Sunday, September 28, 2008
"What will you be doing?”
“I’m joining the Fire Department.”
“The Fire Department? In what capacity?”
“I’ll be a firefighter. The pension plan is awesome.”
--One member of the New York Stock Exchange; image from boing boing
Debate Scorecard on Public Diplomacy: Obama 0.5, McCain 0 - Steven R. Corman, COMOPS Journal: Of a debate on foreign policy comprising 16,156 words, public diplomacy commanded 155 (0.96%) of them and no actual debate. The U.S. image is a much bigger issue in foreign policy than that.
Image from New York Times
Proposed new agency "would manage U.S. international broadcasts directly” - Kim Andrew Elliott Discussing International Broadcasting and Public Diplomacy: Re Senator Brownback's S.3456 titled "The Strategic Communications Act of 2008": “If Brownback's new entity 'would manage U.S. international broadcasts directly,' then it would probably call for news that accentuates the positive, underplays the negative, and adds lots of pro-U.S. commentary. The audience for U.S. international broadcasting, which, collectively, is much, much smarter than, collectively, the decision makers and experts of Washington, would immediately recognize such a broadcasting effort for what it is: propaganda. And they would tune elsewhere. Public diplomacy, on the other hand, is not supposed to be independent. It is the explanation and advocacy of U.S. policies to foreign publics. It is the job of the State department to project U.S. policies abroad. State is the logical location for public diplomacy. … Many people think the global unpopularity of the United States can be solved by 'strategic communications.' But, as many other people have pointed out, the popularity of the United States is actually determined by the policies and actions of the United States. The best public diplomacy and international broadcasting can do is to keep the United States from being even more unpopular by countering disinformation about the United States.
Latest Brownback Effort To Hamstring Public Diplomacy – Jerry, Avuncular American: Re Brownback's S. S.3456: “I would hope that all those who are truly interested in public diplomacy treat this bill like the plague that it is. Senator Sam Brownback, like his late hero, Jesse Helms, has a long history of wanting to emasculate those charged with managing America's engagement with the world through its public diplomacy programs . … [N]ot content with abolishing USIA a decade ago and moving it into State, he'd rather gut State's PD structures and create a new 'National Center for Strategic Communications,' an agency similar to the now defunct U.S. Information Agency."
See also comments by Juliana Geran Pilon at MountainRunner
Four VOA radio services prepare to sign off - Kim Andrew Elliott Discussing International Broadcasting and Public Diplomacy: The VOA Serbian, Bosnian, Macedonian, and Hindi services will transmit their last radio broadcasts on 30 September. The services will continue via internet and/or television. VOA Hindi has a weekly report on India's Aaj Tak TV. VOA Russian radio already ended on 26 July, continuing as an internet-only service. VOA Georgian was slated to close down completely, via all media, on 30 September, but the Georgian-Russian conflict has given that service an indefinite stay.
FE/RL radio broadcasts continue in Russian, Georgian Serbian, Bosnian, and Macedonian.
Public diplomacy urged in S. Korea relations - Erik Slavin, Stars and Stripes: South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s administration and U.S. leaders must emphasize public diplomacy efforts to curtail anti-alliance sentiments and maintain regional stability, a host of diplomats and academics said Saturday. The comments came during two sessions on U.S.-South Korean relations during the second day of the three-day Korea Forum, sponsored by the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the ASAN Institute for Policy Studies. A feeble attempt at public diplomacy "could lead to an erosion of public support and renewed call for a reduction, or even a withdrawal of all U.S. forces in Korea," said Edwin Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
Back to Basics in Saudi for Ramadan - Leo Americanus: "In my opinion, the best thing for places like Saudi are educated and modern young lay-preachers who encourage young people to practice their religion in an intelligent and involved way, rather than an unthinking and archaic way. By using Islam to stress civic and personal responsibility, such preachers can make far more change in a society like Saudi than any other means of public diplomacy or education.”
US, China tackle food safety issues - Chen Weihua, China Daily, via Fa guo yu suan: The US-China Diplomatic Expansion Act of 2007, authored by Mark Kirk, a representative from Illinois, authorizes the construction of a new consulate in Wuhan and 10 smaller diplomatic posts in cities with more than one million people. The bill also triples funding for public diplomacy, boosts funding for a range of language, student and teacher exchange programs and more than triples the US contribution to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.
Where viewers fear to flick ...From serial killers to lifestyle shows about the sex industry and Lindsay Lohan's mum, it's one man's journey into extra-terrestrial TV. Ed Power reports - Independent.ie: “For true escapism, though, we switch to Russia Today, the Russian rolling news service, where pasty-faced presenters whose accents veer between the Queen's English and Bond villain gravely assure us that Vladimir Putin is the most munificent global figure since Mother Teresa -- before cutting to footage of recently razed Georgian villages. We're not quite sure if we are missing out on the satirical overtones.”
Morocco Foreign Relations with U.S. - Morocco Travel Information: In August 2007, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes visited Morocco to meet with Moroccan officials, Moroccan non-governmental organizations, and students.
'False' Memories - Red Pony: “[T]there are historical facts and events that are [un]deniable, like the atrocities of war, however, our ideas about these atrocities usually involve a degree of public diplomacy on both sides of the fight making it hard to pin down an actual truth.”
What My Copy Editor Taught Me - Dorothy Gallagher, New York Times: “Then came [Helene Pleasants’s] great adventure. In 1945, hired by the United States Information Agency as a writer and editor on the Voice of America, she was sent to India and then to China … . In 1951, the United States Civil Service Commission notified Helene that ‘information’ had been received, accusing her of sympathy with Soviet Russia and Communism … . After a two-year battle to save her job, she was fired from the Voice of America. It was 1953, at the height of McCarthy’s power, the year the Rosenbergs were executed.”
