142. Briefing Memorandum From the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Lord) to Secretary of State Kissinger1


  • The Role of the Policy Planning Staff

This is a rundown on S/P’s current role and approach. You already know much through our conversations, papers, reports and other sources. But since I am taking stock after 15 months and since so much of our work is not particularly visible to you, I think this accounting will be useful. It may also elicit your thoughts on S/P priorities and ways we can improve.

I am hardly reluctant to agree with you that this staff has its most central role since the days of George Kennan. But we can do better. With the talent assembled, we should provide you (and the Seventh Floor) with more intellectual stimulation. As I mentioned recently, I am shifting our emphasis more in this direction, without abandoning the other important functions we do well.

Assets and General Approach

I inherited a staff of mixed quality, some excellent, some just adequate; a staff out in the cold for years due to the indifference of previous Secretaries of State. This created a general tendency toward more academic efforts, or bureaucratic “paper massages” and “coordination.” Marginal activities prevailed.

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Fortunately, I came to S/P with assets that are indispensable to the efficacy of any planning staff: the central and broad mandate you publicly articulated; your conceptual approach to foreign affairs and therefore immediate interest; our working experiences and personal relationship; an understanding of your approach and needs; adequate access to sensitive information; and a charter to get the best people for the Staff.

Eighteen of our twenty-eight staff members are new recruits. The staff is quite strong now, though some soft spots remain. We continually battle against attrition and search for new talent. S/P has two outstanding and complementary deputies—Lewis (political/economic, NEA, ARA, AF and management) and Bartholomew (political/military, EUR, and EA). By going to academia, outside institutions, and other agencies as well as the Career Service, we have a wide range of abilities, bureaucratic contacts, specialities, outside connections, and—believe it or not—a broad ideological spectrum. The Staff is generally younger and leaner. We are carrying on a mini-institutionalization process by exposing many youngish career officers to the Seventh Floor/conceptual perspective which should prepare them well for future responsibilities.

Generally, I’ve tried to steer between the two poles of “ivory towers” and “operations,” while preferring to veer toward the more operational so as to ensure being relevant, without however duplicating the roles of others. We’ve tried as well to manage the inevitable tension between the two extremes of (1) working with and helping the bureaus to serve the Department as a whole (at the risk of losing our identity and being co-opted) and (2) serving as shock troops and devil’s advocates to keep the system honest (with some ensuing bureaucratic friction).

This problem can never be completely resolved—nor should it be—but we have achieved a reasonable equilibrium. Statistics don’t mean much by themselves, and in particular reveal nothing about quality. But the following rundown of our workload does give a feel for volume and emphasis. During the past 15 months, 220 substantive memos (or the equivalent of almost one per working day) went directly to you, while over 100 others have gone to other Seventh Floor Principals (who of course receive the bulk of yours as well). Meanwhile, S/P contributes to more than 50 memoranda each month produced elsewhere in the building, often in a very substantial way.

Various Roles

(1) Catalyst. We have pioneered in a few major areas, generally where new ground was to be broken, or several bureaus were involved, or the Department was not particularly strong. Examples include en [Page 496] ergy ever since the Pilgrim’s Speech2 and the Washington Conference;3 food strategy; non-proliferation policy; reactor sales and safeguards; Latin American strategy; themes for re-building a public consensus; and human rights policy. In such areas we did most or much of the early conceptual papers, working with the appropriate bureaus. We then turned over much of the implementation to the bureaus while reserving a monitoring/channeling role for ourselves, and moving back in when major policy questions arise.

