197. Memorandum From Lawrence S. Eagleburger of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Organization of the NSC and State If Certain Things Happen

Some time ago I promised you some thoughts on how to structure State and the NSC, if you should move on to “other things”.2 Here they are. They are relatively brief and intended to outline the problems you need to think about, with potential solutions, rather than as a detailed plan.

The NSC Staff

You must not give up your present title or authority. You will, however, want to back off somewhat from the direct involvement you exercise today. It will be difficult enough to make the system work while you wear two hats (with Mel Laird in Defense I doubt that it [Page 659] would work at all). Without some shifts in your own activities, other agencies—particularly Defense—are going to feel the deck is grossly stacked against them.

As to the NSC Staff itself, I recommend that Brent [Scowcroft] take over your residual functions here, sit in your office, run the Staff, and be the only authorized official point of contact between the Staff and other elements within the White House. Once you leave the premises I predict Brent will have a son-of-a-bitch of a problem keeping others in the White House from seeking to use the Staff resource and, thereby, slowly displacing you in fact if not in name. Brent will need all the authority you can give him, and your absolute backing—particularly in the first months.

An apparently easy answer would be largely to disestablish the Staff (or most of it), move it to State, and let Brent manage a skeleton operation here. I think that would be a mistake, although I do think the size of the Staff could be reduced somewhat. It is important, I believe, that issues relevant, for example, to the VP and DPRC be handled at the White House—not the State Department. Also, Presidential correspondence, etc., will need to be handled here. But the important thing will be to have a Staff in being at the White House to act as conduit for the inevitable memos to the President (as well as other less formal communications) from Schlesinger, Shultz, et al. The Staff can assure that you get these communications for coordination or comment; but you can’t expect a Cabinet member, in the absence of this mechanism, willingly to send his memos through you (as SecState) to the President.

One final word on the Staff: Brent is absolutely superb—intelligent, loyal, and efficient. He is the only man I would think of recommending you ask to run the operation in your absence.

The NSC System

This is the really tough one. On the one hand, you should not—under normal circumstances at least—act as Chairman of the SRG, VP, DPRC, WSAG, etc., and also be Secretary of State. Other Departments, rightly or wrongly, would argue that you simply cannot be impartial. On the other hand, your absence from such sessions would—with no flattery intended—lower the intellectual quality of the debate by some 500%.

There is no totally satisfactory solution to the problem, so I shall not bore you with options. I suggest the following as the best (or least unsatisfactory) course to follow:

—You continue to chair those few SRGs, VPs, and DPRCs that deal with first-level issues such as SALT, perhaps MBFR, nuclear strike options, etc. If your schedule permits, I suggest these meetings continue to be held in the Situation Room rather than in State.

[Page 660]

—Brent should chair other meetings of the SRG, VP, or DPRC when they deal with lesser issues such as the Horn of Africa, etc. He could meet with you first for guidance, but should be given as much opportunity as possible to assume your Chairman’s role. There will be some grumbling by the Departments because of Brent’s “rank”, but you can certainly control State, and Clements will behave himself.

—To the degree possible, shift from inter-departmental meetings to memoranda from relevant Secretaries on issues for decision. This will permit the NSC Staff to capture the documents, summarize the differences, and present you with either issues for decision or a memorandum for the President which lays out the issues for him.

The above procedure, which should be managed either by you, or by Brent in your name, would fall under the Assistant to the President area of your responsibilities. Your functions as Secretary of State, though in fact expanded, would in appearance remain largely as they now exist. Thus, I would not recommend any changes—at least until you have had several months experience with the system—in existing NSDMs relating to the NSC structure (e.g., NSDM 2).3

The one possible fly in the ointment is the WSAG. Your presence will probably be necessary when the objective is to energize the bureaucracy. It is less necessary when the purpose is to work up a series of discrete action proposals for your consideration. Thus, I stick with my original proposals. Let Brent run it for the latter purpose; you chair it for the former. Alternatively, you may want explicitly to transfer chairmanship of the WSAG to the Secretary of State at the outset. I would suggest a few weeks trial period as is, however, first.

