Can Putin Survive?
The Lessons of the Soviet Collapse
THE history of political science might be described in terms of a pendulum--preoccupation with the mechanisms of government alternating with neglect of these mechanisms. Between the two world wars the pendulum swung to the first extreme. The attention of political scientists was focussed upon the apparatus of government and upon the juridical forms in which policy was expressed. The make-up of the League of Nations and article-by-article examinations of its Covenant were fashionable topics of scholarly research. Much of this work was of value, but it often ignored the fact that decisions are made by men, not machinery.
The direction taken by political scientists since World War II represents a reaction to the overemphasis put by their teachers on the study of organizational forms. The reaction has been a healthy one. Today the political scientist is interested in the "decision-maker," the forces which influence him, his relations with other decision-makers--in the politics of the decision-making process, not its mechanics. The risk in this approach is clear: it is sometimes forgotten that institutions influence men as well as the other way around. It may be that the most important thing to know about Mr. Stans is that he is the Director of the Bureau of the Budget.
No one denies the importance of leadership. The free world is being tried in a life-and-death contest that is novel in nature and therefore unprecedented in the demands it makes on its leaders. We are at war, and precisely because the guns are not being fired, we need leaders who can teach us the necessity and the art of waging the war that looks like a peace. By outdoing us in science and economics, in preparedness and persuasion, the Communists plan to gain a preponderance that will bring them triumph by our default. Rare qualities of leadership are required to rouse free men to meet this challenge.
As we enter the 1960s, two possibilities face the United States. We, and other free nations, may fail to outperform the adversary and to hold the outward push of Communism from its centers in Moscow and Peking; or we may succeed, thereby creating the preconditions for a hopeful evolution of world affairs. The most important fact for Americans to understand as we enter this new decade is that either outcome is possible. Although the expression has a Sunday-supplement ring, the 1960s will be a decade of decision--or decadence. We can either fritter away or preserve our chance for survival in freedom. Which outcome it will be depends largely on the quality of our leadership.
I do not think that our friends abroad will misunderstand if an American observes that the President of the United States is, in our time, primus inter pares in the councils of the free. The burden of inspiring and directing our united efforts to survive in freedom falls more heavily on him than on any other single man. Atlas is his symbol, and I do not mean the missile.
Yet organization, too, is a critical factor. Its importance should not need defense in the United States. Organizational innovations and inventions--like the assembly line--have been among America's greatest contributions to economic progress. It has long been a high compliment in business and the labor movement and generally in our society to be called a "good organizer."
Today the policy road between Washington and an embassy officer in Indonesia, a military field commander in Germany, an information officer in Peru, a technical assistance worker in Ghana, a scientist in a top-secret weapons laboratory, or the teacher who trained him and the taxpayer who pays the teacher is tortuous and long. Complex governmental processes and structures are necessarily required to translate the national will into coherent and effective programs of action.
The plain fact is that good policy demands both good men and good machinery. And though it may be true that good men can triumph over poor machinery, it is also true that they are more effective when they work with good machinery.
It has been almost 13 years since the Congress took a look at the organization of the government for making and executing national security policy. The National Security Act of 1947, which created the National Security Council, was essentially a codification of the lessons of World War II.
The new means of warfare have made obsolete the ancient distinctions between foreign and domestic policy. We have seen a multiplication of the material resources required for national security. Wholly new demands upon our intellectual resources and new problems of integrating science and politics have arisen.
With these things in mind, the Senate last summer authorized a comprehensive review of our national policy-making machinery. The Subcommittee on National Policy Machinery, of which I have the honor to be Chairman, was instructed to study the effectiveness of present methods of making policy and to make such proposals for improvement as may be appropriate. The President has assured the coöperation of the Executive branch with the Subcommittee and the review is being conducted in a nonpartisan spirit. My colleagues and I have as our common ambition an objective, workmanlike approach to the problem of organization which will, we hope, achieve some early constructive reforms and thus be useful to the Democrat or Republican who becomes our next President.
The Executive branch of the federal establishment directs incredibly complex undertakings. As never before, the Chief Executive must be a jack-of-all-trades, and master of most.
In addition to multifarious domestic policies and programs, his is by law and custom the pivotal role in national security affairs. He is responsible for the conduct of foreign relations, the command of the armed services, budget-making, the application of science to defense, and the making of national strategy. He is the chief expositor and defender of national security policies to the Congress and to the people.
The times have created a new Presidency, one far more demanding than in the more quiet past. It is therefore critically important to organize the Executive branch so as to give the President all possible assistance with a job that can never be done as well as it needs to be. Because men differ in their approaches to their tasks, each President needs great freedom to adjust the machinery of the Executive branch to meet his peculiar needs.
