Foreign Relations of the United States, 1977–1980, Volume XXX, Public Diplomacy
30. Memorandum From the Director of the United States Information Agency (Reinhardt) to all USIA Heads of Offices and Services1
I know that most of you will have heard reports on Wednesday’s2 staff meeting from representatives from your element who were present. In my remarks I gave my views on the important issues now confronting USIA and outlined how I hope to deal with them. Since not all of you could be present, I thought you might like to read the attached informal record of that meeting. I should appreciate your calling the text to the attention of your staff and placing it in an appropriate place where all those interested may also read it.
Notes Prepared in the United States Information Agency3
NOTES FROM DIRECTOR’S STAFF MEETING
March 30, 1977
I am delighted to be here for the first time. This time three months ago I didn’t have the slightest idea that I would be here. Thus I have had no long preparation for assuming my duties here and don’t come this morning with any long list of things to be achieved. In the little over two months that I have known this day was coming I obviously have been doing a good deal of conferring with many of you here, with people outside the building, in the public sector and the private sector. I’ve been doing a good deal of reflecting on the general programs of the Agency but with at least one handicap—that much of my reflection has been based on an organization that I knew more closely 6–8 [Page 75] years ago when I was working directly in it.4 I’m not sure that is a sound basis for proceeding. On the other hand, I fear that there is a looking back on those days and as I have conferred with you in the last 2½ months, many of the things that existed then are still with us, for better or worse. Actually, I think to some extent, for worse. This is one of the reasons that the general question of reorganization, which is uppermost in everyone’s mind, is on us. I think that if there had not been a Stanton Panel report there would have been an “X” or “Y” or “Z” report. And one of the several reasons that we are confronted with the question of reorganization, which incidentally I welcome, is that the Agency in its general organization, general structure, seems to me has not changed essentially since its birth. And therefore the question of mandate, of mission, of organization is a completely legitimate one and one that I think we should welcome. I am aware that those of you who have been in the Agency in Washington or overseas since the appearance of the Stanton report in the spring of ’75 have had your morale affected. You have been anxious, to say the least. Indeed there may have been some element of fear. And I think that this is natural enough. Where does the Agency go when this question is with us for a two-year period and is not settled—it would do something to any organization. Thus I am determined if at all possible that we put this question behind us. I told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee it would take 60–90 days.5 I was not authorized to say 60–90 days. I was authorized to say quickly, whatever that means. It seems to me if we go along much longer with this question, it is simply never settled. If a new organization cannot deal with it within a year, it will tend to slide. If it slides any further, it would not be to anyone’s advantage, including taxpayers. Until we know the direction in which we are going, the redirection of the existing Agency will be more difficult. I do not think that we should undertake any massive changes until we get some better feel of the reorganization question. I personally think that we do have an antiquated structure. In sheer managerial terms it would seem to me there is something wrong with an organization that has 17 coequal Assistant Directors or their equivalents all reporting to the same place. From a sheer managerial point of view this simply does not make any sense. This has nothing to do with the Stanton Panel or with the other 32 studies of this Agency since its beginning. I cite this as just one overall structural problem that we have as an [Page 76] organization and that in my judgment makes reorganization a fair question. I think there has been a tendency over the years for us to deal with one another incestuously, to satisfy ourselves whatever the outside world thinks about us, whatever the other elements of the foreign affairs community may think about us. It is because of this internal relationship with one another that the question of the overall reorganization of the Agency has been put in abeyance, has not been faced up to. We have assured ourselves that we are good enough, that, e.g., when we open up a post overseas, we need a PAO, CAO, IO and other positions, regardless of whether there are indigenous information channels. This kind of thinking has led to the overall question of reorganization. Whether I’m right or wrong, it is on us. I think we should welcome the opportunity. Once and for all, I hope to settle the question of mandate, of structure of the organization, of our relationship with other elements of the government and especially with other elements of the foreign affairs community.
The general outline of my personal thinking on this question was contained in my response to Senators at the time of my confirmation hearings. I made it clear I was speaking personally. I believe Senator Javits made it crystal clear.