I make no judgments on things such as the 40 Committee, etc., since I know so little about them. I can’t help but believe, however, that they can be handled much like the rest of the inter-departmental apparatus.

The State Department

Here, again, I shall run over only what I consider to be the crucial problems.

The Seventh Floor

I assume Rush stays.

As we discussed, the demands of the Secretary’s time are enormous, and reducing them runs the risk of unintended slight. The only way to begin to solve this problem is a decision that the Deputy [Page 661] will take on a whole host of responsibilities from the Secretary. More important, a public announcement to this effect should be made within days of taking over. The concept should be that of the Secretary for Foreign Affairs idea that was bruted about some years ago, with the Deputy assuming many of the functions of the Secretary of State. (Since no legislation was ever sought to give effect to this idea, however, no public analogy should be drawn.)

In this manner you can get out of much of the cocktail-national day circuit, as well as the receiving of Ambassadors (except for the few you will want to keep in touch with). You can probably send Rush to most international meetings you would normally attend (e.g., CENTO), but I doubt that you can skip NATO (at least at first). I have similar doubts about the UN, at least at first, but know you don’t share them.

A major problem will be the Congress. I doubt that Rush will do for major issues. In fact, you could harm yourself by being too hard to get. All I can say here is that the question will have to be decided case-by-case, but don’t expect to be able to avoid any and all appearances.

As to running the Department, the first need is your own people in key spots. To my mind those are (exclusive of the Deputy slot):

  • 1. Under Secretary for Political Affairs
  • 2. Under Secretary for Economic Affairs
  • 3. Deputy Under Secretary for Management
  • 4. Director General of the Foreign Service
  • 5. Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations
  • 6. Director, Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs
  • 7. Executive Secretary of the Department

I have not included either the Counselor or the Director of the Planning and Coordination Staff (the old Policy Planning job). They are not now important, but can be if you want. You have mentioned whom you have in mind to fill them—both would be good. I’ll talk a bit later about how they work into the system.

Nor have I included the Under Secretary for Security Assistance (Tarr), or the Inspector General of the Foreign Service. Right now they are nothing jobs. But they could be more. I discuss them below.

The first thing I suggest for the seven positions I have listed above is that all (with the possible exception of Cy Weiss in P/M) be removed. A little blood on the floor early in your term would have a generally salutary effect on the Department and the Foreign Service, and would go far to remove the lethargy of the place. Further, I urge you to pay a great deal of attention to personnel in the first week or two. It is a sine qua non to an effective Department, but after you get well into harness you will never again have time to devote much attention to it.

[Page 662]

The Porter job4 is crucial, not only because it is the place you should turn for oversight of serious operational problems, but because it is the paterfamilias of the Foreign Service. The man you put in that job will tell the FSOs more about your approach than any other appointment. Thus, I recommend an FSO. I would love to see Graham Martin in the job, despite the hole it would leave in Saigon. Graham is tough, nasty, devious, bright, and a first-rate operator. You could not count on total loyalty, but having him handy for substantive advice, operational oversight and counseling on personnel is worth the risk.

If Graham is out, then think about Dean Brown (now in Jordan and scheduled to come back as Director General of the Foreign Service). He is young and a very good operator. While he’s not in Graham’s league (he’s nicer), he would give the Foreign Service a shot in the arm, and be proof that you were moving away from the old crowd.

Another possibility is Joe Sisco, although I would fear his tendencies toward an overactive thyroid. A good Embassy (Moscow?) or the Management job would be better.

