103. Report of the Panel on International Information, Education, and Cultural Relations1

International Information, Education, and Cultural Relations: Recommendations for the Future

[Omitted here is the Table of Contents.]


“A decent respect to the opinions of mankind,” wrote Thomas Jefferson in 1776. “Diplomacy should proceed always frankly and in the public view,” said Woodrow Wilson in 1918.

Concern for foreign opinion and a commitment to the ideal of public diplomacy have been at the heart of American foreign policy for two centuries. They express not only our manner of acting abroad but also, and more significantly, many of the purposes behind our national existence. Today as in the past the United States stands committed to a way of life, to an actionable, realized philosophy of individual freedom [Page 363] and rule by the consent of the governed. That philosophy requires an equally firm belief in open criticism and controversy, in freedom of information about everything, including the United States and American society. These are powerful political ideals; upon them in large part rests the moral leadership which accompanies the exercise of American power in today’s world.

American international programs in information, education, and culture are thus not merely a tool of diplomacy or a means of supporting foreign policy, though they are certainly both of these things. Nor are they valuable simply because they express our national identity abroad, thus helping the world understand us and the use we make of our tremendous economic and political power. Beyond these things American programs in information, education, and culture are a means of fulfilling our national identity, of practicing the philosophy in which we believe. Public diplomacy is a central part of American foreign policy simply because the freedom to know is such an important part of America.

Nevertheless, it should be apparent even to the most casual observer that these activities have absorbed over the years an exceptionally small portion—less than seven percent—even of those public resources allocated to the non-defense side of America’s international affairs budget. Fortunately, the United States is well served in this area by the efforts of its citizens overseas in whatever capacity: all of the federal government’s educational exchange, for example, is only five percent of the total exchange of persons. But the government’s contribution, though small, is an absolutely vital one, for it does the things that the private sector does not do and takes action in places and at times that private individuals might not. Moreover, it has repeatedly demonstrated its success in terms appropriate to its objectives. Letters and oral testimony come from people all over the world who have been reached by the American experience. Government and business leaders hold different views of us, newspaper articles have a different theme because of an exposure to these activities. The evidence is not hard, but it is there in tangible form and it demonstrates that this small expenditure can have impressive results.

The Panel on International Information, Education, and Cultural Relations therefore wishes to state at the outset its conviction that these programs deserve all possible support now and in the years ahead. We believe they are an exceptional use of governmental energy and the taxpayer’s dollars, and all our recommendations are designed to improve the performance of what we consider a necessary and a noble task. Particular activities may come and go and bureaucracies change their forms and organizations; it is the objective that we consider controlling. [Page 364] The long hours and hard work represented by this Report have been given in service of that ideal.

The Panel began its labors in April 1974, in response to concern expressed over the past few years by several public and private bodies that these programs, established some 25 years ago, be reexamined in the light of today’s needs. In February 1968, the U.S. Advisory Commission on Information called for “an in-depth critique,” by an organization outside the government, “not only . . . of what USIA does well and what poorly, but of what it ought to be doing and how best it might approach it.” It has since repeated that call. Then, in May 1973, the Foreign Relations Committee of the United States Senate indicated its concern by recommending a redistribution of the functions performed by the United States Information Agency (USIA) and the State Department’s bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (CU). Finally, in July 1973, the U.S. Advisory Commission on International Educational and Cultural Affairs decided to investigate how USIA and CU might rearrange their similar and related functions in a way more suitable both to their effective performance and to the changing directions of U.S. foreign policy. (See Annex I for texts of these reports.)2

[Omitted here are the remainder of the Preface, a list of Panel members, and Chapter I: “History and Review of Present Program.”]

II. Objectives for American Information and Cultural Activities

Public support for the general information and exchange of persons dimensions of U.S. international relations (the first and second functions above) has been justified over the years on two basic levels. First, and most important in the view of the executing agencies themselves, has been the support these programs provide for U.S. foreign policy. However, alongside this objective there has always been a second one, less often articulated but originally cited by Congress as the primary reason for establishing both programs. This goal is the promotion of mutual and reciprocal understanding of the United States abroad and of other countries here, both as an end in itself and as an essential basis for a peaceful world order.

The Panel believes that both objectives remain valid and have actually increased in importance.

