147. Report Prepared in the Office of Policy and Research, United States Information Agency1


[Omitted here is the table of contents.]


In several limited war and insurgency situations where the United States is directly involved, USIA is performing tasks that place severe strains on its resources. Some of these tasks appear to lie outside the Agency’s appropriate sphere of operations.

In a number of countries USIS has been aiding, or indeed leading, host government efforts to immunize its population against threats of subversion and to strengthen the government’s own appeal to its citizens. In Vietnam, the Agency has taken on extensive responsibility for the GVN’s information program, as well as for the entire U.S. psychological warfare effort. USIS Bangkok devotes a major portion of its activities to supporting joint Thai-U.S. counterinsurgency programs in rural northeast Thailand. In Laos, USIS is in effect the Ministry of Information for the Royal Lao Government.

These three country operations absorb nearly fifteen percent of the Agency’s resources available for overseas programming. In FY 1967 the Agency has budgeted $87 million for country programs (GOE, salaries, media support, administrative support and special foreign currency). The total for Vietnam, Thailand and Laos is $12 million. Of the Agency’s approximately 1,200 U.S. and 6,000 local employees serving abroad, 184 Americans and 717 locals are serving in these three countries. The programs require a particularly large number of middle grade officers, a large proportion of whom must also receive a minimum of ten months’ language training. The result is that 20 to 25 percent of the Agency’s grade 4 and 5 officers are either stationed in one of these countries or in the training pipeline for assignment there. It is estimated that by mid-FY ’70 the Agency’s present supply of eligible middle grade officers will have been selected for service in these countries.

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These activities impose a severe burden upon Agency resources in personnel and funds.

The basic document defining the Agency’s role in insurgency situations is the “U.S. Overseas Internal Defense Policy” (OIDP), approved by the President in NSAM 182 of August 24, 1962.2 This provides that USIA “orient its program toward immunizing the vulnerable sectors of developing societies against Communist propaganda and subversive activities and helping the modernization process to maturity.” The OIDP also provides that USIA “assist the host government in its psychological operations aimed at preventing or defeating subversive insurgency.”

More general authorization is found in the Presidential statement of mission (January 25, 1963), which (1) assigns USIA an advisory role on all programs of the executive branch affecting foreign opinion; and (2) makes USIA responsible for the conduct of the overt public information programs abroad of all U.S. government agencies except for Commands of the Department of Defense.3

In the case of Vietnam, NSAM 330 of April 9, 1965 specifically charged USIA with responsibility for all psychological activities.4

With respect to statutory authority, the Agency is responsible under Title V of the Smith-Mundt Act for the dissemination of information “about the United States, its people, and its policies.”5 The General Counsel believes that the term “its policies” is broad enough to cover the Agency’s counterinsurgency and limited warfare activities.

Thus the Agency appears to have adequate authority, both by law and by Presidential directive, for these operations. In each case there have been valid reasons for USIA to step into a crisis situation and attempt to meet it. The Agency has, however, undertaken responsibili [Page 456] ties that in the long run could more appropriately and effectively be handled by other U.S. government agencies or by the host government. And the Agency has not planned sufficiently for phasing out of responsibilities which, over an extended period of time, unduly tax its resources.


1. General Principles Applying to Limited War and Insurgency Situations

a. As psychological adviser to the executive branch of the government (see Agency’s statement of mission, Appendix A–2–IV6), USIA has the responsibility to advise all agencies on the public opinion aspects of their programs.

b. This advisory role includes psychological warfare programs (i.e., information activities directed at hostile forces or at populations under hostile control). Normally the Agency’s role should be limited to (1) supplying policy guidance, information about the local psychological environment and advice to the appropriate military authorities, and (2) aid in planning and designing the content of psywar materials.

c. The Department of Defense should be responsible for funding, manning and equipping psychological warfare operations. USIA should direct or carry out such operations only in an emergency when specifically instructed to do so by the President. USIS posts should not engage in the actual production or distribution of psywar materials except upon request of the military in a crisis situation, with specific approval of USIA Washington, and until military resources can be brought to bear.

This definition of responsibility is in line with the Presidential statement of mission (Appendix A–Z–IV)7 which provides that the Agency shall be responsible for overt public information programs abroad of all U.S. government agencies except for Commands of the Department of Defense.

d. USIA assistance to foreign government information programs aimed at defeat of subversive insurgency normally will be limited to an advisory role—in planning, preparation of materials, and training of personnel. Actual production or distribution of materials for a foreign government will not be undertaken except in crisis situations and with specific approval of the Agency.

USIA assistance to a foreign government should include a definite time-table for its termination and posts should report regularly to Washington on progress toward this goal. Where an extended informa [Page 457] tion effort is required to suppress insurgency, a primary objective of USIA should be to help the local government build up its own facilities to take over the task. In such situations other appropriate government agencies (AID, CIA, Defense) should provide needed equipment, production facilities, personnel, and training to the local government, with USIA restricted to an advisory role.

e. USIA advisory personnel for local government information programs should be assigned only to central information services and, if clearly necessary, to the chief regional capitals. USIA should not provide personnel to supplement local government information activity at the provincial or local level. Nor should it provide personnel when overt participation by foreigners will in the long run defeat the purpose of the program (i.e., identification of the government with its own people). In the latter case, CIA should fulfill U.S. responsibilities.

