March 1959 - Fourteenth Report of the United States Advisory Commission on Information


Commission Members:
Mark A. May, chairman
Erwin D. Canham
Sigurd S. Larmon
Philip D. Reed
Lewis W. Douglas


This Commission report detailed USIA’s performance for 1958, offered recommendations for improving USIA, and reported on Mark May’s and Philip Reed’s trips to the USSR. The Commission called for a discussion on the functions, limitations, and objectives of USIA, and recommended that USIA manage its high expectations by defining attainable objectives. The report defined USIA as a counselor on international public opinion, an expositor of US foreign policy, an overseas information service, and a portrayer of the US to those aboard—and listed several objectives and challenges for each of these four areas of operation.


It is the hope of the Commission that if agreement can be reached on what the United States Information Agency can be expected to do, evaluation of its present performance and future plans can be more easily and more accurately determined.

Actions and statements from other government departments and agencies—as well as from individuals and private organizations sometimes support and reinforce USIA’s efforts. But sometimes, they are contradictory, and cast a cloud of doubt on the authenticity of those efforts. Such contradictions impose definite limitations of USIA’s effectiveness.

Here we encounter an interesting paradox. How can these people feel so friendly toward Americans, and express such a strong desire to know us better, and at the same time believe the propaganda that they are fed, almost daily, that we are their potential enemy, plotting to destroy them with nuclear weapons?