The awful week that was - Paul Rockower, Levatine: “My Pub D group presented our project for our global pub d class. This is the class where we do group projects based on scenarios. Our scenario this week was that we received $150k to come up with a project that bolsters moderate Muslim forces (including law enforcement) and also does outreach for youth who are at risk of extremist indoctrination. … The other project was a program to do cultural outreach through hip-hop. … We debated making Snoop Dogg an American Ambassador for culture, but figured that might be a step too far. … Thursday I had Prof. Gilboa's Comparative Public Diplomacy class, and our case study for the week was Israel's public diplomacy. … Friday … I did some work at home then went to school to pick up a book from Prof. Cull about Willis Conover, who is possibly one of the most important figures to do cultural battle during the Cold War. What, you sa[y], you have never heard of him. There are reasons for this (Smith-Mundt Act), but basically he was the voice of VOA's jazz program, which the Warsaw Pact countries and Soviet Union listened to religiously.”
Two Foreign Perspectives on US Election - Melinda Brouwer, Foreign Policy Association: Public Diplomacy and the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election: “Use Obama as a rock star to rekindle the transatlantic relationship? Well-intentioned, but a little too gimmicky, as I see it. I might be biased, but I don’t think the Senator needs to be featured in a rock concert in order to look cool. McCain might, in which case the government should make sure he doesn’t take dance lessons from Karl Rove.”
Impulsive, Impetuous, Impatient - Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times: Judging from Mr. McCain’s own positions, on foreign policy he could well end up more Bush than Bush.
When Judges Make Foreign Policy - Noah Feldman, New York Times: The Supreme Court, like the State Department and the Pentagon, now makes decisions in cases that directly change and shape our relationship with the world. And as the justices decide these cases, they are doing as much as anyone to shape America’s fortunes in an age of global terror and economic turmoil.
What a Surge Can't Solve in Afghanistan - David Ignatius, Washington Post: The idea that we can saturate that vast country with enough American soldiers to provide security for the population seems unrealistic, to put it mildly.
Bush the arrogant: President Bush's latest permutation of crisis management is the last straw. But who best to roll back the excesses? – Editorial, Los Angeles Times: We have held prisoners in detention without trial, without charge, without end. In so doing, we have antagonized the world and debased America's moral authority to lead.
A Shattering Moment in America's Fall From Power: The global financial crisis will see the US falter in the same way the Soviet Union did when the Berlin Wall came down. The era of American dominance is over - John Gray, Guardian/UK, Common Dreams
AMAZING!: Sarah Palin carved into corn maze by farmer outside Whitehouse, Ohio - Associated Press, Baltimore Sun: An Ohio farmer would like to invite you to get lost inside the head of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. A 16-acre corn maze near the town of Whitehouse has been carved in Palin's likeness, complete with her familiar updo hairstyle and eyeglasses. Farmer Duke Wheeler says that Palin created a lot of excitement in the campaign and that he was hoping to generate some for this year's maze. Wheeler says it took an artist from Idaho at least eight hours to mow down stalks for the maze.
Tina Fey As Sarah Palin: Katie Couric SNL Skit (VIDEO) – Huffington Post
TESTIMONIES BEFORE CONGRESS ABOUT PUBLIC DIPLOMACY (courtesy Len Baldyga)
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee On Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia Hearing on “A Reliance on Smart Power--Reforming the Public Diplomacy Bureaucracy.”
September 23, 2008
Testimony of Stephen M. Chaplin, Retired Senior Foreign Service Officerand Senior Advisor to the Stimson Center and American Academy of Diplomacy, Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, United State Senate
"A Reliance on Smart Power: Reforming the Public Diplomacy Bureaucracy"
Chairman Akaka, Ranking Member Voinovich and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear here today to testify on what can be done to improve Public Diplomacy's performance in achieving U.S. foreign policy objectives.
I am a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer who served 32 years with the United States Information Agency. My final assignment was as a member of the USIA Steering Committee that worked on the consolidation of USIA with the State Department in 1999.
Today I represent the Advisory Group and the Working Group that prepared a report commissioned by the American Academy of Diplomacy and researched and written by the Stimson Center entitled, " A Foreign Affairs Budget for the Future: Fixing the Crisis in Diplomatic Readiness."
In the introduction to the report, which should be issued next month, Ambassadors Ronald Neumann, Thomas Pickering and Thomas Boyatt of the Academy and Ellen Laipson, president of Stimson describe the study in the following terms:
"This study is intended to provide solutions for and stimulate a needed conversation about the urgent need to provide the necessary funding for our nation's foreign policies. We need more diplomats, foreign assistance professionals and public diplomacy experts to achieve our national objectives and fulfill our international obligations. This study offers a path forward, identifying responsible and achievable ways to meet the nation's needs. It is our hope that the U.S. Congress and the next Administration will use this study to build the right foreign affairs budget for the future."
Many fine studies published in recent years have recommended institutional reorganization or offered guidance on how U.S. foreign policy could be better conducted. This report is different. Its purpose is straightforward: determine what the Secretary of State requires in terms of personnel and program funding to successfully achieve American foreign policy objectives. Based on informed budgetary and manpower analyses, the Academy and Stimson report provides specific staffing and cost recommendations.
The Working Group on which I served conducted interviews with active duty and retired State Department officials and others, including budget, administrative and personnel specialists. The interviewees included Civil Servants, Foreign Service Officers and political appointees. The report is the result of months of internal discussions on how best to address the critical issues of staff and funding shortfalls.