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As to the first, the experience of USIA and CU clearly shows the need to inform people of other cultures about American society and about American perceptions of world affairs before they can be expected even to comprehend, let alone identify with, U.S. foreign policy. The second objective, admittedly, is far more difficult to justify. Nevertheless, it is clearly within the U.S. national interest. While understanding alone will not guarantee either peace or cooperation, without understanding, nations are less likely to define areas where they can cooperate and to pursue this cooperation to mutual advantage. If we are to work with peoples who are very different from ourselves, we must understand them and they must understand us. While not susceptible to scientific proof, then, the value of mutual understanding is accepted as a matter of faith by virtually everyone with broad international experience. The Panel reaffirms its belief that building mutual understanding should be publicly supported by a nation possessing the wealth and world responsibilities of the United States. It applauds the wisdom and forthrightness of Congress in giving active expression to this belief in the Smith–Mundt and FulbrightHays Acts.3

Changes in International Environment

The Panel cannot, however, be content with a mere reaffirmation of objectives that guided the program in the 1950s and 1960s. The 1970s are decidedly different times, and the dogmas of even so stormy a past now seem over-shadowed by new realities. In fact, the Panel has been astounded by the way in which developments in international politics, even during its own short existence, have increased the need for these programs and reinforced the objectives they must serve. These changes in the international environment are worth delineating, for they point not only to new reasons for strengthening the performance of the current program but also to ways it should be changed in the future.

In the Panel’s view, the events of the last year have added up to a remarkable acceleration in the tangible interdependence of all nations. The crises in energy, in the international monetary system, and in world food distribution have etched in reality the abstractions of mutual dependence formulated by philosophers for centuries past. Beginning decades ago, the modern revolution in communication and transportation technology, together with rapid population growth, have brought the peoples of the world closer together. Today, altogether new sources of conflict have arisen (like the problems of scarce resources and pollution control) which manifest a striking proximity to [Page 366] the basic needs of individuals as well as to the diplomatic maneuverings of statesmen. For democratic governments, this has meant a growth in the impact of foreign on domestic policy and vice versa, making accommodation on the international level ever more intertwined with the satisfaction of the needs of their electorates. If no other evidence were available, the experience of millions of Americans waiting for gasoline last winter is proof enough that today everyone is intimately affected by international relations.

Against our growing awareness of these new problems of interdependence, the old conflicts of traditional international politics remain. The rush to independence of the so-called Third World has recently brought the total United Nations membership to 138, with most of the new governments representing peoples that are ill-clothed, ill-housed, ill-fed. It has become commonplace to note that the benefits of science in health and communications have simply resulted in a world peopled by more dissatisfied human beings; the gap between rich and poor as well as between promise and performance grows wider every day. In the realm of great power relationships, the Panel is not persuaded that the current political détente, however desirable, means an end to the sharp East-West struggle that has so dominated postwar politics. There are still two very different forms of social and governmental organization in the world, engaged in serious contention on a variety of fronts and armed—all rhetoric aside—as if they meant business. The United States with all its domestic concerns is still looked to by many abroad for leadership in the free world, and today faces the formidable task of asserting its leadership effectively and of persuading a new generation abroad that American policies remain the surest road to a secure and prosperous international order.

Faced with such formidable challenges, both old and new, all Americans must experience a certain anxiety in assessing the ability of the United States to meet them. No one would doubt the difficulty of the situation. Our sudden awareness of dependence has destroyed the myth of American omnipotence; no nation can impose its will in today’s world, if ever one could. But to say that the solutions for today’s problems must be cooperative should by no means be counsel for despair. Interdependence does not make leadership useless or hopeless, but all the more necessary and rewarding. It may call, to be sure, for a new style of leadership, one that emphasizes new tools and puts old ones to new uses. In the Panel’s view, this diplomatic style will be one in which general information and exchange of persons activities must play a broader though different role than in the past, both in supporting foreign policy and in building mutual understanding. In action and in purpose, we are on the threshold of a new kind of cultural diplomacy.

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New Conditions of International Life

In the Panel’s view, then, the following propositions seem self-evident:

1. Among the consequences of growing international interdependence is the prospect that American policies and actions will more than ever be felt abroad. There is, therefore, a greater need to explain the societal context in which those policies and actions are generated.

2. The new issues on the international agenda—energy, environment, food, oceans, population—involve individuals very directly. The societal forces and factors which set in motion the policies intended to address this new agenda of people-oriented issues will have to be explained.

3. In an era of negotiations leading to détente, there are new needs and opportunities to communicate with peoples, many of whom have been cut off from dialogue with us in the postwar period. Détente both requires and makes possible the fuller international expression of American ideas. It enables the United States to extend the conduct of its cultural diplomacy to countries which until now have been off limits.

4. The rise to significance of non-Western countries, especially in the Middle East and Asia, makes the job of international communications more difficult for the United States. At the same time, the growing importance of countries whose culture differs greatly from our own requires that the United States help them understand what lies behind American policy commitments.

5. While the United States retains considerable, perhaps predominant, power in international affairs, the capacity of America to dictate the course of international events has diminished. This means that the United States will have to count more than ever on explanation and persuasion. The new premium on persuasion makes cultural diplomacy essential to the achievement of American foreign policy goals.

