17. Report Prepared by the Department of State Transition Team1



Like all bureaucracies the Department of State can be elusive. This is not necessarily intentional on the part of the permanent officialdom but lies in a certain mind-set of the Foreign Service, to wit, that (1) foreign policy is a secret art understandable only to the anointed and (2) that the art of diplomacy requires a constant search after areas of agreement, i.e., consensus and compromise.

Yet, it is an indubitable fact that foreign policy is made by the President, by the Secretary of State, and also at other levels of the U.S. Government structure, including the Congress, and that the President and the Secretary of State have to be in a position to resist the professional tendency toward compromise when, in their opinion, overriding policy and strategic concerns warrant it. At the same time the Executive has to be apprised by the foreign affairs machinery of the probable cost of various courses of action and inaction.

There is no question that a highly skilled, professional Foreign Service is the principal instrument for the execution of foreign policy. The loyalty of the Foreign Service will not be a problem. On the contrary, a very large number of Foreign Service officers has long been discouraged, even disgusted by the incompetence of the Carter administration, and there is reason to believe that a larger number of Foreign Service officers supported the present change in administration than at any time in the Department’s history.

[Page 64]

But if loyalty is not likely to be a problem, control is, because of the ability of all bureaucracies to delay, obfuscate or iron out internal differences by producing mush (thus depriving the Secretary of an opportunity to receive hard-hitting recommendations).

Gaining Control of the Department: First Steps

How then, can the Secretary of State get hold of the Department quickly, be assured that he receives the best recommendations and analyses, and see to it that the Department is managed in such a way as to inspire and motivate its staff?

The key office assisting the Secretary in his daily work is the Executive Secretariat (S/S), whose functions are: (a) information management, (b) coordination of action documents, and (c) formal liaison with the NSC.

The key staff officer for this purpose is the Executive Secretary, and the Secretary should choose his own man for this job as soon as possible. He should have the following characteristics: (1) a personality which fits well with that of the Secretary, (2) good judgment as to priorities, (3) management ability, (4) a thorough knowledge of the Department, and (5) incredible stamina. He is the Secretary’s eyes and ears, buffer, coordinator, briefer, expediter. He must have an issues background but should not be an issues man. If he becomes fascinated with policy and involves himself in it, he adds a layer and becomes a bottleneck. Several Executive Secretaries of the past committed this error and had to be removed.

Also central to the Secretary’s exercise of control are the offices of the Deputy Secretary, the Under Secretary of Political Affairs, the other Under Secretaries (especially for Management), the Director General, the Inspector General, the Policy Planning Staff, etc. These functions are treated under Tab A. However, the post of the Executive Secretary is so important, that it has been highlighted in this Overview and Summary.

Principal Foreign Policy Issues:

To put our policy and diplomacy in nautical terms, we must have a compass to chart our course, but we must also watch the rocks along the shore, lest the ship founder.

The compass represents the overall conception of our foreign policy, particularly the attention which has to be accorded East-West relations, as the Soviet Union represents our largest and most dangerous adversary worldwide.

But we cannot overlook the rocks, i.e., regional conflicts and priorities. Thus it is a fact that while much of the world shares some of our preoccupation with the USSR and East-West relations, most of those [Page 65] regions give regional issues a place of priority. Since we cannot easily force our priorities on other people, our diplomacy faces the difficult task of blending our and their priorities into a reasonable whole, enabling our diplomacy to proceed with maximum support from other countries.


The members of the Working Party underscore Europe’s need for a firm and confident American leadership, as well as evidence that we are making serious efforts to bring our defense and economic house in order. Aside from certain vocal but limited political groups, most Europeans—and not only in the West—would welcome a strong, consistent, and predictable America.

In its approach to U.S.-Europe relations, the Working Group has focussed largely on the East-West optic. This, to be sure, is a very important aspect though not the only one through which to view U.S.-European relations. There is also the tactical question whether this emphasis is best designed to gain for us maximum European cooperation.

In view of the vital as well as difficult nature of European-American economic relations, one needs to examine the question whether the subordination of those relations to strategic and ideological considerations will be best suited to obtain vital Western cooperation on economic, financial and energy matters which are of top priority to European leaders. We need to counter European economic dependence on the USSR, but we will not be effective if we hector them as Carter and Mondale did at the beginning of their terms.

