Sen. Charles H. Percy (R-III.) yesterday filed legislation to break up the United States Information Agency and create an independent Voice of America.
Percy's measure would pre-empt the Carter administration's plan to reorganize the agency responsible or the image of the United States abroad. John Reinhardt, new director of USIA, opposes breakup of the agency.
Percy's proposal an amendment to the Foreign Affairs Authorization Act, faces subcommittee action today and action by the full Foreign Relations Committee next week.
Percy is a longtime advocate of an independent VOA and it is unclear how much support he has. Because the issue has been hanging for almost two years and affects thousands of jobs as well as the makeup of the foreign policy establishment, it has attracted wide interest.
Reinhardt told his staff directors March 30, according to a copy of his remarks circulated in the agency,that "fragmentation seems to be the great enemy of public diplomacy. If we have a series of bureaueracies around Washington each in charge of small domain of public diplomacy, this is the road to chaos."
At his confirmation hearing March 16, Reinhardt promised a reorganization plan for USIA in 60 to 90 days, but he opposed its breakup.
In presenting his amendment yesterday, Percy said. "I am convinced that the Voice of America must be emancipated from the interference of diplomats and bureaucrats who have limited the Voice's ability to tell the whole truth in a timely manner," depriving the Voice "of the credibility it needs to do its job as a representative voice of a free society."
Percy charged that the current "situation in which radio broadcasting cultural activities and official foreign policy articulation are concentrated for large part in the United States Information Agency has caused deep confusion, administrative chaos and conflict of purpose which serves the nation poorly."
The status of VOA has been central to major studies in the past two years, both of which called for breaking up USIA and independence for the major U.S. international broadcasting operation.
Percy's legislation would require the administration to draw up a reorganization plan by Sept. 30 along these lines.
An independent Voice of America with increased transmission facilities and broadcasts in more languages.
State Department responsibility for public information programs that explain foreign policy.
Creation of a single autonomous agency to control cultural affairs which now are split between USIA and the State Department.
Under the current setup. VOA is a part of USIA, which also controls information programs abroad as well as operating cultural programs such as art exhibits, lectures and touring music groups. The State Department now has charge of international visitor programs through its Bureau of Cultural Affairs.