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


  • Money for Radio Expansion (U)

One month ago today the SCC endorsed proposals for expanding broadcasting to Muslims and the President approved these actions two days later. But, as the New York Times reported from Munich yesterday (TAB A),2 Radio Liberty still hasn’t received a penny of the money needed to do the job. OMB’s bookkeepers pinch pennies, question the intent of the SCC actions and think up reasons why the money shouldn’t be provided.

Your credibility and mine with the radios and the BIB is suffering. Does the Administration really mean what it says? Is the President really behind expanded broadcasts? Do SCC and NSC decisions not apply to OMB?

Particulars: The NYT gave both VOA (TAB B)3 and RL (TAB A) attention yesterday. The piece on VOA talks about what it is going to do and sounds pretty good, but it all has to be done yet and impact demonstrated. RL, which is probably even more eager to move than VOA, tells it how it is: pitifully limited output now because Soviet Muslim broadcasting has been kept on a starvation diet for years; enormous potential for expansion; frustration. Bill Reese, who is quoted in the article, is a feisty Jerry Funk type. He is the man I described to you after my visit last summer as bringing a whole new potential into the Caucasian and Central Asian field. A former Peace Corps volunteer [Page 224] in Turkey, he conducts daily programming meetings in Turkish and has RL’s motley team of (mostly aging) Tatars, Uzbeks, Azerbaijanis, Kazakhs, Tadzhiks, Turkmen and Kirgiz motivated as they have never been before.

John White of OMB has refused to return my calls since before Christmas. I finally got through to Ed Sanders, Deputy Associate Director for International Affairs, yesterday and told him I was preparing a report for you on implementation of the radio decisions and wanted to know what OMB’s problem was. He said White didn’t agree with the SCC decisions as I described them. White understood the SCC to have decided that the radios didn’t need any money until they secured new transmitters. I said he was wrong. I repeated for the umpteenth time that even without new transmitters they needed to beef up broadcasting by hiring new people, developing new news research and programming resources to be able to highlight Middle Eastern developments—and if they did get new transmitters, they needed to have all these other things done to make effective use of them. He said they thought they could reprogram, cut something else out. I said the SCC had not even considered that “option”. We wanted no cuts in Polish or Romanian to be able to broadcast to Azerbaijanis and Uzbeks. This was not in the national interest. Again, for the umpteenth time, I said the problem was that all radio broadcasting had been shortchanged for years and everything needed to be expanded.

The truth is that OMB has not reversed the $2.2 million cut it made this fall, over our strong objections, in RFE/RL’s FY–81 budget; RFE/RL is already running short this year and currently faces the necessity of firing 40 people!

The Administration’s program for expanding radio broadcasting will soon be exposed as hollow rhetoric unless ample funds are assured. (VOA has been allocated some extra funds by OMB, but far less than is needed to accomplish what they are under orders to do.) Given the insignificant amount of money required (compared to defense outlays)—the entire SCC package of 11 December is well below $10 million—all of this penny-pinching agony is idiotic. There is no question about popular and congressional support for what we want to do.4 I continue to get letters and calls praising us for the decisions that were [Page 225] leaked by Binder on 16 December. There have been no negative responses whatsoever. When we originally faced communications challenges in the 1950’s, we simply made sizable sums of money available and gave the people we put in charge of radio operations the green light. The money was spent well. We have no reason whatsoever to believe that the competent management of RFE/RL will not spend every penny that is made available to them now with full effectiveness. If we really mean what we say, we should assure them of $20 million over the next year and tell them to rush ahead. The results will be impressive.

One of the most serious shortcomings of this Administration, when it is able to formulate good ideas and take decisions, has been its incapacity to perform, to implement, to carry out what it says it wants done. We seem to have another striking instance of it in the broadcasting field.


Since your effort to get the Vice President to pressure OMB to honor the SCC/Presidential decisions on broadcasting has produced no results, the only course left open, if we are not to tell BIB/RFE/RL to abandon the effort, is for you to take up the issue with McIntyre, getting beforehand whatever bolstering you feel you might need from the President himself.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Horn/Special, Box 4, Chron File: 1/80. No classification marking. Sent for action. Copies were sent to Brement, Larrabee, Sick, Hunter, Thornton, Odom, Ermarth, and Griffith.
  2. Attached but not printed at Tab A is John Vinocur, “Radio Liberty Stressing News to Soviet Moslems,” The New York Times, January 10, 1980, p. A13.
  3. Attached but not printed at Tab B is Graham Hovey, “Voice of America Aims More Programs at Moslems,” The New York Times, January 10, 1980, p. A12.
  4. In a January 23 letter to Carter, AFL/CIO President Lane Kirkland decried the insufficient funds made available to broadcasting to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 9, Board for International Broadcasting (RFE, RL, VOA): 2–9/80) In a February 1 memorandum to Dodson, Henze suggested a reply to Kirkland should stress the December 11 SCC decisions for immediate actions and emphasize that funds are being made available. David Aaron concurred with Henze’s recommendations and added a note that reads: “we share the sense of urgency” expressed by the AFL/CIO President. (Ibid.)