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think, follow the practice of choosing the particular channel for predominant communication with the other government which has proved the most effective and reliable and rapid.
The Ambassador today has, I think it is agreed, less opportunity and less scope for independent decisionmaking in the field. He has gained, I think, in importance in the role as adviser.
I never resented the fact that any significant decision had to go back to Washington because with the complication of the position of the United States as leader of the free world, with the multiplication of countries with whom we deal, with the development of extensive forums for multilateral diplomacy, with the march of science, with the cold war, and other complications, it is impossible that anyone not in Washington can fully relate, on any important matter, the significance of the local problem, as seen by the man on the spot, to the overall relationship.
I think, however, the Ambassador in his role of increased importance as chief adviser to the Secretary and the President can capitalize on this situation, or he can, in effect, default on it.
I think he is bound, if he is going to be a successful Ambassador, to express his views thoughtfully, and forcefully, and based on a genuine knowledge of the subject and of the country in which he is operating, including the political and other forces at work locally.
That is a long answer to a short question. I make one other point though:
I, myself, have never experienced, either traveling with any of the Secretaries of State abroad, or as the recipient of visits by Secretaries of State at my post abroad, any case where the position of the Ambassador was damaged by such a visit.
Every Secretary of State I have served with has quite properly, you might say, gone out of his way to impress on the host government the degree of confidence which the Government reposes in the Ambassador on the spot. This has been, in the long run, I think, helpful rather than destructive to the proper role of the Ambassador in the world today.
Senator JACKSON. Has the Ambassador's executive management role increased ?
Ambassador MERCHANT. Oh, tremendously.
Senator JACKSON. This is one of the significant new developments, isn't it, especially since the cold war?
Ambassador MERCHANT. The increased variety and number of tools to support and reinforce our foreign policy in a particular country has not only increased, but it has opened up a number of important technical fields.
The whole field of USIA and the field of public relations and cultural impact is involved. There is the whole concept of economic aid and assistance, and military aid and assistance, just to name a few,
This means that modern ambassadors have a highly specialized and diversified organization over which they must preside. I think in large part, the measure of his success is determined by how good an executive he is, how competent he is to relate operations and decisions in one field, maybe a highly technical one, to the total objectives of the foreign policy of the United States, in the country of his residence.
Senator JACKSON. So it is not get along and to relate the conflige team responsibility, and how to to exist in country team operats where the departments them
a job of knowing the country. It is also a job of understandin.
are selves in Washington are not always in agreement.
Ambassador MERCHANT. That is right.
Senator JACKSON. Do you feel that the ambassador can do a tremendous amount in the field of foreign affairs, if he has the ability and initiative and will not default on his opportunities? Do you believe a modern ambassador has a tremendous opportunity to do a responsible and effective job?
Ambassador MERCHANT. Yes, sir.
, and much depends on the ability of the individual ambassador to get hold of the situation, to take command and be in a position to be the representative of the U.S. Government in that country and have the confidence of the Secretary of State.
Ambassador MERCHANT. I agree completely.
Senator JACKSON. Our subcommittee's recent staff report, “The
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.
Would you comment on the way our Government takes so much time to make up its mind, and what, in your judgment, is needed to speed up the policy process?
Ambassador MERCHANT. Well, I think primarily it is a question of good people and trusting them, delegating authority and standing back of them, replacing them if they don't perform.
A lot of this problem, of course, is just inherent in the complexity of modern life and the responsibilities under which the U.S. Government has to operate. I have not been one who has automatically condemned all committees. In fact, I am probably more favorable to committees in Washington as a 'coordinating device than many of your witnesses have been, Senator.
I think there are two prerequisites, though, to the utilization of the committee form of arrival at a properly rounded and considered decision affecting more than one department or agency. The first is that, if it is in the general area of foreign policy, any committee should be chaired by a State Department representative and he should be a good man. He should be a strong chairman, with clearly established authority.
Senator JACKSON. And the ability to make a decision.
Ambassador MERCHANT. The ability to make a decision and not to accept the lowest common denominator of a group of men whose direct and proper interests vary enormously.
The second thing is, I think, that you should abolish all committees, say, once every year, and then only reestablish those which are clearly
justified-where the need is clearly justified. The great damage of
committees that I have seen has been where the membership is so wide : and there are so many representatives whose interests are only periph
eral or occasional, yet each member of the committee gains a vested interest in the continuation on a regular formal basis of the life of the committee.
There is nothing more interesting-foreign affairs is the most fascinating subject in the world—and if you walk down the street, I think most people who have never had any responsibility in the field would automatically say, if they had to have a job in the Government, that they would take Secretary of State. This extends to other departments and agencies of the Government.
So I think it is important that periodically you eliminate every committee and then only reestablish it if the need is justified and reestablish it with a membership which is properly concerned with the principal business of the committee.
Secondly, as I say, you need a strong and effective chairman who will make decisions.
Senator MILLER. I would like to ask you, Mr. Ambassador, this question:
What can be done to make this role of adviser more effective? I wonder if you would be good enough to go at it from two standpoints: First, at the State Department level. For example, it has been suggested to us before that there be more direct contact between the ambassador and the top people in State. This is just an example, and I would like to have your own comments.
Then the second approach would be at the ambassadorial level. Your answer just a moment ago possibly would have a bearing on that. It has been suggested, for example, that the ambassador remain in the country for a longer period of time than is presently the case. That is just an example.
I might say that I am thoroughly in agreement that the role of adviser is much more important today, and it seems to me that perhaps the role is not being implemented to the fullest. What could be done about that?
Could you talk from those two approaches?