These new conditions of international life not only establish the continuing need for strong governmental support of an expanded information and cultural program but also point to the new style and content it must assume. In the first place, the program must recognize that the communications revolution has educated the world to a greater skepticism concerning the things governments say about their societies. Hence, there is a great need today for credibility, to convince others that a program run by the American Government is presenting an objective picture of American society.

Second, if American leadership is to be redirected toward cooperative solutions to our common problems, the new programs must also be genuinely reciprocal. All too often, programming has seemed to reflect a ballistic concept of communication—a one-way shooting of a [Page 368] message at a target. Today, however, Americans realize that they have much to learn as well as to teach and that cooperative leadership requires good listening as well as persuasive talking. America’s new leadership style will thus require dialogue, with the emphasis placed on the “mutual” side of building mutual understanding.

Public Support Justified

These last remarks on mutuality throw a new perspective on the concern with which we began this chapter, namely, the justification for continuing and increasing public support of the information and cultural program. Unquestionably, the conditions of today’s international environment have elevated not only the absolute need for these programs (both to build mutual understanding and as backup to U.S. foreign policy) but also their relative importance among the diplomatic tools at our command. In addition, however, the new cultural diplomacy in its mutual aspect will provide direct benefits to individuals, foundations, educational institutions, and business enterprises—to the hundreds of thousands of past and potential exchanges and the millions more who will benefit from contact with those who come to the United States. The program thus has the opportunity to evolve a genuinely symbiotic relationship with the private sector, rendering benefits far beyond those resulting from a successful foreign policy and in turn multiplying its own resources and impact many times through the efforts of the people it benefits.

To summarize, the Panel concludes that new conditions in today’s world necessitate both a strengthening of cultural diplomacy and a restructuring of its activities. Its purpose, concisely expressed, would be to contribute to mutual knowledge and understanding that is increasingly necessary for the effective communication and execution of American policy in cooperation with other nations. To fulfill this responsibility, the Panel has concluded that the new cultural diplomacy needs a new organizational home, one that will encourage and facilitate its accomplishment of this broad purpose. The next chapter is devoted to an explanation of that part of the Panel’s proposals.

[Omitted here are Chapter III on the Panel’s proposed Information and Cultural Affairs Agency, Chapter IV on the proposed Deputy Under Secretary of State for Policy Information, and Chapter V on the VOA.]

VI. Recommendations for Implementation

In previous chapters the Panel has elaborated in some detail its recommendations for reorganization of American programs in the field of international information, education, and cultural relations. In the process we have attempted to explain the reasons why such reorganization seems logical and desirable, beginning with the challenges faced [Page 369] by cultural diplomacy in the 1970’s, and continuing with the characteristics we consider essential for any government structure seeking to meet them. The tasks remaining, then, are only two: first, to review our recommendations in order to lay out both the relationship between them and the total governmental structure that will result; and second, to explain what practical actions are necessary for our plan to be put into effect.

An Outline for the Future

In Chapter I we described four functions that the Panel has used to categorize the many activities of USIA and CU; these functions formed the foundation for the discussions in subsequent chapters. Our initial distinction was between the policy information and advisory functions, on the one hand, and general information plus the exchange of persons, on the other. The first two functions, it was submitted, simply could not be performed without the closest relationship to the people who actually formulate American foreign policy. In the absence of any convincing arguments against that association, it was concluded that the two functions should be fully integrated into the existing structure of the Department of State, the institutional repository of the policy making process. In particular, we recommended (in Chapter IV) that they should be the responsibility of a new State Department Office of Policy Information. This office would disseminate information about U.S. foreign policy overseas and advise the Secretary as to the state of public opinion worldwide.

By contrast, the second two functions, though needed to support foreign policy, could, in the Panel’s view, quite adequately be performed without involvement in the political vicissitudes of day-to-day policy problems. Indeed, due to their need for a close relationship to the private sector, a position somewhat detached from the daily administration of foreign policy seemed desirable. However, it was also found necessary to ensure that their programming would be directed to the service of long-range foreign policy goals. The similarity of the general information and exchange of persons functions in this delicate relationship to foreign policy, plus the unanimous assertion by practitioners of public diplomacy that people and media must be programmed together overseas, led to the conclusion that the two should be combined in an autonomous organization within the Department of State. We recommended the establishment of such an Information and Cultural Affairs Agency in Chapter III.

Finally, the Voice of America, though heavily involved in both policy and general information, was found to be a special case because of its third function as a news disseminator. It was therefore decided that it would fit neither in the regular policy structure of the Department nor in the newly established ICA. It was accordingly recom [Page 370] mended (in Chapter V) that it be organized as a separate agency under a presidentially-appointed Board of Directors.

