A/MS files, lot 54 D 291, “IIA—Miscellaneous Reports”

Extract From a “Report on International Information Administration—1952” to the Secretary of State from the Administrator of IIA (Compton) December 31, 1952 1


Under date of August 8, 1952 at the end of the first six months of operation of the International Information Administration, I made an informal written report to you.2 In that report I mentioned my intention, during November and December, to meet overseas with our principal Public Affairs Officers in the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Within the last few days this extensive schedule of conferences has been completed. Finally these have included more than 50 countries and have involved over 21,000 miles of travel. I have, so to speak, looked into the “nooks and crannies” of the United States Information Service around the world.

As reported to you, the International Information Administration is in the midst of a formidable transition. Historically the Information and Educational Exchange Program has been developed largely as five media programs (press and publications, radio, motion pictures, information centers, and exchange of persons) [Page 1642] with initiative and responsibility centered in New York and Washington and with country outlets overseas. The program has had the elements of strength, and the greater elements of weakness, of a “mass” approach to the differing political, economic, cultural and ideological situations and opportunities in the 87 countries covered by this enterprise. We are now gradually converting it into a world-wide program consisting of individual country programs, each adapted to its appropriate objectives, each directed at selected population groups, each using the media best suited to these purposes.

Transition to Country Programs

Under present budget regulations the completion of this transition evidently will take at least 12 months and perhaps 18. If we continue information activities in all 87 countries—and this matter is itself under review—the total operating program of the International Information Administration will eventually consist of 87 country programs and nothing else; its operating budget will consist essentially of 87 country budgets; the media will be service agencies to implement the approved country programs; and the media budgets will be derived from the country budgets. In the vernacular this transition means exchanging the “shot-gun” for the “rifle”.

This plan has inspired the general enthusiasm of our missions overseas. It is approved—and now even insisted upon—by the Bureau of the Budget. It has long been encouraged by Committees of both Houses of the Congress and has been endorsed in principle by our Advisory Commissions on Information and on Educational Exchange. Eventually it will multiply the effectiveness of our overseas information program on whatever scale it may be undertaken. It is a further long step toward enabling us to take the “offensive” in the war of ideas.

This transition means a heavy increase in the extent of responsibility, authority and discretion lodged with our Public Affairs Officers and missions overseas. It means important problems here of personnel selection, information policy guidance, basic program planning and media support as well as of management. With the improvements in organization and management already made or well under way, we now have, or will soon have, the means of dealing effectively with these problems of program mechanics.

Impressions of Overseas Information Services

Our Public Affairs Officers in conference groups in Tokyo, Rangoon, Bonn and Brussels or individually elsewhere have made many useful and practical suggestions for improving the effectiveness of our overseas information program. These suggestions are being analyzed by the Office of the Deputy Administrator for Field [Page 1643] Programs. They are in considerable detail. They are not included here. But they are readily available to you if you wish. Meantime may I mention some general impressions of our staff, organization and performance here and overseas; and certain steps which if taken will strengthen and improve our overseas information service:

