The State Department


By HONORABLE G. HOWLAND SHAW, Assistant Secretary of State

Delivered at the World Trade Dinner of the 30th National Foreign Trade Convention, New York, October 26, 1943

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 78-80.

WE live in a Democracy. We are not the passive victims of any totalitarian system. Our foreign policy, therefore, like our domestic policy, is not the pronouncement or the plan of any small and esoteric group in the Department of State or anywhere else, but is the result of the day by day interaction of Government in both its Legislative and Executive branches and of the citizens who control that Government and to whom it belongs. Public discussion of our foreign policy and of our foreign relations is always a sign of the health and vigor of democracy, on condition, of course, that that discussion rests on a reasonably accurate foundation of information and rises to a national as distinguished from a local or partisan point of view. Giving the facts to democratic peoples is essential to the formulation of foreign policy. That is one of the responsibilities of Government. It is also the responsibility of Government to focus public attention upon the significance of these facts, to synthesize and articulate the permanent elements in the public reaction thereto and to carry out the resulting foreign policy with the maximum of skill and efficiency. But the responsibilities of Government, however effectively carried out, can never be a substitute for the exercise of the responsibilities of the citizen, and any effort to avoid those responsibilities by ascribing to Government functions which do not and must not belong to it if our democratic system is to be preserved can only be described as a symptom of totalitarianism, a flight from the obligations imposed upon all of us by our liberties.

The reciprocal Trade Agreements Act of 1934 is well and, I believe, favorably known to this audience. That Act and its inter-departmental administration over the past nine years is one of the soundest and most significant developments in establishing a working procedure for the democratic formulation and implementation of foreign policy. The trade-agreements program involves both foreign and domestic considerations of the highest order. It touches the immediate interests of foreign traders and domestic producers; it affects the general welfare of nations. In such an undertaking it would be unwise, in fact it would be impossible, for any one branch or agency of the Government to do the job alone.

The basic policy underlying the trade-agreements program of securing the mutual reduction of excessive trade barriers on a non-discriminatory basis is laid down by the Congress in the Act itself. This policy has now been three times reaffirmed by the Congress after a searching review of the operations. Few, if any, aspects of our foreign policy have had such a critical appraisal by the Democracy as has been given the trade-agreements program in the course of these periodic Congressional reviews in 1937, 1940 and again this past spring.

Not only is the trade-agreements policy itself grounded in the bedrock of democratic processes whereby every individual and every interest is given a voice in the matter through the duly constituted representatives of the people in the Congress, but the Act, and the administrative procedures which have been established, provide for the full and continuous operation of these democratic processes in carrying out the prescribed legislative policy. The Act provides that before any trade agreement can be entered into, the President must seek information and advice from the United States Tariff Commission and the Departments of State, Agriculture, and Commerce. Furthermore, in each case public notice of the intention to negotiate an agreement must be given so that, in the words of the Act, "any interested person may have an opportunity to present his views."

The Department of State therefore is far from autonomous in the administration of the trade-agreements program. The administrative procedures which have been established to carry out these provisions make this fact abundantly clear. Rather than set up a special new agency to administer the Act, the course was followed of establishing an inter-departmental organization which makes possible the pooling of all the existing resources of the Government in a cooperative effort. This inter-departmental organization has the responsibility for marshaling all available information both within and outside the Government which may be pertinent to any action under the Act. It is oppropriate that we as individual citizens should be fully aware that in the important field of international commercial policy we have been able to develop an efficient procedure within our democratic form of government for bringing the strength of united governmental and private effort to serve the best national interest.

Our trade-agreement program is but one of a great variety of complex and interrelated activities carried on by a Department of State which today is composed of sixty offices and divisions and a staff of 3,000. With many of these activities you are familiar, but I want to give you some idea of the expansion which the figures I have given represent and comment briefly upon certain of the Department's activities which bear particularly upon the present and the future.