As things now stand, the Casey job5 is fourth in the hierarchy. There is something to be said for elevating it to Number 3 if you want State to play the role it should vis-à-vis Treasury, Commerce, Agriculture, CIEP, et al. But the crucial question is the man in the job. He should, ideally, have a reputation in the international banking or business community (domestic business or banking isn’t enough), and have the intellectual muscle to make others listen to him. Unfortunately, I have no reasonable names for you. I suggest you talk to people like David Rockefeller, George Ball,6 etc., for suggestions.

Incidentally, the Economic Bureau (E), which provides most of the staff backup for the Undersecretary for Economic Affairs, stinks. It needs a wholesale revamping. You might think about having Chuck Cooper move into the Assistant Secretary slot with carte blanche to build the Bureau up.

The Management job, now held by Tarr, deserves better.7 In addition to overseeing the everyday administration of the Department (budget, recruitment, etc.) the position—along with the Director General—controls senior assignments and the general personnel and pro [Page 663] motion system. Again, the Department (and particularly the Foreign Service) will judge you by how you handle this appointment.

Again, Graham Martin would be superb (and, I know, next to the Political Undersecretary slot, would like to get this job). He might, however, be a bit too Machiavellian for the orderly working of the system (which after Macomber) is needed. Dean Brown would be good, as would Sisco.

Another fellow for whom I have great respect is Bob Komer.8 He is, of course, closely identified with LBJ and Vietnam, but he is bright, tough, and energetic. He is now with Rand, and has fathered the first-rate study on “Restructuring NATO Forces” that Phil Odeen and I have mentioned to you.

Although Fulbright refused to move on his confirmation as Ambassador to Turkey late in LBJ’s term, I doubt that he would now have confirmation problems with the Senate (so long as the job was not Vietnam-related). I cannot predict how your friends in the White House might react.

I urge him on you as worthy of serious consideration in any of a range of jobs; he could certainly do the Management job with great skill and imagination. Most important he would not be a captive of the system—either in terms of his future career or his mind set.

The Director General’s job (now held by William Hall) has principal responsibility for the personnel system, including senior assignments and ambassadorial appointments. Again, the Foreign Service will watch you closely on this one.

Hall is a good example of all that is wrong with the Service. He tends toward cronyism, and puts high emphasis on time in service, age, etc. Almost universally, the middle-to-upper level younger officers detest him. Further, he has done a great deal of poor-mouthing of you and the White House for holding up ambassadorial nominations.

You will have to steer a careful course in choosing a replacement for Hall. I think you need to let the old folks know they no longer control the Service, but you should be careful not to give too much aid and comfort to the Young Turks (of whom there is a growing number). What you want is an outstanding senior officer who is relatively young and very hard-headed. My candidate would be Tom Pickering, who presently is Executive Secretary. He is good and tough, and reasonably young (early 40’s). Another good man would be Dean Brown, who is now slotted for the job.

[Page 664]

The Congressional Assistant Secretary slot is presently occupied by an idiot (even though he once worked for you). Marshall Wright knows little of substance, is constitutionally incapable of saying no to Congressional requests, and is—in every way—a light-weight.

I, unfortunately, have no names to suggest at the moment. But what you want is someone well versed in foreign affairs and with good Hill contacts—and preferably a Democrat. There may be some good possibilities on Committee staffs; there may also be some good people in the Department—though that’s less likely.

If you decide you want to move Wright out, you will need to do some head-hunting. The place to start would be by talking to Fulbright, Mansfield, Scott, Ford, et al. Lehman9 may also have some suggestions. You might also want to see whom Bill Macomber and Bob Hill (both once had the job) would recommend.

Cy Weiss now has the Politico-Military job.10 He is very bright and articulate, but extremely conservative and rigid, and far more likely to be an ally of the JCS (particularly on SALT) than either an opponent or a moderating influence. I doubt that you would want that; I also wonder whether—institutionally—you want someone in State who would probably be to your right, unwilling to budge on major arms control issues, and leaking to Jackson.

All this is not meant to denigrate Weiss’ intelligence. He clearly is very good. But he is better in a devil’s advocate role than as a manager or policy maker.

