161. Memorandum From the Special Assistant to the President for Media and Public Affairs (Jagoda) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1
- INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS
My study of the International Communication Agency, from the NSC perspective, is complete, and I am pleased to submit this report.
The focus has not been on public relations or media relations, but on how our government relates to the global flow of ideas.
ICA does its overseas job well, but is only now beginning to develop compunications (sophisticated computer/communications methods) skills and is insufficiently involved in helping our own people develop a global perspective. The NSC does an inadequate job of coordination of international communications potential and fails to take advantage of useful research capabilities at ICA. The recommendations of this study can be carried out largely by ICA, but support for Presidential foreign policy initiatives could be substantially enhanced by the addition of a full-time NSC staff member to work closely with ICA and other relevant agencies.
II. Global Perspective Needed by Our People
Measured by classic standards in the field of international public relations, ICA is a superb institution. It is not especially large: Its budget [Page 476] is little more than $400 million; and its employees number under 4500 Americans and 4500 foreign nationals. The bulk of these resources are devoted to telling the world about U.S. society and policy. This public relations and cultural relations effort aimed beyond our borders and directed with wisdom, care, and economy by John Reinhardt and his Deputy, Charles Bray, functions in a way that well suits the needs of a government proud of its policy and eager to share its ideas and values with the rest of the world.
As you will recall, the USIA was created in the midst of the cold war and was, in the phrase of the Agency motto, designed for “telling America’s story to the World.” With last year’s reorganization, including the addition of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs from State, the President directed that ICA move toward bringing foreign culture and perspectives to our own people, as well. This mandate seemed particularly timely since our foreign policy was likely to be understood only if our people became aware of the extensive global change and associated political and cultural activism of the previously passive world majority. It is clear, however, that this process of education and communication with our own people has barely begun at ICA. I start with this point because inadequate domestic understanding seems to be a weak link in our foreign policy chain. The Carter administration must do a better job of helping the American people understand the world forces amid which Administration policy is shaped.
This matter of informing our people about the rest of the world is somewhat different than informing our people about our foreign policy. ICA is prohibited by law from making its materials intended for foreign distribution also available at home. This is justified as an effort to guard against the agency being used to boost the “political” fortunes of whichever Administration happens to be in power. This concern is understandable since the communications materials distributed abroad by the Agency tend to emphasize the positive themes of our society and the President is always cast in a favorable posture.
However, from the NSC perspective, ICA could become enormously more helpful if it could expand its role, recently mandated, to help inform and involve the American people in the larger world. To date, it appears that the changes have resulted in a better managed program of conveying abroad our policy and cultural messages, but the two-way, return effort has not been substantially increased, nor does there seem to be much specific planning in that direction.
Director Reinhardt should be encouraged to further develop a coordinated approach toward bringing an awareness home to our people of foreign attitudes about mutually significant international issues. [Page 477] This would naturally include perspective on historical and cultural patterns, but to be most effective this effort would emphasize:
—Population shifts and the end of Western colonialism;
—Political awakening of the rest of the world resulting from literacy and new patterns of national and regional interaction;
—End of universally valid ideological models;
—Demand for more equal distribution of world wealth and power;
—Shared global problems like nuclear proliferation, economic dislocation, and human rights.
III. International Educational and Cultural Programs are Inadequately Funded, Largely Ignored by NSC Staff, and Uncoordinated Government Wide
As you will recall, interest was demonstrated by the President, and by you, in the overseas programs for educational and cultural exchange during the recent budget review. Increased funding levels were suggested, but an OMB recommendation to study the matter for another year was accepted by the President. My observation is that these programs receive inadequate attention from your staff and that there should be a closer liaison between ICA and NSC in the outline of these programs and in the process generally. But these intercultural communication efforts are never at the top of any one NSC staff member’s list of priorities. These programs could be much more closely interwoven into the main thrust of our foreign policy if they received more NSC attention, particularly with an eye to shaping our domestic consciousness.
Directly related is the need for better coordination of government-wide programs of an educational and cultural nature. NSC staff members should have an idea of who is being sent where by the federal government on programs in which contact abroad is with potentially important elites. Recent Congressional action mandated increased coordination and reporting on this matter by ICA, but that has not been activated.
