Robert Textor Remembers Writing the In-Up-and-Out Memo

Fifty Years Ago Today, Sunday, December 11, 2011

Today I find myself reminiscing about this day fifty years ago, when I was serving as the first full-time cultural anthropologist in Peace Corps/ Washington.  I had begun my consulting role the previous June, at the request of various officials of the then-fledgling organization.  Since I was a Thailand specialist, my original assignment was to help plan the training program for Thailand One.  Pretty soon, however, “mission creep” set in, and I was working on other assignments as well — notably for the Talent Search, to find linguistically, culturally, and otherwise qualified people to serve overseas as ” Peace Corps Representatives,” or “Reps.”

By December, 1961, after six months of the most frenetic work imaginable, it had become clear to me that I ought to plan to leave soon, and return to academic life.  (I had a nice grant waiting to be used, and a post-doc appointment at Harvard.)  So, the following month, after the graduation ceremony for Thailand One at the University of Michigan, I did leave.

By December 11, it was also clear to me that there was both a pressing need, and an enticing window of opportunity, to facilitate the creation of a very different kind of personnel system for the Peace Corps, than what one usually finds in a government agency.  I called my vision the “In-Up-Out” principle, and embodied it in a two-page memo that I sent to one of my bosses, the late Franklin H. Williams, Chair of the Talent Search Panel, with the hope that Frank would forward it to Sargent Shriver, which he did.  “Sarge” was the founding Director of this bold new organization, and he made all of the important decisions.  I am happy to report that he liked the In-Up-Out idea, and in due course pushed to see that it was adopted.

Long story short, within four years the In-Up-Out principle was embodied into the Peace Corps Law.  Amazingly enough, it remains in force today.  There is not much doubt that this principle (even though tweaked and administered in ways that I consider imperfect) has had the effect of ensuring that the Peace Corps was not only born young, but has stayed young.

December 11, 1961

To:              Franklin H. Williams, Chairman
Talent Search Panel

From:         Robert B. Textor, PDO/FE

Subject:     A Plan to Keep the Peace Corps Permanently Young,
Creative, and Dynamic

1. Recommendations for Immediate Implementation:
a. Recommend that each new appointee to an overseas Representative job be told that Peace Corps is not a life-long career; that he will have to move on after a few years, to make room for a deserving PCV alumnus.
b. Recommend [members of the Planning and Evaluation staff] be asked to keep their eyes open on field trips for promising qualified PCVs who might be promoted to Associate, Deputy, or Representative jobs, where needed, even before they have completed their full two-year hitches.

2. Recommendations for Implementation During 1962:
a. Recommend that PC seek amendment to the Peace Corps Law to provide that PC may set up its own autonomous personnel system. As justification, it could be pointed out that PC, like the State Department, has peculiar needs and functions, and therefore should be independent of the Civil Service Commission.
b. Recommend that the new autonomous PC Personnel system provide that:
(1) Almost all substantive jobs in PC should be filled, as soon as possible, by qualified PCV alumni. A “substantive” job is a job-high or low-which influences the shape and gusto of PC programs, e.g., officers in Recruitment, Selection, Training, and PDO, including overseas Representatives.
(2) PCV alumni, and all other staff employees, should follow the principle of “in-up-out”. The law should set a maximum number of years -perhaps eight years-after which all staffers are required to leave and find jobs elsewhere.

3. Advantages of this Plan:
a. Excellence: Only the “cream-of-the-cream” of PCV alumni would be chosen for staff jobs.
b. Sound Programs: Programs would be planned by ex-PCVs who have fresh valid field experience, who know field conditions intimately. Impetuous, impractical, and unsound projects would thereby be avoided.
c. Effective Field Operations: Our PCRs would really know the language, customs, politics, family systems, economics, etc., of the host country, having learned all this as PCVs. PCRs’ orders would be sound, because the men giving the orders would already have been through the experience of having taken orders.
d. High Morale: A Volunteer would know that he has a chance for a later staff position if he performs well, shows leadership, and truly masters the language and customs of the host country.
e. Elimination of Inappropriate Applicants: This plan would discourage applicants who might be looking for a cushy life-long berth where promotion depends on seniority rather than dynamic creativity.
f. Facilitation of Careers: Because of the eight-year limitation, there would always be “room at the top” for deserving staffers. PCV alumni could therefore move up rapidly.
g. Impact on Foreign Policy: The “in-up-out” principle would result in immense benefit to American foreign policy. Young ex-staffers would move rapidly into jobs in State and AID, in foundations and universities, etc. And they would move in at high levels of responsibility, because they would already have worked at high levels of responsibility in PC. Thus we would reduce by many years the time it would otherwise take to make our impact felt at policy levels within key organizations connected with U.S. foreign policy.
h. Youthfulness: Above all, this plan would make PC the first organization in U.S. administrative history that was not only born young, but stayed young!

