributing it there will have to be some distribution, and therefore there is a possibility of some leaks.

Kissinger: Let me be clear. I am talking about two things. One is the question of leaks. I do not want to set up a police organization on leaks. The second thing is what the leaks represent. And that is much more important. Much more fundamental. The self-image of the building is involved. The lack of self-respect and the lack of concern for national policy is what really disturbs me.

For example, DOD leaks like crazy. But when they leak they leak for what they conceive to be national purposes. You almost never have a leak over there against themselves and very rarely against the Secretary of Defense.

[Page 477]

Now you look at these quotes they are getting here. The ARA people are quoted as saying “you shove this into the face of the Chilean Government and make them swallow it”.5 Now the idea somehow is that we are missionaries and every sixth level guy has the right to kick everyone around. The way of leaking was the same in the beginning of the Cyprus crisis. Now, I just wonder what this means about the conception of themselves among Foreign Service Officers.

The way they also talk about not being cut in on things. Now, it may be that there is to some extent truth in that, but I do not believe it is true that every single lieutenant needs to know as much as the four-star generals.

Ingersoll: We cannot bring about these changes over night.

Kissinger: These guys are too self-indulgent. Every time something goes wrong, you cannot find the guy who did it. When I ask who’s responsible for something, you’d think I want to throw the guy out the window. There are horrendous idiocies around here, but the guilty person is always protected by this self-serving protective association.

This crowd will never be any good if we can’t get any concept of service in it.

Hartman: I have been looking at this very hard over the last week at my own operation and I have found that I simply have not spent enough time with the staff. In some cases I have conveyed things to my deputies and I really have one of my deputies running the Bureau.

[Page 478]

Kissinger: Who’s that?

Hartman: Lowenstein.6

Kissinger: Is he the senior deputy?

Hartman: No, Stabler7 is. But Jim is running the Bureau. I have not spent enough time myself with all the groups in the Bureau. I find as I look back that my weekly staff meeting is continually getting cancelled. The communication problem is definitely very important. We’ve got to find a way to divide the roles we have. Several of us Assistant Secretaries are operating in effect as your special assistants, which is very hard to do when we are also charged with running the Bureau and meeting and greeting Ambassadors.

I think we simply have to give a deputy much more control over running the Bureau.

Ingersoll: That’s right. If the Assistant Secretary doesn’t have time, then he simply has to delegate it.

Brown: This problem is apparent in several bureaus.

Kissinger: It is ironic that the lousiest Bureau doesn’t leak at all. We have had no leaks out of AF.

Brown: That’s because they have no substance to leak.

Eagleburger: No, they haven’t leaked the sale of the DC–8 to Gabon.

Sisco: Someone there is going to sue one lawyer, what’s her name?

Brown: Allison Palmer.

Sisco: She’s going to sue the lawyer related to the prior sale arguing that he knew the plane was going to be used in the Rhodesia trade.

Kissinger: I’ll get to that in a minute. What I’m talking about is the effect on the self-image of the Foreign Service.

Brown: I sent some of my younger officers out into the bureaus this last week to find out what’s going on and the result is I find that there is a split. At the level of about the Country Director people are involved, but below that level people feel left out. They don’t see the Assistant Secretaries and even the Deputy Assistant Secretaries, who spend too much time chasing after people like you, Art, to find out what the policy is. We’ve got to pull these other officers back into the building.

They visited ARA and found out a very interesting thing about Kubisch. When Kubisch was Country Director for Brazil, he was the most popular guy in the entire Bureau. Then I find in the last six months he is hated.

Kissinger: Why?

Brown: Because he clammed up at the staff meetings. Every time at a staff meeting when particular subjects came up, Kubisch would say we can’t discuss that in this group.

Kissinger: He was right, but he wasn’t acting on my instructions. Actually, I don’t know what ARA is doing that is so sensitive.

Brown: Delegating to one deputy is simply not enough. You, Art, will have to do some of it yourself. If we can maintain fairly regularly this 8:00 staff meeting with you, then the Assistant Secretaries can go back to their bureaus and debrief their people, not necessarily in detail. But this way they can pull their people in the bureau into the larger picture of the organization, to tell them what everybody on the 7th floor is concerned about. Then, with the deputies working, you can get some kind of a team feeling.

