Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs (Barrett) to the Under Secretary of State (Webb)
Subject: Problem of State–ECA Information Programs
1. To develop a unified international information and educational exchange program for the United States;
2. To determine where such a program should be located organizationally.
That the Undersecretary should discuss with the Administrator of the Economic Cooperation Administration the taking over by the State Department of ECA’s foreign information program, as to provide a unified program for the Government and eliminate the duplication between ECA and USIE which will become unavoidable as the ECA program departs from European “recovery” and becomes more and more involved in all forms of foreign economic assistance.
Pressure is building up for an independent propaganda agency. Although we believe that there is sound logic favoring location of the information and educational exchange programs in State, the idea of an independent agency has one sound advantage—it stresses unification of the Government’s propaganda programs.
The foreign propaganda programs of the United States are now divided, in the main, among two agencies—The State Department and ECA. (The Army has a similar program in Japan but will probably turn it over to State sometime this year.) As long as ECA’s objectives were limited and specific (recovery and viability in Western Europe), it was possible to devise a delineation between USIE and ECA information objectives which eliminated duplication and overlapping, at [Page 905] least in theory. This delineation worked well in certain countries; in others there actually is duplication. The determining factor is how well the responsible field officials work together.
Future economic and military aid programs, however, will be most closely tied together organizationally and program-wise for the whole world. ECA’s problem will no longer be merely recovery in Western Europe but will include most of the economic aid programs authorized by the Congress. The objectives of ECA will be less specialized and, in the propaganda field will be the same as ours.
As this occurs, it will become impossible to draw a line of distinction between the objectives of an ECA information program and those of USIE. The greater the zeal with which each does its job, the more duplication there will be.
There is still another reason for favoring amalgamation of the two programs. Although both we and ECA have many excellent people both here and overseas, it is not possible to get the maximum benefit of their working together as a team as long as they are located in two organizations.
In view of the pressure for an independent propaganda agency, existing Congressional dissatisfaction with the possibility of duplication in the information field between ECA and USIE, and the fact that unification of the two programs makes good sense, we believe it can be safely assumed that the establishment of a single information (propaganda) program is only a matter of time. If the Executive Branch doesn’t move toward such unification itself, Congress will do so for it. By presenting a unified program of its own, the Executive Branch will be in a much stronger position to influence the location and scope of that program.
The major question to be resolved is whether we favor (1) a separate agency, (2) turning the job over to a new economic-military aid agency or (3) locating it in State.
The main arguments on the side of a separate agency are stated as:
- Being too close to the diplomatic niceties in State has a hampering effect on propaganda;
- Propaganda will have greater influence on government policies if concentrated in a cabinet-level agency;
- Location in State ignores the principle of keeping the Department out of operations and unnecessarily increases the burden on the Secretary.
These arguments are mainly specious. An independent propaganda agency would undoubtedly not be of cabinet level anymore than OWI was. If being in State has had a hampering effect on propaganda development, it has been due to regulations and traditions which the Department is free to change, if desirable, administratively. Point (3) is actually of more consequence than the others and we must recognize [Page 906] and admit that this is a departure from the philosophy expressed in the Hoover Commission report.1
The disadvantages of a separate agency, however, outweigh the advantage of keeping the Department free of operations. For propaganda to be effective it must be closely tied to policy-making (and to those who decide the US position regarding the daily occurrences of international importance). It should also be close enough to policymaking to insure that the propaganda implications of decisions and positions are fully considered.
To establish an independent agency would necessarily mean putting the USIS2 missions overseas under that agency, thus removing them to some extent from the control of the chiefs of mission and of the Regional Bureaus. This would increase the risk of having more than one United States’ story in each country.
Arguments against establishment of an independent agency apply equally to locating the program in a new economic-military aid agency. Such an agency would have a sufficiently difficult job in effectively carrying on its economic programs without adding to its burdens by taking on the running of a full-scale propaganda program.
Assuming agreement on the above as Departmental policy, there are various factors which indicate the necessity for moving quickly toward obtaining the necessary inter-departmental concurrences (including those of ECA, the Bureau of the Budget and the President).
- Duplication of information programs will not aid the development of the most effective propaganda warfare. The longer it takes to create the necessary unification, the longer it will be before the United States gets the maximum benefit from its propaganda dollars.
- The planned changes in the scope of ECA will probably necessitate certain changes in the Economic Cooperation Act of 1948. The problem of what, if anything, an amendment should say about the information program and what it should provide for with regard to the use of counterpart funds for an information program has to be decided very soon, if we are to get in what we think necessary.
- The Bureau of the Budget is at present making tentative plans for the presentation of the 1952 appropriation supplemental for foreign aid—which will include (unless present plans change) in one bill, money for ERP, MDAP, and other economic and technical assistance. The supplemental will be sent to the Hill soon after the revisions in substantive and authorizing legislation have been introduced. This will be within the next 90 days. In considering the request for funds (as well as in revisions in the substantive legislation) the Bureau of [Page 907] the Budget, the President and Congress will come smack up against the problem of duplicating information programs.
- Public and Congressional pressure is being put on Senator Benton3 now to introduce a bill setting up a separate agency for propaganda (which would take over USIE and probably ECA’s information program). This pressure would undoubtedly increase, considering Congress’ frame of mind, even if nothing else happens. If the Administration is not prepared to put forward a unified information program of its own at the time it seeks changes in foreign aid legislation, and new foreign aid appropriations, the pressures will probably become overwhelming as the changes in aid programs would bring out clearly how ECA’s program and ours would duplicate each other. There is always the possibility that someone on the Hill will take the show away from Senator Benton if he wouldn’t move.
- The Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government, established by Congress in 1947 and headed by former President Herbert Hoover, gave Congress its recommendations in 1949. Reference here is to the Commission’s recommendation that the Department of State should be responsible for the development of foreign policy and should not be burdened with the responsibility for the operation of specific programs.↩
- The United States Information Service was the title of the information program outside the United States.↩
- Senator William Benton of Connecticut, former Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, 1945–1947, had written to Secretary of State Dean Acheson on December 14, 1950, that a group of Senators had asked him if he would introduce a bill to “take propaganda operations out of the State Department,” and that he thought this issue would arouse increasing discussion in Congress and throughout the country (511.00/12–1450).↩