I have spoken of a State Department personnel in Washington of 3,000. That personnel costs the American people $7,500,000 a year. Just thirty years ago in 1913, 209 persons comprised the entire staff of the Department, at a cost of $318,000. Even at the peak of the first World War the figure had only increased to 537, and as late as 1937 our staff numbered 816.

Most of the raw material which is processed in what may call the Department's assembly line reaches us in the form of telegrams, in code, and the finished product is often a telegram in the drafting of which a number of offices and divisions have collaborated. In 1939, the twenty-four hour service which we have maintained in both telegraph and cod rooms since 1917, handled 65,554 messages; in the fiscal yea ending June 30, 1943, the total had risen to 220,557 mess ages. Today we are sending and receiving about 800 mess ages a day and within the next two months we shall have passed one thousand. That is not the whole story. During the fiscal year 1943 we handled almost 2 1/2 million piece of correspondence as compared with some 350,000 pieces in 1918. Not all of the material we receive is for the exclusiveor even the primary use of the Department of State. We are now distributing to some 54 Departments and Agencies of the Government approximately 28,000 documents every month, and there is every reason to believe that the peak of that particular activity has not been reached.

So much for the Department's expansion. The variety of its activities is the next point to which I wish to call your attention. I pass over activities of which you are aware or the nature of which is clear, such as those of the Legal Adviser, the Political Advisers, the Passport and Visa Divisions, and a good many others.

It is not generally known perhaps but it is a fact that the Department of State is in the business of editing and publishing. That business is carried on by our Division of Research and Publication. Since the days of Secretary Seward we have gotten out every year anywhere from one to six volumes in the series entitled "Foreign Relations of the United States". That is a record which cannot be paralleled by any other Foreign Office. We are now engaged in publishing the records of our participation in the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. Two volumes have appeared and 20 more will follow. Material of current interest is published in the Department's weekly "Bulletin". The Department's spot news and the background material needed by newspaper correspondents who handle that news are taken care of by the Division of Current Information. That is the Department's point of contact with the press. Recently we have set up a small office the purpose of which is to maintain and develop a two-way relationship between the Department and important groups of American citizens interested in the field of international affairs. And finally there is an activity—a most important activity—which is not confined to any one Division but in which the whole Department from the Secretary down to the last Divisional Assistant shares: receiving all kinds of information—good, bad and indifferent—from all sorts of visitors. We recognize fully that accessibility to the public is a fundamental duty of any official in a democracy and I should like to take this opportunity to say with all possible emphasis that visitors are welcome at the Department of State.

As you are well aware, the Department of State, under the direction of the President, is responsible for the conduct of our foreign relations. That is a simple statement behind which lurks an exceedingly complex reality—just as complex a reality as is the modern world of commerce, industry and rapid communications. To have absorbed into the Department of State all of the activities which affect our international relations in this complex world, particularly at a time when most of that world is at war, would have been an impossible task or, if attempted, would have led to administrative chaos. The problem has been to recruit competent individuals and to establish units in the Department of State to maintain an effective two-way relationship with those other Departments and Agencies which represent a more technical and a more strictly operational interest in the foreign field. New units created in the Department within the past two years and a large part of the increase in personnel represent the Department's solution of that problem, not to mention liaison officers attached to the Department by 10 other Departments and Agencies.

If I should intimate to you that our post-war work is so organized that all that we have to do is to push a button and out would come a solution of any one of the many intricate problems that will arise once the war is over, I should thoroughly and justly discredit myself in your estimation. But I will make this statement to you and I make it without any qualification: Thanks to the organization which the President set up in the Department of State in February 1942, post-war problems, political, economic, territorial and legal, have been classified, material has been assembled concerning them and, what is more important, those problems have been analyzed by 136 specialists in the Department's employ and thoroughly discussed on a nonpartisan basis with many members of Congress and with many persons representative of the constituent elements of American public opinion: labor, industry and agriculture.

