COMMISSION MEMBERS PRESENT:
Mr. William J. Hybl, Chairman
Mr. Sim Farar, Vice Chairman
Ms. Anne Terman Wedner
Ms. Lezlee Westine
STAFF MEMBERS PRESENT:
Dr. Katherine Brown, Executive Director
The following document and presentations from the meeting and are available here to supplement the transcript: “The Evolution of American Public Diplomacy: Four Historical Insights,” by Dr. Seth Center; “The State of Public Diplomacy Audits,” by Mr. Jason Bair and Mr. Michael Hurley; “The State of Public Diplomacy Research,” by Dr. Craig Hayden and Dr. Emily Metzgar; and “U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy 2014 Plan,” by the Commission Members and the Executive Director, Dr. Katherine Brown.
The U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy held a public meeting on December 2, 2013 from 2:00-4:00p.m. in Room SVC203-02 of the Capitol Visitor’s Center in Washington, D.C. The meeting was the first since its reinstatement in July 2013. The Commission Members welcomed four guest speakers to brief them and the public on the “The State of Public Diplomacy in 2014.”
The core purpose of this meeting was to understand the current state of public diplomacy practice and research and to establish where the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy could add the most value to Congress, the President, the State Department, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, other federal agencies, the public diplomacy research community and the public. At the State Department, there will be a new Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in 2014, in addition to the revived Broadcasting Board of Governors. In addition, we now have more than a decade of lessons learned from two events that changed the structure and dimension of U.S. public diplomacy activities: the merger between the U.S. Information Agency’s and the U.S. Department of State in 1999 and September 11, 2001.
The first panel discussed the state of public diplomacy practice from the auditors’ perspective. Jason Bair, a Senior Analyst and Assistant Director of International Affairs and Trade Issues at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Michael Hurley, Senior Public Diplomacy Investigator of the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of State discussed the recurring findings from their investigations on public diplomacy and international broadcasting activities.
The GAO has completed roughly 20 public diplomacy audits the last decade, and Mr. Bair identified four of the most issues frequent issues that surfaced. They were: a need to use research findings to inform strategic objectives and inform public diplomacy program decisions; overlap and duplication in international broadcasting; persistent challenges in the State Department’s public diplomacy workforce; and the critical need for interagency coordination of public diplomacy activities to achieve U.S. goals. The transcript of his remarks runs from pages 5-8.
Mr. Hurley discussed the main areas that the Office of the Inspector General looks for when assessing public diplomacy strategy and practice at various U.S. embassies. Those four areas include asking “if the Public Affairs Section is part of a coordinated embassy strategy; if the budget is properly managed; if social media serves a useful purpose; and whether or not the embassy is using innovative practices to advance U.S. public diplomacy goals.” The transcript of his remarks runs from pages 8-11.
The accompanying power point presentation for this part of the meeting can be found here.
Dr. Seth Center, a Historian with the U.S. Department of State, could not attend the meeting. But he submitted a document, “The Evolution of American Public Diplomacy: Four Historical Insights,” for the record. It summarized findings from a study he recently completed on the history of the Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs cone from 1999-2011. His four main findings were that, “the ‘Golden Age’ of public diplomacy was not always so golden; public diplomacy is still in its adolescent stage in the State Department; whole-of-government public diplomacy efforts have left a trail of forgotten acronyms and aborted strategies; and public diplomacy and traditional diplomacy are converging.” This document can be found here.
The second panel discussed the state of public diplomacy research from the scholars’ perspective. Dr. Craig Hayden of American University and Dr. Emily Metzgar of Indiana University reviewed the state of academic research based on their recent meta-review of 600 public diplomacy articles in academic journals. Their main question was: What are academics contributing to our understanding of public diplomacy?
Dr. Hayden and Dr. Metzgar noted that public diplomacy scholarship is multi-disciplinary in nature and there is no single academic field that can lay claim to it. This has its advantages, but it also means that there is little communication across disciplines. They noted the dramatic growth since 9/11 of scholarly interest in peer-reviewed journals in public diplomacy. The literature is largely atheoretical, emphasizes the post-9/11 period, and is focused on state actors with a significant emphasis on the United States. The main areas the articles discuss are advocacy, cultural familiarization, exchanges, and international broadcasting. The research mainly uses qualitative methods and there is a dearth of empirical studies. This means, according to Dr. Hayden and Dr. Metzgar, that there is much room for experimentation with different theoretical approaches and potential for more applicable research for practitioners.
Dr. Hayden and Dr. Metzgar agreed that the field of Mass Communication had the most to offer in terms of creating research with direct applications for practitioners. This includes general studies about media content and audience effect; press-state relations; transnational advocacy networks; framing and agenda-setting; two-step flow; and network theory. These theories point to new avenues for foreign public engagement. While academia does not have public diplomacy departments, academics who examine cultural relations, broadcasting and media relations can build knowledge that may be productive for the practitioner community. The transcript of their remarks runs from pages 13-20. The accompanying power point presentation can be found here.
Finally, Dr. Katherine Brown, the Commission’s Executive Director, discussed where the Commission would focus its efforts in 2014. In order to fulfill its watchdog mandate, the Commission will complete a report that itemizes and analyzes public diplomacy and international broadcasting activities. To be an advocate for the role that public diplomacy plays in national security, the Commission will work with partners in and outside of government to produce research and reports that strengthen practice. In this effort, the Commission Members have agreed to focus on three areas: research methods for public diplomacy; conducting public diplomacy in high threat environments; and the future public diplomat. The transcript of her remarks runs from pages 20-24. The accompanying power point presentation can be found here.
