U.S. International Communication Agency's Overseas Programs:

Some More Useful Than Others

ID-82-1: Published: Feb 11, 1982. Publicly Released: Feb 11, 1982.

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GAO examined some of the U.S. International Communication Agency's (USICA) overseas information programs.

USICA missions feel that direct and substantive personal contact with foreign citizens is their most important activity; however, the missions differ in these activities, and substantial amounts of time and money are invested in activities aimed at establishing contacts with a limited audience. Administrative burdens, lack of language proficiency, and a lack of continuity in staffing all impede public affairs officers from making personal contacts. USICA could reduce costs by eliminating the least-effective communication methods in some countries rather than simply shaving funds from each program. USICA cultural programs are often irrelevant and fail to satisfy the overseas missions' planning requirements. About 68 percent of the overseas libraries and reading rooms have been discontinued for budgetary reasons. An apparent neglect of some libraries has led to such deterioration that their maintenance may no longer be justified. USICA has been less involved with foreign associations established to promote mutual understanding. The USICA responsibility to assist Americans in enhancing their understanding of other societies has failed to fulfill its promise. The Distribution and Record System, which was developed to record personal contacts, has been severely handicapped by installation delays and skepticism on the part of post officers as to its utility.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Director, USICA, should contact the Department of State and the Agency for International Development to solicit their cooperation in ensuring the recording of personal contacts in the Distribution and Record System.

    Agency Affected: International Communication Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Director, USICA, should establish a realistic timetable for the orderly delivery of Distribution and Record System equipment and the necessary training for system operators.

    Agency Affected: International Communication Agency

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Director, USICA, should establish a policy for the overseas missions concerning the role to be played, if any, in carrying out its mandate, referred to as the Second Mandate, to assist Americans in enhancing their understanding of other societies.

    Agency Affected: International Communication Agency

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Director, USICA, should develop a policy outlining the responsibilities of the overseas missions toward the Binational Cultural Centers, particularly those category "B" centers where USICA has invested funds but has maintained no direct management control of those funds.

    Agency Affected: International Communication Agency

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Director, USICA, should examine the usefulness of the overseas libraries as they are currently maintained and eliminate those that are no longer useful.

    Agency Affected: International Communication Agency

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Director, USICA, should: (1) eliminate redundant cultural program efforts within a given host country; and (2) seek more mission input for planning the Arts America program to better match the cultural programs to the needs of the individual posts.

    Agency Affected: International Communication Agency

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Director, USICA, should determine, through monitoring of foreign receptivity to changes in publication formats, those which are too narrowly targeting recipient audiences and threatening through oversophistication to lose an existing broad base of readers.

    Agency Affected: International Communication Agency

  8. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The agency believes that this is an ongoing process. No special action will be taken by it.

    Recommendation: The Director, USICA, should direct overseas missions to discontinue programming of those methods that they believe irrelevant to their needs or even significantly less useful than others to their needs.

    Agency Affected: International Communication Agency

  9. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The agency believes that no specific action is needed or planned. It has an ongoing process to reassess the need for missions to have all of the communication methods. It is aware of certain problems that missions have with each of the methods and the GAO review confirmed that the problem is one that must be dealt with as an ongoing process.

    Recommendation: The Director, USICA, should reassess the need for each mission to have all of the various communication methods, such as speakers, films, videotape, recordings, and printed matter.

    Agency Affected: International Communication Agency

 

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