The technique of international relations is no static affair. There was a time when international relations were personal relations between sovereigns and their personal representatives: Ambassadors. That conception was long ago broadened to include relations between Governments, and now in our day is being still further broadened so that international relations are coming to be thought of more and more as relations between peoples. We have become convinced that official relations, relations between Governments, are not sufficient. Relations between peoples must be strengthened and those relations must be based on mutual knowledge, mutual understanding, and mutual respect. That convention finds expression in our cultural relations program.

Our Division of Cultural Relations was organized in 1938 and now has a staff of some 70 persons. It is concerned with the American Republics and, since 1942, with the Far East and the Near East. Its activities involve the exchange of visitors, of students and experts, and the exchange of ideas and of information in the fields of education, the radio, motion pictures, art, literature and music, and public health and public welfare. Abroad, our Embassies, Legations and Consulates play an important part in the promotion of Cultural relations.

We have come to realize that international problems and policies arise from national ideals, customs, traditions, and philosophies of life, and that mere can be no hope of reaching our goal except through knowledge and appreciation of these fundamental factors. We seek to know and understand the peoples of the world and their differing points of view and to have them learn more about us—not by telling them what they ought to be or do, still less by interference in their affairs-—but rather through working cooperatively with them in the execution of specific undertakings in the economic, social, scientific and intellectual fields and through the resulting personal associations.

The development of the Foreign Service, the personnel which represents our Government abroad, also reflects the development of our foreign relations. There was a time when we could afford the O. Henry type of Consul or the young secretary who dipped into diplomacy as an interesting and broadening educational experience before settling down to something more serious. That time has long since passed as our foreign trade has grown in importance and as we have taken our place as one of the great World Powers, with all the obligations and complexities which such a position involves. Those are the reasons why since 1924 the Congress has made it possible for us to build up a professional Foreign Service democratically recruited, genuinely representative of the American people and promoted on merit. We have recognized that remuneration must be sufficient to attract on a professional basis young men of talent and ability, and our salary and allowance scales are now therefore such that young men entering the Service can expect reasonable financial security and do not need any private income.

I want to emphasize particularly the type of young manwho now conies into the Service for the reason that that type is so completely different from the type which still lingers in the public mind. Take, for example, the group of candidates who presented themselves for examination in September, 1940. At that time 483 candidates from 168 different universities and colleges were designated to take the examinations; 45 from 26 universities were successful. These 45 successful candidates came from 19 different States, of which 4 were in the Far West, 6 in the Middle West, 4 in the South, 1 in New England and 4 in the Middle Atlantic region. Not only do our junior Foreign Service Officers come from every part of the country: they come from every walk of life. We estimate that about half of the candidates recently entering the Foreign Service have worked their way through college in whole or in part and in our judgment of their qualifications that fact counts definitely in their favor as an indication that they possess the stamina and the maturity which we are looking for. You will be interested by the following list of the occupations followed by the fathers of the successful candidates in one or our recent examinations: income tax assessor, colonel in the Army, railroad conductor, carpenter, minister of religion, headmaster of a boys' school, banker, auditor, jeweler, laborer, lawyer, sales manager, clerk and physician.

That the Service has its rewards in terms of interesting work is obvious. Many people forget, however, the darker side of the picture. For instance, the Foreign Service in some parts of the world—China, Ethiopia and Spain—was under fire and working under war conditions for a period antedating by several years the outbreak of war in Europe. With the outbreak of that war I need only mention the experience of our Foreign Service establishments at Warsaw, Rotterdam, London, and at practically all of the cities in Great Britain in which we maintained Consulates during the period of 1940-41. Subsequently, one Foreign Service post after another in Europe came under fire, to be followed by similar occurrences in the Far. East as in the cases of Shanghai, Hongkong, Singapore and our posts in the East Indies.