The meeting closed with by announcing the meeting dates for 2014: March 4, May 8, and September 11.
Chairman William J. Hybl: Welcome to our first public meeting of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy in two years, the first since our reinstatement this summer. I’m Bill Hybl, Chairman of the Commission.
Since 1948, the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy has been charged with appraising U.S. Government activities intended to understand, inform and influence foreign publics. It also works to increase the understanding of, and support for, these same activities. The Commission conducts research and symposiums that provide assessments and informed discourse on public diplomacy efforts across government.
Since the time of the USIA, it’s really made a difference. Members with Democratic and Republican affiliations, in addition to Independents, have served on this Commission through the years. It’s made a great difference, it’s made changes – certainly in cultural programs. And it’s been the sort of Commission that can make our country proud. And it’s with that in mind that we move forward and really show you this new beginning for the Commission itself.
We have two experts in public diplomacy and international broadcasting with us: Jason Bair, a Senior Analyst and Assistant Director of International Affairs and Trade Issues from the Government Accountability Office and Michael Hurley, Senior Public Diplomacy Investigator of the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of State. And we certainly welcome them.
We also have two academics with us today who are well versed in public diplomacy and will give us some perspective on the research area and the intellectual aspect of public diplomacy. They are Professor Emily Metzgar from Indiana University and Professor Craig Hayden from American University.
Initially, I’d like to introduce my colleagues on the Commission, who have flown in from around the country. Sim Farar, Vice Chairman, from Los Angeles, California; Anne Terman Wedner from Chicago, Illinois; and Lezlee Westine of Washington, D.C. Two Members are not with us today, Ambassador Penne Peacock, from Austin, Texas and Ambassador Lyndon Olson, also from Texas.
I want to say a little bit about our new beginning in 2013 and 2014, and about the new Executive Director, Katherine Brown. Katherine has really made a difference. She has an M.A. and a Ph.D. in communications from Columbia. She has been hard working in this full endeavor. She served in both Republican and Democratic administrations. She was also once an advisor in communications at the U.S. embassy in Kabul. When you look at the experience she has had over the last decade, and with the energy that she displays, she is the perfect fit as the Executive Director of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. I want you to stand up and raise your hand there, Katherine.
I’d also like to thank Senator Barbara Boxer and Ann Norris, a member of her staff, and Senator Tom Coburn. Between the two of them, they made the energetic effort that led to the re-establishment of the Commission. Our re-authorization actually came from the House Armed Service Committee and Chairman Buck McKeon and Ranking Member Adam Smith truly played a critical role in this effort. Senator Boxer actually is our host today. You will notice we’re on the Senate side of the Capitol Visitor’s Center. I’d also like to thank her staff, Alicia Henry and Walker Zorensky for their support.
To introduce our program, I’d like to introduce the Vice Chair, Sim Farar. Sim?
Vice Chairman Sim Farar: Good afternoon. I’m from Los Angeles so it’s actually morning for me. But thank you very, very much for coming. It’s really nice to have you all here. I have been on the Commission for a few years, it’s been off and now on again. We’re happy to be back. As Bill alluded to, this Katherine Brown – I want to keep reiterating over and over again – she has been the lone ranger and built this herself and has put us all back together again. She’s done an incredible job. We, the Commissioners, are very pleased. And it’s great news to have Senator Boxer, who is on one side of the aisle, and Senator Coburn on the other side of the aisle, work so closely to make this happen. It really makes a difference.
We are honored to have with us today two experienced professionals who are well versed in the challenges and the successes of public diplomacy for the past decade.
Jason Bair is an Assistant Director on GAO’s International Affairs and Trade team. Since joining the Government Accountability Office in 2000, he has worked on a variety of issues and currently overseas the GAO’s work on public diplomacy and international counter-terrorism issues. He has traveled to review U.S. programs and activities in Yemen, Jordan, Kenya, China, and Germany. He obtained his bachelor’s in communications, law, and economics at American University and his master’s in public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.
Michael Hurley joined the Office of the Inspector General as a senior public diplomacy inspector in August of 2012. He is a Minister Counselor in the Foreign Service, which he joined with the U.S. Information Agency in 1985. He has been posted to Moscow three times and his other overseas assignments include Kuala Lumpur, Surabaya, and Budapest. He was also Deputy, and then Director, of the Press and Public Diplomacy Office in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. Mr. Hurley is a graduate of the University of Washington in Seattle and the George Washington University here in Washington, D.C. His languages include Russian, Hungarian, Indonesian, and German.
Thank you for being with us today. Jason and Michael, would you please come up here and speak?
I’d also like to call your attention to a document you should have received upon entering the meeting titled, “The Evolution of American Public Diplomacy: Four Historical Insights,” written by Dr. Seth Center, a Historian at the State Department. Seth was unable to make it today, but graciously summarized his remarks in this document, which is based on a review of the “R” cone at the State Department since 1999 that he recently completed.
We will now begin with Jason, I believe, or Michael.
Mr. Jason Bair: First and foremost, thanks so much to the Commission for inviting GAO to share its insights on public diplomacy over the last 10 years. We look forward to a good exchange with you all and the Commission today. We look forward to supporting the Commission on what I believe will be an ambitious agenda over the coming years.
I think many of you are familiar with the GAO, but I thought I’d give you a 30-second introduction. For those of you don’t know, the GAO is the Government Accountability Office. We work for Congress. We do research on them for public policy issues, and I focus on international affairs and trade issues. One of my two areas of specialization, as you heard, is on public diplomacy. Our goal is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government, so we look in this context largely at the State Department and the BBG. A small amount of our work in this area also looks at the Defense Department.