Ambassador MERCHANT. Well, on the first observation which you made, Senator, concerning increased contact with the high officials of the Government, I feel strongly that there should be a frequent opportunity for ambassadors to return from their posts to Washington on consultation, for a period of maybe a week or 10 days. This is expensive, in the case of long-distance posts it is time consuming, but I am satisfied that unless you periodically and frequently, as an ambassador, reimmerse yourself in both the atmosphere and the stream of policymaking in Washington, you can become quite rapidly removed from reality.
Moreover, I think the signature at the bottom of an ambassador's telegram is or can be certainly more impressive with the President and the Secretary and the top hierarchy of the Department and the top officials of other Government agencies principally concerned if there is a continuing, personal, restored relationship.
As a further device for improving this contact and improving the ability of an ambassador to give reasonable advice and improving the
willingness of the policymaking officials in Washington to listen to his advice, I think the regular regional ambassadorial meeting held in the field and attended by high officials of the Department and other agencies and departments is an extremely valuable device.
It has the added virtue of giving each ambassador, as a result of the meeting, an increased realization of the regional interconnection and interrelationship of the problems he is dealing with.
So I would emphasize, even though it is expensive, the importance of regular—and I am thinking of two or three or even four times a year—returns to Washington for brief consultation, and the opportunity to discuss problems and his point of view with the top officials here in Washington.
Senator Jackson. Secretary Harriman emphasized that point strongly, as I recall. This is one of the problems in the State Department budget at the present time. With jet travel, you can move pretty fast these days.
Senator MILLER. You mentioned regional meetings. Those would probably not be quite as expensive, but how often do you think those should be conducted ?
Ambassador MERCHANT. At least once a year, and it would be useful, I think, particularly where the area is distant and obscure, maybe to hold them twice a year. I tried to hold them in Europe twice a year and we weren't successful in averaging more, I don't believe during my tenure in that position, averaging more than once every year or 15 months. This was entirely due to fiscal or budgetary considerations.
On the second point, which I think is a good one, Senator—the length of time in office-I think on balance we do keep our ambassadors too briefly at a post. One usually has to be at a post at least a year before one has gotten one's bearings, and established one's relationships, and sensed the important people that you want to cultivate and develop, and established your own rating system for the validity of the information and the soundness of the judgments that you ertract, and learned the country and its problems.
This takes at least a year. Certainly it should involve travel and avoidance of just a dependence on the rather incestuous diplomatic foreign office group which you tend to find in any capital.
I think statistically, on the average, we shift our ambassadors too frequently. I don't believe myself, however, in the validity of the practice of the Swiss and the Norwegians, for example, who tend to keep an ambassador for 10 or 15 or maybe 20 years at a single post. I think probably the optimum period is somewhere around 4 or 5 years, unless the post is of such hardship and difficulty with respect to health conditions that this is unwise.
I think after an ambassador has been at his post 3 years, if you are sitting back in a position of authority in Washington, in the State Department, I think that you want to watch pretty carefully the tone of ħis reporting and advice, because it is inevitable that ambassadors, being human beings, tend, after the period of novelty has passed, to take on one of two colorations: either they become excessively frustrated and annoyed with the government to which they are accredited, or they become such lovers of the people and the government of the country to which they are accredited that their judgment and their advice is biased in the other direction.
So I think rather than just looking at it from statistics or saying that we will have 5-year terms and only death or treason will shorten it, I think you must take into account the performance of the man in the role and the purely physical conditions which will otherwise, in a different fashion, affect his ability to perform.
Senator MILLER. Thank you. I hope you will excuse me. I have another meeting at 10 o'clock and I can't stay. It has been nice meeteing you, Mr. Ambassador.
Ambassador MERCHANT. It is nice meeting you. Thank you.
Senator Pell. Mr. Chairman, thank you. Mr. Ambassador, it is a great pleasure to be with you. In a personal way, I see some parallels in that we both seem to have a Princeton and an investment banking as well as a State Department Foreign Service background, although you went further in these fields. It is a great pleasure to be here.
The classic functions of the Ambassador abroad are to be in charge of representation, negotiating, and reporting for our Government, but I have noticed in the last few years a fourth function creeping in that usually involves more people, more paperwork, and more time, in many cases his, and that is the function of administration.
My own view, I know, is that the Foreign Service itself, and this is the view of many men in it, could be smaller in size than it presently is, because size engenders size, and Parkinson's law usually applies.
I was wondering what your view is with regard to the increasingly large number of administrative counselors, and administrators, to administer the administrators. I wonder if you have any thoughts on this subject ?
Ambassador MERCHANT. I think, myself, that there has been in the last 20 years a disproportionate numerical growth in the administrative side of our missions abroad. The problem is, of course, a complex one, and there is ample justification for an expansion on that side of the organization.
Having made my first statement, however, I think that we should remind ourselves that a large part of the administrative staffs of the Department of State, in our missions abroad, are concerned and necessarily justified by doing housekeeping and administrative work for related or attached agencies.
I dug out 2 days ago, in anticipation of coming up here, some figures which the committee no doubt has on one or two of our largest Embassies. They are always revealing, I think. If one takes the Paris Embassy, there is a total personnel in the Embassy, including locally employed members of the staff, of just about 1,000 people. The entire Foreign Service staff, which includes officers, Reserve officers, staff corps clerks, communicators, and so forth, is only 104.
Now, a very high proportion of the number of administrative personnel supplied by the State Department to the Paris Embassy are primarily concerned with doing the housekeeping for the long list of other governmental agencies which are attached to the Embassy or incorporated in it.
In addition, I think, another element which is overlooked in accounting for some of this growth, at least, is the increase in travel which the jet airplane has produced. One sees it in congressional travel, and one sees it in increased travel of the Secretary of State, and his staff, and top assistants. One sees it in increased numbers of international conferences.