Under Secretary’s Meetings, Lot 53 D 2501

Record of the Under Secretary’s Meeting, October 10, 19512


UM N–405

[Here follows discussion of unrelated items on the agenda.]

Proposed Establishment of a Foreign Information Administration (UM D–139/1)3

12. Mr. Webb explained that the purpose of this discussion was to air the views of the interested officers but not to make a decision on the proposal at this time. He explained that the Department faces many important decisions on organization and administration. He pointed out that Mr. Cabot’s organization4 as such will dissolve shortly and Mr. Cabot will return to his business. However, Mr. Webb was glad to report that Mr. Cabot has agreed to serve as a consultant to the Department whenever necessary. Mr. Coolidge5 has agreed to stay on as Special Assistant to the Secretary on Mutual Security Program matters. His office will be tied very closely to G. Mr. Perkins is not [now?] backstopping the “Wisemen” operation6 and will have responsibility for NATO backstopping. The Department ends up with two operating programs, the information program and the Point Four program.7 Mr. Webb explained that the Department faces a dilemma between decentralization and centralization of authority and operations. The proposal presented to the meeting today is partly brought up because of the feeling that the Department would lose the [Page 935] foreign information activities to an independent agency if it did not have a stronger and simpler organization. The basic issues involved in the paper for discussion is how we should organize to forestall the removal of the information program from the Department.

13. Mr. Scott8 reviewed UM D–139/1 and pointed out that the objective of this paper is to make certain organizational changes which would improve the operations of the program. Another objective is to strengthen the program itself but still keep it as an integral part of the State Department. Behind the proposal are several principles: (a) that the program should have greater independence within the Department itself; (6) that the functional approach to information activities is better than the geographic approach; (c) that the authority of the Chief of Mission in the field must be maintained; and (d) that the Washington organization must be made more flexible. Mr. Scott explained that the information program is a very large one in terms of budget and people. One-half the people in the Department and field are involved in the information program.

14. Mr. Scott stated that the proposal is to establish an FIA reporting to the Secretary and Under Secretary. The operational head would be known as the Administrator and would have the rank equivalent to a Deputy Under Secretary. The Administrator would be semi-autonomous in operations. The regional bureaus would continue to to work on policy matters in the information field but would not be involved in the operations. No major changes in the field organization would take place except that the information people would be brought more closely into the mission proper.

15. The Secretary asked for the major differences between the proposal and our present organization. Mr. Scott explained that the FIA would be responsible for foreign information activities and not domestic public information as it is now. FIA would continue to have a separate budget but they would have greater control over personnel and other administrative matters. Mr. Scott also pointed out that under this plan the FIA would develop a program for an area and decide what media should be used in pursuance of that program. He noted that at the present time the geographic bureaus participate to a greater extent in the selection of media, review of the program, etc.

16. Mr. Barrett explained that he agreed in principle with the paper but he is not satisfied with some of the details of the plan. In connection with Mr. Scott’s last point, he noted that all publications for foreign audiences are reviewed in the field. This review in the field and in Washington causes considerable delay. Mr. Barrett emphasized that there are several needs which prompt the general reorganization proposed in the paper being considered: (a) greater flexibility by speeding up the information activities but still keeping it in tune [Page 936] with the Department; (b) a status which would permit the recruitment of the type of personnel which is needed (At the present time P is low on the organizational ladder, but under the semi-autonomous unit proposal it would be near the top of the Department and would attract a higher caliber person); (c) improvement in public relations for the Department and the program by locating organizationally closer to the top; (d) something must be done to modify the organization to preclude removing the information activities from the Department. Such a removal would cause vast difficulties in policy control.

17. Mr. Barrett explained that he is not satisfied with several aspects of the proposal. He feels that the relationship between FIA and the bureaus should be clarified. He also questioned the separation of the domestic and foreign aspects of information. He pointed out that the rank of the Administrator was not of great importance but that the organizational location was important for the reasons he mentioned above. He recommended that the UM reach agreement that the semi-autonomous principle is a good one and then give the job to a task force to work out the details. Mr. Webb pointed out that there has been a strong force to remove the information program from the Department but this movement has been temporarily set back. However, in order to retain the program, we must make our information organization as effective as possible. Mr. Barrett noted that we are attempting to get a unified program in the government and this would be facilitated if the USIS were set up in a different way.

18. Mr. McGhee9 stated that the Hoover Commission reorganization plan and the Department’s task force studies which set forth the theory of “operating vice presidents” have not been carried out except in the Administrative area. In complete contrast to this principle, the movement has been in the other direction with the establishment of S/ISA, TCA, etc. Mr. McGhee stated that he is not indicating that this is a bad direction and that if we move further in this direction by setting up an FIA, Mr. Barrett should be the Administrator. Mr. McGhee emphasized that we ought to decide which organizational direction we are going to take. If it is the direction which appears obvious today then we must strengthen our operating people but still keep them under the general policy guidance of the Secretary and Under Secretary. The FIA proposal would strengthen the information program if it were given the semi-autonomous statute recommended. Mr. McGhee pointed out that his information people object to the proposal by stating that the semi-autonomous organization would create difficult liaison problems. Mr. McGhee doubted that these problems would be any more difficult than they are now with the P area and TCA. His information people are opposed to the plan also because it [Page 937] might drain off the more capable people from the bureaus to a higher ranking, more glamorous organization located near the top of the Department. Despite that possibility Mr. McGhee agreed that our two major operating programs should be pushed up organizationally. He recognized some merit in the point that a semi-autonomous organization would receive the criticisms of the public and the Congress rather than the Department as a whole.

