2. Memorandum Prepared by Thomas C. Sorensen of the United States Information Agency1



This is the first of two memoranda on USIA. This one contains recommendations on USIA’s purpose, general organization, relationship to the State Department and criteria for selecting its leadership. The second2 will make recommendations regarding immediate program needs, Fiscal Year 1961 and ’62 budget levels and improvements in internal organization.


1. All overseas psychological (information, cultural, educational) operations of the U.S. Government should be grouped together in one organization.

2. This organization should take its policy guidance from the State Department but should be independently administered and not a part of State or any other agency.

3. This organization should be the overseas psychological instrument of the U.S. Government. It should have close relations with the White House (which decides and speaks on foreign policy) as well as the State Department (which implements that policy).


It should be the purpose of USIA to further the achievement of U.S. foreign policy objectives by:

1. Using communications techniques (personal contact and exchanges, libraries, press, radio, motion pictures, television, fairs and [Page 5] exhibits, lectures, book publishing and others) to promote climates of public opinion abroad which will enhance the prospects of achieving these objectives through diplomatic means.

2. Projecting to the world an image of a strong, democratic, dynamic America which is serving the interests of free peoples and is worthy of their cooperation.

3. Advising the President and the State Department on the reactions of foreign peoples to, and the consequences of, proposed U.S. policies, programs and official statements. Repeated propaganda defeats in recent years, notably our handling of the U–2 affair3 and some developments in Africa and Asia, attest to the importance of this function.

USIA should be the psychological instrument of the U.S. Government overseas, just as State is its diplomatic instrument and CIA its intelligence instrument.


The consensus of best-informed opinion, with which I fully agree, is that all overseas psychological activities of the U.S. Government should be grouped together in one organization.

The Fifteenth Report (1960) of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Information4 states: “To meet the competitive ideological and propaganda challenge of the future, the time has come for the United States to consolidate all the foreign cultural, educational and information programs in one agency of cabinet status. The purpose is to ensure maximum coordination and unified direction of the total U.S. communications effort.” I agree, except for the recommendation that this agency be of cabinet status. USIA, like CIA, does not participate in the policy-making function and should not be of cabinet rank. The Director of USIA should, however, be a member of the National Security Council (NSC) and the Operations Coordinating Board (OCB).

Theodore C. Streibert, first Director of USIA, wrote in response to a query from me regarding his views: “The cultural and exchange functions of State should be centralized in USIA . . . An effort should [Page 6] be made to pull together the overseas educational projects of ICA and a large number of other Government agencies into USIA. This could be gradually accomplished if the cultural and exchange responsibilities of State were put into USIA. If not, I am afraid it would be difficult to achieve much centralization of overseas educational activities, although it is obviously needed.”

Unification of overseas information, educational and cultural activities would bring together: USIA as presently constituted; the Fulbright (P.L. 584) and Smith-Mundt (P.L. 402) exchange-of-persons programs5—now administered by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Relations (CU);6 the cultural presentations (musicians, artists and athletes) aspects of the President’s Special International Program (P.L. 860)7—now administered by State (CU) but “coordinated” by the Director of USIA; the international fair and exhibit portion of the President’s Special International Program—also now “coordinated” by the USIA Director but administered by the Commerce Department’s Office of International Trade Fairs (OITF), and those purely educational functions now carried on by the International Cooperation Administration (ICA).

The exchange-of-persons and cultural programs of State, and the exhibits program of Commerce are closely akin to the cultural and informational work of USIA. Each is an integral part of the total psychological effort. Each is a necessary instrument for effective orchestration. The effectiveness of the total effort, and each individual part, would be increased by unification. Unification would permit a reduction in the number of employees and elimination of overlapping functions.


The overseas psychological program should be conducted by an independent agency, such as USIA is now, or by an agency related to the State Department but independently administered, such as ICA. In any event policy must be supplied by State but without the overlay of State’s administrative machinery.

[Page 7]

This year’s Report of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Information states: “Foreign information operations have been conducted more effectively outside the Department of State but within the limits of its foreign policy guidance.” The Commission notes that “USIA has obtained more coordinated foreign policy guidance as an independent agency than when it was in the (State) Department.” The Draper Committee (1959),8 concurring in this view, concluded that a separate agency is more likely to generate “high vitality” and a “sense of urgency,” and also is more likely to achieve a vigorous, imaginative program and effective administration of the distinctive tasks involved.” Both groups oppose putting operations into a department which by tradition and training has been responsible for formulating policy.

Former USIA Director Streibert wrote me: “It is completely clear to me from my experience in 1953 to 1956 that information activities should not be incorporated within the State Department, but should continue as an independent agency . . . These operations are foreign to its (State’s) field of diplomacy . . . A separate agency can develop greater competence in both personnel and methods if it has a single objective and is not diverted by being part of another organization. The proponents of moving USIA back into State are never explicit, at least to my knowledge, as to what currently is so wrong . . . as to require a fundamental change. It has been especially established overseas that the USIA country staffs do work well under the Chief of Mission and as part of the country diplomatic establishment.”

