5. Editorial Note
According to a memorandum for the record prepared by Executive Secretary of the Department of State C. Arthur Borg on January 27, 1977, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance devoted a portion of his first “large” assistant secretaries meeting on January 25 to outlining the responsibilities of Deputy Secretary of State-designate Warren Christopher, the functional assistant secretaries, Department Counselor Matthew Nimetz, and Director of the Policy Planning Staff Anthony Lake:
“After introductory remarks conveying his sense of pleasure of becoming Secretary, Secretary Vance set forth his view of the role of the Seventh Floor Principals. He said that Mr. Christopher would be his ‘alter ego in every respect’ and that Christopher should receive all paper that comes to the Secretary. Christopher will attend all meetings if he so desires. He will have direct responsibility for overseeing Law of the Sea matters, human rights questions, International Women’s Year and the Board of the Foreign Service and he may be given additional special assignments in the future. The Secretary said that P, E, and T would have the ‘usual responsibilities’ except that T would also have the responsibility for ‘oversight and integration’ of non-proliferation policy as well as arms transfer questions. The Secretary said that the Counselor would assist him in many areas as a ‘trouble shooter.’ He has been given two specific assignments at the outset: the Greece, Turkey and Cyprus complex and the Micronesian Negotiations. The Secretary noted that a Cyprus fact finder would be designated later in the week and that the Counselor will accompany that individual on a fact-finding mission to Greece, Turkey and Cyprus.
“With regard to 6th floor responsibilities, the Secretary said that Tony Lake would be responsible within the building for coordinating the preparation of responses to Presidential Review Memoranda (PRMs). Secretary made the general comment that all Assistant Secretaries have direct access to him whenever they feel it is necessary and he wants them to use their prerogative. He stressed that the Principals perform an oversight function but that this will not interfere with their access to him.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840101–0910)
In his memoirs, Vance further explained the extent of Christopher’s role in the formulation and management of foreign policy:
“I wanted Warren to have the same relationship of mutual trust and confidence that I had enjoyed with [former Secretary of Defense] Bob McNamara, and he did. He was truly my alter ego, and his decision on any issue was the equivalent of mine. When I traveled, Warren was fully in charge of the department. I did not want to try to manage [Page 16] the State Department from an airplane in the middle of hectic travels and intense negotiations.
“In day-to-day activities Warren was to play a leading role in many areas, including human rights policy, ratification of the Panama Canal Treaties, passage of legislation governing our relations with Taiwan after we normalized relations with China, critical Central American issues and, of course, the Iran hostage crisis, when he finally received the long-overdue recognition of his great skills.” (Vance, Hard Choices, page 41)