Quoting History: Information as an essential component of foreign policy

“Events in the past year have made a United States Government information program more important than ever. Information is one of the three essential components in carrying out United States foreign policy — the other two, of course, being military and economic. Each has its function to perform in this great struggle for the minds of men, and each has, or should have, an equally high place in the strategic plan.”

— First Semiannual Report of the Advisory Commission on Information, March 1949.

In 1949, the Cold War was in full swing. Barely four years earlier, the White House and the Congress set about to make various programs permanent in the post-war world. These efforts included various information programs — radio, libraries, press feeds, motion pictures, books, and other publications — and various exchange programs — educational, cultural, and technical. There was one primary authority for these — the eventually named Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 — and several supplementary programs — the Fulbright Act and Defense Department information programs run in Japan and Germany/Austria. 

And yet, despite the acknowledged importance of information and person to person engagement — as repeatedly and publicly declared by Secretary George C. Marshall, by General Dwight Eisenhower, many in Congress, and many, many others — appropriations were slow. The Advisory Commission noted the imbalance and said the effort, which was widely acknowledged as critical, inexpensive for its impact (relative to military power), and necessary to maximizing the impact of foreign aid, was under funded.

“In our judgment, the budgetary recommendations which have been sent to the Congress for this program for 1950 are a bare minimum for continuing the beginning which has been made. While it is important to spend well rather than merely to spend a lot, the vital need for broadening this program as speedily and effectively as possible calls for a much larger expenditure. Indeed, a realistic approach requires that we provide a budget better balanced between the three-pronged program of military, economic, and information policy. A budget which contemplates $15,000,000,000 for military, $5,000,000,000 for economic, and only $36,000,000 for information and educational services does not provide an effective tool for cleaning out the Augean stables of international confusion and misunderstanding.”

— First Semiannual Report of the Advisory Commission on Information, March 1949

For those paying attention and looking for the D in DIME, Diplomacy was viewed as the obvious platform on which these were all based. Remember that the information program, and face-to-face programs, were primarily based in the State Department, and the Advisory Commission worked closely with the Secretary of State, the President, and the Congress. Within four years, very soon after Eisenhower became President, two reorganization plans were submitted to Congress to further State’s primacy in the conduct of U.S. foreign relations.

The reports of the Advisory Commission on Information may be found here and the first report of March 1949 may be found here.