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ADMINISTRATION OF NATIONAL SECURITY
FRIDAY, JUNE 14, 1963
STAFFING AND OPERATIONS,
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met at 10 a.m., pursuant to notice, in room 3302, New Senate Office Building, Senator Henry M. Jackson (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Present: Senators Jackson, Muskie, Pell, Mundt, Javits, and Miller. Also present: Senator McIntyre.
Staff members present: Dorothy Fosdick, staff director; Robert W. Tufts, chief consultant; Richard S. Page, research assistant; Judith J. Spahr, chief clerk; and Laurel A. Engberg, minority consultant.
OPENING STATEMENT OF THE CHAIRMAN
Senator JACKSON. The committee will come to order.
This morning our subcommittee opens hearings on the role of the Ambassadors and the missions they head in the conduct of our relations with other countries.
The subcommittee's study of this subject forms one part of its broad nonpartisan inquiry into problems of national security staffing and operations. At our first hearings, held earlier this session, three outstanding Americans Gen. Lauris Norstad, the Honorable Averell Harriman, and Prof. Richard E. Neustadt-gave the subcommittee their views on basic issues of national security administration at home and in the field.
We will start this phase of our hearings with testimony from two recently retired career Ambassadors—the Honorable Ellis O. Briggs and the Honorable H. Freeman Matthews—both of whom speak with the authority of nearly four decades of distinguished performance in the Foreign Service. In the near future we will hear from other outstanding Ambassadors who are drawn from the career service or are appointees temporarily working for the Government.
The initial staff study of January 1963—“Administration of National Security: Basic Issues," and particularly chapter 4 entitled "The Ambassador and the Country Team”-indicates the kind of questions we are concerned with in this part of our inquiry.
We are privileged to have as our witness today the Honorable Ellis 0. Briggs who has been a member of the Foreign Service of the United States for almost 40 years, and who has served as U.S. Ambassador in seven important posts—the Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Czech
oslovakia, Korea, Peru, Brazil, and Greece. He was specially honored by being appointed career ambassador in the Foreign Service in 1960. He retired in 1962.
There are few men who could speak to us from such a background of experience. He is a pro in the very best sense. He has had the confidence of three Republican administrations and three Democratic administrations. His ability to serve was enhanced, I am sure he would agree, by the continuity of this experience.
The Nation has been fortunate, Ambassador Briggs, to have had your loyal and dedicated service over this long period, and the subcommittee is grateful to you for your willingness to assist it with its task.
I think it ought to be pointed out that serving the country is a tradition of the Briggs family. The Ambassador's daughter is in the Foreign Service stationed here in Washington, and his son is in the Foreign Service now assigned abroad.
We are very pleased to have your statement and to hear from you this morning, Ambassador Briggs. STATEMENT OF ELLIS O. BRIGGS, CAREER AMBASSADOR, RETIRED
Ambassador BRIGGS. Senator Jackson, members of the subcommittee, thank you for those very generous words of welcome.
I am happy to have the opportunity to appear before the Subcommittee on National Security Staffing and Operations.
The subjects that you are considering lie close to my heart after nearly 40 years in the professional Foreign Service. That experience has buttressed the conviction that only through continued partnership between the legislative and executive branches can we deal effectively with the challenges arising overseas. I shall be honored if from my experiences abroad, something of value to the committee should be forthcoming.
My first commission was signed in 1926 by President Coolidge; it sent me to Peru as Vice Consul. Eighteen years and a good deal of geography later, I had my first appointment as Ambassador, from President Roosevelt. There followed three Embassies under President Truman and three under President Eisenhower. At the time of my retirement last year, I had been nominated for an 8th EmbassySpain—by President Kennedy.
This bipartisan exposure, which I understand is in keeping with the spirit of your study, reminds me of an incident in 1949, after approval of a nomination of mine had been held up by the late Senator Owen Brewster, from my State of Maine. When the Secretary of State taxed Mr. Brewster with delaying his diplomacy, the Senator assured the Secretary that he had nothing against the nominee, personally. “Why, for all I know,” Senator Brewster is reported to have said, “Briggs may even be a Republican * * * "
Wherefrom I conclude that nonpartisanship, and even political anonymity, may be useful protective coloring for a professional diplomat.
My observations this morning will be concerned primarily with staffing and operations of our establishments abroad, and with certain suggestions for improving the quality of Foreign Service performance.
While critical of certain situations and practices, I hope my comments will not be misinterpreted as invidious, for I have abiding affection for the Foreign Service, for my former colleagues who serve in it, and for the Department of State itself. I have confidence, that is, in the integrity, prudence, and ability of the fine men and women with whom I worked so closely for nearly four decades. They deserve well of our country, even though few grassroots applause factories turn out trumpets to blow in their honor. I should like to concentrate on three aspects, as I see them:
1. Overstaffing of our Embassies abroad;
2. Failure of the State Department to exercise its authority; and
3. Some suggestions for improving Foreign Service performance. 1. Overstaffing. As I observed recently in the Foreign Service Journal, the unofficial house organ of the Foreign Service, apropos the Herter Committee recommendations, many of our diplomatic missions could perform twice as effectively with half the personnel now infesting the premises. That is admittedly a difficult claim to make good for the reason that the State Department shows few signs of allowing its Ambassadors to experiment by reducing the personnel roster by 50 percent, and then calibrating the results.
I should perhaps amend the declaration in the sense that each one of the missions with which I personally have been familiar since World War II, including all of those in which I have served as Ambassador, could have performed twice as effectively with half the American personnel.
I might observe parenthetically on that subject that I am told by some of my colleagues in African service our posts in that continent are not overstaffed. I haven't visited them so I can only note that in passing.
In that connection, I am one of the few recent Ambassadors who has actually experienced the operation of a drastically reduced staff, and that thanks not to the State Department but to the malevolence of the Communists.
