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Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House on the Need for a Unified and Flexible Foreign Affairs Personnel System

May 06, 1965

Dear Mr. President: (Dear Mr. Speaker: )

In my message of January 14, 1965, to the Congress relative to foreign aid, I stated that we would develop "a program which is designed to strengthen the personnel capabilities of all the foreign affairs agencies of the Government."

As part of this program, I have already taken certain important steps. On April 13, 1965, I transmitted for the advice and consent of the Senate a list of 760 USIA career officers for appointment as Foreign Service Officers. By this action, we take a big step towards a unified and flexible career Foreign Service of the United States better equipped to meet the pressing needs of modern diplomacy. Today I have signed an Executive Order "Providing for the Appointment in the Competitive Service of Certain Present and Former Officers and Employees of the Foreign Service." This will permit qualified Foreign Service personnel to obtain appointments to Civil Service positions without re-examination. This will assist me in placing the right man in the right job.

The appointment of U.S. Information Agency officers as Foreign Service Officers and the signing of this order are two steps in the plan to improve and strengthen the administration of personnel employed in the agencies whose business is foreign affairs. Additional reforms will require legislation. Towards this end, there is pending in the House of Representatives a measure (H.R. 6277) to provide much needed Amendments to the Foreign Service Act of 1946. That bill has been ably developed by Congressman Wayne Hays of Ohio, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on State Department Organization and Foreign Operations, fob lowing discussions with Administration officials. Enactment of a bill along the lines of the Hays bill is another vital step.

I urge the Congress to enact amendments to the Foreign Service Act this year. I say "this year," so that the Secretary of State and I, and the other officials, can get on with the task of providing the very best personnel system we can produce for foreign affairs.

Our ability to seize the opportunities and to use our vast resources to further the aims of the United States foreign policy must in large measure rest on the dedication and capabilities of people involved in our foreign activities. In no other area of governmental activity is it more vital to our national interest to develop and retain a corps of well-qualified men and women. It must also attract the outstanding youth of today so that tomorrow's work will be in capable hands.

The new system we seek to establish will be based on the following principles:

(a) There will be a single Foreign Affairs personnel system, broad enough to accommodate the personnel needs--domestic as well as overseas--of the Department of State, the Agency for International Development, and the U.S. Information Agency, and to cover appropriate personnel of other agencies engaged in foreign affairs.

(b) This system must be fully responsive to Presidential requirements and the changing conditions in our foreign relations.

(c) Although certain basic policies and perquisites will be applied to all members of the system, full recognition will be given to the differences between the various categories of personnel and their respective conditions of service.

(d) The heads of the participating agencies will be responsible for implementing personnel policies and for the management control of their own personnel.

(e) Free interchange of personnel among the foreign affairs agencies and between these agencies and the other departments and agencies of the Executive Branch will be sought.

(f) Maximum flexibility will be sought in the assignment process to enable management to meet unique requirements and crisis conditions with maximum efficiency and at a minimum cost.

(g) Increased coordination with the Civil Service system will be provided by closer liaison with the Civil Service Commission on various personnel activities.

(h) Appointments, promotions and selection-out of personnel will be based on the principle of competitive evaluation.

To carry out these principles, legislation is needed to do a number of things. Among these are:

(1) Provide a new category of professional career officers who would serve in the Foreign Service without time limitation, primarily for service in this country. This category should be called Foreign Affairs Officers. They should have personal rank and be subject to the same merit principles with respect to appointment, promotion, and selection-out as the other categories. Provision should be made for Foreign Affairs Officers of classes 1, 2, and 3 to be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, and those of classes 4 through 8 to be appointed by the President alone or by the Secretary of State when directed by the President.

(2) Provide a transitional period of three years during which civil service employees of the foreign affairs agencies may decide to become participants in the new system without screening and without loss of compensation. Those who do not wish to participate will be assisted in obtaining suitable employment in other Government agencies. But after the transitional period the dual Foreign Service-Civil Service personnel systems of the foreign affairs agencies would be ended, and only the unified Foreign Service would apply. The Secretary of State will be responsible for its overall management.