In the time frame of the next 60–90 days, what is going to happen is that in the next 2, 3 or 4 weeks at the most, I hope, the Executive will come to some conclusions about what it thinks concerning reorganization. There is at this time no definitive Executive position on the reorganization of USIA. There are a lot of thoughts, a lot of lobbying is going on. But no one, so far as I can find out, including the President, has made up his mind. No one has had argumentation on all sides of this question presented. I want to tell you as much about it as I know—there are no secrets.
We know the proposals on the table—I mention the Stanton Panel report simply because that is the latest report. That report is reinforced by the Murphy Commission report.6 You know what’s in it. I’m sure each of you here has read it. There is no question that we have to deal with each question in it. Personally I believe public diplomacy or whatever we call it is important. I think that in the general foreign affairs community this proposition is more or less accepted. All of us connected with the Agency over the years have experienced that we were tolerated, not welcomed overseas. Many foreign affairs colleagues have said, “Perhaps what you’re doing is alright, but it really doesn’t have much to do with what I’m doing.” I have no exact survey data, [Page 77] but it seems to me that in my general experience we have overcome this. There is an acceptance now for many of the things we do. I don’t think anyone questions the exchange of persons program, for example, since we operate overseas and we’re in touch with people in the foreign affairs community about this. I don’t think anyone would question the existence of the VOA. Many people are nettled about the broadcasts, particularly when they think those broadcasts encroach on their territory. Everybody recognizes the need for our better print media products. My experience is that Dialogue,7 for example, is acceptable. Once a product is presented abroad, Ambassadors, Political Officers, Administrative Officers feel this is good. So public diplomacy has come to be accepted. I believe the Stanton Panel did the nation a service by pointing up the need. Speaking personally, I believe there should be an overall body, called the Agency or whatever, that is concerned with public diplomacy, meaning education, culture, etc. Fragmentation seems to be the great enemy of public diplomacy. If we have a series of bureaucracies around Washington each in charge of its small domain of public diplomacy, this is the road to chaos. If we go that road in 5, 6, 8 weeks, we’ll face another move for amalgamation. This is the most important part of the overall reorganization plan. Technically and organizationally I don’t think it makes much difference where we end up, on Pennsylvania Avenue or in the suburbs of Washington or in the Department of State building. The important thing is to be a central organization concerned with all of the elements of public diplomacy. After all, when done well, it is an integrated effort. If the Voice is broadcasting without any regard to the other elements of the public diplomacy structure, if the print media or motion pictures do this, it will be less good than it would be otherwise.
On this question, though, it is the uppermost thing we’re going to tackle first. We’re going to try to get rid of it within 60–90 days. I cannot be sure how this will be approached with Congress. Whether it is presented to Congress with one or many Carter reorganization plans or whether we will go before appropriate committees and discuss it at length, which is what I would gather, I don’t know.
One personnel matter: Mike Pistor is back from London to work exclusively on this question. He has no other function in the front office than to address the question of reorganization. Many people in this Agency have had their say on this subject. We have the documents, oral statements too. I am perfectly willing to accept others. We think we know where you stand insofar as you have written or spoken on [Page 78] this question. Once Mike has completed his work, largely a drafting job, discussions within the Executive will begin, going as high as necessary in an effort to put together a definitive view of the Administration. We hope to prevail in our thinking. I think I sense not indifference but lack of knowledge of this subject within the foreign affairs community. Then the question is, what do we do pending reorganization. Sixty to 90 days may not work. How do we function? How do we bring new direction, new life, new leadership in the existing structure pending reorganization? It will be difficult because we do not know what we would be breathing new life into, restructuring, until the question of reorganization is finally settled. With that in mind, there are two or three things I would like to emphasize.
First is the question of preeminence of the field. I have heard that Washington exists to support the field. I don’t know anyone who particularly challenges this. To the extent that it has not worked, we want to make it work. This has got to be the dominant emphasis, whether we are reorganized or not. I would say that for an FSIO who wants to get ahead in the public diplomacy agencies as now organized, the place to get ahead is somewhere overseas, not in Washington. Literally we should consider ourselves a support element. There will be an increasing need for first-class, unerring support. We all accept the principle of Washington support for the overseas agency. It would seem to me in my own experience that despite acceptance of that principle, some of our support has been lacking. I had evidence of this in the past week when going through budget preparation hearings. There were hard questions and sometimes less than useful answers. It would seem to me that if an element of Washington bureaucracy were in charge of Africa, Personnel, whatever, that element at least should know more than me about the problems and know the answers. Otherwise there’s not much need for experts. I mention this only as an example of what I think you will need in terms of professional, expert support for the field if the field is to become or remain eminent. In order to look into this question more closely, I hope to work with each element here, certainly with element heads and their chief subordinates. I don’t want to do this six in a day in order to get rid of it. I want a briefing session from each of you from your points of view but without charts, without prepared statements, but largely in terms of answering questions, focusing attention on what it is that concerns you in order to make your operation the most efficient. We will get started in the next day or two. The main reason is not simply for my education—I have some because of my long association with the Agency—but to see where we are, where we stand.