Sisco: I know I felt when I was Assistant Secretary in NEA, the most useful thing to me was I had four staff meetings every week, [Page 479] every day except Friday. The Country Directors and their deputies would then tell me what was in the cables and what they thought should be done. I don’t know how regular your’s have been, Art, but it seems to me that once a week is inadequate.

Ingersoll: We also have the problem of quality standards. The Assistant Secretaries or their deputies simply have to police the standard of the paper. If they don’t have time then they have to delegate it.

Kissinger: Bob (McCloskey), what do you think?

McCloskey: I don’t know what I think yet. I think I would just like to listen a little more.

Kissinger: That’s all right. Don’t be bashful.

McCloskey: I think there are two things which are running through our minds here. The first thing is this question of information going public. Secondly, there is the broader question of having a Foreign Service which really puts out as an institution for the Government. There is some anarchy in the ranks as there is everywhere.

You know, you are doing more for governments now than a Secretary of State should be asked to do—35 days shuttling in the Middle East. Institutions are suffering from these things all over the place. Families are having trouble understanding their children.

I think if you would give more time personally because more reposes with you than with previous Secretaries of State, to take time now and then, perhaps in the Western Auditorium, to let a group of people see and talk to you—how many people can we get into the Western Auditorium? 500–800? Just to give them some personal exposure which would be symbolic and could affect the morale.

Kissinger: How much exposure have previous Secretaries of State had? Did Acheson do this? What about Rusk?

McCloskey: It’s not the point that much. It’s a very different phenomenon now.

Kissinger: Well, I’m not opposed to it. It’s not a bad idea. Perhaps once every three weeks.

McCloskey: It could be once every several months.

Kissinger: Or once a month. It’s not a bad idea.

Brown: It would have to be an upbeat presentation.

Ingersoll: You could cover some controversial subjects and give everybody guidance.

Kissinger: I cannot accept the proposition that I must give guidance to 800 Foreign Service Officers together. But for inspiration the idea might be good.

Now I’ve seen enough to know over the past years that it is no accident that the State Department is not used by the President. This Presi [Page 480] dent essentially is indifferent and open-minded on the subject since I am here and he doesn’t have to face the problem. But when the two jobs are split again, you mark my words that you will have the same problem and this building will become a fudge factory again and the President will rely on his assistant or he will rely on the Secretary of State acting as his assistant, but not on this building.

What I am after is to leave something behind. The Foreign Service, if it wants to be what it pretends to be, must see its fulfillment, not in the perogatives of the job. Look at the kind of thing they are leaking. But if the Foreign Service is working for the national interest then morale will soar. I would rather have a year of lousy morale now followed by that.

In the reporting and in the other things they do, you just don’t get the sense that “by god they will do something for the country”. Get the younger fellows to write to you about where is the U.S. going to be in ten years? What is the nature of peace? These are the questions that concern foreign policy.

What they yell about instead is reforming the government in South Africa, doing something about Rhodesia, or as the ARA man said, “shoving it in the face of the Chilean government”. Now that is not a serious view of foreign policy. I happen to believe that if we have a disciplined and organized Foreign Service, we will even bring about some humanitarian changes for the better.

Sisco: In principle I agree with Bob. But I don’t agree with his specific suggestions. If you go see a group now, it will be seen as an empty gesture. What we need to do is look over the next two, three, or four months to taking some quiet moves such as the ones that Dean discussed.

McCloskey: No, it is certainly not a substitute for that.

Kissinger: No, it’s just a palliative.

The basic problem is how to give the Foreign Service the concept of serving. They should get along with me, but I don’t feel that I need to get along with them. On the other hand, I don’t want to personalize this. The question is can one create a tradition that will serve other Secretaries of State.

The whole system here is geared to making the Secretary do what the Bureaus want. Unless you’re a monomaniac like me, you can’t beat them and I perhaps can’t beat them. You are overwhelmed with cables to approve. This is not done consciously. No one says we are out to get the Secretary on this. But the system and the mentality is not geared to where the country or even the region ought to be going.

