Foreign Affairs

Cold War Era Agencies

Records of the U.S. Information Agency (RG 306)

The United States Information Agency was created on August 1, 1953, by the President's Reorganization Plan No. 8 and Executive Order 10477 as a consolidation of all the foreign information activities of the U.S. Government into one program. It comprised all of the foreign information activities formerly carried out by the Department of State's International Information Administration (IIA) and Technical Cooperation Administration (TCA), and by the Mutual Security Agency (MSA). Overseas, existing United States Information Service (USIS) posts became the field operations offices of the new agency. The exchange of persons program conducted by IIA remained in the Department of State, but USIA administered the program overseas. The Department of State provided foreign policy guidance.

The agency was patterned on the lines recommended by the President's Committee on International Information Activities (the Jackson Committee) and the Senate Special Subcommittee on Overseas Information Programs (the Hickenlooper Committee).

The two principal laws that dealt with the activities of USIA were Public Law 80-402, the "United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948," popularly known as the Smith-Mundt Act and P.L. 87-256, the "Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act 1961," popularly known as the Fulbright-Hays Act, which consolidated various international educational and cultural exchange activities and expanded other international activities. Other laws and Executive Orders also touched on USIA's work and activities.

In 1978, under the provisions of Executive Order 12048 [Reorganization Plan No. 2], USIA was combined with the Bureau of Educational Cultural Affairs of the Department of State into a new agency called the United States International Communications Agency (USICA). The name of the agency was changed back to the United States Information Agency (USIA) in August 1982. The agency was abolished effective October 1, 1999. The non-broadcasting functions were folded into the Department of State and the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) began operations as an independent agency reporting to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).

The records of USIA fall naturally into two periods: from 1953 to 1978, when the major reorganization took place, and from 1978 to 1999, when the agency was abolished.

I. 1953-1978: United States Information Agency

From its inception to 1978, the structure of USIA remained remarkably constant. The following description of the major organizations and their organizational symbols is based primarily on the agency's mid-1977 organization. In some, but not all, cases, names of predecessor organizations are noted.

A. Agency Direction

Office of the Director (I). The chief executives of the agency were the Director and Deputy Director, operating out of the Office of the Director. The Executive Secretariat (I/S) and Operations Center (I/SO) provided support. The Office Public Information (I/R) coordinated USIA's relations with the public and Congress.

Office of Policy and Plans (IOP). Responsible for overall planning, guidance, and evaluation of USIA activities. The head of the office served as the third-ranking officer in the Agency and served as Acting Director in the absence of the Director and Deputy Director. Over the years, the office went through a series of name changes: Office of Policy and Plans (1953), Office of Policy and Programs (1953-1956), Office of Policy and Plans (1956-1958), Office of Plans (1958-1962), Office of Policy (1962-1966), Office of Policy and Research (1967-1969), and Office of Policy and Plans (1969-1978).

Office of Research (IOR). Carried out foreign opinion research, media reaction reporting, and special evaluations and analyses. At various times, it also handled inspection and audit of overseas operations. Over the years, the office went through a series of name and responsibility changes: Office of Research and Evaluation (1953-1954), Office of Research and Intelligence (1954-1958), Office of Research and Analysis (1959-1961), Research and Reference Service (1961-1967), Research and Analysis Division in the Office of Policy and Research, (1967-1969), Office of Research and Assessment (1969-1973), and Office of Research (1973-1978).

B. Staff Offices

Office of Administration and Management (IOA). Responsible for the overall management and administration of USIA, including budget preparation and emergency planning. Earlier in its existence it was called the Office of Administration.

Office of the General Counsel (IGC). Conducted the agency's legal affairs, Congressional relations, and rights clearance activities. The office also provided in-house interpretations of laws, executive orders, treaties, and international agreements.

C. Media Services

Broadcasting Service (IBS). Handled USIA's broadcast operations including, for a time, television broadcasting. As of 1958, the responsibility of this office was limited to radio activities, primarily those of the Voice of America. In the early days of USIA, broadcasting matters were handled by the Assistant Director for Radio and Soviet Orbit (IBS).