Since 2003, we have done about 20 public products on public diplomacy issues. So my remarks today draw from those documents to highlight what we view as the key themes for public diplomacy hopefully to inform the Commission as you look forward.
Looking at the body of work we have done, much of it, because of the nature of the requests we have gotten from Congress, have focused on our friends at the BBG. Cuba and Middle East broadcasting have received much attention the last few years, as they are popular topics of requests from a variety of clients on the Hill. But we have also looked at a variety exchange programs, public diplomacy strategy overall, and public diplomacy platforms.
With that, let me launch into what I think are the four key themes that have come out of much of the work we have done at GAO.
The first is about effective assessment of results. When I think of the work we have done, it has two dimensions that can be opposite ends of the same coin. Sometimes those results we think need to be better linked to overall strategic objectives. For instance, in 2010, we did a review of a variety of public diplomacy platforms that the State Department operates. Those range from the well-known American Centers like the Ben Franklin Library in Mexico – and these are bricks and mortar facilities to bring foreign publics in to get an American experience – all the way to virtual engagement whether they are virtual presence posts, and everything in between. So we looked at a variety of those activities.
What we found is that while some of those are evaluated by identifying the extent to which they are contributing to public diplomacy goals, some of them aren’t. What we found was that, the bright line, was whether “R” owned the resources or not. So things like an American Presence Post, which is a one-man office or a post in an outlying city perhaps, has a large public diplomacy component to its mission. But since the folks at “R” don’t control the resources, they don’t have a focus on evaluating the extent to which they are contributing to “R”'s achievement of its goals.
The other side of the coin is about instances we find when results need to be assessed at a more granular level in order to inform program decisions. The example that comes to my mind here is that, back in 2009, we were doing a review of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting. As many of you know they do radio and TV broadcasts to Cuba. At the time they were doing television broadcasting via a Direct TV feed, as well as flying an airplane in international waters to broadcast. We found that while they were doing surveys of the audience size in Cuba to identify the extent to which people were viewing the TV Marti programming, it wasn’t possible to disaggregate from the data if the audience was coming from the Direct TV version or from the Air Marti version. And given the differences in the cost of those two varieties of programming, we wanted to encourage BBG to do some additional analysis to make investment choices that were really the most cost-effective to achieve their program goals.
The second theme I’d like to pass along to you is about overlap and duplication. The one example that we have at this point is looking at international broadcasting. Some of you may know we did a report in January of this year looking at duplication issues and part of it focused on international broadcasting. What we found was that, at that point, about two-thirds of BBG language services had some degree of overlap. I do want to give one note of caution here. What we were looking for was programming that was in the same country using the same platform, TV or radio. We weren’t truly looking for duplication where the same programming was being broadcast at the same exact time. But given that we found that two-thirds of the VOA and other BBG language services had some degree of overlap, we were encouraging the BBG to incorporate more systematic analysis of overlap into their annual language service reviews.
And here I certainly want to give some credit to BBG. As we were completing our analysis and even more so afterwards, they have seemed to take our recommendations to heart and I think they are in the process of developing something that seems to get them toward the more systematic approach that we were looking for.
The third theme I would like to highlight is about the State Department’s public diplomacy workforce. There are two elements that I think we’ve commented on and flagged for this Commission, as well as others. The first relates to staffing shortages. In 2003 and 2007 we did an in-depth analysis of the State Department workforce. We found with regard to public diplomacy positions, there was a 13 percent vacancy rate. Certainly there are others – one is sitting next to me right now – who can speak more eloquently to the impact of those kinds of staffing shortages on the ability of the State Department to reach their public diplomacy goals. But that was an area where there was a particular challenge.
As a result of that, what we found at that time, was that there was a real lack of mid-level officers. So you had a fair amount of junior officers filling in stretch positions. Many times they could handle it, other times they didn’t necessarily have the appropriate level of knowledge, skills, and training to fill those roles. The second dimension I wanted to highlight related to the State Department’s public diplomacy workforce was that back in 2008, when we took a more detailed look at it, we found that about 25 percent of those who were in language-designated PD positions didn’t meet the requirements. Certainly when you are on the ground, in country, trying to fulfill a public diplomacy mission, those language skills really are critical to your ability to be successful and represent the United States successfully. And that clearly posed a challenge to them. Further, I would note that when we went deeper into the data we found that the shortfalls were especially acute in – surprise – difficult languages. Arabic was certainly one of those in which we found that 36 percent of the time the public diplomacy staff who were in Arabic-designated PD positions didn’t meet the language requirements for their position. This obviously has created challenges for them in achieving their goals.
The fourth and final theme that I would highlight before I pass the microphone to my colleague is about interagency coordination. That is certainly a theme whether we’re talking about the broadcasting world or other elements of the public diplomacy apparatus. It really is critical to achieving what are generally understood to be U.S. goals and not necessarily single agency goals. In 2009, we thought this issue was so important that as we looked to transition both on the executive branch side and the legislative branch into a new Congress, we did an overall transition report, which really highlighted this need for interagency coordination. And we found it really at two different levels. First, at the strategic level, looking at a national strategy or definition of agencies roles and responsibilities’ level, we found some gaps in what the structure was set up to do. I think many – while I haven’t done a lot of work at DoD – we’ve done one report at GAO looking at DoD’s Military Information Support Operations (MISO). Certainly there is a fair bit of activity in that arena that looks a lot like public diplomacy activity. I think one of the themes we were pushing in 2009 is that there does need to be a greater consensus about what the relative roles and responsibilities of DoD, State, USAID are going to be.