It becomes a matter of selling your cable to the Secretary. And high on the list of how the cables are drafted is consideration of getting along with foreign governments.

[Page 481]

Now you take this damn NEA. I find just last night that Eilts and Guay8 are planning to go to a Yom Kippur victory parade. That’s like going to some Japanese parade honoring Pearl Harbor. I understand Eilts’ pressures, because he’s being pushed by Sadat, but consider what the Jewish community would do here if this happened during the election campaign. Now that should have been caught somewhere.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the organization and management of the Department of State.]

Eagleburger: I agree that the key to the immediate problem is the Assistant Secretaries. But the best way to get to the heart of the question is to figure out why we are the way we are. We have to address the whole range of things. For example, how we go about recruiting Foreign Service personnel, the promotion system, etc.

Kissinger: The Foreign Service is excellent on reporting but lousy on telling you what it means. Now in the areas where I know something, I can just take the reporting and put it into context myself. But what does the ordinary Secretary of State do? The analytical reporting we do here is generally lousy. There are exceptions. Scotes9 helped me more with his reporting from Damascus than any three Ambassadors.

Every now and then a cable comes along that sticks in my mind. But for example we have never gotten a decent analysis out of Portugal since April on what’s going on. I knew six months ago, and I’ve been saying all along what’s going to happen there and if I had followed my instincts I’d have been much more strong-armed there instead of taking this vapid line the State Department’s giving me. I didn’t have the guts to do it because it would have meant breaking massive opposition in this building and elsewhere.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the organization and management of the Department of State.]

Sisco: Over the last twenty years in this institution we have had the bout with McCarthyism, the change in generations and the fact that it is a large bureaucracy with the bureaucratic tendency against conceptualization. Which is not all that bad, I might say. I do not find it disturbing to have the regional bureaus pressing in competition for your time, for example. And then our job on the 7th floor is to try to make the judgments about how your time should be spent.

My point is that what Larry has said about having a real look at the Foreign Service by itself, is a good one. What is its role? Like most insti [Page 482] tutions, the loyalty tends to be to the institution itself as Secretaries come and go. But we do have the past twenty years where this institution has been maligned by successive Secretaries of State and Presidents. Perhaps the role has to be altered.

Kissinger: An institution which is maligned by its chief over a period of twenty years, must have something wrong with it. Especially since the Chief’s instincts cannot be to malign his own institution. He has nothing to gain by doing that. If Presidents as different as Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson came to the same conclusion, even if the criticisms are unjust, there must be something wrong and the criticisms are almost irrelevant.

The fact that the regional bureaus compete for my time is ok. But for what are they competing? This place is well geared to reporting and producing cables. In some areas there is excellence and great loyalty.

But what the President and the Secretary need is the conceptual national look. The problem is the loyalty of the middle and lower officers. Look at the leak of this Eilts cable.

Brown: That is the result of a group of people over at AID. Since the early Kennedy days they have been leaking cables as missionaries.

Kissinger: Well, we should get rid of them.

Brown: You can’t get rid of them.

Kissinger: Then give them irrelevant jobs.

Hartman: What we should do is look at the places where there have been successes. Those are in the areas where the people know what they are doing.

Kissinger: And doing what they like to do. For example, Embassies love to have me come to visit. The reason is simply because it gets them in to see the top people. The Foreign Service does some negotiations well. For example, if you are ever negotiating for a residence or anything like that, you do that pretty well. No seriously, any negotiations where there is no concept, they do very well. Claims, for example.

Hartman: But I don’t think we use our missions overseas as well as we should.

Brown: Look at the crisis countries like Portugal and Italy.

Kissinger: Look at our Embassy’s reporting from Lisbon since April. The whole tone is to calm everybody down.

Eagleburger: That can be a product of bad leadership.

Brown: Or censorship.

Kissinger: It’s the mentality of people. The Ambassador sees himself as the spokesman of the country he is accredited to. Rarely do you get the dynamics of this situation reported.