Our overseas information program generally is “much improved”. That is my own impression. It seems also to be the general verdict of observers and investigators. There are many weak spots, especially in radio and in press and publications. These are having attention. We are still doing a better job of reaching the people who think the most than the people who, by their numbers, count for the most. We are making good progress in working with and through indigenous groups and indigenous sponsorship.
Among our Public Affairs Officers overseas about 60 per cent are highly qualified; about 15 per cent are fairly qualified but need more training or experience. Between 10 and 15 per cent, with good general qualifications, have insufficient aptitude for their particular present posts and should be reassigned. About an equal number are “misfits” and should be dropped.
In Southeast Asia and the Middle East we have our most acute problems of qualified American personnel. Generally in these important areas living is difficult for Americans. The customary two-year service term is not working well. We will do better with fewer Americans each with living experience and language background in the country and available for a longer term of service than two years.
In total we have in this program too many Americans overseas. In a few countries we do not have enough. In more countries we have too many. We should use qualified Americans for program policy and planning, major supervision, public representation on high levels, and security maintenance. We should make more use of qualified local nationals for other purposes; and we should pay them better.
“Departmental” information officers should be encouraged by personnel and promotion policies to undertake more frequent and more substantial overseas assignments; and we should provide more adequate prior training for overseas information service.
In many countries we are scattering our activities over too wide a range. We should seek greater concentration on limited selected objectives or ideas which we would like to have associated, in the minds of other peoples, with the policies and purposes of the United States.
We should use primarily our so-called “fast media” (e.g., Voice of America, Daily Wireless Bulletin and Press Service) for current defensive propaganda. So far as feasible we should use our longer range media (e.g., books, book translations, motion pictures, exhibits, information centers, exchanges of persons and educational services) as well as radio and press for longer range affirmative objectives such as: [Page 1644]
Progress (productivity, health, education, higher living standards, etc.);
Independence—political (freedom from aggression, maintenance of national or racial integrity, religious entity, self-determination, etc.);
Freedom—individual (opportunity, right to choose, “human rights”, etc.);
“Good neighbor” motive (“Golden Rule”, tolerance, helpfulness, etc.);
Mutual security (common interest, voluntary association, etc.);
In our information policy and program guidances we should continuously seek to encourage world-wide recognition of the United States as a symbol and an advocate of such affirmative objectives as these. We are dealing in hope. The international communists are dealing in fear.
We should aim a greater concert of effort at ideas which may be expected to promote disunity and eventually political disintegration behind the Iron Curtain, especially in the Satellite Countries.
We should “speak” overseas more through the voice of indigenous groups; and where feasible through the voice of mutual interest groups, e.g., NATO, possibly ANZUS.
We should provide the basic framework and nucleus of a world-wide information organization which may be conveniently expanded whenever National policy and public support of it favor the gradual conversion of a “war of armaments” into a “war of ideas”. That time is not here. But it will come.

Information Service as Part of Program of National Security

The extent to which further practical steps in these directions can be taken now or soon is, of course, dependent in part upon the verdict of the Bureau of the Budget, the incoming Administration and the Congress with respect to funds. The “Campaign of Truth” initiated in 1950 had, as you know, an authorized five-year annual operating-funds objective of over $250,000,000 by 1956. Last year the President’s Budget included for operations of the Information Program $133,000,000 (not including foreign currencies for the Fulbright Educational Exchange Program). This year, for 1954, the President’s Budget will ask $115,000,000 (including $9,000,000 of foreign currencies for the Exchange Program). For the first time since 1950 the sights of the Bureau of the Budget for this program are lower, not higher.

But in large part the effectiveness of America’s voice is dependent less on what it says overseas than on what it does overseas—or on what together with other nations it is prepared to do overseas. This involves, I dare say, some of the most formidable policy questions which have faced you and will face your successor. I do not [Page 1645] think that our people generally take the “cold war” seriously as a potential means of averting a “hot war”. By “hot war” I mean war not up to our knees but up to our necks. My personal view, as a reasonably well-informed citizen with some knowledge of history, is that, if we keep on doing what we are now doing and do nothing more than we are now doing to forestall it, we will land in another hot war.

Cold War

As a nation we are not really trying to win the “cold war”. We are relying on armaments and armies to win a “hot war” if a “hot war” comes. But winning a hot war which leaves a cold war unwon will not win very much for very long. Our present facilities for the “war of ideas” should enable us to retard the advance of international communism, dull the edge of its propaganda and help to give the free world a breathing space. This itself is important. But these facilities will not enable us to win the “cold war”. Nor perhaps will even larger facilities enable us to win it, until as a nation, or mutually with other nations, we can couple what we are able to say overseas more effectively with what we are able to do overseas.