My final point about interagency coordination is that that coordination needs to extend not just at the strategic level but also down to the level of developing, implementing, and understanding programs that are occurring on the ground. When we go in country and we see public diplomacy in action, we see a lot of activity at the mission level. Very frequently that activity is well coordinated. But there are some instances where we still don’t see the coordination at the level we would want to see in order to make sure all the resources the U.S. is investing in public diplomacy are being used in the most efficient manner.
With that, I’ll pass it to my colleague.
Mr. Michael Hurley: Thank you, Jason. My name is Mike Hurley. I’ve been at the Office of the Inspector General at the State Department for about a year and a half. I’ve been a Foreign Service Officer since 1985. One of the things that I wanted to do was quote from the Foreign Service Act of 1980, very briefly. “The Inspector General periodically, at least every five years, inspect and audit the administration of activities and operations of each Foreign Service post and each bureau and operating unit of the Department of State.” That is the mandate; that is how it is written in the law. And of course we have a new Inspector General now, just now. We’re still discovering each other and what his new instructions and direction will be.
What I’d like to do is, similar to Jason, summarize a few points and perhaps go over them in more detail. As a public diplomacy inspector – I am the coordinator for public diplomacy at OIG – we look for these things primarily when we go overseas.
Is public diplomacy, is the Public Affairs Section, in the game? That’s number one. Number two, we look at the budget and the management of grants because you always want to follow the money. These days, of course, we look more and more at social media. What is the use of it? Is it useful? And number four, we look at cost savings, areas for improvement, counseling, right-sizing – those kinds of things. And then finally, innovative practices. And I’ll come back to each of these.
Is PD in the game? Over the years – I’ve been in the Foreign Service for 170 years, it seems – the question is always, where is public diplomacy and what do people really think of it? And the answer is sometimes that people only think of it at the end. They say, “Oh, I got to do a press conference.” But they don’t think about the public image of what they are doing until the end point. This is something that existed when I joined the Foreign Service. It still exists today. And it is something that we try to work on in the Office of the Inspector General. One time I interviewed a Deputy Chief of Mission on an inspection and he assured me that cultural diplomacy, of course which is part of public diplomacy, is covered by the fact that Beyonce visits often. I tried to argue with him about how that may be one aspect of culture in the United States that perhaps does not show the depth and the diversity of culture in our country.
How does the Public Affairs Officer work with the front office? Most often, in an inspection, the PAO will say, “Well I see the Ambassador everyday at lunch. I see him or her in the hallway.” And I say to them, “That is not what I mean.” That is not a planning meeting. That is not getting the attention of the ambassador for the public affairs plan, which presumably is in support of what the mission is doing, or trying to do. Having a meeting between the PAO and the front office, the Deputy Chief of Mission, and the Ambassador, is very important.
What is public outreach? Is the PAO just doing public affairs projects? Or is the PAO in fact the Public Affairs Officer for the entire embassy? I inspected a different embassy where someone in the embassy said, “You know, the Chinese in this country build soccer stadiums and they get huge media coverage out of that. We, on the other hand, spend $600 million a year on infrastructure. So we build sewers and roads. Now that is something that is much more useful ultimately, but guess which one gets the media attention?” And the take away comment is that no one knows that in this country. They do now, more of them do anyway, but I was a little surprised to get this man on the street reaction that the PAO is not being the PAO for the whole embassy. Of course the $600 million came through USAID, but the PAO is supposed to be for the whole embassy and USAID did not have a public affairs team and should’ve relied on the person from the State Department.
We look at, of course, how the budget relates to stated goals. We look at what we’re now calling the “Integrated Country Strategy” in most countries, although its still also called the “Mission Resource Request” depending on which part of the world you are looking at. For public affairs, we have the “Public Diplomacy Implementation Plan,” which has just been re-done recently and it’s a very nice product. But what we are looking for as inspectors is, do the stated goals match the expenditures? What sometimes happens is that, in the hiring process, you hire a locally employed staff – what we used to call Foreign Service Nationals, people who are from the country – to do a lot of the work. You might hire someone, for one administration, law enforcement might be the highest priority. But then two administrations later, law enforcement is less a priority but you still have this person there. So what do you do? You make him or her the social media expert. I actually saw this at one embassy where the person who had been the law enforcement local employee became, after 40 years in the embassy, the social media person. You can imagine that there might have been a learning curve for that person. There certainly was for me.
We also look at, of course, the management of grants. Public Affairs Officers generally, although not so much in Western Europe, formerly in Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union that I’m familiar with and countries in Africa, PAOs get money for grants. Well grants need to be monitored and the money needs to be accounted for. We look at the financial records, we look to see if the reports are complete. It’s a terribly difficult thing to do in Russia, which has nine time zones. Thank God they shrank that from 11, former President Medvedev did. In any case, it’s a big territory to cover – in the case of Russia, $500,000 worth of grants every year. Not a huge sum in the foreign assistance world, but nevertheless the money has to be accounted for and spent properly.
Social media, what is the use? We look at social media. One of my favorite anecdotes on this one is, I had someone who worked for me say, you know, “Five of us work on creating a video of, let’s say, the [inaudible] group who came to a certain city. And it took five of us the whole week. And we got 2,000 views” – or links, or whatever they call them. “And the ambassador was on the television last night and spoke for two minutes about the same project to 20 million people on national television.” So where is the money better spent? Now that’s sort of the old person’s cynical view. But that’s where the conversation is. “If you want to reach young people, you can’t ignore social media.” So you have to go where the conversation is and it has to be done well. But we look at how PAOs use this and we look at questions like labor: Do you have the 40-year law enforcement person become your social media expert, or are you making plans to adjust your budget so you can hire people who are more familiar with what social media is capable of doing for you and the mission?