My recommendation for a replacement—should you decide to move Weiss—would be George Vest. He was Bob Ellsworth’s and David Kennedy’s DCM at NATO, and now heads the U.S. Delegation to the CSCE. He is relatively low-key, very intelligent, pragmatic, and gets along well with the military without being their patsy. He knows the politico-military world well, and is a superb manager.

The Executive Secretary slot is key to how well the Department is kept in step with your thinking. Thus, I feel strongly the occupant must be someone in whom you have confidence, and someone you will be prepared to let—within limits—work quietly to keep the bureaucracy informed. Given what you have already said to me, I am somewhat constrained in going further. But I will do so on the understanding that no commitments have been made and that I will fully understand if you opt in some other direction.

[Page 665]

To oversimplify grossly, State has failed for years to link three essential elements: dissemination of information; policy formulation; and policy implementation. There is a massive bureaucracy centered around INR to produce and analyze information, but it produces too much, analyzes it poorly, and focuses too little on the needs of the “Seventh Floor.”

“Policy,” in today’s State Department, is largely made in response to cables, and usually generated from the bureaus. That, inevitably, would change if you take over. Under those circumstances the problem would be to assure that what the bureaucracy needs to know gets to it.

Finally, there is now no real instrument for assuring that policy, once made and transmitted to the operators, is implemented properly (or at all).

The only instrument I can discern for beginning to bring these three elements together is the Executive Secretary. Not that he or the Secretariat can do all three jobs; in fact he can do none. But he can serve as the point at which all three functions converge.

Which leads me to talk, as I promised earlier, about the policy planning and counselor positions (and INR).

The Planning and Coordination Staff has had virtually no impact on anyone—not just in this Administration, but under Rusk as well. The reason is that it is outside the operational chain, spends its time doing think pieces that no one reads, and has no contact with the Secretary on a day-to-day basis.

If you are going to change all that, Lord is going to have to have close contact with you, and he and his staff (he will want to change a good many faces) will have to have access to the flow of paper in and out of your office. Otherwise, over time—and no matter how much you talk directly to Lord—the Planning Staff will return largely to its present atrophy, and the operators will continue to live in their own little world, oblivious to policies around them. The way to avoid this is to see that the Executive Secretary and the Director of Planning and Coordination Staff live in each other’s hip pockets. If the Executive Sec. is careful to see that action instructions downward have the ok of the Planning Director and, conversely, that recommendations upward to you are cleared through him, then the planning apparatus can begin to have some impact. Obviously, not every action or recommendation needs to be handled this way (nor can the process be permitted to lead to unnecessary delay); decisions will have to be made on a case-by-case basis.

As to the Counselor, the position has been little more than senior trip and speech coordinator throughout the Rogers period. It has had periods of great power and influence, but generally it has been one of [Page 666] those eddies that so often occur when there is no staff and no line responsibility.

There are two or three roles particularly fitted for the job. First is the devil’s advocate role. A major problem that every Secretary faces is that of finding some way to force the operational side of the house to face tough questions as to purpose, strategy, and tactics before proposals reach the Secretary. The Counselor can perform this function.

Second, is the role of gad-fly. The bureaus need to have someone looking over their shoulder, pushing them to face tough questions—questions that are often not important today but that will become so if left unanswered. Again, the Counselor can play a part here.

And finally, there is the role of inspector—the man who follows up to see that policy is being implemented properly, the man who keeps an eye on how well the bureaus perform. This latter job also can be done by the Counselor, although I would not recommend it.

In any or all of the three roles described above it will be essential that the Counselor and the Executive Secretary work as closely as the latter with the Planning Director. In both cases, it is the Executive Secretary who will have the information and apparatus without which neither of the others can function effectively.