I support intellectually and emotionally the general principle of openness. I do not think we can make basic decisions about the Agency [Page 79] without considerable input from various sectors of the Agency. How we structure ourselves to take advantage of the climate of openness, frankly I don’t know. I am acquainted with the Excom group8 as it exists. I assume one reason for the establishment of this committee was to enlarge the participation in the decision-making process. Insofar as I know about this committee, I don’t like what I see. I don’t like the composition of it. But if one tries to redesign it, I run into the problem of getting an unwieldy committee. In general, the size seems satisfactory as it is. But many important elements are out of it. There will be some such instrument, but I do not like what we now have. I don’t promise a new instrument next week, but there will be one. Pending the establishment of a new one, for questions and decisions that won’t wait each element should send your papers to me. If a decision has to be made immediately, we will make it. This is less than open, but it seems to me all we could do until we have restructured the committee. I would welcome counsel on this. I don’t know whether you’re happy or unhappy with this. As we try to restructure, I would welcome the counsel of each of you here and of your colleagues who are not here.
A word about the organization of the front office: At the beginning, at least hopefully we’ll have a Deputy9 someday, and the Deputy’s primary role as I conceive of it will be in program direction involving Area offices, involving Media offices as they support programs overseas. I would hope that the new Deputy, whenever he or she arrives, will focus 90 percent of that person’s attention on: What are we doing overseas, what should we be doing, and how well are we doing it? Clearly these are questions that concern the Areas primarily. They are questions that concern the Media insofar as they support the Media overseas. If they don’t support overseas, there is no reason for them to exist. As concerns budget and administration, the only reason we budget and administer is for whatever we do overseas. I hope that in the early days, at least, the new Deputy will have far more business with the Areas and the Media than with any other elements in the [Page 80] Agency. This may or may not work. It is presumed the new Deputy will need staff assistants, largely for the purpose of smooth liaison with the elements. Cynthia Fraser is already a Special Assistant and will continue in that role and will be primarily concerned with the smooth functioning of the office in its relationship with the other elements of the Agency and to a certain extent with other elements of the government. There is almost certain to be another Special Assistant who will not be Mike Pistor. The other person is not there, but when we are functioning there will be another Special Assistant to be carefully differentiated from the work Cynthia Fraser does. The second Special Assistant will be far more concerned with ad hoc work: Where are the problems? Where are the opportunities? This person is going to have lots of problems with the bureaucracy. He/she will also concentrate on the areas of opportunities: Are we missing a few bets? There will be a special project nature to the function, special concentration. This person will look for the special problems and opportunities.
Finally I would like to deal with an area I would call “needs,” whether we’re reorganized or not. This grows out of my reflections on the general operation of the Agency over the years. One of the great needs, if not the greatest, hopefully can be dealt with in terms of the reorganization. The need is for a meaningful, useful mandate, or mission. I am well aware of the fact that many people have tried to state this, and I think many are very good. I’m not sure we can improve on some of the statements. Any statement of mission or mandate goes right back to the Smith-Mundt Act.10 We have an obligation to explain foreign policy, to bring the people of America together with peoples abroad in an effort to gain mutual understanding. There is not much question that this is the essence of the mandate. The real problem is that thus far this kind of statement of the mandate has also been taken as a license, much less in recent years than before. A general statement allows one to do anything without any necessary priorities. I am aware of Thematic Programs. I should think that these do establish priorities. I think we still need a clear statement of mission and of mandate that will guide us in all of our work at home or abroad and that will make clear to other elements of the foreign affairs community what we are up to—how public diplomacy becomes an integral part of the foreign affairs structure. This should be agreed to in the Congress, the foreign affairs community and in the Agency. I hope to deal with this in the reorganization.