[Page 483]

Hartman: That situation in Lisbon I can tell you if Knight10 were there still it would have been very different. We wouldn’t have had the same sloppy stuff coming at us.

Kissinger: Scott11 was sent there when Portugal was supposed to be a rest home.

Brown: Have we gotten anything useful out of the Embassy in Italy?

Kissinger: No. Then, Art, when that happens you should really sit on them, and tell them the questions we need the answers to.

Ingersoll: Here you have a problem of organization. The Ambassador is supposed to be above the people who are in charge of him.

Kissinger: I don’t accept that. The Bureaus ought to be looking into the question that no one else is raising.

Davis: I have been thinking of what in the management area and specifically the personnel area we might do. Really, you do have two sides here. There is the question of clarification of what the Foreign Service is all about and there we can do something.

Kissinger: How?

Davis: It takes a degree of explanation. The officers need to understand the discipline. We can do more to clarify the nature of the service in the Foreign Service. That is one side and that needs to be done by everybody.

There is another side. I looked at the regulations on enforcing discipline. Now, for example, we have people leaving classified material out on the desks. We have the authority to suspend people for these things. In the past decade we have never enforced these regulations; but we can.

Kissinger: How?

Davis: Well, when you have a real breach of the regulations, we can investigate and find the people.

Brown: We have eight men now working on the fifth day of their investigation into the Eilts leak. They told me they simply cannot find anything about it without talking to Gelb.12

Kissinger: That is a waste of time. And also it would lead to another story.

Davis: Well, I know of leaks that have been found out and not followed up in the past few years.

[Page 484]

Kissinger: Daniel Schorr told me yesterday that Ray Cline13 is going on TV saying the Department opposed the Chilean operation. Now, I have looked through the files and I found a handwritten note from Cline that Cline himself overruled his own analyst and supported the operations.

What is more important is the lack of self-respect of a man, an intelligence man, who goes on national television to give the details of intelligence internal discussions. Even if he were telling the truth. I told Schorr that as far as I could remember, all the decisions of the 40 Committee were unanimous. In this particular case, the Ambassador supported it, the analyst opposed it and Cline overruled him.

Eagleburger: I have found that the guy who is behind a lot of this Chile stuff now is the former Ambassador there—Dungan.14

Kissinger: But he thought it up; [1 line not declassified]. For an intelligence guy to talk on television—I just think is all wrong. This is one reason why I haven’t come out publicly for you, Nat. I cannot be forced to talk publicly about the 40 Committee. You are getting a bum rap here. Your predecessors did much more than you did. Most of it was instigated by either Korry15 or Dungan.

Davis: There is a third thing about the Foreign Service.

Kissinger: How do we study the problem of who gets recruited, etc.

Davis: Well, we are engaged in this right now. I think it is very difficult to recruit for loyalty.

Kissinger: Well, I am not interested in recruiting for loyalty, but in the Foreign Service’s self-perception of it.

Davis: Well, we can introduce a stronger aspect of this into the oral exam for the Foreign Service and in the training we can strengthen the concept of the Foreign Service too. We can do this all the way to the Senior Seminar where I am thinking of borrowing an idea from the National War College where they teach a course on the ethics of their profession.

Kissinger: You know the military are doing a much better job in training their people though the quality of their people is generally many notches below us. For example on SALT, DOD’s SALT position, though it is crooked as hell, is analytically superior to anything that has been done here. In fact, I am using my White House staff. There is nothing being done analytically here. It seems to me there has to be a [Page 485] seventh floor home for every activity. Joe, I want you to take charge of the Bureaus.

Ingersoll: You mean the regional bureaus?

Kissinger: Yes, the regional bureaus, though I want Sonnenfeldt to continue working with EUR on the East-West stuff and SALT, etc. I want you to really sit on them in terms of the quality of their material. The toughest job is to keep an eye on the future. There we are doing a horrendous job.

I am not impressed by the argument that the Ambassadors are kings. The Embassies must work up to certain standards.

