@StateDept’s Missing “R” Since March 2018, Vacant Now For 531 Days — Why Keep the Office?

 

Via MountainRunner:

Let’s consider a recent report that the Deputy Secretary has “taking responsibility for finance; public diplomacy and public affairs; and civilian security, democracy and human rights.” Let’s now consider that the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs has been vacant 531 days this administration (all but precisely 100 days), why keep the office?

Intentionally left out of the above quantitative discussion is the qualitative side: what attributes and skillsets have been hired for the job? It was a veritable whipsaw with each new Under Secretary as it became a parlor game waiting to learn how the new appointee redefined “public diplomacy.”

According to history.state.gov, the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs position was authorized by Title XIII, Section 1313 of the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998 (112 Stat. 2681-776). Section 2305 of the Act (112 Stat. 2681-825) increased the number of Under Secretaries of State from 5 to 6. Subdivision A of the Act, also know as the Foreign Affairs Agencies Consolidation Act of 1998, abolished the U.S. Information Agency and transferred its functions to the Department of State. The integration took place on Oct 1, 1999. The title was recently changed to Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.
Read more via MountainRunner:

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Matt Armstrong: No, we do not need to revive the U.S. Information Agency

Posted: 3:55 am EDT
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Matt Armstrong (@mountainrunner) is a lecturer on public diplomacy and international media. He is writing a book on how the White House, State Department, Congress, and the media fought, struggled, and ultimately collaborated in 1917-1948 to establish U.S. “public diplomacy.” In 2011, he served as executive director of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. He was nominated and confirmed as a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) on August 1, 2013.  He blogs sometimes at mountainrunner.us. He recently wrote, No, we do not need to revive the U.S. Information Agency for War on The Rocks.  Below is an excerpt. He says that the views expressed in this piece are his own, so don’t blame anyone else.

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More than once in the past decade or more, I guarantee that you have heard — or read — someone declare the United States would be better off today if the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) were still around and how without it, the United States was robbed of the ability to properly engage in information warfare today. Some of these discussions have been in Congress and at least one bill was introduced in recent years to try to recreate a limited USIA. However, laments about USIA are really a coded way of saying that we lack a strategy, an organizing principle, and empowered individuals to execute information warfare today.
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In 1999, the “peace dividend” needed more money, and either USAID or USIA was going to help fund it. While USAID’s chief fought for his agency, USIA’s did not. But why was USIA even on the chopping block? Partly because of the incomplete, or tainted, knowledge of its role (primary credit goes to Fulbright), but also partly because USIA’s narrative, its raison d’être, had failed to adapt to the new normal, which would have been a lot like its early years.

Abolishing USIA was messy. Parts went to State, mostly under the purpose-built office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, but not all. And the broadcasting portion was spun off into a separate federal agency, the Broadcasting Board of Governors. A 2000 report on the status of the so-called merger captured part of the culture clash. While accounting at USIA served the mission and the field, at State, former USIA employees saw “accounting is an end itself.”
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If we truly want to recreate USIA, the public affairs officers and their sections at our Embassies and Consulates would go to the new agency. The libraries and America’s Corners and all the similar programs would be moved, and likely moved out from behind fortress walls where some are invite-only, if they are accessible at all. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs would also leave State. The Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs would be abolished, though the Bureau of Public Affairs would remain in the department. The Broadcasting Board of Governors would be merged with this new entity as well. Perhaps most important of all, the Defense Department would defer to this new agency in its public communications, as would USAID and other agencies. Obviously such a reorganization is not going to happen.

We must remember that USIA operated in a simpler time of limited information flows and limited government communications. It virtually owned access to many foreign media markets, markets where the only “competition” was local government propaganda or silence.

Perhaps State could revamp itself. It is worth noting here that the title “public affairs officer” used by State and the United States Information Service were created in 1917 by the foreign section of the Committee for Public Information because State refused to do “public diplomacy” abroad. Nelson Rockefeller’s Coordinator for Inter-American Affairs was established prior to Pearl Harbor as a USIA-like organization focused on Latin America because State refused to respond to FDR’s requests and engage the public. In 1953, State was all too eager to dump the responsibilities of engaging foreign publics directly in the interest of “streamlining.” And in 1999 through today, we see how poorly State integrates, funds, and prioritizes “public diplomacy” into its operations. Even the title of the public diplomacy chief is discordant: “Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.”

