Saturday, July 30, 2016

America's Public Diplomacy Washington Bureaucracy at Work (late 1970s)

From the newly-published papers newly by the Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State:


105. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State for Management (Read) to the Deputy Secretary of State (Christopher)

Washington, undated

Policy Guidance for USIA [on USIA, see.]

This memorandum is in response to your request for a summary description of the way in which State guidance is conveyed to USIA.

Secretary’s Responsibilities

Reorganization Plan No. 8 of 1953, which established USIA, states that The Secretary of State shall direct the policy and control the content of a program, for use abroad, on official United States positions, including interpretations of current events, identified as official positions by an exclusive descriptive label.2 The Secretary of State shall continue to provide the Director on a current basis full guidance concerning the foreign policy of the United States.”

Under the USIA/CU reorganization plan now on the Hill this language remains and is supplemented by statements that:

“The Director shall report to the President and the Secretary of State.”

[Page 306]
“Under the direction of the Secretary of State the Director shall have primary responsibility within the government for the exercise of the functions vested in the Director.”

Although the legislative history of the reorganization tends to mitigate these statements by stressing the independence of the new agency, a basic responsibility clearly exists.

Present Arrangements

The process of providing policy guidance to USIA functions essentially as follows:

1. First thing in the morning, the Office of Press Relations (S/PRS) tasks bureau Public Affairs Advisers (PAAs) with preparation of written guidance on issues which S/PRS expects will be of interest to the media.

2. Papers are delivered to S/PRS by about 11 am in two copies. After conferring with the Secretary, the Spokesman makes the appropriate changes in the papers and passes one copy to a representative of USIA’s Office of Planning and Program Direction (IOP). If the USIA representative has additional questions he can discuss the matter further with the Spokesman or directly with the relevant bureau.

3. The daily noon press briefing is piped directly to USIA, and they receive transcripts of those sessions.

4. Immediately following this briefing, USIA/IOP representatives meet with regional and functional offices of USIA and VOA to disseminate the guidance received.

5. The Director of USIA attends the Secretary’s large Tuesday staff meeting, and as necessary seeks guidance from one of the principals when immediate high-level guidance is required.

Although informal, the system apparently works rather well. This is particularly true of USIA’s interactions with the Spokesman. In the judgment of S/PRS there have been no recent cases in which USIA was unaware of the Department’s policy or refused to follow it. USIA does occasionally encounter problems when they ask for policy guidance on a new issue which has not previously been staffed out. In their view there is at present no focal point to which they can look when they have this kind of problem.

The matter of USIA control over the personal and journalistic contacts of their employees is a separate and less tractable problem. There have been two or three cases since January of USIA employees making what they considered appropriate journalistic contacts with organizations or persons proscribed from contact by the Department. However, this is an internal USIA problem of control. No amount of guidance is apt to cover every single situation. This kind of guidance would also [Page 307]enter the gray area between VOA’s straight news on which the Voice is independent and editorial content where they are to operate under State guidance.

In past administrations, a specific Seventh Floor principal was charged with providing overall policy guidance to USIA. At the moment no one is so charged. There is further no one at the working level charged with keeping himself informed on USIA programs and practices from the perspective of the Secretary’s responsibilities.

After policy guidance is provided, there is no feedback as to how our policy priorities are incorporated into USIA programs.


1. Source: National Archives, RG 306, Office of the Director, Executive Secretariat, Secretariat Staff, Correspondence Files, 1973–1980, Entry P–104, Box 149, 7705080–7705089. No classification marking. Printed from an uninitialed copy. Drafted by M. Mercurio (M/MO) on November 18; cleared by Blair, Trattner, and R. Burns (M/MO). Read sent a copy of the memorandum, in addition to a copy of Reinhardt’s November 18 memorandum (see Document 104), to Reinhardt and Hodding Carter under a December 7 memorandum, indicating that Christopher had “asked that each of you designate members of a small working group to review the situation and to make recommendations about how to achieve more effective coordination.” (Ibid.) Miller sent copies of all three memoranda to Modic under a December 12 memorandum, characterizing the documents as “background papers on the working group on day-to-day policy coordination with the Department of State.” (Ibid.)↩

2. See footnote 2, Document 104.↩

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