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and the officials of other governments soon discern the true relationship between him and the President. If a President is close to his Secretary, confides in him, and relies heavily on him, a Secretary has a chance to be a great Secretary.
In our system, the President and the Secretary have mutual obligations.
One, clearly, is a Secretary's duty to keep the President promptly and fully informed so that he can handle major issues and crises in the nation's foreign relations with as much freedom of Presidential choice as each situation allows. The President's corresponding obligation is to make his decisions in a clear and reasoned way, providing as part of the decision itself the priority it is to receive so the Secretary can carry on from where the President leaves off. A President should, of course, support his own decisions so strongly that action can follow from them.
Another obligation is scarcely less important. It is a Secretary's duty to assert his own position and exercise his proper interest across the whole contemporary front of foreign relations. The shoes are big: it is his duty to fill them if he can. The correlative obligation is that the President should be careful not to ask other officers to handle independently tasks which fall within the jurisdiction of the Secretary of State. And he should be cautious about overruling the Secretary on matters that have been entrusted to him, for if other Cabinet officers find that they habitually can get satisfaction at the White House when they have lost out with the Secretary, the Secretary will not long be able to fulfill his responsibilities.
A Secretary's role requires that he be able to see the President whenever he believes he needs to—and see him alone when he wants to. The Secretary and the President need unhurried private occasions for frank talk about the more puzzling problems of foreign policy.
All of this depends on a President's confidence in his Secretary and a conviction that the Secretary can help him more than others in contending with the issues he sees ahead.
IV. The Secretary and the Department
This device of inviting argument between conflicting interests—which we can call the “foulup factor" in our equation of performance * * needs some careful examination because there is, I think, a discernible and constantly increasing tendency to try to expand the intent of the system to the point where mere curiosity on the part of someone cr some agency, and not a "need to know" can be used as a ticket of admission to the merry-go-round of "concurrences". This doctrine, unless carefully and boldly policed, can become so fertile a spawner of committees as to blanket the whole executive branch with an embalmed atmosphere.
Robert A. Lovett, Statement before the Senate Subcommittee on
National Policy Machinery, February 23, 1960 At the heart of a Secretary of State's dilemma is his Department.
The Department's growth would dismay even Mr. Parkinson. On the eve of our entry into World War II the Department employed less than 6,200 at bome and overseas. Today, over 24,000 are on the
rolls (roughly 7,000 serving in the United States, and 17,000 abroadincluding about 10,000 foreign nationals recruited locally).
The Department's burden of business is enormous. It operates some 274 posts abroad-embassies, legations, special missions, and consular offices. Its daily volume of telegraphic traffic includes about 1,500 incoming and 1,500 outgoing cables, carrying more than 400,000 words.
In the vast new State building a Secretary sits amidst 2 Under Secretaries and 2 Deputy Under Secretaries, 13 Assistant Secretaries or their equivalent in charge of 13 Bureaus, over 30 Deputy Assistant Secretaries, more than 60 area and other Office Directors, and over 90 Country Desk Officers, together with assorted advisers and special assistants, counselors and inspector generals, and emissaries from the agencies that lie only partly within the Secretary's jurisdiction.
As things are, the Country Desk Officer stands 7 or 8 levels down in the Department. Above him are:
Deputy Office Director
The Secretary In practice, no doubt, most business does not have to run the entire gauntlet. But, Secretary Rusk told the subcommittee:
I would say * * * that inside of the Department our principal problem is layering. To illustrate his point Secretary Rusk gave this example:
* * * when I read a telegram coming in in the morning, it poses a very specific question, and the moment I read it I know myself what the answer must be. But that telegram goes on its appointed course into the Bureau, and through the office and down to the desk. If it doesn't go down there, somebody feels that he is being deprived of his participation in a matter of his responsibility.
Then it goes from the action officer back up through the Department to me a week or 10 days later, and if it isn't the answer that I knew had to be the answer, then I change it at that point, having taken into account the advice that came from below. But usually it is the answer that everybody
would know has to be the answer. To tie this unwieldy organization together, and relate it to AID, USIA, Defense, CIA, to the rest of the Government and to other governments, there are committees, boards, commissions and task forces-permanent, ad hoc, large, small, formal, informal, high-level, working level, intra-agency, inter-agency, and now inter-governmental. As Ambassador David Bruce told the subcommittee:
If you want to see anybody in Defense or State, or any other department I know of, they seem to be perpetually off in committee meetings.
In the cold war the ability to act and react quickly is one of our most powerful weapons. A prompt move can dispose of a crisis right off the bat. But if officials are occupied in following routines, respecting petty procedures, chasing around for one "concurrence" after another, and spending hours in committee meetings until every last voice is heard, then the opportunity to act in time is lost. A stale product is the natural offspring of bureaucracy.
The objective is clear and hard-hitting policies—but, as the old proverb goes, “the more cooks the worse pottage.”
The Department is at once a burden and a source of strength to the Secretary. How can he turn it into less of a burden and more of an asset? How can the Department be made more manageable and therefore more of a help to the Secretary and to the President?
Robert Lovett, in his testimony to the predecessor subcommittee in 1960, put his finger on the problem:
* * * the position of the individual in Government is being constantly downgraded. * * * Committees cannot effectively replace the decisionmaking power of the individual who takes the oath of office; nor can committees provide the essential qualities of leadership. * * * The au
thority of the individual executive must be restored * A Secretary could obtain more help from his Department by apply. ing the Lovett philosophy-placing responsibility and authority in the hands of individuals, expecting them to use it, and holding them accountable for their use of it.