We also look at cost savings, which is very important. We look at things like Information Resource Centers, which are a valuable thing in some embassies – in most embassies. I found one where they had nine employees who dealt with, on average, 10 visitors a day. And these were not nine fairly highly paid employees, not on the scale of Washington or New York. But in the locally employed staff world, these people were at the nine and 10 level. One was responsible for acquiring hard copies of magazines. Another was responsible for distributing them. And I thought, “Why are we even talking about hard copies of magazines?” And the recommendation was that it be closed, which I hated to do because libraries are wonderful things. I’d like to bring them all back. But this was a lot of money. They were just about to ask us to pay rent on the place as well, as we had been rent-free. So I recommended, reluctantly, that it was about cost-savings.
We look at areas of improvement. We had an ambassador recently who has a challenged public image, which is not entirely his fault. That was the situation due to politics and the friction between our country and that country. But the problem was that he was reluctant to go out and do public outreach because it was controversial. And we said, “You see, if you do things that are not controversial, like trade promotion, and stay away from the political parties in public and meet them in private, perhaps you will have better luck and your image might improve.”
Counseling, we often have Public Affairs Officers and Political Officers who have what they think are diametrically opposed agendas. So we suggest, “Perhaps you would like to attend each others meetings?” That way, the Public Affairs Officers can find out what is happening in the country politically, and Political Officers can find out what tools and instruments you have in your kit bag that will be of use to the Political Officer to complete the mission. Working together.
Of course, right sizing, I’ve already spoken a little about legacy holdovers. In the same country where we had an Information Resource Center, we had a starving budget office where there were bottlenecks. They needed help. They could’ve used help with filing because they were converting all their files to an electronic system. Simple things like that.
Finally, and I’ll finish with this, we look at innovative practices. That’s why I brought this book, which we published in Moscow. It’s not for sale. I’m not selling it. It’s about a project that we did, which was a yearlong celebration of culture in the U.S. For this project, as a PAO, I raised $2 million in the private sector that was matched by the U.S. government, by Judith McHale, who was the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. And it was a great project. The centerpiece of it was the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Riccardo Muti. It was called in the press, “the cultural event of the year.” We did have (inaudible), we had lots of other people – we had Native Americans, we had gospel singers, you name it. We did a lot of things. That’s cultural diplomacy. And that’s innovation. And that’s what we look for and we commend people for doing it.
Mr. Farar: Thank you very much Michael and Jason. That was extraordinarily informative. We appreciate that. We’re going to open it up to questions in the audience in a moment, but first I would like to ask if there is anyone on the Commission, Chairman Hybl, or Commissioner Wedner, or Commissioner Westine?
Ms. Lezlee Westine: Well thank you. It was really excellent. I have to tell you that most of the questions I had before the presentation were answered. So thank you, very much. They were well thought-through. I was told I had one question, so I am going to bundle them all into one question and you can ignore any part of them. To Jason: I’m from the Silicon Valley, so I’m always talking about the important of assessments, but many in the public diplomacy field say you cannot measure the effectiveness of public diplomacy. So I’m curious to get your feedback. Do we have assessment tools? The other point you had about the public diplomacy workforce. As you know, one of our jobs is to find the best practices on how we can increase the effectiveness of public diplomacy – and I know you both are looking at that as well. So is there anything you recommend we look at to improve the shortage of the workforce? And the same on the interagency, that’s an area that’s a real passion of mine. Is there anything we can do to improve that? I did have one or two questions for Michael Hurley but I’ll stop there. Your book actually answered my last question, Michael, which was: Are there any best practices that we can take from all your experience? That seemed to be the best case for us to take away. Ok, I’m done. Thank you, it was excellent.
Mr. Bair: I’ll do my best to answer all three. First, your question on public diplomacy assessments. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I think measuring the impact of public diplomacy efforts is more difficult than it is in a lot of other situations, frankly, that we even encounter on the development assistance or security assistance, or other types of programs. I think I would also be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that public diplomacy, while it sometimes has short-term goals, it often has much longer-term goals. I think that’s really the key point to take across. The tools that I think are more difficult, but more important, are the tools that are going to get us to our more long-term and strategic goals. That’s where the time and the effort really should be going, both on the broadcasting side but on the State Department side as well. In terms of best practices on staffing, I can get you a list of the recommendations we’ve made over time on staffing. They really do focus most on State Department human resources monitoring and tracking the flow of people coming into and out of the various cones and making some strategic decisions on that respect. And last, in terms of coordination, I would say that there is a lot more coordination going on than is necessarily visible. We certainly do see, at a strategic level, more coordination. I think our observation from 2009 really looks at how we need to bring people in on that mid-level of management – not the agency level, not a national level, not a country level – to coordinate so they can take a more focused and precise look at things.
Ms. Westine: Thank you.
Ms. Anne Terman Wedner: I wanted to thank you all, also. I had both a comment and, maybe it’s a question. When I hear what you are saying, it makes me so frustrated to listen to it. I feel like we are at the bottom of a very long cone and we are struggling to make voices heard about the potential of what public diplomacy could be, were it done right one day. And it seems like there are really two issues that strike me based on what you both said. One is that we’re relying on a workforce that hopefully has intuition about public diplomacy. I never hear about the specific training that ambassadors get when they are going to post. I don’t think there has been the kind of effective training for personnel at every level that we really need to have to make this a respected and important leg of foreign policy implementation. What always seems to get in our way is the fact that so much of what we’re doing – Jason, this came more from your remarks – is legislated piecemeal by the Congress. So they are very tactically oriented and they are saying, “Ok, we need to have an airplane doing Cuban media and we need to have Direct TV.” So they are in the weeds instead of giving strategic or objective direction. My plea to someone listening is that we would get some objectives defined for all of us and then we could go ahead and implement them in effective and cost-effective ways. I don’t know if you have any thoughts on that.