Exceptions to this principle should be allowed only with specific approval by USIA Washington, and should be limited to emergency situations, again with a time-table for termination of USIS assistance.

f. Upon request, USIA will assign officers experienced in psychological operations to training programs maintained by the Department of Defense, OCO or other U.S. government agencies. The Agency will likewise maintain regular liaison with such training establishments by providing sample materials, current country plans and occasional lecturers in Agency doctrine and operations.

g. Area Assistant Directors should maintain regular liaison with major military regional commands in their areas, preferably through periodic visits. Participation in contingency planning should be considered on an individual country priority basis.

2. Specific Changes in Present USIA Responsibilities and Operations

a. Vietnam

(1) JUSPAO should turn over to MACV all production and distribution of psywar materials as soon as MACV is prepared to assume responsibility for such activities. (This covers all materials directed at enemy forces and populations under their control, including Chieu Hoi appeals, the newspaper Mien Nam Tu Do, and materials for airdrop over North Vietnam.)

(2) The responsibilities of JUSPAO field representatives should be limited to:

support to the GVN’s revolutionary development program; support to U.S. military forces in community relations; and conventional USIS activities promoting understanding of the U.S. and its objectives in Vietnam.

JUSPAO should review assignments of field representatives to ensure that they do not exceed these functions.

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As outlined in the general principles above, USIS personnel should be limited to major regional capitals. Fifteen officers should be adequate: five senior officers for the four corps and the Capital Military District, six officers for the four National Priority Areas and two other high-priority areas, and four officers for assignment to military commands.

At the specific request of a U.S. military commander at the division level or above, and with the approval of the JUSPAO Director, the field representative may also supply advice on psywar activities supporting specific military operations.

(3) JUSPAO should work out time-tables to reduce and eventually terminate its substantial direction of the Ministry of Information, Radio Vietnam and Television Vietnam, as well as its financial aid to these programs. JUSPAO participation should eventually be limited to an advisory role.

b. Thailand

(1) USIS should establish a time-table to turn over responsibility for the Mobile Information Team program to the Thai Government, phasing out personnel and financial support.8 This timetable should provide for closing most Branch Posts as soon as Thai government officials in the area acquire enough competence to operate the Mobile Information Teams without U.S. assistance.

(2) In cooperation with AID the post should establish a training and equipment program to strengthen the personnel resources and production capability of the Thai information service. This should also provide a time-table for eventual termination.

(3) Production and distribution of the 80,000 information packets should be turned over to the Thai Government as soon as possible, although USIS should continue to advise on program content and techniques. AID should be asked to supply or underwrite those technical materials in the packets dealing with agriculture, water and other aspects of national development.

c. Laos

(1) In cooperation with other U.S. government agencies, the post should devise a program for building an effective Lao Information Service. AID should provide equipment and technical training, while [Page 459] USIS should offer advice on program training, format and content. The post should prepare a timetable for transferring responsibility for the production and distribution of materials from USIS to the RLG.

If necessary, CIA should provide the necessary funds and stimulus to ensure that the RLG assigns adequate personnel to staff the Information Service.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Marks Papers, Box 32, USIA Responsibilities in Limited War & Insurgency Situations. Secret. Ryan sent the report to Marks under an April 26 covering memorandum, in which he summarized the report.
  2. NSAM 182 is printed in Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. VIII, National Security Policy, Document 105. The OIDP, according to NSAM 182, elucidated a “national counterinsurgency doctrine” and served as “basic policy guidance” for government agencies, diplomatic missions, and military commands. See also ibid., Document 106.
  3. See footnote 14, Document 87.
  4. See footnote 12, Document 37. Specifically, according to NSAM 330: “The responsibility of the Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs [a senior U.S. Information Agency officer], Saigon, for all psychological and informational programs in South Vietnam under the direction of the U.S. Ambassador is here reaffirmed.”
  5. See footnote 9, Document 32. According to section 2 of the Smith-Mundt Act: “The Congress hereby declares that the objectives of this Act are to enable the Government of the United States to promote a better understanding of the United States in other countries, and to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Among the means to be used in achieving these objectives are—(1) an information service to disseminate abroad information about the United States, its people, and policies promulgated by the Congress, the President, the Secretary of State and other responsible officials of Government having to do with matters affecting foreign affairs.”
  6. Attached but not printed is Tab A, Appendix A–2, “Legal basis for USIA operation.”
  7. Attached but not printed.
  8. Mobile Information Teams in Thailand were made up of a Government of Thailand official, a doctor, a U.S. Information Service “observer,” and a film projectionist. These teams traveled to remote areas of Thailand, in order to show films and lead discussions on themes that “stress national unity, loyalty to the King and Thai culture.” The team doctor provided medical aid and the teams took village requests to the Thai Government for assistance. (Seymour Topping, “Thailand Progresses in Efforts to Thwart Reds,” New York Times, December 31, 1963, p. 3)