19. Mr. Miller10 felt that the proposed organization would abolish all control and influence which the geographic bureaus now have over the information activities in their areas. Mr. McGhee pointed out that this trend in organization has already taken place but if we wanted to reconsider this general principle of “operating vice presidents,” he would then change his basic position. However, if we do not reconsider this principle, then the FIA proposal is a good step.

20. Mr. Bohlen11 pointed out that Mr. Matthews is strongly opposed to the FIA proposal. Mr. Matthews, Mr. Bohlen explained, feels that this undercuts even further the “operating vice president” principle which the Department has attempted to apply but not most successfully. Mr. Bohlen explained that Mr. Matthews also feels that this proposal is unsound because of the “cart before the horse” arrangement whereby it places the man charged with the function of interpreting our foreign policy at home and abroad above the regional assistant secretaries who are charged with the formulation of foreign policies. Mr. Bohlen felt that this is a dangerous tendency in that it would increase the present trend of propaganda following policy and not taking place simultaneously with policy. Mr. Matthews also feels that policy guidance from the geographic bureaus would not continue if an FIA were established. It would engender a spirit of separatism between the information program and the regular programs of the Department. Mr. Bohlen said that we should not kid ourselves since this proposal does remove from the regional bureaus all information policy control and direction. Mr. Bohlen also explained that Mr. Durbrow12 of FP feels that the proposal would set up a rival foreign service organization at a time when we are attempting to promote amalgamation.

Mr. Bohlen emphasized that an information program must be developed and implemented on a country by country basis and there is a great danger in not doing this by decentralizing too much from Washington to the field. He concluded by stating that he felt very strongly that policy control over information activities should remain in the regional bureaus. Mr. Barrett stated that he had no desire to cut loose the bureaus from information policy matters. As a matter of [Page 938] fact, he felt that this phase of bureau activity should be strengthened but basically the information program needs greater administrative freedom. Mr. Barrett also pointed out that he agreed with Mr. Bohlen’s statement that the information program must be developed on a country by country basis.

21. Mr. Rusk13 stated that he agreed with Mr. Matthews’ objections to this proposal. Mr. Rusk felt that one of the arguments which had been proposed to sell the FIA is that the information program needs greater administrative autonomy. He said that he would not dispute this but it would be, in effect, giving something to an organizational unit in the Department which none of the others have. He pointed out that he would like greater administrative freedom and autonomy for his organization. He stated that if this were not part of the basic case being made for an FIA then why have a separate administration for information. Mr. Rusk also disputed the tactics of another point which had been made to support the FIA proposal. He felt that if the FIA were established as a semi-autonomous unit, it would strengthen the hands of those who would like to remove the information program from the State Department. In fact, it would make it easier for them to do this. He pointed out that we have emphasized and argued in the past that the information program must remain an integral part of the Department, but now it is being proposed that an FIA be established which would separate information activities from the Department. He questioned the argument that we would lose the information program if we did not set up this semi-autonomous unit.

22. The Secretary pointed out that the time for the meeting was over and suggested that the discussion be renewed at the 9:30 meeting tomorrow14 in room 5104 with all assistant secretaries present.

  1. Master file of meetings, documents, summaries, and agenda of the Under Secretary’s Meetings for the years 1940–1952 as maintained by the Executive Secretariat.
  2. The Under Secretary of State met three times a week at 9:30 a. m. with the Assistant Secretaries and other principal officers of the Department, or their deputies, primarily to exchange information regarding matters currently before the Department. Secretary of State Acheson was present on October 10, although he did not ordinarily attend the Under Secretary’s meetings.
  3. Under Secretary’s Meeting Document 139/1, a memorandum by the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Administration, Carlisle H. Humelsine, to the Secretary of State, September 7, 1951, is not printed; it recommended the formation of a Foreign Information Administration within the Department of State (Under Secretary’s Meetings, Lot 53 D 250). The memorandum was based upon the proposals of the task force established in February 1951 (see p. 917) and on review and discussion of the proposals within the Department. An earlier paper, UM D–139, “Principles for Reorganization of the USIE Program,” April 6, 1951, not printed, was discussed at the Under Secretary’s meeting, April 9, 1951 (Under Secretary’s Meetings, Lot 53 D 250).
  4. Thomas D. Cabot was the Director of International Security Affairs, Department of State.
  5. Charles A. Coolidge, Deputy Director, International Security Affairs, Department of State.
  6. “Wisemen” was a nickname for the three-man executive body of the NATO Temporary Council Committee. For documentation on their activities, see vol.iii, pp. 1 ff.
  7. For documentation concerning the Point Four program, see pp. 1641 ff.
  8. Walter K. Scott, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Administration.
  9. George C. McGhee, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs.
  10. Edward G. Miller, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs.
  11. Charles E. Bohlen, Counselor of the Department of State.
  12. Eldridge Durbrow, Chief of the Division of Foreign Service Personnel.
  13. Dean Rusk, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs.
  14. The next meeting was held two days later, on October 12.