Budget Sights

The present lowering of budget sights for our foreign information activities is, I think, not accidental. No doubt it is in part a reflection of the evident disinclination of the Congress to make heavy investment in these activities. That disinclination in turn is a reflection of a general apathy toward a Government program overseas, about which the public so far has little understanding, which is praised by some and criticized by others, which the people of the United States themselves never hear and never see. If our people ever get an understanding that winning a “cold war” may be a practical way of avoiding or largely reducing the needs of continuous gigantic investments in the means of “hot war” there will be less public indifference. That is the reason that I have said: “That time is not here. But it will come.” All this involves not merely the International Information Administration and the Department of State, but also …3 a formidable prospect which I hope will be explored.

Many of the improvements in the overseas information program which I have mentioned can be accomplished, however, within the funds now proposed. During the year 1952 we have much improved the “housekeeping” of many of our operations. The savings next year should be even more substantial. There are also other opportunities [Page 1646] for economies. These are being systematically explored with the aid of outside experienced surveyors. From the standpoint of good management and “dollar value” you are turning the foreign information and educational exchange program over to your successor in a much stronger condition than at the first of this year when you established the U.S. International Information Administration.

Semi-Autonomous Agency

The framework of organization, the administration of which a year ago you asked me to undertake, was established by you last January in Departmental Announcement No. 4. It provided for a “semi-autonomous” agency within the Department of State. The expected extent of autonomy in the sense of opportunity of IIA to determine its information policies and to develop and execute its information programs overseas has materialized satisfactorily. The planned “semi-autonomy” with respect to (1) the selection, assignment and management of personnel and (2) the control of its own finances has not worked out satisfactorily. To achieve such “semi-autonomy” implies a high degree of consolidation of authorities and responsibilities which heretofore have been widely dispersed. There is within the Department a reluctance to accept these changes, and if not a resistance, at least a formidable inertia.

…A full year’s experience appears to justify a strong doubt that an extent of “semi-autonomy” for IIA such as you aimed at a year ago can be achieved within the framework of the Department of State. Possibly it may be achieved (1) if a separate IIA personnel unit and a separate IIA personnel authority are established; and (2) if authority to make arbitrary assessments against IIA funds for the use of other services of the Department is terminated.

…In my six months’ report to you last summer I mentioned the importance of attracting better talent into this program. At that time, for example, out of 65 so-called “super-grades” in the Department of State only one was in IIA, notwithstanding the fact that IIA included 40 per cent of the Department’s total personnel. Since then, due to your help, the number has been increased to three. That is not enough. The pending proposed amendments to Public Law 402 (SmithMundt) should be helpful. I hope that these amendments will be pressed to early enactment.

…This program needs more experienced executives who are not fearful of prejudicing a career by doing something “different” and are not too timid about tampering with “vested interests” which should be tampered with.

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“Voice of America”

I have spoken of the present “lower sights” for the investment of public funds in this program. All of our activities accordingly are under budget review. Perhaps I should comment specifically on the “Voice of America”—the International Broadcasting Service. It is our largest single feature, the most spectacular, the most widely known. It has strong friends—in Congress and elsewhere—and ardent critics. In terms of expenditures it is our most inflexible media service. Its “fixed charges” (operation and maintenance of 29 domestic transmitters and 38 relay transmitters overseas) are a half of the total cost of the radio service. The ratio will be greater this year as several new and more powerful transmitters come into operation.

Under the stimulus of the apparent receptivity of the Congress in 1950 to an expanded “Campaign of Truth”, the Voice of America was rapidly expanded by 1952 to a level of 46 languages. Last year decision was reached not to expand further the language programs by an additional six as proposed by VOA. The number of languages now on the air is 45 and will be further reduced. Meantime we should soon be enabled in many countries to deliver a more audible signal. Our single most useful new relay is the 150 k.w. transmitter on the “Courier” now harbored on the Island of Rhodes and broadcasting daily to the Balkan countries and the southern tier of the Soviet Union.

