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Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Transmitting Bill To Establish a National Foreign Affairs Academy

February 11, 1963

Dear Mr.____________:

I am transmitting herewith for the consideration of the Congress a bill to provide for the establishment of the National Academy of Foreign Affairs, together with a memorandum summarizing and discussing the principal provisions of the proposed legislation.

In the last quarter-century, there has been a dramatic change in the role and responsibilities of the United States in world affairs. Before the Second World War, our commitments to the world outside our own hemisphere were limited. Our role was characteristically that of observer, not of participant. Our representatives abroad concentrated on reporting events rather than on working to change either course. We had no major programs of foreign assistance or overseas information or cultural exchange.

Today we live in a new world--a world marked by the continuing threat of communism, by the emergence of new nations seeking political independence and economic growth, and by the obligations we have assumed to help free peoples maintain their freedom. To meet the challenges of this new world, we have enormously expanded and diversified our overseas commitments, operations and activities.

These operations involve virtually every department and agency of our government. Nearly a million Americans are serving our nation beyond our national frontiers. And the hopes for progress and freedom in much of the world rest in great part on the American contribution.

This new situation demands men and women capable of informed and forceful action everywhere within the economic, political and social spectrum of our concern. It requires these men and women to apply their specialized skills and experience to many diverse problems and activities, and at the same time to maintain an essential unity of purpose and action so that all these operations can be coordinated into a harmonious whole. It therefore demands a new approach to the training and education of men and women for service overseas. It calls for new proficiency in the analysis of current problems, new skill in the formulation of policy, new effectiveness in the coordination and execution of decision, new understanding of the tactics of communism and the strategy of freedom, and new preparation for the multitude of tasks which await our government personnel everywhere in the world.

The various Federal departments and agencies have already made extensive efforts to develop programs to equip their personnel for these new challenges. But a piecemeal, department-by-department approach is no longer adequate. A new institution is urgently needed to provide leadership for those efforts--to assure vigorous and comprehensive programs of training, education and research for the personnel of all departments.

The proposed National Academy of Foreign Affairs is based on recommendations made by two distinguished groups of educators and public servants. Autonomous in nature and interdepartmental in scope, the Academy would be designed to provide our foreign affairs personnel with the fundamental knowledge and understanding which is indispensable to serving our nation effectively in today's complex world. It is not intended in any way to supersede or to compete with the notable work now carried on in our colleges and universities. The central burden of basic education in foreign affairs must, of course, remain in non-governmental hands. Unlike the present Foreign Service Institute, the Academy will not be oriented primarily to the work of the Department of State alone, but will be the nucleus of Government-wide training and research in international matters. Therefore, the proposed legislation calls for the repeal of earlier legislation establishing the Foreign Service Institute and for the transfer of appropriate facilities of the Institute to the Academy. The Department of State will retain authority to provide specialized in-service training of a routine character on subjects of exclusive interest to its own personnel, as will other Federal agencies.

Nor would the Academy detract from the valuable contribution being made by our senior professional military schools. Finally, it would not propagate any single doctrine or philosophy about the conduct of foreign affairs. Such an institution can serve the cause of freedom only as it embodies the spirit of freedom, and it can fulfill its mission only by meeting the best standards of intellectual excellence and academic freedom.

The Academy is intended to enable faculty and students of the highest quality to focus our collective experience and knowledge on the issues most vital to the advancement of our national purpose. With the full backing of the government and academic community, it will, it is hoped, attract the essential leadership that will make it a great center of training, education and research in foreign affairs.

I earnestly hope that the Congress will give early and favorable consideration to this proposed legislation.



Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Lyndon B. Johnson, President of the Senate, and to the Honorable John W. McCormack, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Earlier, on December 17, 1962, the White House announced that the establishment of a National Academy of Foreign Affairs had been recommended (1) by a presidential Advisory Panel, appointed by the president in April 1962 and chaired by James A. Perkins, vice president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and (2) by the Committee on Foreign Affairs Personnel, established late in 1961 under the auspices of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and chaired by former Secretary of State Christian A. Herter. The recommendations are printed in "The Report of the President's Advisory Panel on a National Academy of Foreign Affairs," dated December 17, 1962 (Government Printing Office, 8 pp.), and in 'the Committee's report "Personnel for the New Diplomacy," dated December 196a (Judd & Detweiler, Inc., 161 pp.).

On April 5, 1963, Dr. Perkins reported to the President that a national committee had been formed consisting of some 75 leading citizens keenly interested in the development of a National Academy. The President expressed his appreciation for the support of the committee and noted that k covered a wide spectrum--education, business, finance, press, citizens groups generally, and men and women identified with foreign affairs and national security. The text of the remarks of the President and of Dr. Perkins was released by the White House.

John F. Kennedy, Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Transmitting Bill To Establish a National Foreign Affairs Academy Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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