(3) Eliminate restrictions on the periods of service of Foreign Service personnel in the headquarters of Government agencies.

(4) Reduce the requirements regarding length of service in other Government agencies prior to establishing eligibility for appointment into the Foreign Service officer classes 1 through 7.

(5) Eliminate present restrictions on reappointments of Foreign Service Reserve officers.

(6) Permit extension of selection-out and severance pay provisions, now limited to Foreign Service officers, to all officers and employees of the Foreign Service.

To meet the present-day realities of service abroad, legislation also is needed to provide important changes in benefits available to Foreign Service personnel. These have been made necessary by trouble-spot situations of service, such as in the Congo or in Viet-Nam. It is only right that we properly and compassionately look after the men and women whom we must send to such places to do our Government's business. These changes are:

--Amendment to the Annual and Sick Leave Act to permit continuation of employees in duty status if they incur injury or illness arising from a hostile act in line of duty or stemming from the fact that they were located abroad.

--Amendment to the Overseas Differentials and Allowances Act to permit increasing the differential from the present limit of 25 % to a limit of 50% when an employee is assigned duty in a foreign area where there is unusual danger of injury directly due to hostile activity.

--Amendment to the Foreign Service Act, Section 911, to permit the payment of travel expenses of employees and dependents when warranted by extraordinary conditions, or circumstances involving unusual personal hardship.

Representatives of the Department of State, the Civil Service Commission, and others are prepared to explain the Administration's position on this measure and to help in any way they can.



[Honorable Hubert H. Humphrey, President of the Senate, Washington, D.C.; Honorable John W. McCormack, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.]

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I have today written the enclosed letters to the Congress regarding our program for strengthening the personnel capabilities of all the foreign affairs agencies of the Government. I have also signed the Executive Order "Providing for the Appointment in the Competitive Service of Certain Present and Former Officers and Employees of the Foreign Service."

These documents emphasize the need for legislative action this year. I ask you and other interested officials to do all you can to assure timely enactment.

It is important in the management of foreign affairs that you and I have the improved legal framework for foreign affairs personnel that the proposed amendments to the Foreign Service Act will provide. I fully support the objectives of the proposed foreign affairs personnel program and would appreciate it if you would assume responsibility for its full development and implementation.

I also ask that you work with the Civil Service Commission and the Bureau of the Budget in undertaking necessary and adequate consultations with representatives of affected employee groups. We must be sure to protect the legitimate interests of everyone involved. It is very important that both officers and memberships of employee organizations understand what reforms we are attempting to bring about.

I shall expect you to insure that personnel policies and actions of the Department, AID, and USIA are guided by uniform standards and criteria. Perhaps this could be accomplished through continued use of the Board of the Foreign Service, including on it representatives of AID and USIA. I shall expect the continued fair administration of the Foreign Service, with due regard to the principles of merit, that has been the mark of that Service since its modernization under the Rogers Act in 1924.

Because the proposed amendments will expand the coverage of the Foreign Service Act to additional employees of agencies other than the Department of State, a broadened interagency role will result for those involved in the administration of the Act. Accordingly, while the Director General of the Foreign Service will continue to be appointed by the Secretary of State, I would believe it appropriate that, when any future appointment to that position is proposed, you consult with the heads of other agencies participating in the foreign affairs personnel system and obtain the President's approval before the appointment is made.

Our continued high goal is to get the very best people we can to do the work of this Government. Work in foreign affairs is particularly important. It must be so managed with such skill and dedication as to assure success in our relations with other countries.

I have the highest appreciation of the abilities and devotion of all those who are now working in the foreign affairs field. Enactment of a legal framework unifying them into a single foreign affairs personnel system will enhance their total usefulness to their country. I am confident the new Foreign Service will make us better able to fulfill America's role throughout the world.



[Honorable Dean Rusk, Secretary of State, Washington, D.C.]

Note: The President referred to Executive Order 11219 "Providing for the appointment in fie competitive service of certain present and former officers and employees of the Foreign Service" (30 F.R. 6381; 3 CFR, 1965 Supp.).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House on the Need for a Unified and Flexible Foreign Affairs Personnel System Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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