The Working Group rightly diagnoses weaknesses or “soft spots” in European policy and attitudes toward the Soviet Union, but assumes that Western Europe will be ready to follow our leadership if we are firm with them. However, our European allies perceive many divergent interests which can be solved only through a pattern of very close consultations. We will be aided in this by the strong confidence of European leaders in Secretary-designate Haig. This would be endangered if the Europeans felt that they saw a pattern of American unilateralism.

Because of the Working Group’s focus on East-West relations, it makes a strong pitch to split the Bureau of European Affairs into one for Western and one for Eastern Europe. It also makes a recommendation for the appointment of a high official in the Department charged with the supervision of East-West relations. The argument has some weight because the Bureau’s present focus on the multiplicity of U.S.-West European relations sometimes results in some neglect of the East European agenda. This is not a new proposal and has been debated in the past. It was rejected then and is rejected by some other members [Page 66] of the Transition Team, including the Team Leader, on the ground that East-West relations are not specifically European but worldwide and should be supervised by the officer with worldwide responsibility, normally, the Secretary of State. Also, the creation of a separate bureaucracy would tend to create an adversary relationship between that new bureaucracy and existing bureaus, especially that for Western Europe. Many issues that are now handled within the Bureau of European Affairs would have to be arbitrated on the Seventh Floor, if at all, and would either add to the already awesome burden of decision-making at that level, or fall between the cracks.

Middle East: The Middle East is a pressure area for the most delicate and difficult balancing of worldwide (East-West) and regional interests and priorities. Our diplomacy cannot be effective unless we recognize the existence of different priorities and succeed in creating a balance between the two.

As far as the long-standing Arab-Israeli conflict is concerned, we must recognize one central point: it is only one of several conflicts, but it overshadows all others insofar as it places limits on the degree to which we can get closer to the moderate and economically essential Arab states.

Furthermore, this conflict is now passing through a transitional period of great delicacy. The Working Group points out correctly that the (Camp David) peace process2 is going nowhere despite the terminal optimism of Ambassador Sol Linowitz. The report also highlights the extreme unlikelihood of any positive results occurring during the remaining life of the Begin Government. And when Begin goes, the Labor government, which by all indications will succeed Begin, has already focussed on a different and diplomatically more hopeful approach.

Yet both the Israelis and Egyptians are committed to the Camp David process and Sadat, in particular, is anxious lest he be blindsided by a different initiative (European plan, Jordanian option, etc.) which would bypass and dangerously isolate him.

[Page 67]

The immediate diplomatic task for the United States is therefore to keep all options open and, frankly, tread water, until Begin has left office. But we must not be too obvious about this lest we arouse strong reactions from Begin, or create the illusion among the Arabs that if they were to do nothing we would get their chestnuts out of the fire.

For the near term, we should therefore keep the Peace Process going, but in a less dramatic fashion than in the past. Therefore, the position of the Peace Negotiator (now encumbered by Linowitz) should not be officially abolished but be temporarily kept vacant. While opposing Linowitz’s agitation for the immediate appointment of a highly visible successor, we see merit in keeping his regional office in the Middle East (now under Ambassador Leonard) intact.3 Eventually, a successor might be appointed if the new diplomatic circumstances make it desirable. It is interesting that this is also the opinion of former Under Secretary Joseph Sisco.4

Once the Peace Process can be resumed, it will require the blending of several formulas (including possibly a “Jordanian option”). Here again, we regard as unhelpful, Linowitz’s current public statements that the Camp David process, as it is presently undertaken, constitutes the only path to peace.5

Attention also needs to be focussed on several other areas which are more extensively treated in the paper of the Working Group. While there are many issues of importance, the following will need priority attention soon after January 20:

Should we give some additional, limited (clandestine) support to the Afghan freedom fighters opposing the Soviet invasion? If so, our relationship to Pakistan has to be considerably reevaluated, as indicated in the report of the Working Group.
Saudi Arabia has made its request for additional military equipment the litmus test of its relations with the U.S. If we do not negotiate this one most carefully and, in particular, if we were to take unilateral action without adequate, in-depth consultation with the Saudis, we [Page 68] would, in terms of the Middle Eastern mentality, make Saudi retaliation virtually inevitable. This would be most likely to take the form of a reduction of Saudi oil production, which would hurt us and the West just when the shortfall created by the Iran-Iraq war would hurt the market. The consequences could be explosive.
The Jordanian arms request, while less extensive than the Saudi one, is also delicate if we want to retain the possibility of a “Jordanian option.” The need for a decision will come very early in the Reagan Administration.
In the strategic North African region, Morocco and Tunisia are loyal friends but the Carter administration has consistently shortchanged both relationships. We need to evolve a comprehensive concept of our relationships with Morocco and Algeria which supports our friends while also acknowledging significant American interests in Algeria. We also need to make some hard choices about Libya, and support Tunisia (while Bourguiba still lives) in a manner and on a scale which that country’s consistent pro-Western stance has earned.

East Asia: Many significant issues will confront the new Administration in this area, but most of them are somewhat more manageable, or at least less urgent, than the blistering array of interlocking policy conundrums we face in the Middle East. The most urgent problem is the Kim Dae Jung affair in Korea;6 the most important issues are the balancing of our PRC interests with our Taiwan connection and the overriding need to give more priority to our relations with Japan (and be seen by the Japanese to be so doing). On all of these issues, there is no significant dissent within our Transition Team to either the analysis or the recommendations set forth by the Working Group in Tab D.

On the Kim Dae Jung affair, the recent signal from the President-elect probably constitutes all that can productively be done on our own side, until January 20 at least—and hopefully if he survives until then, the worst of the crisis will be over.

As to the PRC and Taiwan, we should move with caution and deliberation, resisting pressures from either side to provide those elements of either symbolic or substantive support that will needlessly interfere with our interests vis-a-vis the other party. This is probably one of those issues that we can afford to put on the back burner for a while, despite its importance, because it suits our interests to do so.

[Page 69]

The Working Group’s recommendations on Japan make up an interesting and persuasive package. We want to flag here the notion that the successor to Mike Mansfield be selected with great care and that Mansfield be left in place for some time to come to provide time for the best possible choice.

Finally, attention is invited to the fact that this Working Group, along with several others on our team, has noted with concern the absence of any visible relationship between decisions on allocations of foreign aid and our national foreign policy concerns. We shall comment in more detail on this phenomenon later in this report.

Africa: The Working Group on Africa’s submission for this final report built on rather than replicating the material in its excellent submission for our interim report and we are therefore including both submissions under Tab E.

The most urgent country and regional issues in Africa south of the Sahara relate to the Southern African region and to the Horn of Arica. The talks on Namibia are at a sensitive stage right now. We will need to have a position on aid to Zimbabwe by March. These and related issues need to be weighed in the context of decisions on our stance and objectives toward South Africa. In the Horn, the need is for a coherent approach reconciling our conflicting objectives of reducing Soviet presence and access in the area, especially in Ethiopia, while consolidating our own access to a badly needed military facility in Somalia.

The most, important (as opposed to urgent) relationship we have in Black Africa is with Nigeria. The Working Group suggests that the new Administration can find ways to keep Nigeria on board, without “. . . apologizing (Carter-fashion) for having national interests and Western leadership responsibilities.”

Both the interim and final reports make a strong case for moving energetically to make U.S. aid instruments responsive to national policy, and provide a number of specific proposals for doing this.

Latin America: The Working Group that has covered ARA in the Department submitted what was essentially its final report two weeks ago, for inclusion in the Team’s interim report. That text is included at Tab F, together with the following additional material which has been submitted within the last several days:

A report on U.S.-Mexican relations.
A report on Central America.
A report on potential use of the U.S. Coast Guard to enhance U.S. security and the stability of the Caribbean.
Three short studies prepared by the Caribbean Council for the Working Group at the latter’s request:
“The U.S. and the Caribbean.”
U.S. Development Assistance Policy in the Caribbean Island Nations and Dependencies.”
“The U.S. and Latin America.”
A report on “Immigration and National Security” prepared by the Heritage Foundation at the Working Group’s request.