Mr. Hurley: On training inadequacies, public affairs is one of those areas that is difficult to train in. You can do some basic training and courses. I myself have spoken at the Foreign Service Institute a number of times over the years. But a lot of it is on-the-job learning. And today’s Foreign Service frustrates that. What I see more and more these days is – and I see this more as an inspector because I travel around much more – Public Affairs Officers in the public diplomacy cone sometimes get to their third and fourth tour before their first public diplomacy tour. They have, by fiat now, a consular tour first and perhaps something else next. So they are practically in the middle of their career before they start what essentially would be their apprentice period. So that doesn’t help much. The courses can be very useful. People have done a great job, and the courses have improved. They are a bit shorter now and they can be very useful to what you can sort of try to cram in your head, but you need to get on the ground and see what the realities are, of course. It’s not an easy question to answer.
Ms. Wedner: I guess I would also look at training people who are not just the practitioners of PD in the value of these softer skills.
Mr. Hurley: One of the problems is that political ambassadors often regard public affairs as public relations. So the training does apply to that.
Mr. Farar: Any other questions?
Mr. Hybl: Nothing for me.
Mr. Farar: Anyone in the audience have any questions they would like to ask Jason and Michael? Ok. I’m going to now turn the meeting over to our chairman, Bill Hybl, who will introduce our next guests.
Mr. Hybl: Thank you, Mike. Thank you, Jason. (Applause.) Let me just say we appreciate you being here. We also have a guest here today: Freddy Balsera, from Coral Gables, Florida. Freddy has been nominated to the Commission by the President and he is awaiting Senate confirmation. We wish you well, Freddy, in your pursuit.
Let me also welcome, as they are being seated here, Dr. Craig Hayden and Dr. Emily Metzgar to the table. They are going to give us a perspective on the state of public diplomacy research.
Dr. Hayden is an assistant professor in the International Communication Program at American University’s School of International Service. His current research focuses on the discourse of public diplomacy, the rhetoric of foreign policy related to media technologies, as well as the impact of global media and media convergence on international relations. Dr. Hayden received his Ph.D. from the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California. He is also the author of "The Rhetoric of Soft Power: Public Diplomacy in Global Contexts," which was published in 2012.
Dr. Metzgar is an assistant professor at Indiana University's School of Journalism. Her research focuses on public diplomacy, political communication and social media. She received her Ph.D. from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communication in 2008. She is a former U.S. diplomat with additional professional experience at the National Defense University and the United States Institute of Peace.
Thank you for being with us today. Please.
Dr. Emily Metzgar: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and Members of the Commission, and Katherine, for inviting us. We’re pleased to be here and excited to have what we hope will be a fruitful discussion.
This presentation is based on research that Craig and I are doing that is focused on existing academic scholarship focused on public diplomacy. We’re going to start very briefly by telling you about ourselves, and how two academics ended up studying public diplomacy. We’re then going to talk about the characteristics of public diplomacy research as we have found it and the research we’re doing. We’re going to talk a little bit about where we hope research will go from here. And we’ll conclude with a couple of quick take-aways and, hopefully, some good Q&A.
Dr. Craig Hayden: Thank you very much. Again, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you. As Emily mentioned, what we are going to present today are insights from a meta-review of public diplomacy. So why do this? What is the genesis of this project? First of all, the questions that we asked ourselves are: What are public diplomacy academics contributing to our understanding of public diplomacy? Where are the gaps in the knowledge that we may or may not be producing? And what can we contribute going forward in productive dialogue with policymakers and practitioners?
Now public diplomacy scholarship is not a clear demarcated field of scholarship, there is no discipline that owns it. There is no home in political science or international relations or communications. So how does that impact the scholarship and its utility for public practitioners and policymakers and what we’ve done so far?
To start with, to provide some context, is to talk about our own experience. Because what motivations and experiences bring scholars to this field impacts the kinds of questions that we are asking about international relations and communications and its intersections. How might these experiences shape the questions? And what can these questions provide?
I have a background in tech marketing in Silicon Valley and I went to graduate school for international relations, and then I got into the Foreign Service. But in a strange turn of events, I ended up in a Ph.D. program in communications because I thought the most interesting aspects of international relations were actually happening in communication and in the contestation of political narratives and how they impact foreign policy. This is really the genesis of my own interest in public diplomacy. I was also at the University of Southern California when Dean Geoff Cowan launched a Center on Public Diplomacy.
Dr. Metzgar: My Ph.D. is in media and public affairs. My research in that context focuses on the disruptive influences of communication technologies, especially their impact on established political and media institutions. So it’s not too far of a stretch to look at how interactive communication technologies are influencing the practices of diplomacy generally – public diplomacy, more specifically – in the 21st century. In fact, my focus on PD research is really me coming full circle, taking my academic training and communication studies and applying it to my original interests of foreign policy and foreign affairs.