My colleague Stanley Silverman, a long-time USIA comptroller, and I focused on Public Diplomacy (PD). This is what we found: despite recent increases, Public Diplomacy in the State Department is under-staffed and under-funded. The FY-2008 Public Diplomacy budget is $ 859 million. PD's current staff of 1,332 Americans, is 24 percent less than the comparable figure of 1,742 in 1986. According to State Department data, Public Diplomacy in FY-2008 had a 13 percent Foreign Service vacancy rate.
To have a reasonable chance of achieving its goals, PD needs to cover an employment shortfall; establish additional positions; obtain greater program funding and significantly expand training. I should add that, since this study dealt only with those resources controlled by the Secretary of State, we did not examine U.S. government civilian broadcasting as conducted by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). Broadcasting remains an important element of public diplomacy and I personally hope that it will continue to enjoy strong congressional support.
There are several interesting definitions of Public Diplomacy, but in examining the State Department's Public Diplomacy mission we prefer the following: "To understand, inform, engage and influence global audiences, reaching beyond foreign governments to promote greater appreciation and understanding of U.S. society, culture, institutions, values and policies."
PD practitioners in the State Department devise comprehensive strategies, develop content and select the most effective communications vehicles for reaching diverse global audiences. Here I wish to stress two points. First, there are limits to what Public Diplomacy professionals can accomplish in influencing the attitudes of foreign audiences. This is especially true during a period of lengthy, sharp policy disagreements between the U.S. and other nations. Secondly, Public Diplomacy is not like a water spigot that can be turned on or off at will to produce instantaneous results. Rather, it involves a cumulative process. The PD officer must first establish credibility over time, in many ways, on the road to trust. It involves a long-term investment of time, consistent engagement and respectful dialogue.
Two decades ago some observers believed that a strong U.S. Public Diplomacy effort was no longer needed after the fall of communism in Europe. Outside of international relations circles, insufficient credit was given at the time to the vital role played by Public Diplomacy in winning the ideological battle with the Soviet Union. By the 1990s there was a decline in budgetary and other support to USIA and in 1999 USIA was consolidated into the State Department.
Today, according to international public opinion surveys, there is extensive dissatisfaction with many U.S. global policies. Some question the U.S.'s leadership capability on major global issues and others, including many allies, simply disagree with certain U.S. decisions.
However, these negative foreign public opinion survey results don't fully convey foreign attitudes towards the United States. The fact remains that more than any other nation the U.S. is looked to for ideas, innovation and opportunity. In most of the world, the U.S. is viewed as a society that recognizes individual initiative and rewards talent. Foreign student enrollment in U.S. universities is rising and the number of foreign-born technology specialists interested in working for U.S. companies exceeds available visas. Given these factors, PD can make a difference.
In a post 9/11 world the U.S. must remain vigilant about possible international terrorist attacks, keep a watchful eye on a resurgent Russia and a China seeking to assert its influence beyond Asia. Today, unlike 20 years ago, U.S. officials and most international affairs experts concur that a robust, credible, creative and timely global Public Diplomacy capability is essential to U.S. national security.
The nature of Public Diplomacy work is such that PD personnel and the activities they design, implement and evaluate are inseparable. PD personnel stationed at embassies and consulates continue to successfully conduct traditional, successful programs such as exchanges, cultural and informational programs and media placement explaining U.S. policies and American society. These activities put PD personnel in touch with identifiable, established or rising opinion makers, people we deem important to reach with factual information and our views.
But in 2008 and beyond PD personnel--in the field and Washington--must reach out to broader audiences, the 20,30 and 40 year olds that are part of the "Internet Generation." Information on websites originating from Washington will certainly reach individuals unknown to individual country PD staffs. But this effort to reach the "Internet Generation" is vital since many of them are likely to be important to the U.S. because of their work, the people they know and their participation in national public policy debates and elections. In addition, our embassies utilize information provided by Washington on their own websites, information that is available to in-country Embassy contacts as well as self-selected audiences.
Consistently attracting and maintaining the attention of this 20-40 year old audience requires the development of credible, informative and, in many instances, entertaining Internet media. PD's multiple advocacy websites are engaging distinctive audiences. An example is the Digital Outreach Team, which involves PD staff in the Bureau of International Information Programs. Arabic-speaking personnel, who identify themselves as U.S. Government employees, participate inchat room discussions, particularly in the Islamic world, on U.S. policies and society.
The following Academy recommendations cover the breadth of PD's operations: educational and professional exchanges; advocacy of American foreign policies; and cultural and informational program explanations about American society, culture, institutions and values. Our recommendations span five fiscal years, beginning in FY-2010 and ending in FY-2014. These recommendations, which do not constitute an all-inclusive list of worthy activities, include:
• Increase permanent American staffing by 487 and Locally Employed staff
(i.e. Foreign Service National employees) by 369.
• Increase current academic exchanges by 100%; International Visitor grants involving future foreign leaders by 50% and youth exchanges by 25%.
• Expand capacity of PD English and foreign language advocacy websites aimed at experts, young professionals and youth and hire additional specialists in website design and program content.
• Establish 40 American Cultural Centers (or a mixture of ACCs and smaller Information Resource Centers) in order to broaden the U.S. daily cultural presence worldwide. The centers would only be established where suitable security conditions permit and programming interest warrants.
• Re-engage the autonomous pro-U.S. Binational Center network (of over 100 centers) in Latin America whose membership is desirous of closer U.S. ties
• Expand other programs, particularly overseas staff and operations to increase the effectiveness of Public Diplomacy.
