Insider Quote: It’s good to keep busy

It’s good to keep busy” actually makes me angry, an emotion that is laden as much with the prickings of ego as with irony. Ego, because I want to shout “Goddamit, I’m not trying to ‘keep busy,’ like poor old grandpa shuffling around his retirement condo, I have a career! I’m good at what I do! I’ve busted my ass to get the experience that I want to put to work!” Irony, because the execrable phrase “trailing spouse” originated in the blindness and ignorance of an age when women did the trailing, and when the notion of a dual-career family simply didn’t exist. All that said — keeping busy is the absolute least of my concerns.

Benjamin Haag
FS spouse who blogs at Irreverence Abroad
Wherever I Go…There I Am

H.R. 2410 Clears HFAC, Sec. 333 Stricken from Bill

On May 20, the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) approved comprehensive legislation to shore up U.S. foreign policy efforts, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2010 and 2011 (H.R. 2410).

Sec. 333 of the bill which addresses discrimination related to sexual orientation has been stripped from the bill. According to Congressman Berman’s press statement:

After learning that Administration intends to end the practice of excluding the committed partners of Foreign Service officers from the benefits routinely provided to the spouses and children of officers serving abroad, a provision on this issue was removed from the bill.

“I am deeply committed to ending the long-standing practice of treating the committed partners of gay and lesbian Foreign Service officers like second-class citizens,” Berman said. “I would not agree to strike a provision in my own bill if I did not feel confident that this would be taken care of by the Administration.”

Click here to read the legislation

Perhaps this year would be different. But before you get too excited about any part of this new legislation, I must caution you that similar bills had been introduced since the 108th Congress and all of them have ended up in dead pool.

Updated: Digger of Life After Jerusalem thinks this is a horrible idea, pointing out that as long as this is not in the books, it opens the possibility of a roll back by a future SoS. I have to agree. Just imagine if somehow somebody in the mold of a Trent Lott becomes the next SoS.

Related Post:
H.R. 2410: Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 2010 and 2011

The Return of Publicly Accessible American Centers?

“America’s best players in public diplomacy have always been its people and its ideas. The United States should get them back into the game instead of standing on the sidelines.” That’s Senator Lugar blogging in Foreign Policy back in February (To win hearts and minds, get back in the game │ Thu, 02/26/2009 – 8:36pm).

On February 13, 2009, Senator Lugar introduced S. Res. 49, expressing the sense of the Senate regarding the importance of public diplomacy. He has also released a report on public diplomacy prepared by the minority staff of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee .

It points out that that Government of the United Kingdom, of France, and of Germany run stand-alone public diplomacy facilities throughout the world, which are known as the British Council, the Alliance Francaise, and the Goethe Institute, respectively; that these government-run facilities teach the national languages of their respective countries, offer libraries, newspapers, and periodicals, sponsor public lecture and film series that engage local audiences in dialogues that foster better understandings between these countries and create an environment promoting greater trust and openness.

I did not realize it until I read this – but Iran apparently has many cultural centers, and has increased the number of Iranian Cultural Centers, to about 60 throughout the world.

The United States has historically operated similar facilities, known as American Centers under USIA but following the end of the Cold War and the attacks on United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, budgetary and security pressures resulted in the drastic downsizing or closure of most of the American Centers. In Senator Lugar’s assessment, “The unintended result is that in the global contest for ideas, the United States is playing short-handed.”

In the beginning of 1999, American Centers began to be renamed Information Resource Centers and relocated primarily inside United States embassy compounds. 177 Information Resource Centers are in operation as of February 2009 but 87, or 49% operate on a ‘‘By Appointment Only’’ basis and 18, or 11%, do not permit any public access.

Yesterday, the Senate agreed to S. Res. 49, to express the sense of the Senate regarding the importance of public diplomacy.

Resolved, That—

(1) the Secretary of State should initiate a reexamination of the public diplomacy platform strategy of the United States with a goal of reestablishing publicly accessible American Centers;

(2) after taking into account relevant security considerations, the Secretary of State should consider placing United States public diplomacy facilities at locations conducive to maximizing their use, consistent with the authority given to the Secretary under section 606(a)(2)(B) of the Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act of 1999 (22 U.S.C. 4865(a)(2)(B)) to waive certain requirements of that Act.

See the full text here (pdf).

On a related note, Judith McHale, the administration’s nominee to be Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy has just been cleared by the Senate panel and is now awaiting for confirmation vote of the full Senate. Click here to read the transcript of her opening statement at the confirmation hearing last week. Excerpts on related issues below:

“The Iranian public diplomacy network in the Middle East and beyond includes satellite television and radio networks in several languages, more than 100 newspapers and magazines, and thousands of web sites and blogs.”
I will look to this Committee for advice and guidance every step of the way if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed. From rebuilding our network of American Centers and strengthening our cultural diplomacy, to ensuring a public diplomacy structure with clear lines of authority and accountability…”

Related Items:

  • U.S. Public Diplomacy: Time to Get Back in the Game
    111th Congress, February 13, 2009 │ PDF

  • Opening Statement of Judith McHale
    SFRC Confirmation Hearing, May 13, 2009 Link

SFRC Clears Judith McHale and Robert Blake

The SFRC cleared the nominations of two more nominees for the State Department on May 20: McHale and Blake. That makes seven nominees for the State Department currently waiting for the confirmation vote of the full Senate.

Judith A. McHale, of Maryland, to be Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, vice James K. Glassman, resigned.

Robert Orris Blake, Jr., of Maryland, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, vice Richard A. Boucher, resigned.

May 20, 2009 Reported by Mr. Kerry, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed

Related Post:
SFRC Clears Feltman, Crowley & Benjamin