BBG Watch Commentary

De-Federalization of the Voice of America (VOA) and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) would remove public oversight and give full control to bureaucrats, is the conclusion of the union representing federal employees of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).

We would add that de-Federalization would also destroy the unique Voice of America brand and make it completely irrelevant.

AFGE Local 1812

Plan? What Plan?

by American Federation of Government Employees, AFGE Local 1812


According to VOA Director David Ensor yesterday (August 6, 2013) at the “All Hands Meeting”, he has seen no plan regarding ‘defederalization’.

That may be. But it would be odd that the union has seen not just one plan but several plans discussing defederalization while the VOA Director has not seen any.

In a document titled “SW, MW and Re-Alignment Strategy” BBG official, Andre Mendes, identifies de-federalization as an “Organizational Imperative”.

A large portion of the Deloitte Consulting LLP study commissioned by the BBG last year dealt with determining the feasibility of de-federalization.

The BBG’s “Impact through Innovation and Integration – BBG Strategic Plan 2012-2016” contains this paragraph:

The BBG’s year-long strategic review has identified specific organizational reforms to create a more robust and efficient broadcast organization. These include establishing a CEO to manage the agency’s day-to-day affairs; consolidating all senior administrative and management functions into one, integrated network management operation; assessing the feasibility of merging the three grantee organizations (RFE/RL, RFA, and MBN), and exploring the de-federalization of VOA and OCB as well as the International Broadcasting Bureau, the federal BBG components.” (Emphasis added.)

It also contains the following:

“We will explore de-federalization of the federal agency components, beginning with a feasibility study to assess key legal and administrative issues. Optimally, all BBG components will share the same legal and administrative framework to maximize operational flexibility and integration.” (Emphasis added.)

And then there is this:

“Study options for de-federalizing the three BBG federal components – IBB, VOA, and OCB – to place them on an equal footing with the grantees (including careful review of any agency operations that would need to remain federal to ensure coordination in support of U.S. strategic interests).” (Emphasis added.)

Congressional staffers have told us that Agency officials have been visiting Capitol Hill offices pushing their de-federalization plan. We asked one congressional office for a copy. They declined to share the plan with us but we have been informed that a Bill is being drafted with de-federalization as a possible option to go along with the establishment of a CEO.

In addition, former Governor Enders Wimbush, in testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on June 26th, at a hearing entitled “Broadcasting Board of Governors, an Agency Defunct?” stated, in his recommendations on consolidation of the various BBG Agencies: “This would require de-federalizing the Voice of America and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting.”

Then, in another comment to his article published in the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Wimbush detailed his or the Agency’s de-federalization plan: “I recommend creating a non-federal organization chartered by Congress for all of U.S. international broadcasting’s disparate parts. This would require de-federalizing VOA and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting. VOA’s journalists would no longer be civil servants…”

The former BBG Governor essentially stated the same thing regarding de-federalization in a comment to an article written by Heritage Foundation’s Helle Dale.

Therefore, are we to believe that the de-federalization plan is totally the idea of a former BBG Governor even though mentioned in the Agency’s Strategic Plan and a proposal submitted by the head of the Agency’s Technology Division?

Is the idea nothing but a Will-o’-the-Wimbush?

Why would VOA Director David Ensor claim that he has not seen a plan regarding de-federalization? Either he truly has not seen these documents (and others we have not been privy to) or…

Well, you can draw your own conclusions.

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