Staffing increases will cost $ 155.2 million annually by 2014 and program activities, $ 455.2 million. Over-all funding increases will total $610.4 million in 2014.
In addition, elsewhere in the report, there is a call for substantially increased training opportunities for PD personnel. PD Foreign Service Officers need more extensive training in: foreign languages and area studies; technology applications; public speaking and management of personnel and resources.
The quality of an organization depends on the skills and preparedness of its staff. Personal contact with host country nationals remains the most effective PD tool. To accomplish Mission objectives, embassy and consulate Public Affairs Officers must have appropriate staffing support and a limited administrative burden. They must be allowed to do what they came into the Foreign Service for, namely meet, cultivate, listen and learn from host country citizens while explaining the U.S. to them. Only through this process can thoughtful dialogue result in successful communication and mutual understanding.
The American Academy of Diplomacy and the Stimson Center firmly believe that approval of the report's recommendations for personnel and funding increases will be significant factors in Public Diplomacy officers' efforts to attain greater success in achieving U.S. foreign policy objectives.
Stephen M. Chaplin
email@example.comBottom of Form
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee On Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia Hearing on “A Reliance on Smart Power--Reforming the Public Diplomacy Bureaucracy.”
September 23, 2008
342 Dirksen SOB
Testimony by (Hon.) Jill A. Schuker, President JAS International and Former Special Assistant to the President (William Jefferson Clinton) for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for Public Affairs, National Security Council
Mr. Chairman, Senator Voinovich and Members of the Subcommittee:
Thank you for this opportunity to address the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia on the important organizational challenges facing public diplomacy in this new century.
Through your hearings on Smart Power, under Chairman Daniel Akaka’s leadership, this Subcommittee has been in the forefront of forward thinking on this issue, and capturing the urgency and attention it deserves.
If I may, I would like to set the stage for my recommendations and reflections.
Twenty-First Century U.S. Public diplomacy is at a cross-roads of both challenge and opportunity and it will be a centerpiece issue for the next President and his Administration taking office in January 2009.
Globalization has created a more complex atmosphere for the conduct of traditional public diplomacy, while as this Subcommittee is acutely aware, new security concerns, unforeseen in earlier times, have erected both structural and virtual impediments to effective, traditional operations.
Balancing the necessary and the possible, the likely and the unthinkable, to create a more effective “smart power” posture for the United States, requires thinking anew.
Mistakes made in the wake of hasty pronouncements by some respected but ill-considered thought-leaders that history ended with the Cold War along with political compromises, enabled a rushed, “jerry-built” architecture for public diplomacy ten years ago that “threw the baby out with the bathwater” leaving gaps in our public diplomacy readiness and effectiveness. This, accompanied by subsequent rhetorical and substantive foreign policy missteps, assured public diplomacy to fall on hard times over these last years. Instead of creating a lifeline for information and dialogue, the conduct of public diplomacy became part of the problem.
Furthermore, the rapid growth and complexity in communications avenues and outlets, widely accessed by non-state actors, and no longer “organized” in news cycles, created a “24/7” intensity that demands immediacy, often eliminating thoughtful or quiet deliberation before public comment or action is expected. This creates a new challenge for formulating and explaining the national interest to a range of audiences.
All this has led to the need for a more nimble and cutting-edge public diplomacy shaped through a more sophisticated and flexible prism. It means identifying and insuring the right human resources, structure and serious financial support, heretofore missing or needing strengthening.
As this Subcommittee is aware, one need only to look at respected, credible polling and qualitative survey research to know that the U.S. has been living through an agonizing and challenging period both to its moral authority and to its long-recognized leadership as the international superpower and touchstone for national credibility.
Neither the realities of U.S. “hard power” nor the power of our rhetoric, our history, our values and our attraction are the issue. Our “soft power” continues to bring millions to our shores seeking those governing principles we take for granted.
But, we are expected to lead by example.
We are being challenged abroad to demonstrate by word and deed that we are on the right track as we look toward the end of this first decade of the new century.
Indeed, for our nation, to which “much has been given”, much is indeed expected. This becomes a measurement for effective U.S. public diplomacy. The issues we tackle and the solutions we seek must have a global dimension and redound to the benefit of the many—development, pandemics, natural disasters, climate change, proliferation and terrorism and other multilateral and multi-national challenges. These all are concerns of modern Twenty First century public diplomacy.
Indeed public diplomacy is a companion for effective U.S. foreign policy. It is an opportunity if effectively shaped and executed, to create new levers of influence that will ultimately make better use of hard power when needed, and provide diplomatic alternatives to mutual threats and challenges. Simply put, public diplomacy must be intimately involved in effectively identifying and promoting our national interests and informing policy.
This recognition of both public diplomacy’s importance and its structural limitations as a tool in the diplomatic arsenal in engaging foreign publics has led to a multitude of serious reports over the last seven years researched and written by Think Tanks, policy organizations, the private sector, the Departments of State and Defense, the U.S. Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy, the American Academy of Diplomacy and Capitol Hill. The main message is a fairly consistent one: (1) change is needed both financially and structurally and (2) the recognition and role of public diplomacy in the policy process is deficient.
One new and important report, funded by Congress and under the leadership of The Brookings Institution, will be birthed on October 1, prepared for the Department of State and commissioned by Congress. It focuses on concrete steps—in and out of government-- to strengthen U.S. public diplomacy interaction across the globe.
In my view, its analysis, conclusions and recommendations are thoughtful and provocative and provide essential food for consideration and action by Congress and the next Administration—as well as other public diplomacy protagonists in and outside of government.
