102. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Ford
  • Frank Stanton, Chairman of Panel on International Information
  • Walter Roberts, Project Director
  • Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

The President: Nice to see you.

Mr. Stanton: This is an independently funded study. Both of the parent Advisory Commissions called for it. The area hadn’t been looked at in depth for 20 years.

We spent 10 months on it. We have talked to Rusk, Rogers, Kissinger, and all the living USIA directors. We have a solution which makes it more effective and manageable.

There is duplication between the State Department and USIA. Our recommendation is to give it back to State. Take the cultural activities of USIA and the cultural affairs of State and make it a new entity within State like AID. Make the Voice of America independent under a five-man board with two people from State.

The President: Does that include RFE and RL?

Mr. Stanton: No, we thought of putting it in the BIB [Board for International Broadcasting].2 One problem was the State board members [Page 361] on VOA. The other was the CIA association of RFE and RL—so as not to tar VOA with CIA.

The President: So USIA disappears.

General Scowcroft: Yes. Part of it goes into State and part of it would be autonomous.

The President: Who were your commission members?

Mr. Stanton: Lewis, Gulley [Gullion], Wrench [Reinsch], Shaheen.

The President: Was the panel unanimous?

Mr. Stanton: No, we had one abstention. One was appointed ambassador.

The President: Will this come to me or to Congress?

Mr. Stanton: Technically it will go to Georgetown University since they funded it. But I think it will get to you.

The President: How about the Hill?

Mr. Stanton: I think Slack is opposed, but most of the others commented favorably.

The President: I expect the USIA people will oppose it.

Mr. Stanton: Yes and No. VOA mostly likes it. Even Jim Keogh said it is more important for the cultural aspects to be united than who owned them. But he is not cheering.

The President: How about the USIA bureaucracy?

Mr. Stanton: You know there was an FSIO category. We maneuvered them into the FSO category. I don’t think it will cause any changes in the field, just more efficiency in Washington. USIA executes cultural affairs in the field, but State does it in Washington—mostly because of Fulbright who thought the propaganda (USIA) was dirty.

The President: My feeling is you would require legislation to get it done.

Mr. Stanton: Yes. There would be at least three or four separate pieces of legislation.

The President: I appreciate the job you did. I will try to look over the report. I think we should periodically look over these things. What was good at the time of the organization of the agencies isn’t necessarily permanently good.

Mr. Stanton: There were earlier recommendations to return the Information Agency to the State Department. There was one study done under Ike by Rockefeller.3

[Page 362]

Mr. Roberts: Legislation was initiated in August, but it died when Congress adjourned in September.

Mr. Stanton: This was in State originally, but Dulles pushed it out because he didn’t want to get more tangled up with McCarthy.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversation, Box 10, 3/11/75—Ford, Chairman of Panel of International Information Frank Stanton. No classification marking. The meeting was held in the Oval Office. Scowcroft’s March 11 briefing memorandum informed the President that the meeting’s purpose was to receive the Report of the Panel on International Information, Education, and Cultural Relations (Document 103). Scowcroft advised Ford, “While it would be appropriate to express your interest in the [Panel’s] recommendations, you should refrain from indicating support for any specific suggestions until the report can be thoroughly evaluated.” (Ford Library, White House Central Files, Subject File, 1974–1977, Box 77, FG 11–5, Educational and Cultural Affairs, Bureau of (Executive))
  2. Brackets in the original.
  3. A reference to the President’s Advisory Committee on Government Organization, chaired by Nelson A. Rockefeller. Excerpts from the Rockefeller Committee’s memorandum to President Eisenhower, April 7, 1953, on the organization of foreign affairs is reprinted in Annex IV to the Report of the Panel on International Information, Education, and Cultural Relations (Document 103).