Information Center Service (ICS). Planned, directed, and supported USIA programs for the dissemination overseas of information through information centers and libraries, binational centers, distribution of books and other publications, publication of translated books, English teaching, music programs, international exhibits and exhibitions, and other activities.

Motion Picture and Television Service (IMV). Planned organized, directed, and coordinated motion picture and televison programming in support of the USIA mission. Predecessor offices include the Motion Picture Service (1953-1966), the Television Service (1960-1965), and the Screen Service (1971-1973).

Press and Publications Service (IPS). Produced and provided USIS posts with a variety of editorial materials, magazines, pamphlets, reprints from U.S. publications, commissioned articles by American experts, photographs, cartoons, and picture stories. Earlier in its existence it was called the Press Service.

Office of Private Cooperation (IOC). Carried out the program for stimulating, guiding, and coordinating efforts of USIA to obtain the fullest possible use of contributed services and facilities of non-governmental agencies and groups to further the objectives of the international information program. IOC worked with private agencies such a business, industrial, fraternal, and non-profit groups having interests and capabilities in creating understanding abroad of American aims. This organization was abolished in 1967 and its functions were absorbed by the Office of Policy and Research (IOP) and the Information Center Service (ICS).

D. Geographic Direction

The Assistant Directors for the geographic areas served as the principal advisers on all programs in or directed to the countries in their areas of responsibility. In mid-1977, the geographic structure of the Agency included the following organizations: Africa (IAA), East Asia and Pacific (IEA), Europe (IAE and IEU), Latin America (IAL and ILA), and North Africa, Near East and South Asia (INA). Earlier incarnations of the geographic offices included American Republics (IAA), Western Europe (IWE), Radio and Soviet Bloc (IBS), Soviet Union and Eastern Europe (IAS and IEE), Far East (IAF), Near East, South Asia, and Africa (IAN), Near East and South Asia (IAN), Near East and North Africa (INE), and South Asia (ISA).

E. U.S. Advisory Commission on Information

Established under PL 80-402 to recommend policies and programs for carrying out that law.

II. 1978-1999: United States International Communications Agency/United States Information Agency

After the 1978 consolidation, the new agency had a radically different organization. Functions were centralized under four Associate Directors: Broadcasting (VOA), Programs (PGM), Management (MGT), and Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). In addition, there were five Area Offices, whose directors reported directly to the agency's Director/Deputy Director, and staff offices such as the Office of Congressional and Public Liaison, and the General Counsel. Over time, additional organizational elements were created and abolished. The following description of the major organizations in the agency is based primarily on the agency's mid-1998 organization.

A. Leadership:

Office of the Director. The Director , Deputy Director, and Counselor (C), operating out of the Office of the Director, provided overall direction. The Executive Secretariat (D/S) and Operations Center (D/SO) provided support.

B. Staff Offices:

Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs (CL). Coordinated the agency's interaction with Congress and other governmental entities. Early incarnations of the office included the Office of Congressional Liaison (CL), the Office of the General Counsel and Congressional Liaison (GC), and the Office of Congressional and Public Liaison (CPL).

Office of Public Liaison (PL). Directed the agency's domestic public affairs program. Intermittently the responsibilities of the office included Congressional relations and an office was called the Office of Congressional and Public Liaison (CPL).

Office of the General Counsel (GC). Conducted the legal affairs of the agency, including rights clearance activities, in-house interpretations of laws, executive orders, treaties, and international agreements, preparing draft legislation, and administering the Beirut Agreement. For a period of time the office held responsibility for Congressional relations. A predecessor was the Office of the General counsel and Congressional Liaison (GC).

Office of Research and Media Reaction (R). Prepared studies of the media and of foreign public opinion. Predecessor organizations included the Office of Research and the Office of Research and Evaluation.

C. Major Programs

International Broadcasting Bureau (B). Included the Voice of America (VOA), the WORLDNET Television and Film Service, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio Marti and TV Marti). The bureau operated broadcasting and relay facilities to transmit programs to target audiences and provided USIS posts with materials for broadcasting through local outlets. The bureau operated under a number of names over the years including Bureau of Broadcasting and Voice of America.

