133. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • U.S. Overseas Employment

In May, 1979 you instructed Cy Vance and Jim McIntyre to send joint OMB/State assessment teams to selected embassies abroad to review staffing levels at these overseas missions. Further you approved the terms of reference of this effort, terms which included consultation with agencies involved upon the teams’ return to Washington (Tab 1).2

Attached is the package covering the report prepared jointly by Cy and Jim.3 (The full report of a couple of hundred pages is filed with Rick Hutcheson). Tab A of the package is a memorandum for your signature; Tabs B and C, recommendations for follow-up actions in 1979 and further in the future. Particularly given the shortness of time and resources at the teams’ disposal, the report is very interesting and stimulating.

To speed the delivery of the report, upon their return to Washington, the OMB/State teams did not consult with agencies involved. However, Cy and I decided that you would be best served if we took the time to circulate the report to the ten agencies with the largest overseas contingents.

The responses were requested within 24 hours, so they were by necessity elliptical. They confirm, however, my original impression that the recommendations (1) are occasionally based on less than complete or accurate information; and (2) were reached in a relative vacuum of:

  • —a. Existing mechanisms (e.g. SIGINT Committee, Political Intelligence Working Group,);
  • —b. Decisions already taken (e.g. August 1977 Presidential decision on maintaining a unified SIGINT system; March 1978 U.S. Missions/Peace Corps relationship agreement; May 1979 State/CIA agreement [less than 1 line not declassified]; 1977 Congressional/Executive branch agreement on consolidating communications facilities abroad; State/Attorney General agreement concerning the FBI’s Legal attache program);
  • —c. Current developments (e.g., OMB has set November 15 as the deadline for submission of the zero-base review of overseas functions, the Vance/McIntyre memo moves this up to September 15; AID’s reorganization plans include overseas cuts deeper than those recommended; trade reorganization will shift commercial attaches to Commerce).4

It is important to note that regardless of support given or exemptions taken to specific recommendations, every agency indicated its full support for your effort to streamline overseas operations and reduce employment, and its willingness to cooperate fully in follow-up studies—but not necessarily those listed in Tabs B and C. At the same time, each agency also stressed the need for a truly consultative, pre-decisional participation by, and input from, all agencies involved.

I support this approach to the follow-up studies. I also support DOD’s, NSA’s, and CIA’s position that the first assignment of the interagency task force put together to carry out the follow-up studies should be to review the appropriateness of the topics to be studied. Some recommendations, particularly those listed at Tab C, would carry us much further afield than appears necessary for implementing a program of increased managerial efficiency of our overseas missions. They drift into areas where great wisdom and care would have to be shown to avoid potential damage to U.S. intelligence.

It is notable that despite flare-ups in particular posts abroad, we have been making steady progress in curtailing non-military overseas employment. Diplomatic mission personnel totaled 72,814 in July 1977 and 64,369 in July 1979, a decrease of about 11%. This occurred despite a one-thousand increase in Peace Corps volunteers.

To take care of the agency concerns listed above, I have prepared an alternate memo for you to sign at Tab I.5 It revises the Tab A memo, which reflects no agency input, to:

  • —address all agencies of the Executive Branch not only those with overseas missions, since you are requiring control of overseas travel by all U.S. Government employees;
  • —clarify the fact that new regulations to control travel abroad will be in addition to, not instead of, current requirements for clearing travel plans with the Department of State;
  • —strengthen the pre-decisional consultative role of agencies in establishing joint administrative organizations;
  • —review existing mechanisms for implementing overseas employment policy; and
  • —extend the deadlines for ZBB submission to mid-October.
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Note that the memorandum at Tab I (as well as the original at Tab A) include one provision that would result in immediate cuts in personnel—the provision that the Drug Enforcement Agency regional office in Bangkok be closed. The DEA made a strong case based on the crucial Thai role in the Asian heroin trade. The Attorney General, on further prodding by my staff, while supportive of the DEA in this matter, also acknowledges your strong desire to economize on federal employment abroad and would be content to live with this decision in the belief that DEA can still perform its function competently through the national office in Bangkok.


That you sign the memorandum at Tab I.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Box 59, Administration’s Policy/General, 8–12/79. Unclassified. Sent for action.
  2. Not found attached.
  3. The report and its Tabs A–C were not found attached. See Documents 131 and 132.
  4. Regarding the reorganization of AID, see Document 146. Regarding the trade reorganization, see Documents 119 and 121.
  5. Not found attached.