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well as in theory. The way to accomplish this would be to make all proposals to Washington, or requests addressed to Washington, his proposals and requests (in the same sense in which the budget 'submitted to Congress is the President's budget) and to direct all instructions to the mission to the Ambassador, with action responsibility to be assigned by him. (The case of an area military commander would remain a special one.)
If an Ambassador's primacy is to be more than a “polite fiction,” more than pro forma approval of all operations is the means to make it a reality. And if he is to give more than pro forma approval, he must be staffed to perform his role. That is, he must have an officer or officers on his personal staff, responsible to him, to review the actions of the U.S. agencies operating in the country and to do the staff work to prepare matters for his consideration.
Some Ambassadors have made good use of the staff resources they have to move far in this direction. Some have managed to achieve genuine ascendancy in the Embassy as a whole. Others have not.
With operations as complex as the totality of American national security operations, one must search for key checkpoints if coordination is to be achieved. What is clear is that the Ambassador's office is one such convenient point, through which incoming and outgoing messages either do pass or could be made to pass. If we are serious about employing a Secretary of State and his Department to achieve coordination, one step that can be taken is to see to it that the Ambassador's office becomes such a checkpoint and that it is staffed for the job.
THE UNDER SECRETARY FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS AND THE ASSISTANT
SECRETARIES OF STATE
As one looks around Washington for comparable checkpoints, one is driven to the conclusion that a major role should be played by the Assistant Secretaries of State. These men, alone among officers of their rank, have a responsibility for keeping their eyes on the totality of American relations with the countries in their areas and on the consistency of country or regional policies with our national security policies as a whole. This
group, however, needs someone to whom to report—someone short of the Secretary and his alter ego, the Under Secretary, if only because these two men will often not be available. It is apparently intended that the Under Secretary for Political Affairsthe "third man” in the Department—will provide the needed focal point for the Assistant Secretaries.
If an Assistant Secretary is to be delegated part of the Secretary's task as Presidential "agent of coordination,” he must be at the center of the decision-action process in Washington. · In short, he should review ongoing and proposed operations in his area of responsibility for their consistency with American policy.
The point is clear enough in principle. How can it be carried out in practice?
Part of the answer must lie with the Under Secretary for Political Affairs and the Assistant Secretaries and the support they receive from a President and his Secretary of State. The Assistant Secre
taries should be men of such ability and stature that they can establish their ascendancy in matters within their spheres of interest and responsibility. Furthermore they should be, in the best sense, the President's and the Secretary's men, owing their loyalty to them. If chosen from the career service, they should place their loyalty to the President and the Secretary above loyalty to the service and perhaps should sever their connections to the service. For it is through such men that a President and his Cabinet members must work if the bureaucracy is to serve them, not the other way around.
To the extent that the Assistant Secretaries establish their ascendancy, have the confidence and receive the backing of a President and Secretary of State, and become men whose support is as valuable as their opposition is formidable, officers of other departments and agencies will increasingly turn to them for guidance when difficult questions arise. The Assistant Secretaries should deliberately cultivate the kind of close, intimate relationships with their opposite numbers in the Department of Defense and other national security agencies on which a common understanding of policy can be built.
Part of the answer must also lie with their opposite numbers. They should be made to understand that they have a responsibility to coordinate their operations with the operations of the rest of the Government, that they will be held accountable for it, and that, in the normal course of events, the central source of guidance is the appropriate Assistant Secretary of State.
However, although much improvement might be obtained in these ways, the problem of coordination probably cannot be safely left to these relationships. Even with good will all around, the volume of business is so heavy, the need for secrecy so great, and the importance of swift action so compelling that the kind of checking needed to assure coordination will sometimes be neglected.
With this in mind, an organizational innovation in the Executive Office of the President is proposed below.
AN OFFICE OF NATIONAL SECURITY COMMUNICATIONS
Access to information depends on access to the communications by which messages are transmitted. Action officers have to be instructed and to make reports to higher authorities, and these messages are transmitted by a communications system of some kind.
Each national security department and agency and each of the military services has a more or less independent communications system to serve its needs and each attaches much importance to the possession of its own lines of communication. To have access to information is to have power. (Some consolidation of communications is taking place in the Department of Defense with the establishment of the Defense Communications Agency. One consequence, it may sa fely be predicted, will be to increase the power of the Secretary vis-a-vis the military departments and services.)
In order to safeguard the President's interests, a message center has been created in the White House, which is designed to keep the President promptly and fully informed about matters of concern to him. This enhances the President's ability to intervene when he believes it necessary, and thus increases his ability to direct national security operations
If the Secretary of State and his principal assistants are to perform a key coordinating role, they need similar access to the flow of messages bearing on national security.
A small, central Office of National Security Communications, lorated in the Executive Office of the President, might serve both the needs of the President and the Secretary of State as the President's agent of coordination. As things stand, a Secretary of State may not hear of important developments until some time after a number of other key officials have been informed. This situation is inconsistent with the assignment of coordinating responsibilities to the Secretary of State. If the functions of the Office were limited to those usually associated with the concept of an executive secretariat, the dangers of a "superstaff agency," which were pointed out by the Subcommittee on National Policy Machinery, should be avoided.
Taking the Government as a whole, the physical means of communication with many parts of the world are unsatisfactory and fail to provide the reliable, secure, rapid communications needed in the sixities and beyond. It is increasingly recognized that the risks we run by failing to provide the best possible communications system far outweigh the costs of modern facilities.
A President obviously has great interest in this matter. One task of an Office of National Security Communications might be to take the leadership in planning and developing a rational system of communications, one meeting both the needs of the President and the needs of the departments and agencies. A second task might be to take responsibility for assuring that messages of interest to the President, the Secretary of State as his agent of coordination, and other key officials in the national security area, are received by the Office for prompt referral to them.
The precise organization of the Office and definition of its functions need to be carefully considered for the President, perhaps by the Bureau of the Budget or a special presidential commission. Such questions as these need to be raised:
Would such a small, central Office serve a useful purpose for the President and the Secretary of State?
Should it perform only Secretariat functions, such as review of messages to check whether they have appropriate clearances and distribution of messages to the President, the Secretary of State, and other key officials?
Should the Office be located in the Executive Office of the President but placed under an officer responsible to the Secretary of State, as well as the President, perhaps the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, in order to emphasize the Secretary's responsibility as the President's agent of coordination?
Would it be possible to staff the Office with officers having a keen “policy sense" even though the Office would not be a source of policy guidance ?
Should the primary function of the Office be to assure the rapid distribution of messages to the President and the Secretary of State, in accordance with prioritjes meeting their needs!
To what extent might the Office consolidate certain functions now performed elsewhere, and what should its relations be with other communications and message centers?
Such questions need to be considered by someone who is thoroughly familiar with the needs of the President and the Secretary of State and with the needs of the departments and agencies. The proposal is offered as a measure which might help improve coordination, and it should not be acted upon unless careful study suggests that it would.
Coordination is both a function of procedure and process, on the one hand, and of personal relationships among a small group of key officials, on the other. Of the two the latter are probably by far the most important, for given the proper relationships among the men involved the men will find or devise ways of keeping each other informed and of resolving their differences so that a unified effort can be made.
Miracles, as Professor Neustadt cautioned, should not be expected from improvements in procedures and processes, for at best they “cannot abolish the deep difficulties of perception, of analysis, of judgment, of persuasion which confront our policymakers now and in the future."
Nevertheless the logical implication of making the Secretary of State the President's agent of coordination should be honestly faced. Either we find ways of putting him and his principal assistants in Washington and abroad at checkpoints in the decision action process, or he will be unable to perform the role the President has assigned him.