174. Memorandum From the Director of the United States Information Agency (Marks) to President Johnson1

The Republican Party leadership plans to issue a report later this week “calling for strengthening the USIA to improve the American image abroad.”2 The report was tentatively approved at the December meeting of the Republican Coordinating Committee composed of congressional leaders, governors, former Presidential nominees and party officials.

I have just secured the attached draft of this report.3 It contains familiar phrases which have often been used by General Eisenhower and Senator Karl Mundt. The following are my observations:

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1. I am complimented by the absence of criticism of the manner in which the Agency has been run during my term of office. Instead of the usual complaint of inefficiency and ineffectiveness, the Committee demands that a greater emphasis be placed on the information program through larger appropriations and a more prominent role for the USIA in determining foreign policy.

2. The only serious charge in the document relates to the failure of your Administration to recognize the importance of the Government’s information program in foreign affairs. It states:

“Throughout his administration, President Eisenhower evidenced keen personal interest in our psychological programs; he ordered the Director of USIA to report directly to him and insured that he would have ready access to the White House;4 he placed the USIA chief at the table during OCB and NSC meetings so that the Director could share in policy-making instead of serving only as the official purveyor of information;5 he gave the new Agency a clear statement of its mission6 and he consistently fought for higher budgets necessary for USIA to achieve orderly growth.”

Reference is made to the fact that you were Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee in 1957 when the USIA budget was drastically reduced “because of a failure to comprehend the importance of psychological activities.” It concludes that your Administration has not followed the Eisenhower doctrine, has subordinated the role of USIA in foreign affairs, and as a result U.S. prestige abroad has declined.

3. In an effort to substantiate the decline of U.S. prestige, reference is made to the prestige polls7 on which President Kennedy relied in the 1960 campaign. Since I discontinued taking these polls shortly after my appointment, the Committee deplores their inability to justify their charge by reference to USIA material. However, the Republican National Committee undertook its own private polls last year and refer to these as proof of our declining prestige abroad.

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When this subject was raised on the Senate floor on October 11, 1966 by Senator Thruston Morton, he said:

“The present USIA Director, Leonard Marks, has stated that foreign public opinion surveys are ‘of little value.’ I strongly agree.”8 (Congressional Record, October 11, 19669)

In view of this admission it would seem difficult for the Committee to capitalize on the absence of polls.

4. Minor comments were:

A. “The budget for U.S. informational activities has routinely amounted to less than one per cent of expenditures for other civilian and military overseas purposes, and as the total Federal budget has rapidly expanded, the proportion allocated for psychological activities has sharply decreased.”

I disagree with this comment and can defend your position without difficulty.

B. “As a first step, a career service—vigorously sought by President Eisenhower in 1956, 1957 and 1959, but each time rejected by a politically hostile Congress—should be created in order to attract and hold competent and dedicated people in USIA.”

I sponsored legislation to establish a career service and in November 1967 the Senate passed S. 633 with only two dissenting votes. Yesterday I talked with Congressman Wayne Hays about hearings before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and anticipate hearings will be ordered within the next thirty days.10

C. “Transfer of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs from the Department of State to USIA would permit a unified psychological operation, facilitate a proper mix of programs in each foreign country, and reduce administrative duplication. Transfer of the Bureau would also relieve the Secretary of State of a serious administrative burden [Page 557] and enable the Director of USIA to concentrate on developing effective long-range programs.”

The merger suggested would not be feasible at this time.

D. “There is also need for greater use of privately-generated material in place of governmental productions, yet in the fall of 1967, the Johnson-Humphrey Administration abolished USIA’s Office of Private Cooperation. This was a grievous error, symptomatic of the Democrats’ desire to have Big Government do all things.”

I did abolish this office in November 1967. However, all functions formerly performed by the office are now being carried out by other sections with a consequent annual savings of approximately $161,000.

Based upon this report, I am confident that the Republican organization has removed USIA from the field of partisan politics during the coming year. If attacks are made as reflected above (except for point no. 1), we are on secure ground.

I would like to discuss the first point with you.

Leonard H. Marks
  1. Source: Johnson Library, White House Central Files, Subject Files, Federal Government Organizations, EX FG 266–1–1, Box FG–33, FG 296 U.S. Info. Agency (1967– ). No classification marking. Sent through Maguire, who did not initial the memorandum.
  2. Reference is to a December 11, 1967, Task Force draft report on the conduct of foreign relations entitled “The American Image Abroad,” which was prepared by the Republican National Committee, under the direction of Chairman Ray C. Bliss. (National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Executive Secretariat, Memorandums of the Executive Secretariat, 1964–1976, Lot 72D372, Entry A1–5195, Box 1, S/S Memorandum 1966–1968 1 of 2 Vol. 3)
  3. Not found attached.
  4. In his June 1, 1953, memorandum on the Organization of the Executive Branch for the Conduct of Foreign Affairs to the Heads of All Executive Departments and the Director of Mutual Security, Eisenhower stated: “The Director of the United States Information Agency shall report to and receive instructions from me through the National Security Council or as I may otherwise direct.” (Public Papers: Eisenhower, 1953, pp. 351–354)
  5. See Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. II, Part 2, National Security Affairs, Document 353.
  6. See Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. II, Part 2, National Security Affairs, Documents 354 and 355.
  7. Reference is to overseas polling and preparation of opinion surveys by USIA at the time of the 1960 U.S. Presidential election to gauge the status of U.S. prestige. See Lewis Gulick, “2 Prestige Polls Released by USIA,” New York Times, January 28, 1961, p. A4; and Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XXV, Organization of Foreign Policy; Information Policy; United Nations; Scientific Matters, Document 117.
  8. An unknown hand underlined the words: “I strongly agree.”
  9. See 112 Congressional Record 26022–26023 (1966).
  10. The House Subcommittee on State Department Organization and Foreign Operations held the hearings on S. 633, “A Bill to Promote the Foreign Policy of the United States by Strengthening and Improving the Foreign Service Personnel System of the United States Information Agency Through the Establishment of a Foreign Service Information Officer Corps,” on April 4, May 20, and June 26. Marks testified before the House Subcommittee on Foreign Affairs, regarding the USIA Foreign Service Officer Corps, on April 4. For the record of his testimony, see Hearings Before the Subcommittee on State Department Organization and Foreign Operations of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, United States House of Representatives, 90th Congress, Second Session on S. 633, April 4, May 20, and June 26, 1968, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on State Department Organization and Foreign Operations (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1968), pp. 1–44.