The National Security Act of 1947 created a new tool, the National Security Council, for use by the President in the making of national security policy. The N.S.C. is charged with advising the President "with respect to the integration of domestic, foreign, and military policies relating to the national security . . . . " The recognition of the need for integration was perhaps more important than the new organizational hat which the President's principal advisers don once a week.
However this may be, the N.S.C. has proved to be an adaptable institution which President Truman and President Eisenhower have used in different ways. Originally conceived as a small gathering of the President's most trusted advisers, where key issues could be explored with the frankness inseparable from intimacy, it has grown into a numerous group with an agenda often crowded with routine papers. To its critics, it has become a "paper mill." To its defenders, however, it is an indispensable means for the orderly, systematic and exhaustive consideration of issues.
The principle of coördinating and integrating departmental views at the highest level of government is good. Indeed, as someone has said, "If there were no N.S.C., we would have to invent one." It is important to give all concerned a chance to state their views and to carry clearly defined disagreements to the President for decision. There is no doubt that the Council's devoted staff has this conception of its function or that the many procedural changes of the past several years have been intended to make the N.S.C. a better instrument for achieving this result.
Nevertheless, the smoke of criticism is so heavy that one suspects fire. Perhaps the dissatisfaction stems from unrealistically high expectations about the Council. It is, after all, simply an interdepartmental committee at the Cabinet level. It therefore shares the familiar limitations of the committee system, with its built-in bias toward compromise and lowest-common-denominator solutions, toward busy-work and, when attendance grows too large, toward speech-making rather than a real exchange of views.
On the basis of our studies to date, it is my belief that the Council might be more helpful to the President if it concentrated its attention on a small number of key issues as against an effort to cover the waterfront. Indeed, the Council's most important role may be to expose the President to the gales of controversy rather than to grind out position papers for his approval. The Presidency is a lonely and, strangely enough, isolated office and if its occupant is to provide the leadership we need, he should not be shielded from but become involved in the consideration of the hard central issues of survival. I hope that trends in this direction will be encouraged. More use is being made of so-called "discussion papers," designed to sharpen issues for debate, and this is all to the good, for it is out of genuine debate in the presence of the President that true integration and coördination of policy emerge.
In our time, when providing for national security is by far the most expensive activity of government, the N.S.C. process and the budget process should be closely related. Today these two central processes proceed quite independently of each other, with the result that budgetary decisions often in fact nullify or drastically change the intent of decisions presumably taken in the N.S.C. Minor steps have been taken to relate the two processes, but without, it appears, much success, and ways need to be found to bring about a real meshing of the two.
The role of the Executive office in the national security process is itself a controversial question. Every President needs staff assistance, sources of advice and information in addition to the line departments, and the counsel of men who, like the President, must rise above parochialism. Every President must also guard against eroding the prestige of the departments and be wary of advice from bureaucratic ivory towers, remote from the hue and cry of the day's business.
Under President Eisenhower there has been a tendency for the center of gravity in national security affairs to shift toward the Executive office. The President's immediate staff has been strengthened in numbers and broadened in scope. Some feel that this change is in the right direction and that national security planning should be concentrated in a staff at the Presidential level large enough to include experts on all relevant aspects of foreign affairs, defense, science, economics and so on. In this view, the departments and agencies should devote themselves mainly to operations, leaving to a central staff the primary role in the formulation of advice on policy.
Others feel that sensible advice on policy must spring from day-in day-out efforts to deal with operating problems. They would like to see influence shift back toward the departments and strongly oppose the conception of the N.S.C. as a policy planning organization equipped with its independent staff of experts. They would, however, retain the N.S.C. itself as a forum where the President's principal advisers would thoroughly debate key policy issues in the presence of, and with guidance from, the President. Some subordinate machinery would probably be needed to perform the functions of a central secretariat.
My own view tends toward a middle position. The President must, of course, rely for advice primarily on his principal assistants--the chiefs of the departments and agencies--and they, in turn, must look primarily to their staffs for help in advising the President. In this sense the dominant influences on national security planning will always lie in the departments. At the same time, however, a case can be made for the establishment, within the Executive office but separate from the N.S.C., of a group of advisers and experts to whom the President could look for additional counsel from a perspective different from that of operating agencies. Such a group should in no way stand between the President and his principal advisers. On the contrary, it should clearly stand outside the chain of command, having only staff functions.
The departments having key responsibilities are, of course, State and Defense. The roles and relationships of these two departments therefore deserve and have received special attention.
