63. Letter From Paul Henze of the National Security Council Staff to the Director of the International Communication Agency (Reinhardt)1

Dear John,

Since the pressure of SALT and summits has prevented him from doing so, Zbig has asked me to give you our reactions to the two excellent studies you prepared in response to his request of February 9, 1979.2 We have reviewed them carefully and considered the choices they present. Let me sum up our conclusions. (U)

We find your recommendations for technical expansion of VOA during the 1980’s reasonable and justified in terms of basic foreign policy priorities.3 We endorse them fully. We would like to see you incorporate these plans in your budget projections for FY 1981 and beyond. The political issues involved in setting up new transmitters for broadcasting to south and central Asia should be systematically assessed as soon as possible so that negotiations can get under way and serious technical preparations can begin. Please assess these ques [Page 201] tions with the help of the Department of State and give us a status report by September 1, 1979. (C)

We find your conclusions in respect to expansion of broadcasting time and broadcasting staff realistic and recommend you also provide in current budget planning for the modest expenditures this expansion will entail over the next two or three years. (U)

On language priorities, we welcome your plans for further expansion of the Persian service which you have recently inaugurated. Attention should be given to the need to adjust broadcasting hours to improve prospects of attracting an optimum audience in Afghanistan and Soviet Central Asia as well as in Iran itself. (C)

In respect to new languages, we concur in the priority of Azeri, but as next priorities we propose Amharic, Pushtu and Tamil rather than Mongolian and Lingala. The potential audience for Mongolian seems too small. Broadcasts in Lingala would undoubtedly be useful but the need for better communication with Ethiopia, where Soviet influence is continually becoming more predominant, is greater. (C)

We have noted from your current broadcast schedule that VOA is still beaming 35 hours per week to the three countries of Indo-China, with 64 million people, while only 21 hours per week go to the whole Indian subcontinent, with a population between 800–900 million. I should think there would be a case for reducing broadcast time in Vietnamese, if necessary, to permit more broadcasting in the native languages of the Indian subcontinent. Exactly what mix of Indian languages would be best should separately be evaluated but we clearly ought to do more than we are now doing. (C)

I will be happy to meet with you and your staff to discuss any of these plans further.4 (U)

Very sincerely,

Paul B. Henze
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Agency File, Box 9, International Communication Agency: 6–8/79. Confidential. Copies were sent to Vance and McIntyre. In a June 1 memorandum to Brzezinski, Henze outlined the VOA position on language allocation and transmitter needs and recommended that the ICA proposals be approved. (Ibid.) On June 5, Robert Gates returned the June 1 memorandum to Henze and suggested that, given Brzezinski’s prior approval of guidelines on VOA, he deal directly on those issues with Reinhardt. (Ibid.)
  2. See footnote 3, Document 61. In a March 7 memorandum to Brzezinski, Reinhardt outlined VOA language priorities. Tarnoff wrote to Brzezinski on March 24 that the Department of State agreed with the position adopted by ICA on expanding VOA language broadcasting with the exception of expanding Mongolian programming since “Russian broadcasts to the Soviet Far East remain an effective means of reaching the Mongolian population.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Agency File, Box 9, International Communication Agency: 6–8/79) In his May 1 memorandum to Brzezinski, Reinhardt forwarded the requested VOA transmitter study, including recommendations for building additional transmitters. (Ibid.)
  3. An updated version of these proposals were discussed at an SCC (I) meeting on December 11. See Document 70.
  4. Reinhardt responded on June 21, suggesting that the ICA would proceed with the NSC suggestions. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Agency File, Box 9, International Communication Agency: 6–8/79)