At the President’s direction, a program for increasing educational and cultural exchange is to be developed. An NSC staff member should be assigned to give this priority, and ICA should be instructed to provide more guidance to NSC about these programs and how they can be of benefit to the implementation of the President’s foreign policy without compromising their intrinsic merit. ICA should be asked to present you with its plan for better coordination of government-wide foreign educational and cultural activity, including possible use of the NSC mechanism for implementation.[Page 478]
IV. Better Advisory Research for NSC Staff
In the original USIA, the Agency head was a member of the National Security Council, was to provide advice and guidance on foreign attitudes, and was to be a counselor on these matters to the President. To facilitate this role, the Agency had, as a key official, an Assistant Director for Research. A substantial budget and a large staff was devoted to the effort. Gradually, though, the White House came to pay increasingly less attention to the formal advisory role of the Director. The Research Directorate began to conduct research that tried to show that the Agency itself was a vital and useful organization. While polling data, attitudinal studies, and other reports were still available, these materials did not seem to be used by those concerned with the main direction of American policy.
This area was of particular interest because one of the main goals of this study has been to try to find ways to enhance the capacity of ICA to provide useful inputs into the NSC decision process. As part of the reorganization of ICA, Director Reinhardt has ordered his research department to become more relevant, to become more involved with the main thrust of our foreign policy. Specifically, under a plan adopted last month, the work of the new ICA research department would enable those concerned to:
—take foreign reactions and opinion shifts into account in carrying out current U.S. policies;
—assess the likely impact of foreign opinion on possible future policy directions;
—be conscious of elite and mass attitudes toward specific international issues of interest to the U.S.;
—understand the climate of opinion which defines the limits within which foreign leaders and negotiators operate;
—identify broad social, cultural, and value changes in foreign countries for the purposes of long and short-term policy planning.
Until now, ICA research has generally been of limited value to NSC staff members. With this new approach, the research department of ICA is becoming equipped to be directly responsive to the needs of the NSC staff. Altough materials will continue to be made available on a timely basis from John Reinhardt to ranking members of the government foreign policy community, it should be possible to create a mechanism for briefing NSC staff members on an individual basis to find out what specific information is needed, for ICA to receive suggested areas of inquiry, and for work in progress to be made available on a regular basis.
To enhance the availability of useful information from ICA to NSC, ICA should be requested to establish a briefing program to keep NSC [Page 479] staff members up to date on research work in progress. ICA is willing to get this moving and is especially interested in trying to be responsive to suggestions from NSC staff members.
V. Global Information Flow Needs More Attention from NSC
With current staffing, NSC has limited ability to encourage and coordinate international communications and information flow. These matters are often thought of as policy problems, but I suggest that, from a Presidential perspective, they should be seen as operational opportunities.
I had hoped to crystalize thinking about how to get NSC more involved in thinking about communications and information policy issues. I began this study by concentrating on U.S. preparation for the recent UNESCO general conference. It was quickly apparent that although only limited attention had been devoted to the policy issues in international communications, a PRM2 had been developed and Henry Richardson was involved in the area sufficiently to provide a point of government-wide interaction. Preparations for the World Administrative Radio Conference seem to be moving ahead with NSC last-minute coordination. So, it can be said that this policy area is being handled satisfactorily in a routine way.
But, the area demands more. As you know, we have reached a time when the entire world political system is deeply influenced by the revolution in computer-controlled communications. In 1969, you wrote: “. . . to play an effective world role America needs foreign-relations machinery that exploits the latest communications techniques and uses a style and organization responsive to the more congested patterns of our global existence.”3
Since then enhanced satellite capacity, microprocessors, and astonishing global networks of compunications have arrived. Yet there is almost no operational thinking going on about these matters in the U.S. government. Since the effort would obviously be government-wide, this work could only be undertaken at the specific direction and with the full support of the President. This function would become the central activity of a new NSC staff member for Global Information. ICA is well suited to undertake the work under the NSC banner.[Page 480]
There is much talk about the force of ideas and about rapid change in world affairs, but little planning for new organizational and bureaucractic arrangements to take advantage of the global flow of information and advanced communications technology. Although ICA could begin shaping a response to these possibilities, a Presidential mandate would have to be sought at the appropriate time. The research, development, and initial implementation would be expensive. Without full support from your office, the effort would not move. A staff person should be assigned to spend full time on global information resources and the other matters discussed in this report.
- Source: Carter Library, Donated Historical Material, Barry Jagoda, Box 3, NSC. No classification marking. A copy was sent to Aaron. There is no indication that Brzezinski saw the memorandum.↩
- Presumable reference to PRM/NSC–35, “International Communication Policy,” issued on April 28, 1978. It is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XXV, Global Issues; United Nations.↩
- Reference is to Zbigniew Brzezinski, Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era. (New York: Viking, 1970)↩