Our study is a meta-analysis that is an analysis, piece by piece, of 600 articles that have appeared in academic literature over a period of time. Craig is going to talk in more detail about how we are doing this study and its time period. But what you see here in this world cloud is the title of all the studies we are examining with the term “public diplomacy” removed from the title. What you have left is a pretty stark illustration of the context in which public diplomacy is being discussed by academics. What we think comes through loud and clear through all this is that public diplomacy is very clearly at the nexus of public affairs and foreign policy.
Dr. Hayden: So the study looks at what has been produced. What we are doing is interrogating the methodologies that scholars are using to study public diplomacy. The theories, and what sort of disconnect is there between how scholars are studying public diplomacy and how it is crafted? So we decided not to focus so much on books, but the currency of academia – peer-reviewed journal articles. This chart here illustrates the dramatic growth since 9/11 of scholarly interest in peer-reviewed journals in public diplomacy. In 2013, we’re only about half of the way through in terms of the academic publishing schedule and we’re seeing a pretty large growth that is still on an upward trajectory. I think this clearly indicates that there is growth as a scholarly field in public diplomacy studies.
Dr. Metzgar: Some general observations about what we found before Craig goes into a deep dive into it. First, academics really like to write about public diplomacy. And the issues at stake concerning public diplomacy, the strategic importance of public diplomacy as part of a larger foreign policy strategy, is very well acknowledged and taken as a given. That said, the definition of public diplomacy is very hazy. It’s not very well defined at all. This is something that previous scholars have observed for years. It is not a new observation. One of the things that we have found most interesting in our examination of definitions of public diplomacy is that it is not infrequently presented as simply the opposite of closed-door diplomacy. That it is the opposite of private meetings, of private demarches, private meetings between Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials and American diplomats, for example. And that, frankly, took us a bit by surprise, that it was not an uncommon definition of PD.
Also, a characteristic of the literature is that there is widespread recognition of the need for communication and engagement. As Craig alluded to, there is also no single academic field that can really lay claim to PD scholarship. And this, I think, has its advantages and disadvantages and it has potential for lots of freethinking. But it also comes with some risks, when academics working in different silos, if you will, are trying to create new approaches and thinking and theories that already exist elsewhere but they are not necessarily aware of them because there is not good communication among them. So the existence of silos can keep the really important cross-fertilization from happening.
Dr. Hayden: So what does this look like? Here are some observations, just a selection of some of the data we have so far from looking at this wide body of scholarship. First of all, it’s largely atheoretical, which might surprise some of you. Theoretical frameworks are important for studies because they give us a basis from which to assess claims and measurements, ways to make evaluations about public diplomacy. And yet, largely, a lot of this work is atheoretical. There is no theoretical framework. Not surprisingly, soft power was listed as a common theoretical framework. But, as Joseph Nye himself has argued, soft power is not a theory. So where are we?
Most of the scholarship emphasizes post-9/11 and is focused largely on state actors with a significant emphasis on the United States. Public diplomacy Jan Melissen of the Clingendael Institute of International Relations in The Netherlands has warned that public diplomacy scholars should be careful about drawing too many inferences about what public diplomacy is just by looking at the United States. Nevertheless, the scholarship is looking predominantly at the United States.
What is the scholarship looking at in particular? Advocacy, cultural familiarization, exchanges, and international broadcasting. The distribution here probably isn’t surprising, although despite the popularity of nation branding amongst other countries, we still don’t see a lot of attention to nation branding as an innovative practice of public diplomacy. There has been a lot of discussion both in policy papers that emphasize engagement as well as normative academic scholarship on the importance of engagement and two-way communication, collaboration. And yet, a significant aspect of what we are studying is one-way communication: beaming messages to foreign publics.
Finally, qualitative methods predominate, clearly. But this in of itself is not necessarily a problem, as there are great insights to be gained through qualitative case studies, ethnographic work, and content analysis. However, a significant portion of what qualifies as qualitative scholarship in public diplomacy is academics talking about public diplomacy without a strong empirical grounding. They are laying out conceptual models, they are talking about what should be done. But I think there is a dearth of empirical studies and we’re going to talk about that in carving a way forward in the relationship between academics and public diplomacy practitioners.
Dr. Metzgar: The dearth of theory, although surprising to us, it means that there is a lot of room for experimentation with different theoretical approaches. What this also means is that there is a lot of potential for production of research that actually has practical applications for practitioners.
It’s important to note that the literature that Craig summarized in the previous slide was included in our study by selecting for the term “public diplomacy.” So only articles that had the term “public diplomacy” in them were included in this study. What this means is that there is an awful lot of literature focused on theories and dynamics that didn’t appear in our study but may have direct bearing on public diplomacy and have utility for the study of public diplomacy. I think the challenge for scholars who have an interest in PD is to make those connections explicit. To show how the study of a given political communication dynamic has direct bearing on the practice of public diplomacy.
International Relations has been a very natural place for PD scholarship to appear, given the place of PD in the nation’s broader foreign policy strategy. But there are inherent limitations, really, in thinking about PD from an exclusively IR perspective, in my opinion. Part of this stems from the fact that IR often views states as single unitary actors, as “black boxes.” As a result, the analysis you get doesn’t look inside the box to look at the motivations and the characteristics of the people with whom you are communicating, to whom these policies are directed, and from whom you’re hoping to get a response of some kind. I think this is where communications and media studies have a lot to offer when it comes to analysis and study of public diplomacy, particularly from a theoretical standpoint.
Mass communication theory and related work can actually get inside the black box. Focusing more on those kinds of theories can result in research with more direct applications for practitioners. With that in mind, I’m going to dump here a couple theories that we argue would have a lot of potential for the study of PD and, in turn, for the application of findings for the practice.