Changing circumstances have created a new Secretaryship of State, just as they have created a new Presidency. Today the Secretary of State must be more than the nation's chief diplomat. As the President's principal adviser on foreign affairs, he needs a thorough knowledge of the relations between military and foreign policies, of the uses and limitations of economic and military aid, of informational and cultural programs, of the strengths and weaknesses of allied, friendly and adversary states, and of the working of many international institutions.
Under both President Truman and President Eisenhower, the occupant of the office of Secretary of State has been the dominant figure in national security planning. Former Secretary of State Acheson took the leading role in the reformulation of policy following Russia's emergence as a nuclear power in the fall of 1949. It is no longer a secret, if it ever was, that the debate between Mr. Acheson and Mr. Johnson over the need for increased preparedness was sharp and crucial or that it involved issues, including budgetary matters, which could be resolved only by the President. The late Secretary Dulles was clearly President Eisenhower's single most influential adviser on foreign policy during his years of service, though, curiously enough, judging by his appearances before Senate committees, Mr. Dulles seemed not to be well informed on military-scientific developments having an important bearing on foreign policy and tended to regard budgetary questions as being outside his proper concern.
Apart from the President, the Secretary of State is the officer mainly responsible for defining our national security goals. It is less and less possible, however, to divorce means and ends in planning for national security. Objectives and the military, economic and other capabilities available to pursue them are inextricably intertwined. This bespeaks the need for the closest possible relationships between the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, the Director of the Bureau of the Budget, and others, and at all levels between State, Defense and the other agencies concerned.
Although it appears to be true that the once almost impassable Potomac dividing State from Defense has been successfully bridged so far as day-to-day operations are concerned, it is not so clear that relations are satisfactorily close in policy formulation.
I have often learned to my surprise and disappointment in recent years that research and development in Defense are proceeding without any foreign policy guidance and without any consideration of the foreign policy implications of weapons developments. At the same time, foreign policy is being conducted without knowledge of scientific and technological developments that might have an important bearing on our position in the world. The failure to launch a satellite ahead of the Russians and the lag in the development of the intercontinental ballistic missile provide classic examples. There is a need for what someone has called "middlemen of ideas" in State and Defense, and perhaps also in the White House, who can keep their chiefs better informed on developments of interest to them in other departments and areas. Efforts have been made to develop mechanisms for the exchange of information and ideas across departmental boundaries--notably the "briefing" session--but I am about persuaded that the need is less for mechanisms of this kind than for the development of a corps of people with wide and varied experience.
This line of thought has led me to consider the possibilities of interchanging people between State and Defense and perhaps other agencies, so that more of our career officers would gain the understanding of the other fellow's problems that comes from working on them. One interesting suggestion is that we might create at the top career level a joint career service, members of which would not be tied to a particular department but would be available for special assignments in accordance with changing needs and circumstances. Such a service, if the necessary personnel arrangements could be made, might include both civilian and military officers. Its members might also be given special opportunities for advanced training, perhaps in institutions of higher learning but perhaps also by being afforded periods for study, reflection and writing in small seminars devoted to some critical national problem. The seminars might include members of the services, scholars and others with a contribution to make.
It may be that both the Secretaries of State and Defense need to obtain greater assistance from experts in a wide variety of fields. The problem is not one of enabling the Secretary of State, for example, to arrive at independent decisions on military policy or of giving the Secretary of Defense his own miniature State Department, but of keeping Cabinet officers informed in a time when it is becoming ever more difficult for the expert to communicate with those holding the highest political offices.
There may be other ways by which State, Defense and other agencies could be brought closer together to their mutual advantage. At times good use has been made of special State-Defense groups to prepare policy proposals on emerging problems. Increased use of this device may be desirable, especially if one man is made chairman with power of decision. The interdepartmental committee system now consumes endless hours with inconclusive results, resembling a negotiation between sovereign states when neither is willing to break off negotiations or to yield its position. Interdepartmental committees are essential to assure that all concerned have an opportunity to be heard, but there comes a time when a chairman, representing the department having primary responsibility, should be able to close the debate and make his recommendations. The dissenting view can always be expressed by the Secretary concerned when the matter reaches the N.S.C.
A better integration of military and foreign policy might be encouraged if Congress asked the Secretary of State to testify on the foreign policy implications of our defense posture and budget. The Secretary would, of course, defend the President's program, but there are degrees of warmth. In addition, the requirement might lead the Secretary of State to take a more active part in the preparation of the military program and in the budgetary process.
If the Secretary of State is to take a larger role in defense and budget policy, it may be necessary to lighten his burden as the nation's chief diplomat. One possible way to do this would be to create a new Cabinet-level post, perhaps called Minister of Foreign Affairs, the holder of which, subject to the direction of the Secretary of State, would be able to represent the United States at foreign ministers' meetings and other international gatherings.