A three-part organizational solution has thus emerged: policy information and advice would be folded into the Department of State, general information and exchange of persons would be integrated in the ICA, and the VOA would be established independently of each and responsible only to its Board. The three organizations would interrelate, but in rather different ways. The most direct connection would be between the VOA and the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Policy Information, who would sit on the Voice Board of Directors and whose office would furnish directly the foreign policy statements to be aired on the radio. The Director of the ICA would also sit on the VOA Board, but the Agency’s relationship to the Voice would only be that of providing general advice for the VOA cultural output. The ICA, as its autonomous status indicates, would likewise receive only general advice from the Secretary and the Deputy Under Secretary on the long-range policy goals that the information and cultural program should support. The Office of Policy Information would be almost completely independent of the other two, drawing its sustenance from its intimate involvement in the foreign policy process as conducted at the highest levels of the Department.

Overseas, the present triad of PAO–IO–CAO would be replaced by a Press Counselor/Attaché (reporting to the Department of State) and an Information-Cultural Counselor/Attaché (reporting to the ICA). Both the Department and the Agency would thus have their own officers in the field to execute their respective programs, instead of the current pattern, whereby CU programs are executed by USIA officers. The Press and Information-Cultural Counselors/Attachés would work closely together, maintaining the pattern of teamwork that has so effectively interrelated the policy and general information programs in the past.

[Omitted here is a section entitled “Getting from Here to There,” on the logistics of implementing the Panel’s organizational recommendations.]

VII. Conclusions

In offering this report, the Panel on International Information, Education, and Cultural Relations wishes to emphasize the scope of the task it has undertaken. We recognized from the start that we were analyzing programs that have been of enormous benefit to our country over the course of a quarter century or more, activities which we believe have more than justified the resources and attention devoted to them.

The Panel thus did not set out to alter radically American programs in the field of public diplomacy. It set out, instead, to improve [Page 371] the government’s capacity to carry them forward in the present and, if possible, in the developing international environment of the future. And, in the course of its investigations, the Panel found three major problems which nearly all witnesses agreed were hampering the execution of these programs now and were likely to cripple them in the future:

  • I. the division of one program between two agencies, USIA and the Department of State;
  • II. the assignment, to an agency separate from and independent of the State Department, of the task of interpreting U.S. foreign policy to the world and advising in its formulation; and
  • III. the ambiguous positioning of the Voice of America at the crossroads of journalism and diplomacy.

The Panel’s recommendations endeavor to solve these problems primarily by combining presently fragmented programs:

  • I. by uniting the two agencies responsible for American information, education, and cultural relations;
  • II. by uniting all foreign policy information and advisory functions in the one Department where they can be properly executed; and
  • III. by establishing the VOA in a position worthy of its unique role and mission.

The Panel recognizes that the solutions to our problems require organizational changes, but organizational forms do not adapt themselves to new conditions unless initiatives are taken. USIA and CU have done admirably in circumstances very different from those for which they were designed. Their dedicated officials, however, have labored too long under needless structural burdens. It is time, in the Panel’s view, to set them free.

  1. Source: Panel on International Information, Education, and Cultural Relations, International Information, Education, and Cultural Relations: Recommendations for the Future. Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1975. No classification marking. Annexes I–V of the report are not printed. Hosted by Georgetown University’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Panel, which began its work in April 1974, was chaired by former CBS President Frank Stanton, and therefore widely known as the “Stanton Panel.” Besides Stanton, its Executive Committee included Peter Krogh (Vice Chairman), former USIA Associate Director Walter Roberts (Project Director), Reader’s Digest Chairman and Editor-in-Chief Hobart Lewis, former USIA Director Marks, Leo Cherne, former Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and USIA Deputy Director Andrew Berding, author James A. Michener, W. Phillips Davison, and John M. Shaheen. Other panelists included Thomas B. Curtis, David R. Derge, Harry S. Flemming, Rita E. Hauser, William French Smith, William C. Turner, George Gallup, J. Leonard Reinsch, Edmund A. Gullion, Kenneth W. Thompson, and Lawrence Y. Goldberg. Turner resigned from the Panel in August 1974 to accept an ambassadorship. Marks abstained from the final report. Gullion, Dean of Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, dissented from the Panel’s organizational recommendations in a March 7, 1975, letter to Stanton. Gullion’s letter is Annex V to the Panel’s report.
  2. Annex I includes the following documents: an excerpt from the 23rd Report of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Information, February 1968, calling for an independent critique of official information, educational, and cultural programs; an excerpt from the 24th Report, May 1969, of that same body reiterating that call; Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Report No. 93–168, May 22, 1973, on the USIA’s FY 1974 appropriations measure (S. 1317), in which the SFRC made its organizational recommendations; and a July 20, 1973, resolution by the U.S. Advisory Commission on International Education and Cultural Affairs to investigate the pertinent functions performed by the USIA and the Department of State.
  3. The U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 (P.L. 402), known as the Smith–Mundt Act, established the guidelines by which the U.S. Government conducts overseas information and cultural programs. For the FulbrightHays Act, see footnote 3, Document 91.