3. Report Prepared by Deputy Director-Designate Donald M. Wilson1
This report is highly selective. It covers five areas of USIA activity that I think require the promptest action. They are: Organization, Programs, Personnel, Budget Levels, and Recruiting.
The new administration should determine, as soon as possible, the position it intends to give USIA within the governmental framework. This decision will put to rest an uncertainty that now exists throughout the Agency. This uncertainty results from the fact that during the Truman administration the information program was the responsibility of the State Department, and during the Eisenhower administration it was the responsibility of the independent USIA. Senator Kennedy’s decision will have far-reaching effects on the prestige of USIA, both in Washington and abroad.
There are three principal proposals for USIA:
1) Keep it as it is.
2) Return it to the State Department under an Under Secretary or Assistant Secretary for Cultural and Information Affairs. This view has considerable report [support?] from Congress, from the career element in the State Department, and from Douglas Dillon.2
3) Elevate it to Cabinet rank, as proposed by the U.S. Advisory Commission on Information (Mark May, Erwin Canham, Sigurd Larmon, Philip Reed, Lewis Douglas).3
The consensus of opinion, with which I agree, favors retaining USIA as an independent agency but not elevating it to Cabinet rank. An independent agency is more likely to produce imagination, urgency and pride in its work. The Draper Committee4 came to this conclusion in 1959. The Sprague Committee, although it has not completed its [Page 10] report to the President yet, has also come to the same conclusion.5 There is also a morale factor. There has been an encouraging growth in the pride and professionalism of USIA’s personnel. The number and quality of applicants seeking to join the Agency has greatly increased. To re-integrate the Agency into State would destroy the esprit which has slowly been growing.
The principal argument favoring re-integration into the State Department appears to be that USIA may, as time goes on and its influence increases, attempt to enter the policy-making area and thus embarrass the U.S. government. This could happen. But it has not happened in the past seven years and there is no reason why it should happen if the President makes it plain to the Director of USIA that policy decisions come only from the White House and the State Department.
The chief argument against granting Cabinet rank to USIA is that it would inevitably lead to conflict with the State Department. The State Department is the foreign policy arm of the government. USIA is the organizational arm whose duty it is to explain and promote that policy. USIA, not being a policy maker, should remain in a subordinate role to State. However, it should always be able to offer its views on the international psychological effects of policies before they are put into effect.
Another decision requiring prompt action concerns the scope of USIA’s responsibilities. There are many, including myself, who feel that all overseas psychological operations (information, educational, and cultural) should be grouped under USIA. Currently there are two important programs that are outside of USIA’s sphere. One is administered by the State Department, the other by the Commerce Department.
1) The State Department administers all educational exchange (Fulbright) and cultural programs under its Bureau of Educational and Cultural Relations. Although this Bureau is responsible for selecting the people who go abroad under these programs, USIA gets the job making their arrangements and shepherding them once they get overseas. This is an awkward and cumbersome arrangement. These exchange and cultural programs, which fall under the heading of over[Page 11]seas psychological operations, should be taken out of State and put under USIA. This might prove difficult to get through the Senate, however, since the original divorce of the exchange programs from the information programs was initiated by Senator Fulbright. He presumably feels the same today.
2) The Commerce Department administers the international fair and exhibit programs with the “coordination” of USIA. Some international fairs and exhibits are truly “commercial” and devoted to the promotion of products. But many, i.e., the 1959 Agricultural Fair in New Delhi, are more truly cold war competitions, using “commercial” products as trappings behind which each nation tries to promote its own image. The psychological importance of these fairs and exhibits far outweigh the commercial importance and USIA should be given primary responsibility for the entire program with Commerce put in the subsidiary role.
This section picks out the two most crucial regional areas of Africa and Latin America for brief examination and makes some program recommendations. It also picks out two tremendously useful tools—science and television—and offers some ideas on how they might be used to better advantage.
A) AFRICA—At the present we have 31 USIA posts in 20 African countries. By June 30, 1961 there will be 12 new posts opened in 11 more African countries. These figures illustrate the kind of African operation that currently dominates USIA: secure a foothold in every new country. We will only have 98 Americans manning those 43 posts by June 30, 1961, which indicates what a slim foothold it is.
This foothold operation is obviously necessary and the new administration should support it wholeheartedly by giving it sufficient funds to staff it with the proper personnel and physical equipment. But we must also look ahead and anticipate the type of programs that will prove the most effective in Africa. Here are three programs that appear particularly promising.