The lesson here is that each successful change followed a clearly defined and articulated requirement to fulfill a strategic purpose. Consolidation, or dis-aggregation, is not a strategy and it will not conjure up a strategy. In today’s noisy communications environment, we need coordination that comes not from a supremely empowered individual or central organization, but comes from a clear mission and purpose. USIA is held out as a symbol of our success to organize for information warfare, but it really was part of a larger effort. And ultimately, it came to reflect the segregation of “public diplomacy” from “diplomacy” that remains today. Today is not yesterday, so let’s stop looking at a mid-twentieth century solution for a 21st century problem.

Read in full here via War on The Rocks.

Click here for the end notes.

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Obama Nominates Richard Stengel to the State Department’s Public Diplomacy Bureau

— By Domani Spero

 

In May this year, a group of 51 retired senior foreign affairs professionals including 37 former ambassadors wrote a letter to the Secretary of State urging that  ”a career foreign affairs professional be appointed as the next Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.  See 37 Former Ambassadors Urge Appointment of a Career Diplomat to State Dept’s Public Diplomacy Bureau.  Well, that didn’t work.

Yesterday, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Richard Stengel for Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. The WH released the following brief bio:

Richard Stengel is the Managing Editor of Time Magazine, a position he has held since 2006.  From 2004 to 2006, Mr. Stengel was the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.  In 2000, Mr. Stengel served as a Senior Adviser and Chief Speechwriter for Bill Bradley’s Presidential campaign.  In 1999, Mr. Stengel was the Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton.  From 1992 to 1994, Mr. Stengel worked with Nelson Mandela on his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom.  Mr. Stengel has written for many publications and is the author of several books.  He began his career at TIME in 1981 as a writer and correspondent.  He received a B.A. from Princeton University and was a Rhodes Scholar at Christ Church at the University of Oxford.

If confirmed, Mr. Stengel would succeed Tara D. Sonenshine, and would be the 8th Under  Secretary for the “R” bureau since its creation in 1999.  No career-diplomat to-date has ever been nominated for this position.

  1. Evelyn Simonowitz Lieberman (1999-2001)
  2. Charlotte L. Beers (2001-2003)
  3. Margaret DeBardeleben Tutwiler (2003-2004)
  4. Karen P. Hughes (2005-2007)
  5. James K. Glassman (2008-2009)
  6. Judith A. McHale (2009-2011)
  7. Tara D. Sonenshine (2012-2013)

 

A useful read would be Mountainrunner’s: R we there yet? A look at the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy (and Public Affairs).  The average tenure in this position is just 512 days with Karen Hughes serving the longest at 868 days.  Below is the Incumbency Chart for the Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs from a 2011 report by the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.

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Obama Nominates Ambassador Ryan Crocker to the Broadcasting Board of Governors

On May 10, 2013, President Obama announced his intent to nominate retired Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker to serve as a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). The WH released the following brief bio:

Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker is the Kissinger Senior Fellow at Yale University, a position he has held since October 2012.  He is also the James Schlesinger Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Virginia, a position he has held since March 2013.  From 2011 to 2012, he served as Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.  Previously, Ambassador Crocker was Dean and Executive Professor at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.  His 37-year career in the Foreign Service included service as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait, and Lebanon.  He is a Member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Board of Trustees of Whitman College.  Ambassador Crocker is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Presidential Distinguished Service Award, the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award, and the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Civilian Service.  Ambassador Crocker received a B.A. from Whitman College.

Ambassador Crocker takes over Victor Ashe’s term expiring on August 13, 2013. He was nominated for a new term at the BBG that expires on August 13, 2016.  We have posted here previously that Matthew Armstrong was also nominated for the BBG. He takes over the BBG position previously held by Dana M. Perino with a term expiring on August 13, 2015.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is an independent federal agency supervising all U.S. government-supported, civilian international media. The BBG’s mission is to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy. Broadcasters within the BBG network include the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa), Radio Free Asia, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Marti).

The nine-person Board currently has three positions vacant pending a nomination by the President and confirmation by the U.S. Senate.  A January 2013 OIG report says that the word most commonly used to describe the BBG was “dysfunctional.”  And that “This dysfunction is attributable largely to the Board’s structure, internal governance issues, and dynamics.”

