USIA's stated goals were
- explaining and advocating U.S. policies in terms that are credible and meaningful in foreign cultures;
- providing information about the official policies of the United States, and about the people, values, and institutions which influence those policies;
- bringing the benefits of international engagement to American citizens and institutions by helping them build strong long-term relationships with their counterparts overseas; and
- advising the President and U.S. government policymakers on the ways in which foreign attitudes will have a direct bearing on the effectiveness of U.S. policies.
The agency promoted mutual understanding between the United States and other nations by conducting educational and cultural activities. USIA maintained 190 posts in 142 countries. Overseas, USIA was known as the U.S. Information Service (USIS).
Public diplomacy capacity and capabilities atrophied in the years following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Pursuant to the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998, USIA was integrated into the Department of State on October 1, 1999.