I have an uneasy sense that in Europe we are watching the erosion of the political structure. If you take what is happening in Italy, in Greece, in Portugal—I just hate to think what will happen in the next French election.

We must do something about the Foreign Service. I guarantee it will be destroyed by somebody if it doesn’t reform itself.

What I want is for it to be the best group of foreign policy advisors in the country. Then we don’t have to cringe. We can be intellectually superior when we go up to Congress or when we confront our critics. On the whole, now, we are much too defensive with Congress.

I would like a report on just how the Foreign Service is recruited and what we intend to do about it.16 I don’t believe it can reform itself and therefore we may need some outside assistance, but I would like to see the report.

If we could shake it up in a one or two year period there would be a lot of bloody howling in that time but in five years people will thank us for it.

There is now no brutal insistence on intellectual excellence here.

It is very hard to control the leaks from way up here. To do that is to be a cop. But the leak is symptomatic of something deeper. I am much more concerned by a guy who says “we are going to shove it into his face”. That shows a total lack of conception of how foreign policy is made.

McCloskey: Are we exaggerating this morale problem?

Kissinger: Even when the morale is not low, the Foreign Service Officers are praising themselves for the wrong reasons. The French desk officer shouldn’t have high morale because he thinks he is running our policy, but because he is involved in something big.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the organization and management of the Department of State.]

[Page 486]

[Kissinger:] I want this report by my return from the Middle East.

Eagleburger: I think we also ought to address in that report the question of why, if your estimate of us is true, why is it true?

Davis: Well, we have got to answer these questions.

McCloskey: You have to because the Secretary has a perception of us and we need to know if he is 99 percent right or if he is 60 percent right, why it is.

Kissinger: We are dealing with first class people here, but when the State Department wants a course it comes at you like a bunch of gnats and the victories that they get are simply not worth having. The President’s signature on a piece of paper. These victories are irrelevant because there is no concept of why they got the victory. If the Department could just win one good victory a year that would set the course, it would be worth it. Now you take the question of non-proliferation. I have the feeling that the Department is really hot on the non-proliferation issue and that they want me to use the non-proliferation treaty as the instrument. Every paper I get takes a whack at me on the subject. Do something about the Non-Proliferation Treaty. But there is no analysis of the fact that there is only one country—Japan—which may do anything about it. Nobody else is going to do anything. This is typical of the vapid thinking here. I know now that what I said at the UN will be used as a hunting license throughout the building to go after the Indians.17 That is a waste of time. There is no way you can return India to its pre-nuclear status.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the organization and management of the Department of State.]

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 346, Department of State, Memoranda of Conversations, Internal, Aug. 1974–Mar. 1975. Secret; Nodis. The meeting took place in Kissinger’s office in the Department of State.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 138.
  3. See Document 137.
  4. Hermann F. Eilts was Ambassador to Egypt, 1974–1979. Eilts planned to attend a military parade commemorating Egyptian Armed Forces Day on the first anniversary of the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Eilts informed the Department of his intention to attend in telegram 7853 from Cairo, October 5. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1974)
  5. The article with this specific quotation was not found, but see footnote 3, Document 137.
  6. James G. Lowenstein, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs.
  7. Wells Stabler, Senior Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs.
  8. Georges Guay, Defense Attaché at the Embassy in Cairo.
  9. Thomas J. Scotes, Principal Officer at the Embassy in Damascus.
  10. Ridgway B. Knight, Ambassador to Portugal, 1969–1973.
  11. Stuart Nash Scott, Ambassador to Portugal, 1973–1975.
  12. Leslie Gelb, journalist at the New York Times.
  13. Ray S. Cline, Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Department of State, October 1969–November 1973.
  14. Ralph A. Dungan, Ambassador to Chile, 1964–1967.
  15. Edward M. Korry, Ambassador to Chile, 1967–1971.
  16. Presumably a reference to Document 141.
  17. In a speech to the U.N. General Assembly on September 23, Kissinger called for new international safeguards to control the transfer of nuclear materials. The text of his speech is in the Department of State Bulletin, October 14, 1974, pp. 498–504. India conducted its first nuclear test on May 18, 1974.