57. Memorandum From Paul Henze of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • RFE/RL and Budget Cuts

I gave you a brief report (in an evening report) last week on OMB pressures which seem to be building up against RFE/RL.2 I now have some documentation and the results of extensive discussion of this problem with John Gronouski and Glenn Ferguson at lunch on 26 July. As you would expect, they are very concerned. They regard OMB as prejudiced against the radios and inclined to take only its own counsel on policy considerations. The report of Glenn Ferguson’s meeting with OMB officials on 21 July 1978, provided by the BIB (TAB A)3 lends substance to these contentions; note the paragraphs marked in red on page 2, where OMB advocates cutting out of minority languages and the comments about bargaining off the radios to promote better relations with the USSR.

The same day that Ferguson was meeting with OMB, Ralph Walter was writing to me from Munich on the budget problem. His letter is attached at TAB B4 with the most important passages marked in red. He sees a budget-cutting exercise as completely out of harmony with the positive thrust we have built up in the radios during the past 18 months and estimates that it will do serious, fundamental harm. He maintains that cutting the radios’ budget is absurd, in light of the small amount of money involved, at a time when we are trying to make fundamental, long-term improvements in the radios and when the [Page 190] need for them is obvious in view of heightening tensions within the Soviet Bloc and heightening tensions in our own relations with the Soviets.

Chto delat’?5Gronouski and Ferguson understand the need to work rapidly to build up more active and solid support for the radios in Congress. So does Jan Nowak, who is working wisely and well on this objective. Within the executive branch we need to call OMB to heel. The idea of cutting out nationality broadcasts at the very point when we are working to develop a long-range program for increased U.S. Government attention to this field is incongruous. I suggest we take a number of steps, systematically, to persuade/press OMB to be less arbitrary in its approach to radio budgeting. The best defense is to go on the offensive; I suggest:

• As part of our current Soviet nationalities exercise in the SCC we should get strong endorsement6 for the concept of expanding broadcasting to non-Russians, expanding research to back it up, and expanding personnel so that all these tasks can be performed effectively and sustained over time.

•  That we arrange for the BIB to prepare strong documentation on the policy significance of the radios, drawing on State and our own staff as sources of policy guidance, and authorize them to present this as justification for increased budgetary requests for FY 1980 and further increases in subsequent years.

•  That you speak to McIntyre on the importance of the radios, getting backing from the President if you consider it desirable.7

•  That I have a formal session with key senior staffers of OMB sometime in September, before the 1980 budgetary process goes into the home stretch, to brief them on our approach to the radios and the policy importance we attach to them.

•  That we supplement what is being done in respect to Congress by BIB, by the radios and by Jan Nowak and others, by discreet efforts of our own.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 9, Board for International Broadcasting (RFE, RL, VOA): 1/78–4/79. Confidential. Sent for action. Bartholomew and Inderfurth both initialed the memorandum indicating they saw it. Brzezinski checked his approval of all 5 suggestions, subject to marginalia comments noted below.
  2. In a July 21 Evening Report to Brzezinski, Henze wrote that Ferguson was told “OMB was recommending to President that broadcasts in non-minority languages be severely curtailed, that RL as a whole be considered as potential trade-off to Soviets for better behavior and that OMB expects tighter budgets for RFE/RL for future years!” Henze commented: “Something is badly out of phase here—as I said to Ferguson; these views go directly contrary to your views and to the net weight of almost all SCC and Presidential decisions regarding Soviets in recent weeks.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Horn/Special, Box 6, Evening Reports File: 6–8/78)
  3. Tab A is not attached.
  4. Tab B is not attached.
  5. “What to do?”
  6. Brzezinski underlined “strong endorsement” and wrote in the margin “from whom?” An unidentified staff member (possibly Bartholomew or Inderfurth) answered by writing “SCC.”
  7. Brzezinski wrote “give me a brief” in the margin below this recommendation.