There is general agreement within the team that the Carter Administration’s policies toward Latin America were overly influenced by professional notions of social change, to the extent that they became somewhat estranged from the service of direct and important U.S. national interests. The Working Group has analyzed at some length, for example the tendency of some U.S. Ambassadors “. . . to function in the capacity of surrogate political activists and advocates of new theories of social change with latitude to experiment within the countries to which they are accredited . . .” Extensive recommendations to correct this situation are made, in terms of policies and, particularly, bureaucratic structures.

The separate paper on Mexico recommends the creation of a new regional bureau within the Department for Canada and Mexico. While it is undoubtedly true that there has been a tendency in recent years to downplay our relations with each of these important neighbors, the Team Leader and some other members regard the proposal to create a new bureau as draconian and cannot support it, for much the same reasons as those that temper our enthusiasm for a new bureau for communist affairs, or Soviet/East European affairs. Basically, good management principles require that the level at which most decisions are taken be pushed down in the hierarchy, not up. Much of the Carter administration’s inability to persuade the electorate that it knew what it was doing was caused by its predilection at the very top to agonize over essentially secondary issues, with the result that it was unable to see the forest for the trees. This tendency was also visible on the Department’s Seventh Floor. We must not allow ourselves to fall into the same trap.

To end on a more positive note, attention is drawn to the short piece buried in the middle of Tab F on the potential use of the U.S. Coast Guard to advance U.S. interests in the Caribbean. This is an excellent example of the kind of sensible, practical and do-able initiative that the working levels of the State Department can be expected to conceive and implement if the new Administration (a) gives them broad, coherent, and consistent policy guidelines, (b) gets off their backs as far as day-to-day operations are concerned, and (c) gives them some reasonable voice in decisions on the allocation of required resources.

[Page 71]

Department of State Leadership in Foreign Affairs:

The Department of State must gain and maintain management control over U.S. foreign policy. This is a common, consistent theme which has run through all the Team’s studies. From regional policy issues—where under the Carter administration the NSC has frequently circumvented the Department, e.g., in Latin American Affairs (see Mr. Sanjuan’s ARA paper at Tab F)—to the use of specific policy instruments (FMS, AID, IDCA resources), the Department has not been in a position either to coordinate or to control U.S. foreign policy. This will have to change.

According to a very broad consensus within our Team, the Secretary of State must from the outset of the new Administration be seen by all—the President, the Cabinet, other Government entities, the Congress and the public—to be the President’s spokesman on foreign affairs. The role of the coordinator can follow from that of spokesman. But to gain effective management control of foreign policy implementation, the Secretary must manage the resources used in its implementation. Therefore, the Secretary must, as quickly as possible, be given authority to direct the allocation and use of all resources, including those of AID, IDCA, Peace Corps, FMS, and PL–480 programming,7 to ensure they are meeting the foreign policy needs of U.S. national interests. This will require early development of a foreign affairs budget from which effective resource allocation decisions can be made, as touched on in Tab G (p. 2) and Tab H (p. 12). Section III.A. of the African paper (Tab E) describes one specific approach toward meeting this need: establishment of a new unit, directly responsible to the Secretary, for foreign assistance management, analysis, and priority setting.

Only the Department of State is in a position to provide continuity and leadership across the increasingly complex range of international issues and problems with their built-in constituencies and domestic links. The Department’s role, in this respect, is the weakest in the crucial international economics area, a fact which must be changed if coherent international economic policies are to be achieved and maintained over time and made consistent with domestic economic policy requirements. Tab G on “The Economic Functions of the Department of State” treats this area in depth, and the author’s recommendations and conclusions deserve full support. In sum, institutional or structural changes in the bureaucracy are not going to be nearly as relevant to [Page 72] solving this problem as the personal element: The new Under Secretary for Economic Affairs must be an individual of recognized stature with a strong sense of mission who fully enjoys the strong and continuing support of the Secretary of State.

[Omitted here are the sections “Personnel and Budget: Getting the Tools to Do the Job,” “Proposed Structural Changes in the Department,” and “Refugee Affairs.”]

