Tuesday, August 2, 2016

ICA's "second mandate" (1978-1982)

Note: For a brief period (1978-1982), the United States Information Agency (USIA, 1953-1999) was renamed/reorganized as the International Communication Agency (USICA); one of the functions of the USICA was the so-called "second mandate" (see below).

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


185. Letter From the Director of the International Communication Agency (Reinhardt) to all ICA Public Affairs Officers1
Washington, September 26, 1979

Dear PAO:

Ever since USICA came into being, a good many questions have been asked about the meaning of the Agency’s so-called “second mandate.” You and your colleagues in the field, in particular, have wondered how this new “mandate” affects your work.

This is an important subject—both for you and for us in Washington. I would, therefore, like to offer some general guidelines for your use.

To begin, I should make clear my discomfort with terms like “the second mandate,” “mutuality,” “the American learning experience.” I find nothing inherently wrong with these terms. And I have no felicitous substitutes to offer. I fear, however, that the use of such shorthand tends to obscure rather than clarify. One danger is that such terms evoke a sense of mystery about something that is not at all mysterious. Another concern is that they may imply inflexible activities carried out only in certain ways and only by certain specified elements of the Agency—implications that are patently false.

What we are talking about is quite simple: it is the responsibility of this Agency to assist in enabling Americans to enhance their understanding of other societies—their histories, their cultures, their values and their aspirations, where they are coming from and why they behave as they do. It is not unlike our responsibility to increase foreign understanding of U.S. society and institutions.

[Page 560]
This responsibility derives directly from the President’s message to the Congress transmitting Reorganization Plan No. 2 of 1977.2 In his message, the President explicitly set as a goal of the new Agency: “to tell ourselves about the world, so as to enrich our own culture as well as to give us the understanding to deal effectively with problems among nations.”

The President reiterated our responsibility in this area in his memorandum to me of March 13, 1978: “It is also in our interest—and in the interest of other nations—that Americans have the opportunity to understand the histories, cultures and problems of others so that we can come to understand their hopes, perceptions and aspirations. In so doing, the Agency will contribute to our capacity as a people and as a government to manage our foreign affairs with sensitivity, in an effective and responsible way.”3

Recognition of our firm obligations in this area should not be taken to mean that USICA is to become the teacher and America the classroom. Indeed, our focus must be on stimulating, assisting and enhancing the work of non-governmental organizations and individuals in this area—work that in scale and potential impact far exceeds our own limited capacities.

I would stress the fact that we do not have any pat formulas. And, while I note that the mandate is new with the new Agency, I also appreciate that many of you have been doing good work in this area for some years. We will build on this previous work; and we will break new ground. All elements of the Agency can and should participate—thoughtfully, imaginatively and fully—in the generation of creative approaches to enhancing Americans’ understanding of others.

There are, however, some existing guidelines from which you should work. First and foremost, you should understand that different elements and activities of the Agency are involved in this effort in different ways:

(1) ECA’s Office of Private Sector Programs is the only element of the Agency which has as its fundamental purpose helping to enhance Americans’ understanding of others.

(2) Most elements and programs of the Agency, while having a different primary purpose and rationale, can and should make an important contribution to Americans’ understanding of others;

(3) Some efforts of the Agency—principally international broadcasting and materials produced for distribution abroad—are specifically precluded from involvement in this area.

[Page 561]
ECA’s Office of Private Sector Programs is now working under a new statement of purpose and refined guidelines. It will carry out its purpose—to help enhance Americans’ understanding of others—through grants supporting non-profit projects conducted by American organizations outside the Federal government. It will focus on projects that involve American leaders or organizations most likely to stimulate the thinking, learning, and perceptions of broader groups of Americans.

Just as we do in our work overseas, it will support efforts which promise a sustained impact over time, with the maximum multiplier effect. Since Private Sector grants will be awarded only to projects originating with and submitted by organizations outside of the Federal government, this effort will operate largely outside of the Country Plan process. You, however, are in an excellent position to perceive the adequacy of American understanding of the society in which you are working. Your sharing of your knowledge and perceptions—through the Country Plan and other mechanisms—must therefore enhance our own understanding of where and how this effort can best be focused. (I am enclosing the Office of Private Sector Programs’ new guidelines so that you will have a detailed understanding of its purpose and operations.)4

While the Office of Private Sector Programs is the only element of the Agency which has this work as its exclusive purpose, virtually all elements—specifically including you in the field—have a contribution to make and should be involved. There is no one program, no one activity, no single element of the Agency which has a corner on this market.

