93. Memorandum From the Special Assistant to the Director of the United States Information Agency (White) to the Director (Marks)1


  • Clarifying the Cultural Mission of USIA

I recommend the following:

(1) A letter from you to PAO’s (with a copy to all Assistant Directors) giving your views on the cultural mission of the Agency. A suggested draft is attached.

(2) A new statement of mission for USIA (draft attached).

(3) A revised instruction on the Country Plan (CA–1195 of October 21, 1964)2 which makes clear that posts may include aspects of the American image as Psychological Objectives. The present wording suggests that this is not so, and many posts have eliminated these from their Country Plans. (For example, half of the posts in Western Europe have no Psychological Objective relating to the U.S. image although a major part of their programs is devoted to it.)

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(4) The name of USIA should be changed. The name we use in the United States should indicate that we operate abroad; and the word “cultural” should be included in our name both at home and abroad. Because USIS as a title is already well known overseas, I suggest the minimum change in this.

Possible names:

In the U.S.

OICA (Overseas Information and Cultural Agency)


IICA (International Information and Cultural Agency)


USICS (U.S. Information and Cultural Service)


USCIS (U.S. Cultural and Information Service)

These titles should be checked with the Area Directors to be sure that the initials do not have a bad connotation abroad.

(5) At an appropriate moment, the President might announce both the new name for USIA and his redefinition of our mission. This could be done casually, at a time when he is making several other announcements, without calling special attention to it.

(6) In connection with the new statement of mission, each of the media services should prepare a statement of its role in carrying out this mission. The VOA Charter does this adequately for IBS, but we have no comparable documents for the other three services. These statements need not be made public, but would serve a useful purpose in clarifying thinking within the Agency on what we are supposed to be doing.3

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Enclosure 2

Draft Statement Prepared in the United States Information Agency4


The mission of the U.S. Information Agency is to strengthen the foreign relations of the United States by (1) building understanding abroad of the United States, its institutions, culture and policies, and (2) helping construct a world of progress and peace in freedom by sharing with other nations information, thought and experience that can contribute to this goal.

To carry out its mission, USIA conducts information and cultural programs overseas through all media of communication.

The U.S.I.A. also advises the President, his overseas representatives, and departments and agencies of the executive branch on the implications of public opinion abroad for the United States in the conduct of its foreign policy.

Enclosure 3

Draft Letter From the Director of the United States Information Agency (Marks) to All United States Information Agency Public Affairs Officers5

Dear PAOs:

Questions come to me from time to time about the cultural mission of USIA. I should like to take this opportunity to give you my views.

Our cultural mission is two-fold. In the first place, we are building understanding of the United States as a nation. Peoples abroad do not judge the United States as a world leader, or its policies, in a vacuum: they judge the whole nation—our society and institutions, our culture, our ideals and aims. Even with the myriad communications of the [Page 282] twentieth century,6 the picture transmitted is often distorted and incomplete. And there are those who seek to amplify distortions and twist the truth. It is our job to present relevant facts where they are not known, to place in perspective those that are. We aim by so doing to strengthen the image of a democratic, dynamic, socially and culturally mature nation in which others can have confidence. Such confidence is an essential underpinning for the conduct of our foreign policy.

In many countries we also have a second responsibility that goes beyond projection of the United States. We use the tools of communication, several of them cultural, to bring to other peoples information, thought and experience that can help shape their national development—economic, political and social. This may mean building an understanding of the democratic process; helping to create a sense of national unity; forging attitudes of self-help that will speed economic development; or “ventilating” a closed society with fresh ideas from the outside world.

Both aspects of our cultural program contribute to the national goal of constructing a world of progress and peace in freedom.

Our cultural mission must be defined country by country according to the local situation and USIA’s potential. Each of you is faced with the necessity of setting priorities. Perhaps your single most important task as PAO is to distinguish between the merely useful and the essential—to select psychological objectives wisely and fashion a country program that is realistic in terms of the resources at your disposal. Selectivity is particularly necessary in cultural operations, which can easily become so diffuse as to be ineffective. Properly conceived and skillfully executed, however, these operations can be among our most valuable tools.

I count upon you and your staffs to make them so.


  1. Source: National Archives, RG 306, General Subject Files, 1949–1970, Entry UD WW 264, Box 311, CUL CULTURE (GEN). No classification marking. A copy was sent to Chernoff. Attached but not printed is a copy of the January 25, 1963, USIA mission statement. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XXV, Organization of Foreign Policy; Information Policy; United Nations; Scientific Matters, Document 144. There is no indication that Marks approved the draft or that any further action was taken.
  2. Not found.
  3. An unknown hand drew a vertical line in the left-hand margin next to this paragraph.
  4. No classification marking. No drafting information appears on the draft statement.
  5. No classification marking. No drafting information appears on the letter.
  6. The word “twentieth” is crossed out and “20th” is written above it in an unknown hand.
  7. Printed from a copy that bears Marks’ typed initials.