Secretary of State George P. Shultz, concerned about U.S. embassies' foot-dragging on security improvements against terrorist attack, has begun demanding a daily account of progress from those responsible for their implementation.
Speaking to reporters as he returned from three days in Central America, Shultz said Friday that he was trying "to tighten up this chain of command tremendously" in the State Department. The daily meetings, which began Oct. 6, are part of "a full-court press on this subject" that will continue indefinitely, Shultz said.
Shultz was responding to questions about the administration's apparent lack of response to three terrorist bombings of U.S. facilities in Lebanon in the face of repeated assurances that all necessary security precautions were being taken.
He indicated that he had had problems getting his orders carried out.
"As far as chain-of-command-type issues are concerned, government is very different from business . . . . In business you had to be very careful when you told somebody that's working for you to do something, because the chances were very high that he'd do it. In government you didn't have to worry about that, because if he didn't like it there'd be a 'reclama,' " a formal objection, Shultz said.
He noted that government officials from agencies other than the State Department, such as Commerce or Labor, often outnumbered the striped-pants set in embassies.
"It's understood that the ambassador is in charge," Shultz said. "At the same time, people from all the different agencies report back to their agency, so the degree to which he is in charge is always ambiguous."
When the ambassador "whacks pretty hard" on another department's employes, he said, "there's hell to pay."
He continued, "I think there are areas where we just have to have a kind of chain-of-command approach to things, where we say, 'This is the answer. Do it and don't argue about it.' Certainly by this time we all must see that the security issue is one of those issues.
"There is, within the department, a clear recognition of what the right chain of command is, but we have to really emphasize it and see that decisions are made and carried out, and if somebody doesn't like it, too bad, we're going to do it," he continued. "That'll mean you don't take as much time to touch every base under the sun, but there's got to be action."
Shultz said that when he is here he meets daily with Undersecretary for Management Ronald I. Spiers, Assistant Secretary Robert E. Lamb, and Lamb's deputy, David Fields, as well as Robert Oakley, director of the department's Office of Counterterrorism and Emergency Planning, and others.
When Shultz is out of town, Deputy Secretary Kenneth W. Dam or Undersecretary for Political Affairs Michael H. Armacost conducts the meeting.
Shultz noted that the department had received an additional $110 million for fiscal 1985 to speed security improvements and added that "all of the ambassadors have been put on notice" to put short-term changes in effect during the long-term construction.
"It's been great for the truck business," noted the former businessman, referring to the sand-filled vehicles parked in front of embassy driveways around the world as temporary blockades.