Bureau of Information (I). Developed editorial materials, publications, exhibits, and other program support for overseas posts. Responsible for Information Resource Centers, Foreign Press Centers, and the Speaker and Specialist Program. The bureau went through a series of name changes: the Bureau of Policy and Programs (P), Bureau of Programs (P), and the Associate Directorate for Programs (P).

Bureau of Management (M). Provided services and support to the entire agency, including budget, finance, personnel, security, training, and administration. Previously known as the Associate Directorate for Management (MGT).

Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (E). Managed the U.S. Government cultural and exchange activities authorized under the Fulbright-Hays Act and supported the Cultural Property Advisory Committee. Previously known as the Associate directorate for Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).

D. Area Offices

Communicated agency policies to USIS posts and oversaw overseas information, cultural, and educational activities. There were six area offices: Office of African Affairs (AF), Office of East European and NIS Affairs (EEN), Office of West European and Canadian Affairs (WEU), Office of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EA), Office of Inter-American Affairs (AR), and Office of North African, Near Eastern, and South Asian Affairs (NEA). At various times the geographical responsibilities and names of the area offices were different.

E. U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy

Originally called the U.S. Advisory Commission on International Communications, Cultural, and Educational Affairs. Provided broad, bipartisan oversight of the international broadcasting, public affairs, and educational exchange activities of the United States. The commission was a successor to the U.S. Advisory Commission on Information and the U.S. Advisory Commission on International Educational and Cultural Affairs which were merged in 1978 to form this commission.

III. Records

Unlike the Department of State, the United States Information Agency (USIA) did not maintain a central filing system. Instead, each operating office maintained its own records. As a result, research in USIA records is more complex; it is similar to using the decentralized office files of the Department of State. Researchers must identify the office or offices that dealt with the subject of research in order to locate documentation of interest. Given the structure of USIA, there is significant duplication of documentation. For example, memorandums and reports sent to the Director from an operating office can often be found in the files of both. Furthermore, not all records from all offices are preserved in the National Archives.

The records can be arranged in variety of ways. Many offices used locally centralized files, but in almost all cases, there are separate files on special subjects maintained on an office-wide basis or maintained by individuals responsible for special topics. Over time, offices used a variety of filing schemes. Some organizations created their own filing systems while others used the file manuals prescribed for agency use.

As of March 2012, the National Archives has generally not yet accessioned records dated after the mid-1970s, although in some cases there are records dating to 1999.

The "Subject Files" (RG 306 Entry A1-1066), created by the USIA Library, serves as an overarching source of documentation. It contains records about USIA as well as predecessor organization such as the Committee on Public Information (CPI) and the Office of War Information (OWI). The files include copies and original documents on the organization, programs, activities, and history of those agencies. Use of the "Subject Files", however, does not substitute for in-depth research into the records of those agencies.

Finding Aids

In 1965, the Department of State of State issued a subject-numeric filing scheme for use by the Department and USIA. That filing scheme included a section dealing with "Culture and Information topics.

In 1967, USIA expanded the "Administration" and the "Culture & Information" sections of the 1965 filing scheme to better meet its needs and issued the revision as "Excerpts from Records Classification Handbook." USIA required the majority of the domestic staff to use only these two subject categories. The domestic offices that required broader subject coverage could use other categories from the 1965 manual. Those sections were subsequently updated in 1979 and 1986.

Subject-Numeric Filing Manual 1965-1973
Excerpts from Subject-Numeric Records Classification Handbook 1967-1978
Excerpts from Subject-Numeric Records Classification Handbook 1979-1986
Excerpts from Subject-Numeric Records Classification Handbook 1986-1999

IV. United States Information Service

USIA operations overseas were handled by the United States Information Service (USIS). USIS began operation as the overseas arm of the Office of War Information during World War II and continued after the war until August 1953 under the auspices of the Department of State, when it became the overseas arm of the United States Information Agency (USIA). When USIA was abolished in 1999, USIS once again fell under the Department of State.

Information about USIS records is found under the section covering Department of State Foreign Service Post records (RG 84).

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