Consolidation of Public Diplomacy Programs into the Department of State

On October 1, 1999, the United States Information Agency was abolished. The new Office of International Information Programs in the Department of State assumed responsibility for almost all overseas information programs, including the creation and maintenance of USIA's International Home Page on the Internet. The newly created Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs now administers most international exchange programs, including the Fulbright program. Most of USIA's operations abroad will continue, albeit under different names in most cases.

USIA's broadcasting elements -- Voice of America radio, the non-interactive programs of World television, and Radio Marti and Radio Marti TV, have been placed with other U.S. Government broadcasting services in the International Broadcasting Bureau, an independent government entity. USIA's Foreign Press Centers operation has moved to the State Department's Bureau of Public Affairs, and its Office of Research and Media Reaction has moved to State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research.

The reorganization was carried out in accordance with the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998, which also called for the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and some functions of the Agency for International Development to be integrated into the State Department.


On April 18, 1997, the White House announced reorganization of the foreign affairs agencies. Task forces, composed of representatives of each agency affected and union representatives, worked on the issues involved in the plan to consolidate USIA and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) with the Department of State. The Agency for International Development would remain intact but its director (Administrator) would report to the Secretary of State.

In the summer of 1997 the task forces submitted their recommendations. By October 1, 1997, the reports were awaiting review by the Secretary of State. After the Secretary's approval, recommendations were to be sent to the White House for presidential approval.

Among the issues raised during the deliberations of the task force on public diplomacy was the distinction between public affairs and public diplomacy. As the members of this task force apparently could not reach agreement on this issue, they presented two options:

Option 1 would create an Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, with oversight over two bureaus: Educational/Cultural Affairs and Public Affairs. Option 2 would create an Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy. He or she would oversee exchanges, international visitor programs, the current "I" Bureau of USIA (global media operations--which would remain intact), and strategic communications. Public Affairs would remain separate and distinct under this recommended option.

On November 13, 1997, the House of Representatives leadership stripped from the Foreign Operations spending bill a provision which would have authorized the reorganization of foreign policy agencies, including USIA. After nearly a year in limbo, Congressional authorization, required for the reorganization to take place, finally was given.

On October 21, 1998, President Clinton signed the massive omnibus spending bill for the U.S. Government's new fiscal year. It included legislation abolishing USIA and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, merging both within the Department of State, effective October 1, 1999 for USIA. At that time the position of Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs was established. Evelyn S. Lieberman became the first person to fill that position.

The Bureau of Broadcasting, which includes the Voice of America and Radio Marti, operates television activities such as WORLDNET, and provides grants to Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe and Radio Free Asia, became a separate agency. For further details see the pertinent sections in the web sites to which this site is linked.


Advisory Commission report on the consolidation

The United States Advisory Commission On Public Diplomacy issued a report in October, 2000, entitled Consolidation of USIA Into The State Department: An Assessment After One Year . The Executive Summary of this report states:

"The U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy finds that the consolidation of the United States Information Agency (USIA) in the State Department has to date produced a mixed record. For former USIA employees, the transition has meant a very difficult adjustment; while moving to the State Department has afforded former USIA employees unprecedented career opportunities, it has also required them to conform to the procedures of a Department that is overly centralized and hierarchical. The Commission finds the morale among the Department's "new" employees is worringly low, but morale is a major problem throughout the entire Department, not just among former USIA employees.

"Although USIA personnel have gone through a very difficult transition, the programs they administer have been affected to a lesser degree. Fortunately, exchanges continue apace, as do information and speaker programs and other public diplomacy activities, although implementation has become more cumbersome under the State Department. Credit for this, the Commission believes, goes to the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs for her work in raising the profile of public diplomacy in the Department and tireless pursuing the goal of integration. Of course, without the dedication and effort of the Department's public diplomacy officers--those in Washington and abroad as well as those State officers who have worked on the transition, success would never be possible. Despite their efforts, it will take several years before public diplomacy becomes an accepted "cone" in the Department and is recognized for the value it brings to U.S. foreign policy goals and objectives.

"When consolidation was first proposed in 1997, its supporters in Congress expected it to be accompanied by a reinvention of the way the United States conducts and carries out its foreign affairs. Consolidation was launched last October, though much remains to be done to smooth the transition from USIA into State. The Commission looks forward to the day when real reinvention will follow."

For the full report, see .


Other studies and comments on the consolidation

RESTORING AMERICA'S INTERNATIONAL ENGAGEMENT, a White Paper prepared by and published November 29, 2000, recommends ways to strengthen U.S. diplomatic efforts after years of serious neglect. See the full report at

UNFINISHED BUSINESS. In the Winter 2001 issue of National Security Studies Quarterly ,  William Kiehl, a member of the Senior Foreign Service and Diplomat in Residence at the U.S. Army War College's Center for Strategic Leadership at the time, outlines a "Vision 2010 for Diplomacy" in an attempt to make the U.S. Department of State more relevant as an instrument of national security. The full text can be obtained by contacting the National Security Studies Quarterly at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

CONGRESSMAN CHRIS SMITH'S TRIBUTE TO USIA. "Milestone of U.S. Foreign Relations and Diplomacy," 4 October 1999. Archived in the Congressional Record with a continuation page.

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Updated: 27 September 2003.
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