It underscores as all these serious reports have done, that effective public diplomacy is essential to America’s standing in the world and to be effective we cannot conduct a monologue if we are to have credibility and a resonant and responsive audience in “winning” the “war of ideas”.
Simply put, Public Diplomacy is a matter of national interest and national priority and for our next Administration.
Architecture, Organization and Coordination
There are others testifying here today as inside government practitioners who can speak more expertly and directly about the viability of specific office structures, personnel and portfolios as they operate today.
My best insights come from my own expertise inside and outside of government—at State, the NSC, US/UN, DOC, on Capitol Hill, in state government, in the private sector, and in academia as well as my participation in various public diplomacy reports and studies. .
First, while U.S. public diplomacy clearly is directed to a global audience, effective public diplomacy begins at home. It must.
This demands a more aware and better educated U.S. public, insuring that at every level of our society and government, we are structurally geared to preparing ourselves for the Twenty-First century challenges.
Along with the sciences, Americans need stronger history, civics, language and cultural education-- beginning with our own “story”, as well as providing an understanding of the global dimension and the interdependence of our planet.
This needs to start early, it needs to be comprehensive, and it needs to reflect and be open to new realities—shifting demographics, for example. This includes targeted public diplomacy training of our professional civil service in all departments so that it has an integral place in all sectors—health, housing, the arts, sciences, as well as diplomacy.
The recent Washington Post article (by Joby Warrick and Walter Pincus, September 10, 2008) highlighting a new intelligence forecast reportedly being prepared for the next President predicts that our increasingly competitive world will enable the U.S. to remain “pre-eminent” but its “dominance” will be relatively diminished because of “the rise of everyone else”.
This is the world we need to prepare for and navigate successfully through school curricula and training at every level, providing incentives for future teachers to have the skills needed, and preparing for a much more diverse, and as Tom Friedman has called it, “flat” world.
The dismantlement of USIA and its transfer into the Department of State continues to have repercussions. This transfer, which caused serious disruption with the departure of many professionals, and the resistance to and by a new “culture” suggests that there are lessons to be learned from this experience about how to “reinvent” government more successfully. It may even be legitimate to question whether public diplomacy would have operated better in these last years, if the architecture and staffing had been less disrupted.
I am not suggesting a reiteration of USIA. What does need recognition, however, is the legitimacy of the function, the independence of the work , the quality professional corps that is essential, and the recognition that effective public diplomacy means long-term planning, outreach and engagement.
The role of public diplomat is intrinsically separate from that of a spokesman or press officer and this has gotten lost in translation. Public diplomacy is definitionally a two-way street, an openness to dialogue with “the Street,” reaching out beyond traditional networks of officialdom, the basic diplomatic focus of the Department of State. (This indeed is one of the oddities of public diplomacy’s being based at State.)
While at one level, bringing public diplomacy more into the policy halls of the State Department was viewed as giving it an added gravitas and engagement, it lost some of its essential ability to reach non-traditional audiences and became only an arm of policy instead of informing the policy.
This in my view has created some of the dissonance that has called into serious question the effective operation of public diplomacy in the last years.
An additional concern, of course, is the “siege mentality” that has overtaken much of our diplomatic, in-country outreach since 9/11. So many of our embassies have become armed camps, cut off from the countries in which they reside and their publics.
This is, of course, understandable from many security aspects. But it also is a serious hindrance to effective public diplomacy. How to find a better balance between security and contact is a major challenge, but it suggests that we need to pay attention to the recommendations being made by new reports about how to better use not only governmental outreach tools but the private sector, civil society and citizen contact to create more and stronger networks for the important “last three feet” of communication-- as Edward R. Murrow called the key distance for the real impact that public diplomacy requires.
This also means better training and mastery of the new media that provide a different way to “social network” and inform citizens of other countries about United States’ interests and values. The internet, blogging—these are among modern public diplomacy vehicles and we need both traditional skills and new information technology-savvy public diplomats.
The U.S. Government is and will remain the essential actor in public diplomacy. This is where the national interest “resides” resides. This ultimate responsibility cannot be shifted elsewhere..
But this requires a priority being attached to nomination and confirmation as well as tenure. The revolving door of the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy has swung often since the reorganization of the late 90s and added to its woes. The reasons need to be assessed by this Subcommittee. However professional, experienced, dedicated and talented the incumbent may be, the shifting focus, confirmation delays and short tenures of the incumbents have left public diplomacy and its troops without the full integration and direction it needs and requires.
Further, if public diplomacy (and the public diplomacy chief) is to be recognized as an “honest broker” on policy, to listen as much as to explain and influence, then it is difficult to have any architect of a particular foreign policy that is dominating the global discourse, to hold that office as credibly as possible. It sends a very mixed signal abroad as well as at home. Closeness to the President and the White House needs to enhance the public diplomacy mission, not overshadow it.
This relates as well to the problems faced by Alhurra, and even Radio Sawa and programs being run through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. They are too often viewed as propagandistic rather than as “news” or providing an “honest broker” perspective. If we are going to put money and muscle into broadcasting then we should look at what has worked for us –Voice of America, for example—and not diminish or undercut or dilute these structures.
Also are we looking ahead to the challenges we face today—as well as tomorrow? Does cutting out VOA to India or cutting it back in former Soviet republics, for example, really make sense for our long-term smart power interests? Are we letting specific short-term policy and short-sighted funding run public diplomacy before public diplomacy can do its job and begin to inform and enable good, sound policy? This is unproductive and an issue for congressional consideration.
