136. Memorandum From Secretary of State Vance to President Carter 1

SUBJECT

  • Reorganization of State-USIA Relations

In the light of your commitment to government reorganization and of the continuing congressional interest in our information and cultural programs, I have considered what, if any, organizational changes might be necessary to improve the conduct of the country’s public diplomacy. As you are aware, this issue has been the subject of studies by a number of groups over several years.

The studies have identified five principal functions within public diplomacy: (1) “Policy information” is disseminated by USIA to provide overseas missions with background and policy guidance on current issues. (2) “Policy advice” involves the analysis of foreign opinion with a view to its implications for US policies and programs. (3) “Cultural exchange” is managed by the State Department at home and by USIA overseas. (4) “General information” consists of media and other activities abroad to project American society. (5) The Voice of America provides the medium for broadcasting the news, depicting American culture and influencing foreign attitudes in directions favorable to US foreign policy goals.

The Department has concluded a study of the full range of organizational possibilities, including:

—maintaining the status quo;

—adopting the recommendations made by a 1975 panel headed by Frank Stanton which would abolish USIA, move that Agency’s policy information and advisory functions into the State Department, create a new Information and Cultural Agency to handle USIA’s general information and cultural programs, and give VOA independent status.

—giving the Voice of America independent status while leaving USIA otherwise intact;

—shifting the State Department’s exchange of persons program to USIA, while giving that Agency a relationship to the Department comparable to that of either ACDA or AID.

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After a detailed analysis of these various alternatives, I have concluded that the optimum solution would be to consolidate State Department exchange programs and USIA programs in a relationship to this Department similar to that of the Agency for International Development. I have come to this conclusion for the following reasons:

—To maintain the status quo would cause us to lose an opportunity to correct a long-standing organizational defect and to improve foreign policy guidance in our information programs;

—I concur with the findings of all of the studies of our public diplomacy that all cultural exchange activities should be consolidated in one agency. The combining of functions now carried out by the State Department at home and by USIA overseas would simplify communications and facilitate broad program operations involving both exchange of persons and media products. On balance, I believe the risks (such as a possible reduction in the Department’s influence over the exchange program and greater congressional resistance to funding exchanges) would be minimized if USIA programs were brought into a new relationship with the Department, comparable to that of AID, and if we maintain the exchange programs’ present organizational and budgetary autonomy;

—With regard to the locus of the policy information and policy advice functions, I see significant disadvantages in the Stanton Panel proposal that these programs be split out from general information activities. The various information activities complement one another, and to fragment them would result in weakened programs and less effective coordination;

—To establish an independent Voice of America would aggravate the present tendency of Voice of America to act outside established policy. An independent Voice of America would make difficult effective guidance by the Department. I am not persuaded that VOA would gain in credibility through organizational independence—a contention of the Stanton report and Senator Percy. VOA’s bureaucratic status in Washington would be meaningless to an overseas audience.

—As to the organizational relationship between the Department and the new USIA, we considered the models presented by ACDA—an independent agency under the direction of the Secretary of State—and AID—an agency within the Department of State. In my judgment, a relationship on the AID model is preferable. The present USIA, like AID, has a world-wide range of operational activities which are complementary to the basic mission of the Department of State. Under an AID-like relationship we will be better able to integrate the conduct of public diplomacy with traditional diplomacy, and to achieve greater efficiency in our international information and cultural operational activities.

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In sum I propose that we move in the direction of consolidation, rather than fragmentation, in the organization of our public diplomacy resources. Clear policy guidance is essential, and the integrity of news and cultural programs must be protected.

Diagrams of present and proposed organizational relationships are attached.2

During the course of the summer we will be examining each of the State and USIA activities involved in this reorganization. During that review we would consider the current mission of these programs, whether any present activities should be reduced, eliminated or expanded, and also whether there should be a change in the name of the agency through which our public diplomacy is conducted.

Important congressional issues remain, and before proceeding further on this question, I would like your approval on the course of action outlined above.

The Fascell Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee has begun a series of hearings on public diplomacy and the State-USIA relationship. Deputy Secretary Christopher will testify June 21. Also, related hearings on international communications have been held by the McGovern Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee. A Senate sponsored amendment to the Department’s pending authorization bill would call for a report on these issues in October.

If you agree, I would propose that we outline in the forthcoming House hearings the issues discussed above, and the general direction of our thinking. We would describe the reasoning as our own, and make it clear that no final decisions or detailed plans have been made. We would then seek the Committee’s views and undertake on behalf of the Administration to give them appropriate consideration in the development of our reorganization program.

Recommendation:

That you approve the course of action described above.

Approve______ Disapprove______3

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Under Secretary for Management (M), 1977–1978, Box 3, Chron June 1977. Unclassified. Drafted by Wingate Lloyd (M/MO). Cleared by Joan Clark (M/MO), Moose (M), Hodding Carter (PA), Phillip Trimble (L), and Brian Atwood (H).
  2. Attached but not printed.
  3. Carter selected neither option.