132. Memorandum From the National Security Council Staff Secretary (Dodson) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Reducing U.S. Employment Abroad

Attached is the joint State/OMB report on reducing U.S. employment abroad that was discussed at Friday’s foreign affairs breakfast.2

To be brief about it—State is trying to pull a fast one over all the other agencies and is doing so very cleverly. For years, decades really, State has tried to increase the power of the ambassador (read: State) over the representatives of other agencies in the missions abroad—a move Defense, NSA, CIA, Justice etc. have fought and, in some cases, for good reason.

Last May the President handed State the opportunity it sought: acting on the reports of retiring ambassadors from Switzerland and Egypt that their embassies were overstaffed,3 the President asked State and OMB: (1) to conduct a fast study/analysis on how to reduce overseas employment, and (2) to report to him (Tab 1).4 In two months, two teams of three persons each (one retired ambassador, one OMB Reorganization staffer, and one support staffer from State) went to six [Page 517] embassies each, “analyzed” the personnel requirements and wrote the attached voluminous report.

The report is cleverly and well done:5 it is written to appeal to the President’s desire to reduce “official” Americans abroad. However, it has a critical drawback from our and your role as coordinator of the whole NSC community: it has no agency input. Yet as you will clearly see in the terms of reference approved, and personally edited, by the President, step 3 of the procedure was to be to “consult with agencies on return” from their overseas junket. (Tab 2)6

I brought this to State’s attention and they point out that of the three reports prepared for the President only one (their blue Tab A) recommends immediate signature by the President; the other two (their Tabs B and C)7 are only the assessment teams recommendations to be implemented only after agency consultation.

However, even Tab A is phrased in effect to achieve two of State’s favorite goals: (1) the establishment of joint administrative organizations; and (2) the strengthening of MODE, an ineffectual and unpopular system for monitoring overseas direct employment and one of Ben Read’s, and before him L. Dean Brown’s (one of the key team members), pet projects. Additionally the memo is misaddressed: it should go to all government agencies, since it also covers all official travel abroad, not only of those agencies with missions abroad; paragraph 1 announces State’s clearance of travel abroad as though it were something new (they already do so for assistant secretary and up ranks); and paragraph 5 assigns you a role in the strengthening of MODE (something we may not want to do at all) without a by-your-leave.

What is potentially more pernicious is the fact that Tabs B and C and the accompanying report might attract the President’s eye (they are cleverly written!) and he may go through the whole thing and indicate his support for various recommendations unaware of opposing viewpoints. That would make it very hard to undo the harm when “agencies are consulted.” (NSA seems to be a particular target of the report (see Special Annex at end of blue book).8 NSA has always been a thorn in the side of MODE people because it has been allowed to operate its personnel abroad outside MODE).

I wanted to avoid the additional delay of circulating the report to the agencies. I had therefore talked State, I believe, into revising the [Page 518] only immediate action memo (their Tab A) to moderate the President’s instruction to establish the joint administrative organization to “after talking to the affected agencies and when practical and efficient” and to commit you “to support the better management and control of overseas employment” but not necessarily through MODE.

However, Ben Read’s office tells me that at the foreign affairs breakfast, the President instructed that the report be sent forward to him unchanged but with a cover note from you. I have therefore prepared such a note for you to the President at Tab I9 and have called in Defense to have a look at it. Secretary Brown was disturbed by the discussion at the breakfast and asked to see the report.

Rosie for NSA, Rud for AID and Commerce, Charlie for the military attaches, Don for CIA, Tom Thornton for State (and historical background) and Linc for Justice (Drugs) have read the first part of the report.10 Rosie is climbing the walls (as usual); Rud tells me that AID is anyway doing much more than the recommendations; Thornton gave me the background of the long pull effort of State, L. Dean Brown and MODE; and Linc talked to Civiletti and got him to soften Justice’s opposition to the “cosmetic” cut of six DEA employees. Interestingly, MODE itself already increased its employees here in D.C. from 4 to 10 (a 150% increase) to implement the proposed cuts of 12% in everyone else’s bailiwick! Assuming in effect that the President directed that the report go to him unchanged, sign the memo at Tab I.

Assuming Christopher’s readout of the breakfast is incorrect, you could still prefer returning the whole thing to State for interagency clearance. For such a case, I have prepared a memo at Tab II. If you select this option you should send the President an interim status report as at Tab III.11

This may all seem a lot of bureaucratic to-do to you; but Defense, NSA, CIA and our other agencies will raise the roof and will eventually scuttle the whole effort, which needs to be made, if the President, by prematurely commenting on one-sided recommendations, locks us in to certain reforms in the manning of our embassies abroad.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Box 59, Administration’s Policy/General, 8–12/79. No classification marking.
  2. The report was not found attached; see Document 131. No minutes of the August 10 meeting were found.
  3. Not further identified.
  4. Not found attached.
  5. Dodson added “and well” by hand.
  6. Not found attached.
  7. Reference is to Tabs A, B, and C of the State/OMB report.
  8. Not found.
  9. Not found attached, but see Document 133.
  10. Robert Rosenberg, Rutherford Poats, presumably Charles Stebbins, Donald Gregg, Thomas Thornton, and Lincoln Bloomfield, all of the NSC Staff.
  11. Tabs II and III were not found attached.