The Voice of America now has the dual task of (1) operating within its funds and (2) maintaining as best it can the means by which the United States Government through facilities under its own control, can speak to people in crucial areas overseas. Accordingly we are now seeking to establish this general pattern for our radio service:

To concentrate VOA services more on the Iron Curtain countries.
In other countries, where practicable, to put our VOA broadcasting over its own facilities, on a more limited or a “stand-by” basis.
Wherever practicable to establish access, in each country, to the use of its own radio broadcasting facilities to which its own people are accustomed to listen. This will mean more local and regional origination of programs and less of dependence on live programs originated in New York.

Because of its relatively high ratio of fixed charges and its proportionately heavy investment in radio language program talent recruited from all over the world, the “Voice of America” has a formidable problem in making substantial budget readjustments when [Page 1648] these are necessary. Fortunately it has equally formidable executive talent.

Educational Exchange

The Advisory Commission on Educational Exchange in a letter to me dated December 24, 19524 has raised a serious question of the relation of “educational” to “information” activities. In general it identifies the former with long range and cultural objectives and the latter with short range propaganda or political objectives. It expresses the view that the former have been and are being subordinated to the latter. The Advisory Commission asks consideration of the feasibility of some further form of “separateness” in the administration of the educational exchange and related educational phases of the program under Public Law 402.

For this purpose it has proposed for consideration these four possibilities:

A separate administrative unit outside the Department of State;
Giving the Advisory Commission itself or a new board or commission to be created, certain executive or administrative authority and function;
An administrative unit within the State Department, separate from IIA;
A separate administrative unit within IIA.

This, I understand, has been a more or less active issue for many years. Many eminent American educators have been uneasy over what they conceive to be the hazard of domination of the educational exchange activities by the “propaganda” motives of the information program. I have, however, no reason to think that the Board of Foreign Scholarships itself has shared this sense of uneasiness.

As yet I have merely acknowledged the Commission’s letter and have urged that a copy of it be sent to the “Fulbright Committee” now investigating for the Senate the entire foreign information and educational exchange service of the United States. This has been done. I do not regard as wholly valid the implied distinction between education as “long range” and information as “short range”; or between the one as “cultural” and the other as “political”. Such a conception, I think, is not compatible with the philosophic and moral basis of the “Campaign of Truth”, a basis to which we should steadfastly adhere. I doubt that a useful purpose would be served by any organic separation. An administrative separation within the framework of IIA might, however, be serviceable. On October 4 before I left for the Orient, I asked our Office of Management [Page 1649] to explore the “assets and liabilities” of the possibility of establishing such a consolidated unit under such title perhaps as Division of Educational Exchange or Educational Services. I expect its report soon. My judgment is that we should seek to establish a basis of organization and function which will have the genuine confidence of American educators generally. In these times of growing uneasiness especially among our colleges and universities about intrusion of Government into public education, I hope that IIA may be kept clear of any such implication.

Advisory Commissions and Program Policy

Public Law 402 states, with respect to the Advisory Commissions on Information and on Educational Exchange, that they shall “formulate and recommend to the Secretary policies and programs for the carrying out of this act”. In my judgment it would be a gain to the program if for these purposes the Commissions would undertake an even greater responsibility than heretofore. The commission members are rendering an important public service at considerable inconvenience to themselves and without compensation. Most of them are able and willing to devote considerable time to this enterprise. I can not too much stress the importance to this program of well-informed objective criticism and suggestion. During the month of January 1953 the terms of two members each, of the two Advisory Commissions, will expire. I hope that the nominations to the President for successor appointments will be made with these facts in mind.

Private Cooperation

It seems to me also that we should increase our efforts to encourage private cooperation in furthering the objectives of our overseas information and educational exchange activities. After all the historic “voice” of America has been the ordinary trade, travel, communications, emigration and immigration, which have been our normal stream of contact with the people of other nations. We should seek to restore the flow of this stream. The ordinary voice of the people, in many ways, is a more potent source of international understanding and good will than is the “voice” of the Government itself. We have an exceptionally able and ingenious Private Cooperation Staff. But it needs more tools to work with and more encouragement.