To return to this question of information briefly. INR needs to be revamped; it ought not be abolished (as some—particularly in CIA—will inevitably propose to you). You cannot be totally dependent on other institutions either for your information or your analysis. On the other hand, INR does not need to spend the resources and hours it now does writing analyses for itself and those few line officers with sufficient leisure to read their product. INR needs to be shrunk, and it needs to be forced to focus much more on Seventh Floor needs—particularly on the Secretary and Deputy Secretary.

Now let me return for a moment to the inspector’s role I mentioned above. There is a crying need to institutionalize some form of substantive inspectorate. The Inspector General’s office now devotes its time to assuring that Embassies and the Department function according to the book, and little more. Nor could it do more with the type of personnel now in the office.

What is needed is a small unit with perhaps five or six top flight officers who can be sent out on your instructions to look into problems either in the Department or in Embassies. For example, if Embassy Phnom Penh is not working the way you think it should, send out a couple of officers from this unit to take a look and report back to you with their findings. In short, you need an institutionalized Moose–Lowenstein equivalent (don’t gag).

This outfit could be managed by the Counselor; the Inspector General’s operation could be restructured to accommodate the function; or [Page 667] the task could be assigned to the Executive Secretary. I think the latter the best course, but with no strong sense that it must be done this way. That it needs to be done by someone is, in my view, clear.

Several closing random thoughts (I know, you think what I’ve already given you was random).

Much as you will hate it, you really must set a reasonable amount of time aside for meeting with your senior staff. Otherwise the six floors below you will simply float away down their own rather muddy stream of consciousness.

Also, I agree that you should spend a goodly period of time in the White House (and at San Clemente or Key Biscayne). But Brent and someone in State (the Executive Secretary?) will need to keep each other informed more fully than now is the case about what the other is doing. And I think you should have someone from State with you to work with Brent when you are in California (and perhaps Florida). (I don’t think Brent agrees with the last point.)

A final point: you will want to think about who you have in State to perform the Campbell role.11 There are now two slots assigned—one senior and one junior assistant. One of the two ought to be an FSO who knows the Department. The other ought to be someone close to you like Campbell or Rodman.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 88, Department of State, Administration, Transition, Organization, Aug. 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only.
  2. Rogers submitted his resignation as Secretary of State to Nixon on August 16. Although Kissinger had been discussed as Rogers’ possible replacement for months, Nixon did not inform Kissinger that he intended to nominate him as Secretary of State until August 21. Nixon announced the nomination on August 22, noting that Kissinger would also continue as the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs. (Public Papers: Nixon, 1973, pp. 710–711) Kissinger’s confirmation hearings began in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 7. Kissinger was confirmed by the Senate on September 21 and sworn in as Secretary the following day. For more on the transition from Rogers to Kissinger, as well as the personnel changes in the NSC and Department of State following Kissinger’s confirmation as Secretary, see Document 117.
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. II, Organization and Management of U.S. Foreign Policy, 1969–1972, Document 11.
  4. A reference to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. William J. Porter held this position from February 2, 1973, to February 18, 1974.
  5. A reference to the Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs. William J. Casey held this position from February 2, 1973, to March 14, 1974.
  6. David Rockefeller was then Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, one of his many business and philanthropic positions. George Ball was Under Secretary of State from 1961 until 1966.
  7. Under Secretary of State for Security Assistance Curtis W. Tarr was acting as Under Secretary of State for Management at this time.
  8. Before serving as Ambassador to Turkey from December 1968 to May 1969, Komer served as Deputy to the Commander, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, for Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS), and Special Assistant to the Ambassador to Vietnam with the personal rank of Ambassador.
  9. John F. Lehman, Jr., member of the National Security Council Planning Staff.
  10. Seymour Weiss was the Director of the Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs from August 6, 1973, until January 17, 1974.
  11. Presumably a reference to Richard Campbell, a member of the National Security Council Staff. In his memoirs, Kissinger referred to Campbell (along with Sonnenfeldt, Odeen, Hyland, and Rodman) as a member of his NSC “team.” (Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, p. 230)