The Secretary of State to Senator William Benton

Dear Bill: Ed Barrett has talked to me about your recent luncheon conversation, and your December 14 letter1 further points up to me your conviction that the issue of taking propaganda operations out of the State Department will arouse more and more discussion both in the Congress and throughout the country. You will remember that this issue arose in the course of the Hoover Commission study of the Organization of the Executive Branch—and that the Task Force dealing with foreign affairs in fact recommended the separation of the [Page 909] bulk of the operational responsibility for the international information and educational exchange program from the State Department.2

At that time, I believed the Hoover Commission was correct in reversing the Task Force and in recommending that these operations should remain in the Department. Although I concurred with the findings of the Commission that it is preferable, as a general rule, that the State Department not be given responsibility for the operation of specific programs, I was also in agreement with my colleagues on the Commission that there was no other satisfactory location in the Executive Branch for these activities and that by reorganizing within the Public Affairs area to create under the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs a new post of General Manager, full operational authority and responsibility could be assigned for the overseas information and educational exchange programs to the General Manager.

This has in fact been done, and my observation has been that the new arrangements are working very well. The Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs has been able to devote his attention to an increasing degree to actual information policy and guidance to the General Manager, and at the same time to carry out his assignment of serving as a staff adviser to me and other officers of the Department on public opinion questions.

Your second point is that, even taking into account the recent expansion of its information and educational exchange program, the Department still has not raised its sights to the level necessary for a great national defense operation in this field. In commenting on that, I believe it is worthwhile to review just what this expansion does provide. Under the proposals approved by the 81st Congress in response to the President’s call for a greatly expanded “Campaign of Truth”,3 $79,000,000 were added to the regular appropriation of $32,000,000.4 These funds are now being used:

To add six powerful transmitters for the Voice of America, as a major step in the completion of a global network of powerful short and medium-wave transmitters.
To expand by two-thirds in the current fiscal year the number of persons engaged in these programs, an increase of from 6,030 to 10,615, with greatest emphasis on building the overseas staffs, concentrating on the twenty-eight most critical countries.
To expand greatly the local production of pamphlets, posters, films and leaflets using comic-strip techniques and to develop extensive indigenous channels for the distribution of such materials.
To secure the advice of the best brains we can find in this country on more effective techniques for getting the truth into areas where it is now largely excluded, and to develop the content which will in fact have the impact you are looking for.

Under the President’s budget, just released, for the fiscal year 1952,5 our international information and educational exchange program is scheduled for a step-up of 45% in its operating budget (exclusive of capital expenditures), which will mean an increase from 10,615 to 13,518 in the number of people engaged in this major effort.

Although I know Barrett has been keeping you filled in on the major steps we have in the works or propose beyond the present buildup, there are some recent developments which I hope some of us can sit down and go over with you in the next few days. Some of these now look extremely promising, and I assure you that the top officers of the Executive Branch are pushing these explorations and resulting plans with high priorities and the sense of urgency which you yourself so clearly feel.

My own judgment is that the expanded information program has in fact become the vital part of our national strategy you and others have always believed it should be. Consequently, I hope that you will use your position of leadership in the Congress on those issues to counsel moderation and a careful examination of what really is the wisest course of action on proposals such as taking these operations out of the State Department. I am above all concerned that we do not at this critical period lose any of the vigor and momentum already gained, nor impair the close and effective working relationships which now assure that our overseas information output is constantly giving the maximum of fully coordinated support to current foreign policy decisions.

I am asking Ed Barrett to keep you fully in touch with these developments. Your personal leadership in the Congress will be urgently required to keep the information program on the right track, [Page 911] and I am counting on you to find time to continue the kind of support you gave so vigorously and effectively in the past session.6

Sincerely yours,

  1. Benton’s letter of December 14, 1950, to Acheson is not printed; see the first footnote 3, p. 907.
  2. The reference is to the “Report on the Organization of the Government for the Conduct of Foreign Affairs,” November 24, 1948, by the Foreign Affairs Task Force of the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government.
  3. President Truman called for a greatly expanded information program, or “Campaign of Truth,” in a speech before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 20, 1950. For the text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman, 1950, pp. 260–264.
  4. On July 13, 1950, President Truman asked Congress for a supplemental appropriation of $89 million for the information program; the text of his message is printed ibid., p. 521. Congress provided $63.9 million in dollars and $512.2 million in counterpart funds (Public Law 843, approved September 27, 1950; 64 Stat. 1044), in addition to the $32.7 million allotted the information program in the regular Department of State appropriation for fiscal year 1951 (Public Law 759, approved September 6, 1950; 64 Stat. 595).
  5. In his annual budget message to Congress on January 15, 1951, President Truman requested $115 million for the operation of the information program in fiscal year 1952 and declared that he intended to request an additional $100 million for the construction of new overseas radio broadcast facilities; for text, see Pulito Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman, 1951, pp. 61–106.
  6. In a letter of January 31 to Acheson, not printed, Benton replied that the information program “hasn’t even begun to be ‘the vital part of our national strategy’ it should be” and that he planned to ask the Senate to make a special investigation into the problem (A/MS Files, Lot 54 D 291, USIA file). On February 3, Benton’s onice released Acheson’s letter (with some deletions, consisting of the references to Benton) and Benton’s reply to the press. The State Department issued a press release on February 3, stating that the Department would welcome an investigation of the information program; Barrett repeated this in a letter of February 12 to Benton, released to the press that day. Both the press release and Barrett’s letter are printed in the Department of State Bulletin, February 12, 1951, p. 278, and February 19, 1951, p. 301.

    On February 19, Benton introduced S. Res. 74, sponsored by Senator Alexander Wiley of Wisconsin and himself, calling for a complete investigation of the information program by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. For the text of the resolution, see the Congressional Record, 82d Cong., 1st Sess. (1951), p. 1402.