24. Briefing Memorandum From Multiple Senders to Secretary of State Vance1

The Panama Canal Treaty and Congress: Strategy and Next Steps


On January 27, the PRC, following consideration of the PRM on Panama, directed that we, in conjunction with Defense and JCS, mount [Page 102] an “immediate, well-organized, and coordinated effort” to enlist Congressional support for a treaty (PRC Memorandum at Tab A).2 The PRM included an outline of steps to be taken to obtain Congressional and public support (Tab B).3 You separately requested a strategy paper for State Department engagement with Congress on the treaty issue.4


The strategy paper is at Tab C.5 It expands on the steps outlined in the PRM, as modified by the PRC decision. The PRM postulates an active Presidential role through statements and meetings with the Congressional leadership. It anticipates that State will take the lead in putting together a coordinated Congressional program. With these considerations in mind, the strategy paper sets forth the following guidelines for State Department action:

—Develop a core group of supporters among the membership of both Houses.

—Cultivate other Members who are inclined to support a treaty.

—Make a maximum effort to convince the many undecided but, we believe, “persuadable” Members.

—Carry out a public information program targeted at those groups and geographic areas most significant for assuring Congressional acceptance of a treaty.

—Take the lead in developing a coordinated plan with JCS, Defense and the White House to assure that the Administration speaks with one voice and makes effective use of its resources.

Actions Underway

We have already taken the first steps to put this strategy into effect. Ambassadors Bunker and Linowitz and their staff, in cooperation with H, are undertaking consultations with prospective core group members. Members of the House Appropriations Committee recently visited Panama, and planning is in train for other trips involving the House International Relations and Senate Foreign Relations Committees. Panama was among the topics covered at the February 24 briefing for House freshmen, which you keynoted. A public information program is in preparation.

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Your Involvement. We recommend you consider the following program. (Specific action requests for your decision will be forwarded as appropriate):

—Make it a point at meetings with Members of Congress to raise the Panama Canal issue and seek their advice and support.

—Address the Wednesday Morning Group of the House on the subject of Panama.

—Host small breakfasts, luncheons, or cocktails for Members we identify as important to our effort in the Congress.

Coordination. We will move promptly to ensure coordination of our Congressional effort with plans now being developed by DoD and JCS. H and the treaty negotiators will jointly be responsible for such coordination. We are planning an early meeting with the DoD/JCS representatives to review each other’s plans, to consider joint initiatives on the Hill and to work out procedures for regular and continuing consultation.

We also plan to work closely with the White House Congressional Liaison staff and with the NSC staff to exchange information on Congressional activities relating to the Canal treaty.

Recommendations for Presidential Action. The PRM sets forth proposals for Presidential meetings with the Congressional leadership and Presidential statements, including fireside chats. We believe that such Presidential initiatives can be exceptionally valuable in swinging public and Congressional opinion in favor of a treaty and will forward specific action proposals for you to send to the President at an appropriate time. In the meantime, we are sending a copy of our Congressional strategy program to the White House for their information. (See Borg-Brzezinski memorandum at Tab D.)6


Tab A—PRC Memorandum (SECRET)

Tab B—PRM outline for Congressional and public support (SECRET)

Tab C—Strategy paper

Tab D—Borg-Brzezinski Memorandum

  1. Source: Carter Library, Congressional Liaison Office, Francis, Copeland, Small (Coordination), Freibers, Brooks, Naechterlein, Tate, and Thomson, Box 6, (Panama Canal Treaty Negotiations), 1/3/77–4/2/77 (CF, OIA 193). Confidential. Drafted by Pezzullo. Sent from Bunker, Linowitz, Bennet, Carter, and Todman. An unknown hand wrote: “Beefed up version of Feb. 14 version by Pezzullo. WH was sent this one.”
  2. Tab A is printed as Document 8.
  3. Tab B is printed as Document 3.
  4. At the January 27 PRC meeting, Vance expressed the need for a strategy to address congressional and public support, including more detailed programs. See Document 6.
  5. Attached but not printed.
  6. The March 8 memorandum is not attached, but a copy is in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 60, Panama, 1–10/77. Borg forwarded the strategy paper to Brzezinski on March 8.