We have another type of post, the maintenance of which has been necessitated by war needs, where danger from military operations is not present, but where the mere adjustment to climate, living conditions and isolation is a constant challenge to the morale of the men involved. As an example I have in mind a young officer who was sent to open an office at a small post in the tropics. The climate was dangerously unhealthy; there was little more than a main street lined with unprepossessing buildings to enliven his life and the amenities upon which you and I rely and which we take for granted were non-existent. That officer could not find living quarters and finally established his home in a room in the local hospital. Our personnel assigned to Iceland and Greenland cannot but suffer from the extreme isolation inevitable in those northerly areas and similarly officers and clerks who must work in the far interiors of some of the South American countries, where their presence is necessary in connection with rubber procurement projects or for other war purposes, must meet the burden of continual discomfort. There are even those who would place Washington in this category of posts.

The Foreign Service has been represented as a tea-drinking group of individuals. To some extent that is quite true. We do drink tea, but we do so as a rule because in certain areas to which we are assigned the water supply is polluted and we want to avoid typhoid fever, amoebic dysentery and other water-borne diseases.

The war has made heavy demands upon the Service of an ever-changing nature. While our Foreign Service establishments have been reduced in number from 300 to 267 (the latter figure including a number of new offices opened to meet war needs) personnel has had to be greatly increased. In London our Embassy, with a normal peacetime staff of about 135, now employs 273 persons; in Rio de Janeiro the staff has grown from 41 to 210; and in Stockholm from 24 to 113. I need not add that anything approaching normal office hours has been all but forgotten.

Our need for additional field personnel arose at a time when, because of the war and the increasing manpower shortage, we were seriously hampered in recruiting, and because no examinations for the permanent Service have been held since September, 1941. To meet this situation, we have set up the so-called Foreign Service Auxiliary. The need for personnel was anticipated well in advance of our entry into the war, so that by December 7, 1941, we had the nucleus of a group of specialists to serve for the duration of the emergency who were rapidly acquiring a grasp of the practical problems with which they would have to deal. Today we have 438 Auxiliary Officers and 493 Auxiliary clerks to supplement the regular Foreign Service organization of 839 officers and 2,870 clerks, making a total field force of 1,277 officers and 3,363 clerks.

It is certain that the tasks which the Foreign Service will face at the close of the war will involve collaboration with other agencies of the Government dealing with such specialized problems as relief in various forms, the rehabilitation of industries, the rebuilding of bombed areas, and the restoration of normal trade and economic reconstruction generally. We shall find, therefore, that in addition to the trained Foreign Service officers which we now have—men with a general background of government, political science, administration, international relations, languages, et cetera—we shall have an immediate need for specialized personnel —men to serve as attaches with technical training in agriculture, commercial, industrial and financial matters, mining, transportation, and at least for a time in the field of social security and related matters. We shall have to attach to our offices abroad experienced technical men from the Departments of Commerce, Agriculture, Labor, the Bureau of Mines, and other Departments and Agencies. Such officers may well be integrated into the Foreign Service for stated periods and provision made for their return to their own Departments in Washington when their services abroad are terminated. In addition to these, we must have permanent special, technical and scientific personnel and a permanent skilled administrative group, which will have a recognized status in the Service, occupying an intermediate position between the clerks of lesser responsibility and the chief of mission or principal Foreign Service officer. Many of our experienced clerks, who have spent their lives in the Foreign Service, are qualified to fit into this group. It is probable that instead of one type of examination for entrance to the Service we shall have several different types to enable an even broader recruiting than at present.

Of course the Department of State and the Foreign Service are not perfect organizations. There is nothing perfect in a democracy except the democratic ideal and occasionally the quality of some of the efforts which are made to achieve that ideal. I want to leave with you, however, the picture of a group of officials, alert to their responsibilities to the public and keenly aware that we live in an age of rapid change. We shall do our part to the very best of our ability. We hope and we believe that you will do yours, so that together we may fashion a Foreign Policy worthy of our democracy.