Loyalty and Security

Regarding loyalty and security we have used, as you know, every available means of assuring that we do not employ, and do not keep in employment, any person of doubtful loyalty to the United [Page 1650] States. So far as I have reason to believe, the International Information Administration is rid of all of its “security risks”.

A Congressional Joint Committee

Some months ago after our appropriation hearings, I suggested to some members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that it would be helpful to the guidance and progress of our work and to more satisfactory understanding with the Congress if a Congressional Joint Committee on Overseas Information Services might be established. That idea is not new. But it has never been implemented. So far as I know it has not been thoroughly considered. I hope that the feasibility of such an arrangement will be explored.

During the past year I have been impressed by the evidences that lack of more clear-cut statement of Congressional intent tends to encourage our services to “scatter” their shot—seeking to do something which will satisfy each point of view. Public Law 402 states general objectives. Appropriation legislation expressly or by implication sometimes stresses additional or different objectives. Applicable National Security Council instructions propose even different standards for our guidance. I do not believe that statutory declarations of Congressional intent, however precise these may be, can be expected to solve this problem. There still is a great area within which opportunity for regular consultation with representatives of both parties in both Houses might be helpful.

If, as I think likely, the ultimate solution of our “cold war” problems will include more and more a division of labor between the…activities of IIA and the … services of other agencies, such a device as the proposed Congressional Joint Committee may be of even greater importance. I should think that it might follow the general pattern of the Congressional Joint Committee on Atomic Energy.

Future of International Information Administration

There are, of course, continuing speculations about the “future” of the International Information Administration; its relation to the information services of the Mutual Security Agency; the distinctions between “information” and “education”; and the prospects of “separation” of the information program from the Department of State. These are issues of national policy which will be determined by the Administration and by the Congress. The sooner they are settled the better. Especially so, the policies with respect to these matters on the part of the incoming Administration.

The establishment of the International Information Administration, of itself, was a big gain; and its establishment has made possible other important gains. But it is not a “last word”. The foreign [Page 1651] information program preferably should be administered within the framework of the Department of State, especially overseas. There is otherwise the hazard of two “foreign offices”. But this is not conclusive. Unity in the spokesmanship overseas of the United States Government is primary. The choice of mechanics is secondary. The important objective is that this issue be decided as promptly as deliberate decision may be reached.

Offices of IIA

May I make one final suggestion? Availability of suitable space has been a continuing plague upon the entire Department of State. On the whole I think space allocation has been well handled by the Administrative Office. The offices of IIA are now scattered over seven buildings. It has no offices in the New State Building. Conferences of IIA officers with principal policy and administrative officers of the Department, however important, are accordingly inconvenient and time-consuming. This condition has tended to discourage a kind of collaboration which should be encouraged; and has tended to make IIA a sort of “island”, at least separated from the “mainland”. If the International Information Administration is continued as a part of the Department of State, I believe that a useful purpose would be served if at least its Policies and Plans Staff and the immediate Office of the Administrator were to be accommodated in the New State Building.

It is just a year ago that you asked me to “pull my cap down over my ears” and tackle what you described as one of the most “difficult” jobs in the Government. I have found it so. Also I have found in it a great challenge to the impulse of public service. As I have said around the world to my colleagues: “This is a mission.” During the year we have made progress—on the whole, I think, good progress. We have better organization, better management, better “housekeeping”. We have a stronger world-wide program. Our Congressional relations are better. We are learning how to make the dollars “count for more”. We are, I am confident, making more runs, more hits, fewer errors; not so many are left on bases; and we have a long way yet to go!

  1. A handwritten notation on the source text reads: “For personal use of A—Mr. Humelsine.” A complete copy of this report has not been found.
  2. Reference is presumably to the attachment to Wilson Compton’s memorandum of July 29, p. 1629.
  3. Ellipses in this document are in the source text.
  4. Not found in Department of State files.