Secondly, I go back again to unwieldy structure. I bring it up again only because I think this is one of the needs which over all the years [Page 81] has cried out for some kind of solution, which we still don’t have. I don’t think I can get much done if 17 Assistant Directors are coming at me. There must be some more efficient mechanism, whether there’s a reorganization or not.
The third need is more difficult to describe. We can write a mandate, a mission, and hope for general understanding, we could reorganize the structure this afternoon. But there is a need for an intellectual center for the Agency in the broadest sense of the term. What have we done? What has been the degree of success or failure of what we have done, and what should we be doing? This center would affect the old planning, guiding and evaluation problem. It has always been with us and I assume it always will be with us. I don’t think I should call it a problem. It is pretty easy to go our separate ways, to do our thing pretty well in one area, less well in another, but without any core concern about what we do as an overall Agency. This is what we need in terms of an intellectual heart. Whether one person or six, this center would be exclusively concerned with more imaginative, more adventuresome programming that is obviously in the national interest. I hope that you sense the need and I’m not quite sure how we fulfill this need.
Fourthly, I think there is a crying need and always has been for a closer relationship and hence greater interest in the overall foreign policy process as it affects this Agency. This calls for a closer personal relationship with counterparts, with other foreign affairs agencies, not just the Department of State but perhaps AID, to a limited extent CIA, to a more limited extent NSC. What we have is concerned with the overall foreign policy process. I don’t think we win our spurs unless we make ourselves indispensable. There has got to be a sense of our need in the foreign policy process. It has been my experience that when we go to our colleagues, whatever we are proposing is generally acceptable. When you’re talking about culture, education, our programs, nobody is against us. But what our programs do to advance foreign affairs objectives is less clear. I should think that in the Area offices, for example, you should be bothered by calls from the Department of State saying in effect, Can you do the following things to help the general cause? Whatever we’re trying to do in a country, you’ve got a role. They should be calling on you as much as you call on them. I am aware that personalities play a great role, perhaps preeminent role in this. I am aware of the shaky relationships each of us has had with our counterparts in the foreign affairs community. There has to be some close relationship stemming first from personal contact but more important from programs we are trying to advance. On VOA and Eastern Europe, they’ve got something at stake and they protect their interests. They deal closely with Shirley and his predecessors, Tuch and his predecessors because they are interested in what comes [Page 82] out at the other end that affects what they’re intending to achieve. Frequently there are public conflicts. I have seen cables from Moscow about the Voice broadcasts.11 Perfectly legitimate cables. Some wrong, some dead right. What we are doing so far as an Agency, the Voice in this instance, is important in the foreign affairs community. I have attended some NSC meetings on some dominant problems. There was not much question that I was there because of the Voice. There was some fear that you would say something wrong. But the point is that I was there largely because we had a program of interest to someone, some groups outside the Agency. I can’t stress this need too much. One final illustration: Before confirmation I attended a briefing session by one element of the Agency trying to bring up to date its counterpart element in the Department. I thought overall it was a good briefing session, not so much for what we were saying as for what they were asking and for the manner in which they were trying to bring some harmony between our activities and theirs. The bottom line is indispensability. As long as we distribute pamphlets, process leader grantees, show films in a country without any general interest being aroused in our colleagues, I don’t think we are making public diplomacy work, not establishing a firm basis for public diplomacy.