What are we willing to spend and for what? Congress has the ability and responsibility to reverse unwise cuts….and to ask the right questions up front about priorities and directions. If we are really to support smart power and to provide “the powers to lead” as Harvard Professor Joseph Nye has stated, then these are legitimate and necessary points to explore.
Public diplomacy also is more than a one person job. The President sets the tone; State runs the function. But day in and day out it IS the cadre of professionals who need and deserve resource support--funding, training, respect internally in and by the Foreign Service , and an appreciation that theirs is an expertise too often taken for granted. At one time economic officers in the Foreign Service were viewed as second class citizens to the political officers. This is a message that now must be addressed for those who practice public diplomacy. There must be a reinvestment in public diplomacy professionals with recruitment and reward, as well as a refocus on fundamentals and a commitment to a long-term effort.
We also need to bring into government public diplomacy, some of the talent we are ignoring or discouraging, from outside of government. One of our country’s strengths is our diversity—and it is one of the most identifiable ways to demonstrate tangibly abroad what we mean when we say public diplomacy begins at home.
It means bringing into government more of our skilled immigrant Americans who have language skills and background (Arabic, Farsi or Chinese, for example), as well as useful geographical and cultural knowledge, rather than further marginalizing their talent and desire to make a substantive and serious contribution.
This should be informed by the new intelligence forecast mentioned earlier, identifying civil society and emerging global leaders we should be reaching through public diplomacy and providing the leadership to prepare for new global realties—in development, by non-state actors, energy demands, and transnational and non-state threats—and for rethinking and expanding our global opportunities, alliances and partners. We should be thinking now about how public diplomacy should impact the new realities of the global economic meltdown.
As to funding and architecture—how can the State Department be expected to be the coordinator of our country’s public diplomacy when their funding is miniscule? Relative to funding for similar activities at the Department of Defense, State public diplomacy funds barely register on the radar screen. [See Chart]
Senator Joseph Biden, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, recently opened up a hearing stating that “there has been a migration of functions and authorities from U.S. civilian agencies to the Department of Defense.” This hurts both State's effective stewardship of public diplomacy as well as how public diplomacy is interpreted abroad.
Defense Secretary Bob Gates has been eloquent in his recognition and support for public diplomacy but he too has stated that both the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development have been “chronically undermanned and underfunded for too long”.
There is much to be learned from the military in terms of training and outreach useful for public diplomacy, but this is NOT structurally where public diplomacy should reside, nor is it where the funding for this function should be flowing. It is neither the right messenger, nor does it have the mission. The skewed funding, however, is in danger of tilting our diplomatic arsenal in the wrong direction. This is not how to shape smart power.
Further, this impairs State’s public diplomacy leadership ability to act as the interagency interlocutor and coordinator for public diplomacy, much less its legitimacy on behalf of the U.S. for global outreach. It sends the wrong signal. The President sets the tone and the agenda; but State runs the function. The underfunding of State has got to be reversed if the United States is to demonstrate that it takes public diplomacy seriously.
Three final points about the structure of U.S. public diplomacy:
Public-Private Partnerships are essential to optimize effective public diplomacy engagement. They need to be more aggressively and successfully pursued to embrace the reach and resources outside of government –the private sector, citizens of all ages, cultural institutions and civil society influentials —and impact public diplomacy in ways that cannot be as successfully accomplished by government alone. Business for Diplomatic Action, Americans for Informed Democracy, The Asia Society, and the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy are but a few examples of important interlocutors in public diplomacy operating effective programs outside of the public sector but partnering with government and civil society.
There is an important role for active citizen (and cultural) diplomacy outside of the policy dimension, including “reverse public diplomacy” bringing a range of delegations and visitors to our shores—business executives, artists/musicians, doctors, scientists, educators as well as tourists and foreign students.(Programs to send students abroad as well as to bring them to the U.S. is an essential element in the public diplomacy dialogue.) This also means revamping our visa programs in many instances so that security concerns are not unnecessarily diluting effective public diplomacy.
The dollars available in the private sector and foundations even with the serious current stresses in the economy is impressive. For example, Citigroup’s budget in 2007 in over 100 countries was $81.7 billion—9 times the size of the State Department’s budget that year of $9.5 billion for public diplomacy operations in nearly 180 countries.
Both our presidential candidates have discussed the importance of public service—nationally and internationally-- a crucial component relating to effective public diplomacy. This has ranged from the expansion of AmeriCorps to such innovative ideas as Senator Barack Obama’s call for the “America’s Voice Initiative” to send Americans fluent in local languages and dialects abroad to expand our public diplomacy. These programs need to be encouraged, expanded, and energized for Americans of all ages with a range of skills. This is exactly the kind of participation that will enhance our public diplomacy objectives.
Finally, I would recommend serious consideration by the next President, of having a Senior Advisor in the White House responsible to the President (Assistant to the President perhaps) with responsibility for public diplomacy. This would not be a position with operational responsibility for public diplomacy which would continue to reside at the Department of State. But it would send an immediate signal regarding the importance placed on credible international outreach by the new President and his administration. And it would do more than this.
This Advisor's portfolio would provide an appropriate level of linkage between the White House and the Department of State; insure support for the work and organization of public diplomacy centered at the State Department; add the imprimatur of the White House to State's interagency coordination of the public diplomacy function; participate in highest level Principal or Deputy deliberations to insure the public diplomacy dimension is being incorporated and considered relating to our national interests; advise and keep the President informed regarding public diplomacy dimensions of foreign policy; and provide a liaison with the private sector, foundations and others as a conduit for ideas on specific public diplomacy needs, actions and reforms.
This Advisor also would serve as a coordinating point for consideration and recommendations about new architecture needed and a formal and informal point of contact for such outside advisory input.
