THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
Service officer when making the choice. It
certainly wasn’t the case when Colin Pow-
ell succeeded me. The president looked
upon him as an individual. He had worked
with him; he had confidence in him. I
don’t think that there is any institutional
bias in the White House against picking
FSOs as national security advisors. On the
other hand, the various presidents, from
time to time, have expressed views about
the Foreign Service, not all of which have
To the best of your knowledge, how
has Cabinet-level decision-making
involving the State Department, the
Defense Department and the National
Security Council changed in the past
two years? What is the role of ideology today?
All I can do is address the current situation. I think most people
are agreed that the working relationships between State, Defense
and the National Security Council have never been better. When
we are in town, [Secretary of State] George [Shultz], [National
Security Council Chairman] Colin [Powell] and I meet every
morning at 7 a.m. Nobody else is in the room, which is unusual in
itself. I can’t recall this ever happening before. We compare notes
every day, and on Mondays we talk about longer-range matters.
We are in constant communication. This doesn’t mean we agree
all the time. Where we disagree, we sort it out in private. So, my
own feeling is that the relationships are now excellent.
As far as ideology is concerned, it’s the president who sets the
tone for the administration; it’s his responsibility to deal with the
broad policy issues, the public posture and the role of ideology.
The secretaries of Defense and State, and the national security
advisor are not independent entities; we are appointed by the
president to respond to his guidance.
Given the enormous and sprawling nature of government
departments, what thoughts do you—as the head of the largest
of these—have on controlling policy activities across a wide
array of complex issues?
The key throughout my years has been to appoint good
people, and change them if they don’t work out. What you have to
do once you move into one of these jobs is to make your person-
nel moves quickly, because if you don’t, you get caught up in the
day-to-day business and never make them.
I’ve been a little handicapped in this job because of the pro-
longed confirmation process and it being so late in the adminis-
tration, I haven’t been
able to make a large
number of changes. I
have made some. Anyone
who comes into an
agency—even a modest-
sized one—thinking he
can run it all by himself is
in for a very rough time.
Also, to the degree
that you can, you have
to make sure that the
lines of responsibility and
accountability are clear.
That’s always a problem in
government because Con-
gress—particularly with the
Department of Defense—
likes to interfere with those lines. There’s hardly a bill that comes
out of Congress that doesn’t have some operational change for
the Defense Department. Finally, you need to motivate your
people so that they can assume the full degree of responsibility
they are accorded.
Fifteen years ago you said that some of the finest manage-
ment talent in the world serves in the federal government.
Would youmake the same claim today?
I think yes. I think we have very fine management talent, but I
have to say in all candor that sometimes I think we’re losing it. It’s
very hard to get people to serve in the government today. It’s much
harder than it was 15 years ago. There’s the question of compensa-
tion, which is a very real question. There’s the question of divesti-
ture. There’s the question of constant exposure to public criticism.
But probably most serious of all is that the process itself
has become so complicated. It’s very difficult to get somebody
through the process, and it becomes increasingly hard to achieve
your goals. Most people come into the government because
they’re goal-oriented, they have a certain amount of idealism, a
certain amount of conviction, and want to achieve something.
Now, today, with the tension between the executive and
legislative branches, with all the regulations and legislation, and
the tendency for every policy decision to become public before
it is necessarily finalized or can be defended, it is very difficult to
accomplish things. Also, there’s the tendency of some politicians
in both parties to make government employees political scape-
goats. I think we have good people, but we need to worry about