Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.
In any large organization, the location and size of office space is telling. The large corner office, the office on the top floor, the office next to a senior official all connote power and importance. Being moved out of prime space can signal changes in the power hierarchy. Surprisingly, it is not just organizations of lesser importance that lose real estate.
In 1947, Secretary of State George C. Marshall established the Policy Planning Staff. He created that organization to be the Department of State’s office for long range planning, the first such office in the Department’s history. It reported directly to the Secretary of State and to the Under Secretary of State (the second highest ranking official in the Department). Indicative of the Staff’s importance and its access to those two officials, it occupied offices next to theirs.
That changed in 1953. In that year, the Director and three members of the staff were “temporarily” moved out of their offices to make room for the Under Secretary for Administration. As that new office expanded, the Policy Planning Staff lost more space and there was even talk of losing space to a planned dining room. This prompted the Executive Director of the Policy Planning Staff to write the following memorandum to the Director.[i]
While the Policy Planning Staff continued its important work and remained on the same floor as the Secretary and the Under Secretary, it never moved back into office space immediately adjacent to theirs.
[i] Source: Memo by Carlton Savage to Robert Bowie, October 13, 1954, file Policy Planning, 1947-52 (NAID 3562197), Entry A1-1583G, Policy Planning Council, Executive Secretary: Subject Files, 1935-62, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.