Wayne Gretzky, the great hockey player, when asked what gave him his special edge, said that “he skates to where the puck will be.”
This is the message for the United States as we consider how to insure effective public diplomacy and effective change going forward.
We have the raw talent and resources. We embody and embrace the principles and the values. We need to have the will, the vision, the leadership and the discipline to seize the moment.
The window is small but with these months of transition in which we find ourselves, we are at the right moment in our history and in the history of our globe to make a needed difference for our own future and for a better global future. This Subcommittee must help define this direction in concert with a new Administration.
11 pages/Jill A. Schuker
Statement of Ronna A. Freiberg Former Director of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs, USIA Before the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs “A Reliance on Smart Power – Reforming the Public Diplomacy Bureaucracy”
September 23, 2008
Chairman Akaka, Ranking Member Voinovich, and Members of the Subcommittee:
Thank you for inviting me to participate in today’s hearing on public diplomacy. As a veteran of USIA, I have a continuing interest in the effectiveness of the nation’s public diplomacy organizational structure and its ability to adapt to the demands of the 21st century. My remarks today are based on personal experience, observation, and regular discussions with practitioners inside and outside of government. I do not represent the views of any organization.
Our need for a robust public diplomacy strategy and support structure has been influenced by a number of developments, beginning with the end of the bipolar world of the Cold War. The subsequent rise of new technologies, the growing involvement in international affairs by NGOS, businesses and other private sector actors, the ever-present challenge of terrorism and the evidence of widespread negative attitudes toward the United States have created a “perfect storm” in international relations.
It is no secret that our public diplomacy apparatus has not responded effectively to this perfect storm. To a large degree, the current failures of public diplomacy are more attributable to resentment of our policy decisions than to flaws in message or communications. Even the most effective public diplomacy cannot compensate for policy mistakes. That aside, recent experience teaches us that designing a structure to enable creative, consistent, and coherent outreach to foreign publics must be a high priority for the next administration.
In the past few years, numerous task forces have been created, reports issued, seminars organized, and hallway conversations held to address what should be done to reinvigorate and strengthen public diplomacy. Some of these proposals focus on reforming the existing bureaucratic structure. Alternatively, a number of respected organizations have suggested creating new independent organizations outside of government. Although many of these ideas have merit, it is still unclear how a new entity would interface with State and in particular, how it would operate in the field. For that reason, I have focused my testimony on ideas for improving the State Department’s current public diplomacy structure and operations.
First, a word about definitions. Public diplomacy has come to mean different things to different persons. Other witnesses may articulate their own definitions. I have adapted the definition that appears in discourse and discussion most frequently: Public diplomacy is the effort to understand, inform, engage and influence the attitudes and behavior of foreign publics in ways that support U.S. national security interests. Public diplomacy’s fundamental tools are the dissemination of information through a range of media, both new and old; direct interaction with individuals and organizations through public and press outreach activities; and a broad range of academic, professional and citizen exchange programs. Public diplomacy includes aspects of international relations that go beyond official interactions between national governments. Or, as Joe Nye put it in his book Soft Power, public diplomacy entails not only “conveying information and selling a positive image,” but also “building long-term relationships that create an enabling environment for government policies.” The short-term and long-term aspects of public diplomacy can sometimes be at odds, and this affects how we approach reforms in the system.
Much has been said and written about why the Clinton administration and Congress approved a merger of USIA into the State Department in 1998, over USIA’s objections. I will not rehash those arguments. Certainly the move gave the Department access to all the “instruments” of diplomacy, which was one of its goals. And my colleagues on the State Department panel can tell us whether the expected cost savings occurred and whether duplication of services and functions was reduced. USIA had already undergone reorganization, downsizing and streamlining before the integration occurred.
The merger may have been good for State but it has been less than successful for public diplomacy. The culture of the State Department, though improving, still treats public diplomacy as a stepchild in the policymaking process. Public diplomacy initiatives are under-funded. Many programs are dispersed through numerous government agencies and still lack coordination. The State Department bureaucracy limits our ability to act creatively and nimbly in a world of peer-to-peer communication, despite the efforts of seasoned public diplomacy officers in Washington and in the field.
Still, this is the situation the next President will inherit and I do not advocate recreating the old USIA. The question is, how do we make public diplomacy better?
I have seven recommendations for reform:
l. Clarify and strengthen the role of the Undersecretary. At the time of the reorganization, there was a great deal of debate about the authority of the new Undersecretary, specifically with regard to personnel and budget. In the end, the USIA area offices and field personnel went into State’s regional bureaus. As a result, individuals in the field and the regional bureaus now report to regional assistant secretaries and up to the Undersecretary for Political Affairs, while they obtain resources, and theoretically, policy direction, from the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy. It would be more efficient, and serve the unique needs of public diplomacy, to have the regional public diplomacy offices report directly to the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy. One way to accomplish this would be to create a bureau that would house public diplomacy regional offices and connect to the corresponding field staff.
2. Significantly increase public diplomacy resources. If we are serious about our commitment to public diplomacy, we must find the resources to expand exchanges, augment the size and access to technology of the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP), restore some public diplomacy positions that were lost in the 1990s, increase the public diplomacy training provided to all cones of the foreign service, expand English teaching, increase funding for public opinion research, and restore some in-country facilities such as American Centers.
Priority attention should go to funding for the IIP bureau, personnel increases across-the-board, and exchanges.
Because of its critical responsibilities for production and transmittal of large amounts of material in a range of formats, including print and digital technologies, development of more sophisticated internet capability and demands for even more new media, IIP should receive more funding for technology and new positions. The leadership of the bureau should be raised to the Assistant Secretary level.