Finally, the question of the VOA problem. This is at the heart of the Stanton Panel proposal and there is no question that there are thorough-going, hard, tough proponents on both sides of this general issue. I have given my personal opinion before the Senate and the VOA hierarchy. I don’t know how it will turn out. As long as it is a part of the Agency, as it is now, it isn’t a coequal and I don’t think it should be regarded as a coequal. Some 2,500 employees and one-fourth of the Agency’s budget and the ability to program overseas without going through any filtration process mean that it is somewhat more important than some of the other things that we do. I believe that one of the real reasons for the question of the Voice as it now confronts us in the reorganization problem is that over the years we have dealt with it as a coequal. Frankly, this is one of the problems that we have with the Excom. How we overcome this quickly I leave to you. In some of the meetings with some of the elements I have asked pretty pointed questions regarding relationships with the Voice. I have not been always happy with the answers. It would seem to me that radio, if it can be heard in a country where we have an on-the-ground operation, becomes a very important part of that operation. It needs support on the ground overseas and it needs support and guidance back here. The guidance question is a bothersome one and is at the heart of the [Page 83] organization problem. On that question it would seem to me we are much better off in our relations up here if we not do much before the fact, before the broadcast, about the news. Good journalists must know a good story when they see it, must broadcast it whatever it is. I hope with our relations with our colleagues downtown that when the question of broadcasts comes up, after the fact, there may very well be much discussion of what you did last week. If we have this discussion about what we have done, we ought to leave news alone and trust to the journalists. If we have poor journalists, we ought to get good ones. There is no overall statement on this but there will be one if VOA remains with us. On the question of news analyses, commentaries, we have an obligation as an Agency, the Voice has a mandate, a Congressionally-approved mandate, to explain foreign policy. That explanation cannot be made efficiently and well unless you are in contact with the policy makers. We must do something to strengthen your relationship with the policy makers. It is not enough each morning to have filtering down to you the policy of the day. It will never be enough until there are closer relations with the policy makers somehow, some way. For example, if SALT is the dominant question on a given day, you clearly are going to know a great deal about this to the extent that the appropriate people are able to sit down with the appropriate policy makers. Policy makers have an obligation to sit down and tell us. This is a key to the commentary/news analysis question. The Voice is also under a mandate to reflect the diversity of opinion on these questions including the subject of foreign policy. There is much debate in the United States, and it is much to our advantage to reveal this. To my knowledge this is generally done well. But it is a part of the uptown operation to assist in the guidance toward diversity. What are the suggestions? What does the research reveal on certain subjects that may be of interest to the Voice as they attempt to fulfill this part of their mandate?
There is a third part of the mandate, one which I call Americana. I am sure there is a greater need for uptown input. I have listened to some programs under this general rubric overseas that don’t seem to me to have high priority, but I understood why they were there. I don’t think there was any element back here focusing on what’s happening in this vast and rich society of ours that may be of interest to Latins and Africans and Asians. I am aware you do this down at the Voice but in a structure as large as ours uptown, you ought to get better guidance on this. There is a crying need for a closer relationship. The physical separation does not help much. We must overcome the more important intellectual separation.
On personnel assignments made en masse previously, I’m not sure we can do much about them. All of them may not hold as we attempt to position ourselves from a personnel point of view to achieve maximum results. But probably 95 percent will remain as announced.
- Source: National Archives, RG 306, USIA Historical Collection, Office of the Director, Biographic Files Relating to USIA Directors and Other Senior Officials, 1953–2000, Entry A–1 1069, Box 23, John E. Reinhardt, Speeches, 1977–1978. No classification marking.↩
- March 30.↩
- No classification marking.↩
- During the Nixon administration, Reinhardt served as USIA’s Assistant Director for Africa (1969–1970) and Assistant Director for East Asia and Pacific (1970) prior to his 1971 appointment as U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria.↩
- Reference is to Reinhardt’s March 15 confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; see footnote 2, Document 21.↩
- Reference is to Report of the Commission on the Organization of the Government for the Conduct of Foreign Policy (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing 1975), commonly known as the Murphy report after Commission chair Robert D. Murphy.↩
- Published quarterly and contained reprints of articles from U.S. periodicals, in addition to photographs and other images and articles written specifically for the publication.↩
- Reference is to the USIA’s Executive Committee, which Shakespeare had established in 1969. For additional information, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XXXVIII, Part 2, Organization and Management of Foreign Policy, footnote 1, Document 86. Documentation on the establishment of the Executive Committee is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1917–1972, Public Diplomacy, 1969–1972.↩
- On April 27, the White House released a statement indicating that the President would nominate Bray, at the time serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, to be Deputy Director of the United States Information Agency. (Public Papers: Carter, 1977, Book I, pp. 732–733) The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved Bray’s nomination on May 19, and the full Senate confirmed Bray’s nomination on May 25. (“Sullivan As Envoy to Iran is Backed by Senate Panel,” The New York Times, May 20, 1977, p. 2 and “Senate Confirms 11 Envoys,” The Washington Post, May 26, 1977, p. E2)↩
- See footnote 2, Document 1.↩
- For a representative example, see Document 8.↩