I point up the following merely to illustrate the range of our involvement in activities that make an important contribution to enhancing Americans’ understanding of other societies:

—The entire Fulbright academic exchange program, whether sending Americans overseas or bringing foreigners to this country.

—Our work in establishing linkages between universities in this country and those overseas.

—Our work with the U.S. Office of Education in secondary teacher exchanges.

—Our work with the National Endowments for the Arts and for the Humanities, with the Smithsonian and with the private sector, to enhance Americans’ awareness of other cultures and their arts.

—Our year-long involvement with the President’s Commission on Foreign Language and International Studies, which is soon to make [Page 562]recommendations designed to help insure the competence of Americans to deal effectively with other societies.5

—Our research activities, which have the specific goal of supplying us with essential information on the concerns and attitudes of other peoples.

Other activities involve you and your staff more directly:

—American Participants are sent abroad primarily to enhance foreigners’ understanding of some aspect of American society and/or policy. One of the criteria for their recruitment, however, is that they are influential Americans who have the capacities and the positions for sharing their understanding of foreign societies with other Americans upon their return to the United States. It is your responsibility to insure that Amparts have appropriate opportunities to learn the concerns and perspectives of their professional counterparts in the host country.

—Cultural Presentations and specialists afford similar opportunities for enhancing Americans’ understanding of others—if their programs overseas are properly arranged and conducted.

—And the same point can be made, in reverse, about IV grantees. The principal purpose of the IV program is to establish or enhance a productive relationship with influential foreigners by giving them a firsthand experience with the United States. At the same time, IV’s can also be an important means of increasing Americans’ understanding of other societies. The Agency’s Office of International Visitors will be working with programming agencies to insure that this is done whenever it is appropriate and in a manner that does not interfere with the main purpose of the IV program. You should sound out your grantees along these lines—offering them the opportunity to explain their own countries and areas of expertise but without either giving them the feeling that they are obligated to “pay” for their invitations or unduly raising their expectations about the opportunities that may be available to them.

The key point, again, is that not one but many areas of our work provide opportunities to enhance Americans’ understanding of other societies. Each of these should be utilized in every appropriate way. There is no single approach, no how-to-do-it kit. What is called for is your own thinking and imagination in a given situation, with a specific opportunity at hand.

There are, obviously, some exceptions. The Voice of America does not broadcast to the United States. The Wireless File, our magazines [Page 563](with the exception of Problems of Communism and English Teaching Forum), our television and film productions, other of our media products, are legally precluded from distribution within the United States. These are not vehicles available to us for enhancing Americans’ understanding of others.

Two other points should be noted: (1) We are not in the business of assisting other governments to advocate their policies and points of view to the American people; and (2) as I explained in my recent letter on the Agency’s cultural initiative,6 we may facilitate but will not fund foreign performing and plastic arts presentations in the United States.

In the weeks ahead, we will be working to refine our efforts in this area. Private Sector Programs, in particular, will be sharpening its approaches and exploring new possibilities.

I am prepared to consider making additional funds available for this work, should the need and the opportunities present themselves persuasively.

I encourage you to do all that you can—thinking and acting imaginatively—to help enhance the opportunities for Americans to enlarge their knowledge and understanding of others.

As always, I welcome your thoughts, suggestions and questions.


John E. Reinhardt


1. Source: National Archives, RG 306, USIA Historical Collection, Subject Files, 1953–2000, Entry A–1 1066, Box 52, Educational Exchanges, Educational and Cultural Affairs, 1978–1985. No classification marking. Sent to all country and branch PAOs and Washington personnel at the supervisory level.↩

2. See Document 93.↩

3. For the full text see Document 121.↩

4. Attached but not printed is an undated enclosure entitled “Grants to Private Organizations in Support of International Educational and Cultural Activities.”↩

5. See footnote 2, Document 168.↩

6. Reference is presumably to Reinhardt’s August 6 memorandum on the “Arts America” program; see Document 178.↩

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