The need is for a determined effort in State to consolidate overlapping functions, reduce layering, trim unnecessary staff, kill committees, and make clear assignments of responsibility.
In his testimony to the subcommittee, Secretary Rusk was stimulating on this point. Referring to the regional bureaus, he spoke of the possibility of an experiment to eliminate the Office level, upgrade the Desk Officer, and strengthen the position of the Assistant Secretary.
If the regional Office level could be abolished, a major layer in the Department hierarchy would be excised. This step would enable Desk Officers to report directly to regional Assistant Secretaries. A Desk Officer could be given greater responsibility for handling country problems, on the basis of general guidance. In this event, a Desk Officer should be the equal of an Ambassador in experience and judgment. As Secretary Rusk said:
It seems to me that the man in Washington who spends all of his time brooding about a country like Brazil ought to be a man comparable in competence to the man who is Am
bassador to Brazil. If this were the situation, Assistant Secretaries could be freed to become what they were intended to be-assistants to the Secretary. They could take on more of the cross-cutting, ad hoc, and crisis problems within their sphere of responsibility. It should be possible to eliminate excessive layering above the level of Assistant Secretary by appropriate understandings of the division of work among the top officers.
If results of this sort should flow from the Secretary's suggestions, these would help materially to meet Robert Lovett's standard
giving responsibility to individuals who are able, willing and expected to decide and act.
One looks forward to an elaboration of Secretary Rusk's ideas. Results, of course, will take time to show themselves, and experiments will take time to prove themselves.
A further point: Progress in giving more authority for decision and action to individuals in the State Department sharpens the need for a free interplay of ideas-a lively give-and-take-between a Secretary and officers of the Department, so that they will know how their chief sees things and what he wants. Mutual understanding is the secret of effective teamwork.
V. The Secretary and Interdepartmental Coordination
* * * the coordination of policy * * * requires not only some understanding of the main substantive aspects of the policy, but also an appreciation of the subtle interconnections of various parts of the government that can come only from years of experience. More than that, it calls for a professional sympathy, a bond of mutual trust based on a common corporate loyalty, between those working in the several departments concerned. This is why we often make no progress toward coordination either by giving additional authority to a political executive or by legislating elaborate structures of interdepartmental coordination.
Don K. Price, “Administrative Leadership”, Daedalus (Fall 1961) A President, with the help of his own Office, can coordinate national security policy and operations to the extent he takes command. The President's own Special Assistant for National Security Affairs is indispensable in keeping the President informed about matters that may require his attention and in seeing that he is staffed on issues that he takes into his own hands.
But the Secretary of State is a natural candidate for the coordinating role, when the President cannot perform it or does not choose to. The nature of the Secretary's post leads him more than any other Cabinet officer to have a perspective closely approximating the President's; moreover, for most of the things the Secretary wants to accomplish he must seek help from other agencies and departmentsfrom Defense, Treasury, Agriculture, Commerce, and the like; also, a Secretary has the job of conveying to other parts of the government foreign complaints about American policies and, if necessary, getting something done about them.
A Secretary's authority to command is confined to his own Department. In dealing with others, he can only request, or guide and influence. But given the full confidence and backing of the President, and given sturdy support by his Department, a Secretary will be able to assist his chief in the tasks of coordination.
This role is complicated, of course, by the jungle of interagency committees—the accustomed ground of bureaucratic warfare.
A President and a Secretary, in coordinating national security planning and action, are critically dependent upon strong officers in the State Department who can get things done there, working with strong officers in the other departments and agencies. Interdepartmental coordination calls for individuals in the several agencies who
have real authority and responsibility for executive operations, who know and trust each other, and who are in a position to staff out a problem in their own shop and get an answer, without having to go to one more committee. Coordination of policy is not readily achieved where one committee has to consult another.
DELEGATION OF RESPONSIBILITY
A Secretary of State, like a President, can give his personal attention to only a small number of the problems requiring coordinated interagency decisions and action. For the others—in quantity, the great majority-a Secretary's responsibilities must be delegated.
Deputy Under Secretary of State Crockett spoke to this problem before the subcommittee:
Within the Department itself, we have not yet found satisfactory methods of delegating the Secretary's coordinating responsibilities to officials farther down the chain of
command. In this connection, the Deputy Under Secretary told of certain steps being taken: A start has been made in establishing Desk Officers as the pivot for country working groups; experiments are being tried to designate regional Assistant Secretaries as chairmen of regional interagency policy committees.
If Desk Officers were given authority and responsibility as chairmen of "country teams” in Washington, they would be able to respond to an' Ambassador on his level concerning country problems. This would go far to meet a common complaint by American Ambassadors, namely that Washington takes too much time in answering their requests for instructions. Also, the Desk Officer could take the lead in forward country planning in collaboration with the Department's Policy Planning Council, and increasingly with the Ambassador in the field.
Assistant Secretaries, of course, have to earn the position of coordinators. They have to become men whose support is as valuable as their opposition is formidable, and if they do, officers in other parts of the government could be expected to turn increasingly to them for guidance when difficult issues arise. To succeed, Assistant Secretaries need easy access to the Secretary, so that they can speak for him with confidence. They also need to cultivate the kind of rapport with their opposite numbers in the Defense Department and other national security agencies on which a common understanding of policy can be built.
In developing the authority of Assistant Secretaries, the hand of the Secretary of State should be strengthened-not weakened. This requires that Assistant Secretaries should be considered assistants to the Secretary, and not additions to the White House staff. It also requires that any Presidential charge of authority should stipulate that the coordinating responsibility of an Assistant Secretary is exercised on behalf of the Secretary.