(2) Scout. Here we look for potential issues and problems, then either undertake planning or get the bureaus/NSC system to do so. This is a particularly difficult task, and the record is spotty. At one point I seriously considered proposing that you institute a NSSM-style planning process within the Department, but decided that it would be too cumbersome. We have used such methods as the Alert Lists (soon a new format to cover all major concerns of the Seventh Floor for the coming months) and analytical staff meetings (a process we have continued for some other Seventh Floor Principals and I’d like to reinstitute on a selective basis for you). I have generally cut back on longer term papers so as to concentrate on major issues foreseeable over the next year or two. For balance, we have done some studies that project several years ahead: the Japan study you requested last spring; a paper on underlying trends in US–Brazil relations; an analysis of Iran’s evolving role in Southwest Asia; and a dissection of Balkan diplomacy in the détente era. An example of a joint effort with a bureau was the book on overall negotiating strategy for the Middle East on which we worked with NEA last summer.

We have also picked up current topics not getting sufficient analysis elsewhere, e.g. Ethiopia.

(3) Devil’s Advocate. This is one area where we plan to do more. In retrospect, our Greek study of last year raised the tough issues which clearly warranted attention, though unfortunately the discussion at the analytical staff meeting degenerated. Our alternative strategy paper for Camp David energy meeting with allies at the end of September proposed an approach which now approximates our present course. Brief comments on current issues such as Cyprus, Middle East negotiations, the Italian financial crisis, the Berlin question, the Indo-Pakistan arms dilemma, and nuclear strategy vis-à-vis the French are other examples. [Page 497] Longer papers on Cuba policy and prospects for the New Dialogue with the Latins4 also apply.

(4) Seventh Floor Substantive Staff. While you are our primary audience, we also serve the other Principals. In this role, we have spent a great deal of time with generally good results. For example we staff Bob Ingersoll for the Under Secretaries Committee (a substantial workload) and have done particular studies like human rights; uranium enrichment; overall US interests in sub-Sahara Africa; and issues and organizational problems involving the new Joint Cooperation Commissions.

Other work in this category includes responding to Sisco and Robinson requests on such matters as Peace Corps and PL 480 global priorities, political angles on AID strategy, and nuclear weapons issues; supporting Ingersoll and Maw on Law of the Sea as well as playing a major role in broad studies on military assistance principles and priorities; providing substantive support to Ingersoll and Dean Brown on the budget review process, PARA, and the “Management by Objectives” exercise for OMB; helping Sonnenfeldt on delicate military matters with the French (nuclear relations, F 104 replacement etc.); and helping to staff Ingersoll and Sonnenfeldt on SALT and MBFR. I have told all Principals that S/P will do special studies or provide alternative views, as well as help on major speeches. We are another resource, another view different from the 6th floor.

(5) Mini-NSC Staff. Frankly, it’s not possible, nor desirable, for S/P to function vis-à-vis the rest of the building the way the NSC operates vis-à-vis various government agencies.

We do monitor nearly all material going forward to the 7th floor and selectively work with bureaus to improve quality or add options. If still unsatisfactory, we can and do weigh in with our own views. But to avoid bogging down, we are highly selective, leaving S/S to assure coordination, clearance, etc. One of our most useful efforts was our work with the bureaus on issues papers for President Ford during the transition. Another was our contribution to key papers for the President’s visit to Japan and Korea.5

(6) The Public Dimension. The nucleus here is the agony (and the ecstasy) of speeches. Naturally I consider this role to be crucial in its policy-making, as well as consensus-building, dimensions. We are all unhappy about how this has worked and maybe always will be. But I [Page 498] want to talk to you separately about whether/how we can perform this vital function better, saving everyone, particularly you, time and pain.

I would also include here the great effort we expend on questions and answers and talking points for Congressional appearances, toasts, and other informal remarks, etc.—not only yours, but often other Principals. I suspect that some of this is marginal to the effort spent.

I am freely available to the press and try to convey the basic lines and rationale of our policy. In addition, we undertake many speaking engagements in and out of the building, mostly informal.

(7) Dialogue with the Outside. This includes both the work with Carol Laise on consensus-building and our contacts with academia and other external institutions. We can and should help bridge the intellectual gaps; and also feed to you and others the best thinking done elsewhere. We have tried a variety of techniques. We work with Bill Hyland and the bureaus on seminars with outside experts on current issues; arrange working lunches or “Bundygroup” type sessions with you; set up seminars for key new ambassadors. We plan to expand our reach in this area.