In addition, I believe the Congress should face up to the problem of rapid turnover at the Cabinet and sub-Cabinet level. Our studies of turnover in the Department of Defense clearly indicate that, with few exceptions, Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries do not remain on the job long enough to master what must be among the most complex jobs in the world. I am sure that no business enterprise would succeed if its top officers came and went as rapidly as the men on whom we rely to direct our military establishment. The revolving-door principle of staffing these critical jobs is incompatible with their successful performance and indeed threatens to undermine the principle of civilian control at the very point in history when the skills and talents of the civilian have become essential even to the military art.
The wise determination of national security requirements and of the economic capabilities of the nation to meet them is of central, perhaps decisive, importance. In the last 15 years a quantum jump has occurred in the demands which national security makes upon the economy. The problem is twofold: to allocate a given quantity of resources wisely among competing programs, and to provide additional resources where and when they are needed.
The resource-allocating mechanism is the budget, which lies at the heart of national security planning and programming. Policies without resources are nothing but aspirations. Only when resources are allocated does an aspiration become a policy decision. As indicated earlier, the policy-making processes of the National Security Council are not now closely related to the budgetary process. This means that policy decisions, presumably made through N.S.C. channels, are in fact made in the complicated bargaining that occurs in the preparation of the budget.
The faults of the budget are ancient, if not honorable. Ideally, the budget should present a clear picture of what our goals are and of how we propose to accomplish them. It should be an illuminating document. As it is now and has long been prepared, it is not illuminating. The budget categories conceal rather than reveal, for example, the nature of our preparedness for various military contingencies. As a Senator and former Congressman who has conscientiously tried to do his homework on the budget, I must say that one is tempted to throw up his hands in frustration. It is impossible to discover what the figures mean, and even after prolonged inquiry, conducted when necessary in executive session, one still seldom feels that one has anything like an adequate understanding of what the proposed budget will accomplish. Sometimes I seriously doubt that the witnesses from the Executive branch really understand the budgetary provisions they are defending.
The art of budget-making is one which Americans are thought to have mastered. Effective use of the budget is made by many progressive concerns as a planning and resource-allocating device. But the federal budget is deficient from almost every point of view. It obscures the distinction between initial capital costs and recurring operational costs. It seldom projects program expenditures more than one year ahead. It does not indicate in understandable terms what results a given expenditure is supposed to buy. It does not reveal how shifts in policy are reflected in expenditures. It gives one very little confidence that more important items always have priority over less important. It does not show what could be obtained with additional expenditures or what would be lost if expenditures were reduced. It is written in a jargon that defies comprehension.
The budget also fails to project the country's economic growth into the future, so that present and future spending can be intelligently related to present and future economic capabilities. The idea that the budget itself should be useful as an instrument for fostering economic growth has never really become an accepted notion in any administration.
In this unhappy, even dangerous, situation the Subcommittee on National Policy Machinery has been led to consider whether the budget message and document should be revised or supplemented by a major new annual report, which might be called the President's Requirements and Resources Report. A revised budget or a new report should have, I believe, these main characteristics: (1) it should define our long-range strategy for national security; (2) it should contain a carefully worked-out statement of requirements over the long haul for foreign policy, defense and related domestic policies, indicating priorities and relationships between programs and strategy; (3) it should similarly state the resources needed to meet these requirements in financial and physical terms; (4) it should relate requirements and needed resources to the nation's present and future economic capacities; and (5) it should contain recommendations for action to provide the resources needed for security.
A budget document or a new report along these lines would greatly assist the Congress to obtain an understanding of what we are trying to accomplish and why, and of what we must do to achieve our goals. It would help to focus attention on our national security program as a whole in preparation for the consideration of specific budget items.
But perhaps even more important, it would be a powerful device for developing informed public discussion and debate about our national security policy. It is not surprising that the public seems apathetic about almost everything except the total budgetary request and its implications for taxes, when the ordinary citizen cannot hope to understand what it is that the proposed budget is intended to accomplish. It is deeply disturbing to me that the discussion of the budget inside and outside the Congress plays such a small part in informing all of us about the plans and programs on which our survival in freedom depends.
The contest in which we are engaged is one which severely tests our free society. We have the human and material resources to meet the challenge of the 1960s--if we will use them. Leadership is essential; sound policy is essential; but better organization is the third leg of the stool. The problems of organization deserve creative, imaginative thought and above all the willingness to adjust our institutions to meet the demands of a conflict we did not choose and must not lose.