It happened 14 years ago, in Czechoslovakia: The State Department instructed me to survey Prague staffing needs, following the Communist seizure of the country, at which time the American staff, which I inherited, numbered 80. Six months after my recommendation, approved by the State Department, that personnel be reduced to 40, I had managed to get rid of two persons—two only—and one of them was transferred from Prague and not replaced, a device which I seem to recall is referred to in the world of bureaucracy as attrition.
Today, a decade and a half later, it exhausts me to remember the struggle with Washington required to obtain that reduction from 80 to 78 persons. If I had started to dig the projected Nicaraguan Canal with a teaspoon, those 6 months might have shown a more impressive achievement. The reason was that, having brashly approved my project, the Tabatha Twitchets of State Department administration cowered before the outraged protests of the Washington agencies whose Prague representatives I then declared I could do without.
“Go cut the heads off somebody else's dandelions”, was the gist of successive representations lodged in Foggy Bottom.
It was at that point that the Communists got into the act. Far as I know, they had no idea of the personnel war I was fighting-and losing—with Washington. They possibly thought they were dealing the American Ambassador the most painful blow imaginable when they suddenly declared five-sixths of my staff persona non grata. They gave the Embassy 2 weeks to get 66 American employees and all their families over the border.
For 30 months thereafter, I ran the American Embassy in Prague with 12 individuals—13, counting the Ambassador. No propaganda establishment. No country team. No Peace Corps. No Minister Counselor of Embassy for Administration.
The staff, as I recall it, was cut down from 78 to 13 and included a deputy who acted as charge d'affaires in the absence of the Ambassador, an extremely competent man who used to drive the Communists crazy by talking Eskimo over the telephone on a tapped line. I had a first secretary who doubled as an economist and had time to prepare drafts for Voice of America broadcasts to Czechoslovakia. I had one administrative officer who ran a truck every 2 weeks to Nuremberg for supplies. He tidied up after the hasty departure of the 66.
I had one consul, one vice consul, one code clerk, three extraordinarily competent young women, the pick of our staff, and all volunteers.
My military establishment consisted of a colonel of the Air Force and a colonel of the Army who competed unhappily for the assistance of one sergeant.
I should perhaps also note that one of the colonels immediately put in for service in Korea and when last heard from was a 2-star general.
It was the most efficient Embassy I ever had. Moreover, it accomplished, promptly, competently, and without friction, all of the essential business there was for an American diplomatic mission to transact at mid-century in that somber Marxist utopia. The State Department, after it recovered from the shock, declared it was delighted with the Embassy's performance.
At my next post-which was Korea in wartime-I described this incident to Syngman Rhee, the venerable President of the country, after he had complained to me that at the time of the Communist invasion, the American Embassy in Seoul had numbered 2,000 persons. I told the President the only favor the Communists ever did me was to reduce my Prague staff to manageable proportions. The President observed that there ought to be a less complicated way to run a diplomatic service.
Another clarification about supernumeraries is relevant. They are not, in the main, State Department supernumeraries, but persons belonging to other agencies of our Government. State's operatives abroad have increased, to be sure, but much of the increase results from the so-called Wriston integration program, which transferred out of the home service and into the Foreign Service officials who were already on the State Department payroll.
Thus, while the Foreign Service complement of our embassies abroad has undoubtedly increased since 1945, the tremendous pro
liferation of American civilian personnel in foreign capitals comes from other agencies of our Government than the Department of State.
How many and what Washington agencies are now providing berths abroad for their tribesmen has never, insofar as I am aware, been accurately computed. Since most of them carry passports, a directive to the State Department might produce a list accompanied by figures, which I predict would be astonishing, even to Congress. It would include practically all of the executive departments and in the case of several of them, foreign services organized by their separate sections, offices, or bureaus (Agriculture, Treasury, Justice, for example). It would include the Washington independent agencies, all the way from one end of the alphabet to the other.
And it would, of course, include personnel of the handout and propaganda organizations, established with a mandate to send American personnel abroad, as well as the rapidly growing Peace Corps.
This is not to denigrate the individuals concerned, or to imply that they are all drones, or all engaged in worthless undertakings. Some are, and some others are interested primarily in garnishing the PX way of life with diplomatic immunities. In the main, however, they are good and patriotic Americans, dedicated to what they are doing and eager to do it successfully.
But there are far too many of them. They clutter up the premises. Their presence bewilders our foreign friends. Their activities are rarely coordinated. Their operations are costly, and without congressional insistence that is, for instance, some of our aid projects-practically no project ever gets finished.
In theory, the American Ambassador is the captain of this untamed team of sportsmen, and the boss of all the operations being conducted in the name of the U.S. Government in the country to which he is accredited. An Executive order promulgated during the Eisenhower administration says so. A letter dispatched 2 years ago to each ambassador by President Kennedy confirms it. What, then, is the difficulty ?
In the first place, if even the most diligent ambassador sought to familiarize himself with the details of all the American Government enterprises being conducted within his jurisdiction, he would have little time left in which to conduct business with the foreign government concerned.
And, in the second place, it is not much use being captain of a team unless the captain has control over the players, which would only be possible if there were a State Department cognizant (1) of the problem being created by the uninhibíted multiplication of personnel abroad and desirous of doing something about it, and (2) capable of reestablishing itself as the agency of our Government primarily responsible for the conduct of foreign relations.
And that brings me to the second point of my three observations about our activities abroad—the failure of the State Department to exercise its traditional authority.
2. During World War II, the State Department and its overseas personnel were rather generally pushed aside, and the military took over diplomacy. Since the surrender of Germany and Japan brought not peace but the cold war, the military remain today very muchand very willingly–in the diplomatic picture. At my last post, I dis