1) English Language Teaching—The new leadership and the intellectual elite of all French Africa is hungry to learn English. In that hunger lies an enormous opportunity for USIA that we must exploit. The possibilities are tremendous. For example, in answer to an urgent State Department call, USIA opened an Information Center in Bamako, Mali this Fall. The Public Affairs Officer had no sooner arrived than he was asked to set up an English class in the Presidential palace. His students today: The President6 and his wife, three cabinet ministers and their [Page 12] wives, the Mayor, and three high officials of the Foreign Ministry. In the Congo, where the teaching program is only two months old, 150 are enrolled, including several Chiefs. In Guinea, where most USIA operations are being curtailed by the pro-Communist government, the English teaching program is specifically exempted and the students include several cabinet and sub-cabinet officials. We should begin extensive recruiting of qualified American teachers who speak French to move into this vacuum. Equally as important, we should plan to supply all French Africa with American textbooks on the basic subjects. To backstop that, excellent libraries should be set up to maintain and nourish the interest in the English language. This program should be viewed as a long-term project of 20 or 30 years through which we can exert great influence on the present and future leaders of Africa.
2) Radio Broadcasting—The Communist and pro-Communist radios of Moscow, Peking, and Cairo broadcast 100 hours a week of African programs to African audiences. Voice of America broadcasts 7 hours of African programs a week, most of it with a weak signal from Munich and Tangier. It now appears practically certain that we will be forced out of Tangier by the Moroccan government at the end of 1963. USIA signed an agreement with Liberia in October, 1959 to build a powerful short-wave relay station there but appropriations were not forthcoming until July of 1960. When completed in the summer or fall of 1963, at the cost of $13 million, the Liberian station will blanket all of Africa with a clear signal. Under present plans VOA will have no effective radio signal into Africa until that time.
Because of this, VOA has made what it describes as a “comprehensive study” of the possibilities of putting two 35kw transmitters that they now own into the Liberian site as an interim measure. Their study indicated that this would take one year, cost $1 million, provide a signal too weak to be of much use south of Guinea and would substantially slow down the construction of the permanent relay station in Liberia. They rejected the idea.
VOA has long hoped to buy a portable relay station consisting of one 50kw medium wave transmitter and three 50kw shortwave transmitters. This can be built in eleven months and can be moved to any point in the world in two or three weeks. The cost is $1.8 million. It would cover a fairly wide portion of Africa. I recommend that USIA asks Congress for a special appropriation this year to build such a portable transmitter. I further recommend it be set up in Liberia in early 1962 to cover at least a year and a half of the gap before completion of the permanent station. Because it is portable, it will not interfere with the construction of the permanent station. Once the permanent station is in use, the portable one can be used in another important [Page 13] area or put in reserve for emergency use (i.e., the Lebanon crisis,7 where a portable station would have been invaluable.)
3) African Students in Europe—There are now over 20,000 African students in England and France and nearly that number in Germany. These are the future leaders of Africa, forming the opinions and ideas that they will take back home and put into practice. The Communists are hard at work organizing clubs, discussion groups, holding special lectures and seminars for them. We should surpass the Communists in this activity.
B) Latin America: The Nixon trip to Latin America in 19588 triggered USIA into stepping up its program there although it still is inadequate. Unlike Africa, there are long established posts in most of the major cities. Current USIA activity is directed toward strengthening personnel, library, press, motion picture, television and radio operations. Here are three programs which need particular attention:
1) Student and Labor Groups—There are two leadership groups in Latin America upon which USIA should concentrate. One group is the students who represent a powerful political entity today in most Latin American countries. The other group is the labor leaders whose power has been growing rapidly in spite of efforts by ruling oligarchies to hold them down.
USIA has made a start at the establishment of nine new Community centers for labor and students. They have also made a start in asking for special USIA student and labor “Information Officers” who will be specially trained in their fields as well as in Communist strategies normally employed to subvert such groups. Both of these programs should be expanded so USIA will be better able to deal with these two new power elites.
2) Radio Broadcasting—VOA began its first short wave broadcast to Latin America in March 1959. Today VOA is broadcasting only seven hours a week directly to Latin America and seven hours of re-broadcast. The Budget for Fiscal Year 1962 calls for an extra seven hours a week. Meanwhile the Communists are broadcasting 163 hours a week into Latin America. VOA argues that short wave is not popular and it is more effective to place packaged programs on medium wave commercial stations. However, this medium wave placement is always subject to restriction by an unfriendly government. Short wave is not. My recommendation would be to increase short wave to 42 hours a week.[Page 14]
Cuba receives the same single hour of short wave that the rest of Latin America receives. Medium wave broadcasts into Cuba have been considered but rejected because they would violate the North American Broadcasting Agreement of which we and other North American nations are signators. Furthermore, if we attempted to direct a propaganda broadcast at Cuba they could easily turn some 50 of their 148 transmitters on us and badly foul up the American airwaves along the East Coast. From the “Voice” point of view, we are currently stymied in our relations with Cuba.