Technology, however, is not enough. Like the CIA, State was wrong in thinking technology could replace human contact as a means of furthering its objectives. In public diplomacy, personnel, programs and activities are inseparable. The Department needs to restore some of the positions that were cut during the streamlining of the last decade.
Finally, although funding for educational and cultural exchange has doubled in the last five years, more needs to be done. Most of the growth in resources has occurred in the Middle East, in response to crises there. We clearly need more funding for regions of highest priority, especially in language competencies and scholarships, but we must strengthen our exchange capability in a broader way to foster relationships in other regions and lay the groundwork to prevent crises, rather than responding after the fact. The International Visitor Program and Fulbright are examples of effective activities that should be expanded. Participants and alumni in exchange programs have become enormous public diplomacy assets, acting as third party interpreters of our value system and our political philosophy.
3. Reinstate the use of the country plan. Prior to 1999 when USIA was absorbed by State, the public diplomacy area offices developed detailed country plans, which defined communications strategies and set objectives for the country’s exchange and information programs. Currently there is only a mission performance plan, which lacks specificity about communications or public diplomacy. The country plan, with approval by the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and the regional Assistant Secretary, will bring additional coherence to the policymaking process and encourage greater coordination between regional bureaus and public diplomacy field operations.
4. Develop a plan for private sector engagement. State has established an Office of Private Sector Outreach in the Undersecretary’s office. This office should produce a detailed strategy for leveraging private sector resources and expertise to the next administration. Several outside organizations have proposed alternatives to locating this function within the State Department, preferring instead to create an independent quasi-governmental or non-profit organization which would serve as a nexus for involvement in public diplomacy by the academic, research, business and non-profit communities. To create another new entity is a serious and costly undertaking and requires thorough discussion and debate. There can be no disagreement, however, that private sector input must be better utilized to support and enhance our ability to communicate with the world. Currently there is no central entity in the State Department, or elsewhere in government, to which private sector interest can be directed.
5. Bring coherence to the management of interagency coordination. Too many departments and agencies engage in public diplomacy or strategic communications activities and programs. The Department of Defense, for example, has resources and personnel devoted to this function, with little if any coordination with State. This results in inconsistent, uncoordinated messages and lack of accountability. Conflicting jurisdictions among Congressional committees can complicate the effort to coordinate.
The next administration should inventory these public diplomacy activities government-wide and consider consolidating some of them. At a minimum we should determine at what level and how they should be coordinated. The NSC Policy Coordinating Committee on Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy, headed by the Undersecretary of State, may need elevation in the policymaking hierarchy. One proposal is to institutionalize the role of the PCC by creating another council parallel in status to the NSC, the HSC, and the NEC in the White House, reporting directly to the President, responsible for interagency coordination of international communications. A decision on this obviously rests with the next President.
6. Strike the right balance between security needs and public access to programs abroad. If the role of the public diplomacy officer on the ground, at post, is to interact with and engage both media and citizen groups in his or her community, and if we are going to evaluate officers on the number of these interactions, then certainly our security requirements, though necessary, may hinder the effort. In some locations, the loss of publicly accessible facilities has resulted in moving some programs into the embassy, which often appears fortress-like and unapproachable. We need to redouble our efforts to maintain access to embassies, and assure the security of embassy staff as they move about in the community.
7. Launch a major government-wide international education effort. Both our national security and our international competitiveness demand that we devise a strategy to raise the importance of international education. Again, this will require interagency cooperation and the support of several committees of Congress. But, in my view, nothing is more important, because the value of long-term relationship building, in all its forms, far exceeds that of short-term message creation in the panoply of public diplomacy activities.
An international education strategy should have three components:
We must attract and welcome more international students. The university environment fosters interaction with America’s values, its culture, its political institutions, and most importantly, its unique citizenry. To accomplish this task, further streamlining of the visa process and a greater degree of coordination between government, academic institutions and the non-profit sector may be required. Many other countries have developed comprehensive national strategies to attract students. We are competing with those countries. Our lack of a strategy works to our disadvantage.
We must find ways to make our own students more aware of the world beyond our borders. We know that for individuals to participate actively in a global economy, and for the country to increase its competitiveness, Americans must acquire not only math, science and technology skills, but also international knowledge, language competency, and cross-cultural skills. We also know that the U.S. cannot conduct effective diplomacy – public or otherwise – if our citizenry does not have an understanding of the people we are trying to influence.
Many of the reports on public diplomacy have recommended an increase in the number and diversity of U.S. undergraduates studying abroad and the diversity of the locations they choose. One option under consideration by Congress is the Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act. The Simon Act creates a national study abroad program to send one million American undergraduates to diverse locations over a ten-year period through direct scholarships and improvements in on-campus capability to encourage such participation.
The third component of a campaign to build long-term relationships through education will require summoning up the will to find more resources for the educational and cultural exchange programs of the State Department, as discussed earlier.
Our success in foreign policy depends on our ability to engage and influence foreign publics through the power of our values, our institutions, and our national character. It depends also on our commitment to understanding our audiences and building the kinds of long-term relationships that outlive the policies of any one administration or political party and sustain us during times of crisis.
Yes, it’s about message. But it’s also about people-to-people programs. Yes, it’s about mastering communications techniques, message development and state of the art technologies. But it’s also about translating our nation’s positive attributes into realities others can experience. Too often people associate public diplomacy with public relations, which is only a piece of the puzzle. The art of salesmanship is transient; the art of fostering understanding and goodwill becomes the work of generations.
Ronna A. Freiberg