 

— DS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Officially In: Matt Armstrong to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG)

On April 11, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Matthew C. Armstrong to serve on the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). The WH released the following brief bio:

Matthew C. Armstrong is an author, speaker, and strategist on issues related to public diplomacy.  In 2011, he served as Executive Director of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.  Previously, Mr. Armstrong was an adjunct professor of public diplomacy at the Annenberg School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Southern California.  In 2010, he founded and served as President of the MountainRunner Institute and published a blog on public diplomacy and strategic communication.  He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Public Diplomacy Council and a member of the International Institute of Strategic Studies.  Mr. Armstrong received a B.A. and an M.P.D. from the University of Southern California.

Matthew Armstrong, Executive Director of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy gives his remarks during a reception hosted in his honor by Deputy Ambassador James B. Cunningham on Monday, Oct 17, 2011. (Department of State)

Matthew Armstrong, Executive Director of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy gives his remarks during a reception hosted in his honor by Deputy Ambassador James B. Cunningham on Monday, Oct 17, 2011. (Department of State)

BBG Watch, a website that covers the BBG and maintained by former and current BBG, VOA and RFE/RL employees and their supporters released the following statement:

“BBG Watch welcomes the nomination of Matt Armstrong to serve on the BBG board. His expertise in public diplomacy will strengthen this very important institution and will help other BBG members and any future CEO in their efforts to reform the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), the worst managed organization within the federal government. We hope that Mr. Armstrong will help to transform the IBB from a centralized bureaucracy bent on increasing its power into a lean support organization that serves rather than issues commands to individual media entities.”

I have blogged previously about Matt Armstrong and ACPD (see Matt Armstrong Joins the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public DiplomacyPD Commission KIA by Congress; Welcome Back, Matt ArmstrongU.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy Re-Authorized – Where the Heck Is It?).

Sorry to see that he won’t be returning to the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy (ACPD).  So now, we’ll have to wait and see how much work the re-authorized ACPD gets to do with “support” from the “R” bureau.

–DS

 

 

 

 

U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy Re-Authorized – Where the Heck Is It?

Back on January 13, 2012, we blogged about the demise of ACPD or the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy (see PD Commission KIA by Congress; Welcome Back, Matt Armstrong):

Last December, after 63 years of existence, the Commission was KIA by Congress.  And the USG saved $135,065, the Commission’s operating budget for FY2011 (salaries excepted).  Besides the Executive Director, the only permanent staff of the ACPD, the Commission was supported by a detailee from DOD and two interns.  At the time of its closure, there was no Y-tour FSO working with the Commission.  Apparently, the senator who blocked ACPD’s reauthorization admitted he did so not because of merit, or value, or mission, or demand, or even actual cost. The gesture was symbolic and that ACPD happened to cross the senator’s sights at the wrong time; would he have seen DOD’s $547 million for public affairs?

Patricia Kushlis of WhirledView writes: “An effective Public Diplomacy Advisory Commission is the single bipartisan governmental entity that reports to both the executive and legislative branches about what the US could and should do to improve the country’s image abroad. Given the fragmentation of US public diplomacy activities since USIA’s demise, this country is more than ever in need of an independent watch-dog body tasked with putting the jig-saw pieces together enough, at least, to see, report on and critique the most critical parts – now flung across a multitude of departments and agencies.”

So the Commission has been dead for about 15 months but now it’s been re-authorized, retroactively re-authorized on January 3, 2013.

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As of to-date, there does not seem to be any hint that the Commission will re-start work within the next 30-60 days.

The ACPD is supported by the office of the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs also known as the “R” Bureau (we’re looking at you A/S Tara Sonenshine).  With the exception of that tiny blurb about the ACPD re-authorization, there reportedly is word from the R/Front Office that no other changes on the ACPD website be done without the expressed approval from Ms. Sonenshine’s office. It does not look like Matt Armstrong, the executive director or the rest of the Commission staff has also been reinstated.

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We should note that the ACPD reports to the President and the Secretary of State.

Quick background on the ACPD:

Since 1948, the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy (ACPD) had been charged with appraising U.S. Government activities intended to understand, inform, and influence foreign publics and to increase the understanding of and support for these same activities.

The ACPD accomplished this through reports and symposiums that provide honest appraisals and informed discourse on these efforts. The ACPD conducted studies, inquiries, and meetings, and disseminates white papers, reports, and other publications with the approval of the chairperson and in consultation with the Executive Director.