3) Television—Latin America has 3.3 million television sets today with an estimated audience of 15 million (4 million each in Mexico and Brazil). USIA has only one weekly 15-minute news show which is sent to all TV countries and viewed by 10 million people. If this estimate of viewers is even partially correct, it points up the great potential of the TV medium in Latin America. New programs should be directed at the student and labor groups.
C) SCIENCE: A November survey taken for USIA in England9 showed that a majority of people thought Russia had more vehicles in space than we did (actual count is 26–5 in our favor). A recent survey in India was more disturbing. Not only did most Indians think we had fewer vehicles in space, but they also thought that we were behind the Russians in all aspects of scientific achievement. Most disturbing of all, they thought that Russia had done more for mankind through scientific achievements than we had. These are just a few indicators of how badly we have failed in translating the great achievements of U.S. science to the world.
At present, USIA has only one officer assigned to scientific planning in Washington.
We need to launch a full-scale science program, aimed particularly at such uncommitted nations as Egypt and India. This should include:
1) The increased exchange of science students and delegations.
2) Increased visits of leading American scientists to foreign countries.
3) A much wider dissemination of U.S. scientific and technical journals.
4) The establishment of scientific and technical libraries.
5) The establishment of scientific and technical bi-national centers.
6) A program to send science teachers abroad.
7) More science film festivals to utilize the superb scientific and technical films that are made each year by American firms.
D) TELEVISION: The proposed USIA budget for TV next year is $1.8 million. This compares with $10 million being spent for press services, $6 million for motion picture services, and $18 million for VOA. The television department, created two years ago, distributes the one 15-minute news show to Latin America, and puts together package series on such topics as I.G.Y., Newport Jazz Festival, and Americans at Work. This is not nearly enough.
In a world where there are already 33 million TV sets outside the Iron Curtain (excluding the U.S.) and 6 million behind the Iron Curtain, the potential is tremendous.
In three to five years it will be possible to broadcast television programs directly from the U.S. to other parts of the world on a regular basis. We must be the first to seize this opportunity, ready with the equipment and the programs for Africa and the other uncommitted areas (Actually it is possible now to send a signal via the Echo satellite across the ocean. It would be a one-shot operation but perhaps we should utilize it for some great event that highlights the democratic way of life.).
Presidential press conferences should be videotaped and dispatched immediately around the world for local television placement by USIA. There is hardly a television station in the world that wouldn’t accept them free. They represent the best possible means of explaining American policy.
[Omitted here are Wilson’s comments on personnel, budget levels, and recruiting.]
- Source: Kennedy Library, Personal Papers of Robert F. Kennedy, Attorney General’s General Correspondence, Box 78, United States Information Agency (USIA), 12/;1960–5/;1962. No classification marking. Printed from an uninitialed copy. Wilson sent the report to Robert Kennedy under a December 13 covering memorandum, indicating that it was the “preliminary report” on USIA. (Ibid.)↩
- In the left-hand margin next to this point, an unknown hand placed an “X” and wrote “Bill Walton” next to it. Walton, a friend of the Kennedy family, was an adviser to Kennedy during his election campaign.↩
- See footnote 4, Document 2.↩
- See footnote 8, Document 2.↩
- The President’s Committee on Information Activities Abroad, chaired by former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Mansfield Sprague, was established by President Eisenhower in 1959. For the announcement of the appointment of the Committee, see Department of State Bulletin, March 7, 1960, p. 365. The Committee submitted its conclusions and recommendations to Eisenhower on December 23, 1960. A copy of the report is in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Charles E. Johnson Files, Box 466, President’s Committee on Information Activities Abroad, 1960. On January 11, 1961, the White House released an exchange of letters between Sprague and Eisenhower and highlights of the Committee’s recommendations and extracts from the report; for the text, see Department of State Bulletin, February 6, 1961, pp. 182–195.↩
- Modibo Keita.↩
- Reference is to the 1958 crisis that led to the introduction of U.S. forces into Lebanon and British forces into Jordan.↩
- For documentation on Vice President Nixon’s April 27–May 15, 1958, trip to South America, see Foreign Relations, 1958–1960, vol. V, American Republics, Documents 42–57.↩
- Not found.↩