(8) Institutionalization. S/P performs a variety of functions here which include advice on management and personnel; guiding FSI on countering the intellectual shortcomings of the Service; seeing our Ambassadors from abroad; and speaking to various groups, such as inspectors going overseas, Scholar-Diplomat groups and Chiefs of Missions conferences—all toward a more conceptual approach and a better appreciation for our policies.

(9) The Interagency Process. I purposely relieved S/P of the task of pushing papers through the NSC system, while staying substantively involved with the bureaus in the writing of the interagency studies.

Wreath Gathright of my staff serves as Staff Director for the Under Secretaries Committee. We also are continually involved in various contingency studies, NSSMs, preparing the State Department representatives for interagency meetings, etc. Gathright or other S/P members frequently chair interagency Working Groups for State where the issue cuts across bureau lines, e.g. Azores base negotiations, test ban issues review, PNE relationship to the Limited Test Ban Treaty, technology exports to the Soviet Union, environmental modification for military purposes, direct broadcast satellites, and population policy.

(10) Foreign Contacts. I recently sent you a separate memorandum on S/P exchanges with other planning staffs.6 I’ve been ruthless in keeping this to a handful, i.e. Japanese, British, NATO and Latin Amer [Page 499] ican, with the French and Germans coming up. I also see my counterparts in key countries when we travel if I can; and they drop in on me here.

The April NATO planners (APAG) meeting will be on the new global issues in the East-West context, a good subject in itself but also politically helpful in seizing NATO with economic as well as military dimensions of our security.

While I guard against expending too much time in this process, these sessions have actually proved helpful in sensing the mood and direction of our allies and in laying out our own. The most recent case is the report I sent you on my talks with Cable of the UK. We also try to extract meat for longer term analysis as we did after our Planning Team toured Latin America last fall.

Also, on a selective basis, I talk to influential foreigners visiting Washington.

(11) China. I personally follow China (and to a lesser extent Indochina) on a daily basis.

The Future

At present, in addition to the usual workload, we are moving ahead on several broad, analytical efforts which should be completed in the next few weeks. They include the new Alert Report; an attempt to dissect and assess the multiple challenges from “third world” nations to the current distribution of power in the international system; an evaluation and projection of our Latin American strategy for the next 1–2 years; and a spelling out of the concept of economic interdependence in concrete, institutional terms.

In short, we’re heavily engaged and generally on course, but we certainly can improve. I plan to target you individually more frequently and place more emphasis on the “devil’s advocate” role. I would appreciate any thoughts you have on priorities.

Your meeting with the staff would be extremely helpful. Perhaps we could schedule a session soon after your Middle East trip, either to discuss the S/P role on the basis of this paper, or the broad agenda facing you over the coming six months, based on the new Alert Report which will be ready upon your return.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 325, Department of State, Bureaus: Policy Planning (S/P) History Project, Selected Papers, Vol. 8 (Global, New Multilateral Issues and Miscellany), 1974–76. Confidential; Personal. Drafted by Lord and Samuel W. Lewis. Kissinger wrote, “Very thoughtful,” at the top of the page.
  2. Reference is to a speech Kissinger gave to the Pilgrims of Great Britain, an Anglo-American society based in London, on December 12, 1973. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XXXVIII, Part 1, Foundations of Foreign Policy, 1973–1976, Document 24.
  3. The Washington Energy Conference of Foreign and Finance Ministers from 13 countries convened February 11–13, 1974, to discuss problems arising from the global energy crisis that followed the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Documentation is ibid., vol. XXXVI, Energy Crisis, 1969–1974.
  4. During an October 5 luncheon in New York for Latin American delegates to the United Nations, Kissinger announced the beginning of a “new dialogue with our friends in the Americas.” For the text of Kissinger’s remarks, see the Department of State Bulletin, October 29, 1973, pp. 542–543.
  5. Ford visited Japan November 19–22, 1974, and Korea November 23–24, 1974.
  6. Not found.