For complete details, see:
https://web.archive.org/web/20150930052121/http://web.stanford.edu/~rbtextor/History_of_In_Up_Out_Policy.pdf

7 Comments

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  • Dear Dr. Textor,

    Thank you for your wonderful insight and memo of fifty years that established a path for PCVs to obtain meaningful employment with the Peace Corps agency.

    I think these two recommendations, in particular, spell out how important RPCVs would be to Peace Corps.
    “b. Sound Programs: Programs would be planned by ex-PCVs who have fresh valid field experience, who know field conditions intimately. Impetuous, impractical, and unsound projects would thereby be avoided.
    c. Effective Field Operations: Our PCRs would really know the language, customs, politics, family systems, economics, etc., of the host country, having learned all this as PCVs. PCRs’ orders would be sound, because the men giving the orders would already have been through the experience of having taken orders.”

    Your memo makes it crystal clear that your idea was not just to limit tenure within the agency, but rather to limit tenure in order to insure that a constant new flow of RPCVs from the field could be accommodated.

    Today, many positions within Peace Corps, both at home and abroad are filled by RPCVs. But there is work to be done to make sure that
    the spirit of your memo is incorporated into a coherent. effective and efficient personnel system.

  • Thanks to Textor for sharing the memo but what about the possible downside of the policy?

    Eight of the 17 Directors (Williams is #18) held the position for less than 2 years; four held the position for less than three years. Only five served as Director for more than three years. Two of them – Shriver and Vaughn – served in the 1960s, and Vaughn did three years under Shriver (1961-64) before he became the Director.

    While the up and out policy may have contributed to the success of the Peace Corps in the field, the high turnover at the top may have kept the agency politically fragile, underfunded and unable to fully capitalize on its achievements.

  • Don,
    RE: this comment –

    “..the high turnover at the top may have kept the agency politically fragile, underfunded and unable to fully capitalize on its achievements.”

    The “In, Up and Out” principle never included Directors of the Peace Corps. That position and some thirty others, have always been political appointments. The Directors leave when the party in power is voted out.

    Nixon replaced Vaughn, even tho Vaughn was a Republican. Directors resign on the day of the new president is inaugurated. One of the major problems that I have ranted about, is that there can be long delay before a new Director is formally approved by the Senate. Williams did not take the oath of office until August. For seven months, the Peace Corps did not have a Director, only an acting one, Olson. Shriver left after five years, voluntarily. He said it was to observe the “spirit of the five year rule.” But, at the time, he had been at the Peace Corps part-time for the previous two years and had also been directing the War on Poverty.

    Until 1985, all the country directors were also political appointees. Your observation about turnover may well be correct. But, it has nothing to do with the “In, Up, and Out” principle. It may also be that the only reason the Peace Corps has survived at all is because each political party gets a vested interest in it when they control the White House.

  • I need to clarify. “In, Up, and Out” is the memo that Dr. Textor wrote. The idea of limited tenure was taken from the memo and incorporated into legislation. The tenure limitation is informally known as the “Five Year Rule.” Dr. Textor’s memo also called for the hiring of RPCVs. That principle has evidently never been incorporated into legislation. The practice of hiring RPCVs has varied over the years.

  • Thanks for posting Bob Textor’s memo about his In-Up-and-Out policy recommendations to Shriver. I was an inadvertent “victim” of Textor’s all volunteer staffing proposals. In 1965, I was a young Liberia desk officer in Peace Corps headquarters just dying to join the staff in some African PC program. But by then, one aspect of Textor’s plan blocked me. Sarge Shriver had decreed that anyone under 30 assigned to a field staff position had to be a returned PCV. Since I wasn’t one, no one in the agency would buck the Director by nominating me for any lower level field post. Frustrated, I left the Peace Corps in September 1965, and went to work in the War on Poverty in eastern Kentucky.

    Forty-five years later, I ran into Bob Textor here in Portland a year or so ago, and shared my personal story about the impact of his In-Up-and-Out policy. It didn’t ruin my life, but it certainly had an impact on my professional career and future. Bob and I remain friends, and see each other often.

    David Raphael
    Portland, Oregon
    PDO/AF – 1962-1965

  • David Raphael,

    This is really important. Do you remember the date of Shriver’s memo?

    “Sarge Shriver had decreed that anyone under 30 assigned to a field staff position had to be a returned PCV.”

    Your recollection is so important. Thanks.

  • Joey: I was never shown any official document outlining the policy, it was just “understood”. In fact, I never say anything in writing until Bob Textor showed me his Memo to Franklin Williams. I gather that Shriver did respond to that In-Up-and-Out policy memo by making notes in the margins where he agreed.

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