Considering that the ACPD is tasked with appraising our public diplomacy programs, a good chunk of those programs produced by the “R” Bureau (hello Buzkashi Boys), is it appropriate for Ms. Sonenshine’s office to have hiring authority over the Commission’s staff or have authority on when it can operationally re-start or re-do its website? Does it need permission, too, when it can convene a meeting?  The current rules has the chairman of the commission having the authority to appoint the executive director and other additional personnel. It sounds like the “R” Bureau is looking to change that.

Well, boo!

The United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy (ACPD) is a bi-partisan entity. With taxpayer dollars leaking out everywhere in the name of public diplomacy, and not just from State, we need an independent commission that can appraise the effectivity of these programs.  Furthermore, the law that created ACPD actually requires that the Commission conduct an assessment that considers the public diplomacy target impact, the achieved impact, and the cost of public diplomacy activities and international broadcasting. It is supposed to assess and rate whether public diplomacy programs were effective or not, whether appropriate goals were set or not, whether the programs were managed-well and were cost-efficient  or if they do not have acceptable performance public diplomacy metrics for measuring results.

That’s a good enough reason to ensure that the ACPD is not staff by anyone from “R” or nominated by “R” who potentially can have a conflict of interest when it comes to bidding for future assignments within the State Department.

If this is all a misconception on our part, well, can you blame us if we’re reading the smoke signals?  If you know why it’s been 60 days since ACPD had been reauthorized and it is still hobbled in the bureaucracy, our comment section is open.
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Read Before Burning: Debating the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act

Matt Armstrong has written a must-read piece on the Smith-Mundt Modernization debate. Something for those who did not get their Smith-Mundt Minute Maid boost before wading into the bush.

There’s this – Congressmen Seek To Lift Propaganda Ban

And then there’s this – Much ado about State Department ‘propaganda’

Here is an excerpt from Matt Armstrong’s Congress, the State Department, and “communistic, fascistic, and other alien influences”:

The current debate on the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act is filled with misinformation about the history of Smith-Mundt, some of it verging on blatant propaganda, making the discussion overall rich in irony. In 1947, the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional committee assembled to give its recommendation on the Smith-Mundt Act declared that it was a necessary response to the danger posed “by the weapons of false propaganda and misinformation and the inability on the part of the United States to deal adequately with those weapons.” Today, it is the Smith-Mundt Act that is victim to “false propaganda” and “misinformation” that affect perceptions of, and potential support for, the Modernization Act.

Many of the negative narratives swirling around the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act are based on assumptions and myths that, like true propaganda, have an anchor in reality but stray from the facts to support false conclusions. These fabrications include the false assertion the Act ever applied to the whole of Government or the Defense Department as well as fundamental confusion, and lack of knowledge, of America’s public diplomacy with foreign audiences.
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From the information programs to the programs for the “interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills,” the Congress made its clear its concerns that the State Department may intentionally, or inadvertently, undermine the American way of life for reasons ranging from Roosevelt and Truman “New Dealers” to the liberal culture of the State Department.
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[T]he distrust of State remained. Rep. Fred Busbey (R-IL) sought to delay the bill until the State Department was cleaned up: “I believe there should be in the State Department an Office of Information and Cultural Affairs, but it should be free of communistic, fascistic, and other alien influences.” Congressman Clare Hoffman (R-MI) believed the exchange program was for the State Department to establish an espionage net directed against the United States.

Continue reading, Congress, the State Department, and “communistic, fascistic, and other alien influences”

We should note that a tiny twig of the federal government had been charged with appraising U.S. Government activities “intended to understand, inform, and influence foreign publics.” That’s the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy (ACPD), created in 1948 and defunded by Congress on December 16, 2011.

On the issue of trust or in this case, distrust — distrust of the Department of State is a shadow that started stalking the organization soon after it came into being following the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1789. Donald Warwick in his 1978 book on bureaucracy points out that the early image of State was influenced by its adoption of the European model of diplomacy and our country’s mistrust of foreign relations.

“As a concrete expression of concern with European contamination, the Continental Congress ruled that diplomats could remain overseas no more than three years. Rapid corruption thereafter was feared. […] Public mistrust of diplomacy in general and of its foreign-oriented practioners was to surface later in the McCarthy era.”

The limit on continuous duty overseas is alive and well. In the Foreign Service Act, Congress imagined that diplomats would still be contaminated but only after 15 years of continuous exposure abroad.

Domani Spero

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