U.S. Information Agency:

Options for Addressing Possible Budget Reductions

NSIAD-96-179: Published: Sep 23, 1996. Publicly Released: Sep 23, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the U.S. Information Agency's (USIA) reform and cost-cutting efforts and options that could enable USIA to adjust to reduced budgets.

GAO found that: (1) USIA believes that reaching out to foreign publics and telling America's story remains critical to U.S. foreign policy goals, and agency officials believe that further significant reductions could greatly hamper USIA's mission; (2) USIA believes it has undergone an extensive reorganization and downsizing, responsive to both U.S. foreign policy priorities and needs, as well as budget constraints; (3) new fiscal realities may force USIA to make additional choices about resource priorities and eliminate certain programs or locations of activities; (4) GAO believes that USIA could take steps to further reduce its costs, while continuing to protect U.S. interests, if fiscal conditions require; (5) to sustain a major reduction, USIA may have to consider closing more posts than it presently plans in countries where USIA has determined that the United States has limited public diplomacy goals; (6) another option would be to reconfigure USIA's overseas presence, which is currently based on a structure established after World War II; (7) Congress has already scaled back funding for some exchanges, but eliminating one or more exchanges, which would require Congress' approval, is also an option to reduce costs; (8) USIA exchanges permit the U.S. government to target potential leaders overseas, and consideration should be given to the potential impact that cutting exchanges would have on bilateral relationships with foreign countries; (9) soliciting increased foreign government and private-sector support is also an option to lessen USIA's costs; (10) Congress has reduced funding for all nonmilitary international broadcasting activities and mandated their consolidation; (11) modest economies are possible by eliminating overlap among broadcasters; and (12) any substantial funding cuts, however, would require major changes to the number of language services and broadcast hours, and past experience has shown that eliminating even one language is a difficult process, requiring concurrence from a wide range of interest groups and members of Congress.

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