It is important to note that USIA staffs abroad are thoroughly integrated in the Embassy establishment and, as Mr. Streibert points out, work under the direction of the Chief of Mission. Integration overseas is essential for a coordinated approach; independence of operations (though not of policy) is equally essential at home for a vigorous, effective program.

The top career man in State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, who might be thought to favor the status quo, supports this view. In a memorandum discussing his particular field of interest he stated: “The ideal position in the Government for the exchange program would be close to the State Department for policy guidance but outside [Page 8] its administrative control, as in the Information Agency. The (State) Department’s administration is not equipped to handle contracts and complicated fiscal relationships with private institutions . . . If (information and exchange programs are) related to the (State) Department and operated together, they need administrative autonomy for efficiency.”9


To be effective, the Director and Deputy Director of USIA should:

1. Have experience in world affairs and knowledge of foreign peoples. In particular they should comprehend the “revolution of rising expectations” throughout the world, and its impact on U.S. foreign policy.

2. Be pragmatic, open-minded and sensitive to international political currents, without being naive.

3. Understand the potentialities of propaganda while being aware of its limitations.

4. Be able to apply the psychological factor in the determination of policies affecting our relations with other nations. That is, they should be able to advise on the reactions of foreign peoples to, and the consequences of, proposed U.S. policies and programs.

5. Have a clear understanding of, and loyalty to, the President’s program.

6. Have qualities of leadership, be able and decisive executives, men who are impatient with inefficiency.

In addition, the Director should have the personality and the public stature which would enable him to deal amicably and effectively with Congress and the American people. The Deputy Director should be a professional propagandist, preferably with overseas experience, and should have the confidence of—and the ability to work with—the President’s policy advisers and press secretary. (The Deputy Director is USIA’s liaison with the White House staff.)

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, President’s Office Files, Staff Memoranda, Box 64, Neustadt, Richard E., 1961–1962. No classification marking. Printed from an uninitialed copy. Neustadt, who was coordinating the transition team, sent the paper to the President-elect under a January 2 memorandum, in which he stated: “On December 21 you asked me for a memorandum on the United States Information Agency. In response, I am enclosing two memoranda prepared by Thomas C. Sorensen. You requested a report from him some time ago, through Sorensen’s brother Ted. By the time his memoranda were written the Sharon task force on this subject had come into being and Sorensen, who was consulted by Sharon’s associates, assumed that their work superseded his own. Accordingly, he did not send these memoranda to you. But it seems to me that you should see them; having fished them out of limbo I forward them herewith.” (Ibid.)
  2. The second memorandum, dated December 16, is ibid.
  3. On May 1, 1960, a U.S. unarmed U–2 reconnaissance plane was shot down 1,200 miles inside the Soviet Union. Premier Nikita Khrushchev exploited the incident at the May 1960 four-power summit meeting in Moscow, causing the summit to collapse. See Foreign Relations, 1958–1960, vol. X, Part 1, Eastern Europe Region; Soviet Union; Cyprus, Documents 147156 and Foreign Relations, 1958–1960, vol. IX, Berlin Crisis, 1959–1960; Germany; Austria, Documents 164–192.
  4. The Commission was created by the Smith-Mundt Act in 1948. For the report, see Fifteenth Report of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Information, Letter From Chairman, U.S. Advisory Commission on Information Transmitting a Copy of the Fifteenth Report of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Information, Dated April 1960, Pursuant to Public Law 402, 80th Congress, House Document No. 369, 86th Cong., 2d Sess. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1960)
  5. See footnotes 2 and 3, Document 1.
  6. The Department of State established the Bureau of International Cultural Relations on June 1, 1959, and renamed it the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs on April 17, 1960.
  7. Reference is to the International Cultural Exchange and Trade Fair Participation Act of 1956 (P.L. 84–860), which went into effect on August 1, 1956. The Act authorized the President to provide for U.S. artist and athlete tours abroad; U.S. representation in artistic, dramatic, musical, sports, and other cultural festivals, competitions, or events; U.S. participation in international fairs and expositions, including trade and industrial fairs; and publicity and promotion abroad of these activities.
  8. Reference is to the President’s Committee To Study the United States Military Assistance Program, a bipartisan committee that Eisenhower appointed in November 1958. The committee, headed by William H. Draper, Jr., undertook a study of the military assistance aspects of the Mutual Security Program (MSP). For additional information about the formation of the committee and its work, see Foreign Relations, 1958–1960, vol. IV, Foreign Economic Policy, Documents 227, 228, 235, 238, 241, 242, and 245. For the text of the final report of the committee (H.Doc 215, 86th Cong, 1st Sess.), submitted to Eisenhower on August 17, 1959, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1959, pp. 1665–1667.
  9. The memorandum was not found.