Courtesy Reuters

Computers, Program Management and Foreign Affairs

Two recent Presidential directives provide the framework for testing the application of the newest tools of information technology to the conduct of foreign affairs. If such tools are effectively applied and gain wider acceptance they could radically affect the management and even the substance of international relations.

On October 12, 1965, the President "directed the introduction of an integrated programming-planning-budgeting system [P.P.B.S.] in the executive branch," including the State Department. The system is a management method for measuring the effectiveness of expenditures in reaching program goals and had marked success when introduced by Secretary McNamara in the Defense Department. In implementing this system within the Defense Department there has been wide use of computer technology. Similar systems and technology are now being proposed and tested for the needs of the State Department.

The second directive was issued on March 4, 1966, when the President "directed the Secretary of State . . . to assume authority and responsibility for the overall direction, coördination and supervision of interdepartmental activities of the United States Government overseas." Within certain limitations, the Secretary now has the charter to become the manager of our foreign affairs rather than merely the coördinator.

The success with which the Secretary manages the State Department will depend to a major extent on his ability to meet its requirements for information and communications. These are now so complex that the question is no longer whether technology should be applied to meet them, but how. The success of such technology within the Department depends critically on three factors: (1) sound analysis at the highest level of the information needs of the Department; (2) the effective application of information technology to these needs, rather than simply the mechanization of the current inadequate information systems; and (3) the communication of the information thus collected to those who need and must act upon it.

To those who conduct our foreign affairs, as to the manager of a private enterprise, information technology poses not only questions of application but also challenges of

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