The items listed above represent policy issues and management problems on which, in the opinion of the Transition Team, the Secretary of State-designate should focus priority attention. Obviously he will make his own decisions regarding both priority order and the manner in which he will vest responsibility in other officers. Not mentioned in this Executive Summary is the regrettable possibility that the Reagan Administration may inherit the hostage problem in Iran. Separate papers and ideas have been gathered by the Team Leader and other members but have not been included in this Final Report because conditions between now and January 20 may change sufficiently to affect the nature of the problem and the available options.

It should be stated, however, that those members of the Transition Team who are familiar with the Middle East in general and Iran in particular, are extremely critical of the manner in which the Carter administration has handled the problem. Should the Reagan Administration have to shoulder this burden, just doing more of the same (which has failed) will not be sufficient. The Transition Team, in cooperation with other experts, stands ready to submit suggestions and scenarios if so tasked.

Finally, many other foreign policy issues and organizational matters that were not mentioned in this Executive Summary, have been treated as mentioned in the several reports attached hereto—and there are surely some which could not be treated by a relatively small team working for only five weeks.

We hope and believe, however, that the above list will give the Secretary of State-designate an opportunity to grasp quickly the slippery reins of the Department of State and to assist the incoming Administration in creating a foreign policy style and determination which is strong, consistent and predictable—something which has long been lacking. The new Secretary of State surely has the Transition Team’s best wishes and sincere hopes for good luck. He will need it!

Robert G. Neumann 8
Transition Team Director
  1. Source: Reagan Library, 1980 Transition Papers, Deputy Director for Executive Branch Management (William Timmons), Issues Clusters, National Security (D. Abshire), National Security Group (Abshire)—Department of State—Final Report 12/22/80 Vol. I (1/6). No classification marking. Volume I of the report includes the Team Director’s Overview and Summary and Tabs A–G. Volume II includes Tabs M–S and is in the Reagan Library, 1980 Transition Papers, Deputy Director for Executive Branch Management (William Timmons), Issues Clusters, National Security (D. Abshire), National Security Group (Abshire)—Department of State—Final Report 12/22/80 Vol. II. All tabs are attached but not printed. Before the inauguration, the Reagan transition team established an Office of Executive Branch Management headed by Timmons. Robert Neumann served as the team leader for the Department of State Transition Team and reported to Abshire, the team leader for national security affairs. In addition to Neumann, the members of the State Transition Team were Adelman, Brower, Codevilla, Crocker, Drischler, Hackett, McFarlane, Pipes, Rashish, Sanjuan, Stern, Tiller, Weiss, Winsor, and Zapanta.
  2. Carter, Begin, and Sadat met at Camp David in September 1978, where Begin and Sadat agreed to documents that would provide a framework for peace in the Middle East. For the texts of the Framework for Peace in the Middle East and the Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty Between Egypt and Israel, see Public Papers: Carter, 1978, Book II, pp. 1523–1528. On March 26, 1979, Sadat and Begin signed the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty. For the text of the treaty, see Department of State Bulletin, May 1979, pp. 3–15. The complete English language version, including annexes, minutes, and letters, is printed in Public Papers: Carter, 1979, Book I, pp. 495–517. See also Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. IX, Arab-Israeli Dispute, August 1978–December 1980, Second, Revised Edition, Document 239.
  3. James Leonard served as Linowitz’s deputy, beginning in May 1979.
  4. Sisco served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from February 19, 1974, until June 30, 1976.
  5. Presumable reference to Linowitz’s December 19 news conference in London, following his meeting with Lord Carrington. At the news conference, Linowitz outlined five areas of Egyptian-Israeli disagreement. He also “described the Camp David formula for the autonomy talks, in which the United States is playing the role of mediator, as the only way of bringing a peaceful settlement acceptable to Israel and satisfactory to the Palestinians.” (Youssef Ibrahim, “Linowitz, Summing Up Mission, Sees 5 ‘Crucial’ Palestinian Issues,” New York Times, December 20, 1980, p. 2)
  6. In September, opposition leader Kim was sentenced to death following a military tribunal. Documentation is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XIV, Japan; Korea.
  7. The Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act (P.L–480), signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on July 10, 1954, established the Food for Peace program. Under the provisions of the law, the United States could make concessional sales of surplus grains to friendly nations, earmark commodities for domestic and foreign disaster relief, and barter surplus for strategic materials.
  8. Neumann signed “RG Neumann” above his typed signature.