First, general studies about media content and audience effect. This is the bread and butter of mass communication studies. Looking at why does content look the way it does, who are the people creating the content and what are their motivations? Then what happens when the content is released to the target audience? Who is reacting? Why are they reacting that way? With whom are they interacting? What is the response? What is the end result? This whole body of literature focused on media content and audience effect is very rich with potential for the study of public diplomacy.
Another area to look at is this idea of “press-state relations,” that is the theories that explain how the press operates in different political environments. Knowledge about these dynamics and knowledge about what already exists about these dynamics can offer insight into the success or failure of particular efforts to work with or to bypass media in given countries. One example of this is – scholars increasingly refer to this effort as “mediated public diplomacy,” that is the effort to work with media in a foreign country to try to implement the sponsoring country’s public diplomacy program. Think about China and its efforts to sway media in the U.S. by directly lobbying reporters in the United States via hired public relations hands, for example, which is on the public record. Studies that look at these sorts of dynamics can really start to dig into public diplomacy practice.
Another trend to look at is referred to as “transnational advocacy,” where theories offer insights into the behavior that is enabled by interactive communication technologies that allow people to organize. As one scholar, Clay Shirky has said, “People can organize without organizations.” That is, people can organize from the bottom up rather than from the top down. The technologies that allow people to organize like this also provide a potentially powerful new ally – these groups provide potentially powerful new allies for PD efforts for countries like the United States, particularly as is seeks to address transnational issues.
Looking at “framing” and “agenda-setting,” these two are also standards of mass communication studies. It seems to me they are particularly useful in the study of international broadcasting. The rise of state-sponsored broadcasting efforts has been well documented. The Economist, as far back as 2006, argued that a country could no longer declare itself to have achieved important international status if it didn’t have its own international broadcasting effort as part of its foreign policy stable. And yet, remarkably, few studies focused on public diplomacy apply any of the standard practices that we use to study media content, its production and its distribution and the audience response to the product of international broadcasters – whether its VOA or any of the other BBG broadcasters, or RT, or CCTV or Al Jazeera, or what have you.
Another dynamic is known as the “two-step flow,” which is a dynamic that suggests that in a society or in a group of people there is a single person who is the go-to person, the expert on a particular topic. Although it’s rarely identified as the dynamic at play in educational exchanges, it is actually the dynamic that we’re talking about. Why does a country like the United States invest in international exchanges like the Fulbright Program? It is part of a long-term view. You bring people to the United States, for example, expose them to the United States, they go home and act as an influencer for their sphere of influence. That is exactly the “two-step flow” in practice. I have not seen any studies that have directly applied the “two-step flow” to the study of international exchanges. I think that is potentially very useful.
Finally, just a shout-out for “network theory,” which really helps us to understand how groups of people interact with one another. It’s something that has become much more explicit to us and I think more understandable to us with the advent of social media, where we can see our networks playing out. We can see whom we are connected to. Network theory is really about understanding those dynamics, who is in a particular group, who bridges between one group and another? This is where studying social media is a good place to start. Who are the opinion leaders? Who are they connected to and what are they saying? All of this points to new avenues for engagement, which is ultimately the goal of public diplomacy.
Dr. Hayden: So, just a couple quick thoughts we could share. Many of these ideas we’ve been talking about, the theoretical perspectives, aren’t exactly new to the veterans of public diplomacy. Many of this is being practiced without attaching a theory’s name to it. As such, a lot of the writing on public diplomacy has been produced by, not surprisingly, former practitioners and diplomatic historians. So the question for us is, after doing this meta-review, where are the gaps and how can we invite more participation across the academic community into the functional areas of public diplomacy?
Public diplomacy, as a label, isn’t necessarily an invitation to a number of disciplines to come study it. As the late Barry Zorthian said in 2009, “Public diplomacy is a label of budgetary convenience.” There’s no public diplomacy study department, per se. But yet, if we decompose public diplomacy into cultural relations, into broadcasting, into media relations, etc, these are hooks where scholars with long and well-established traditions and analysis and theoretically-based research can say something useful about public diplomacy and build a base of knowledge that may ultimately be productive for the practitioner community. And that, I think, is one of the central goals of this – not just navel-gazing but what should we be doing with directing future agendas for research?
Dr. Metzgar: In closing, in 2008, our friend, Dr. Bruce Gregory, wrote about the public diplomacy literature and the “sunrise of an academic field.” We think the sun is still rising and we’re eager to see much more research that employs methodological rigor. We’d like to see more theories since theory really does describe, explain, and predict the real world. I think, for both of us, we’d like to see research that has real world applications. So thank you.
Mr. Hybl: Thank you, very good. We’re most appreciative. I’d like to thank my friend, Bruce Gregory, who was just quoted, for being with us today. Now, let’s go to questions from all of you. I thought that was a great presentation. So thoughts, questions, comments? You, sir. Let’s identify ourselves.
Question: Rob Albro, research professor at American University. Thanks to Emily and Craig for that. I wanted to give you the opportunity to unfold this, one more step. Two of the observations that you offered us, one about the alignment that is shared between PD practitioners and scholars around strategy. And that together with atheoretical (inaudible) for future PD research. So I guess my question is, (inaudible).
Dr. Metzgar: The academic literature, generally speaking, follows a pretty standard format. Not the PD literature, as we have found, for our analysis. But if you were to look through a standard communication journal, for example, you’d have the introduction, the questions being asked, and the literature review. And the literature review would contain specific reference to the theoretical guidelines, and the parameters within which the questions that are being asked are going to be asked and attempted to be answered. And so when we say that a lot of the work that we have looked at for this study is atheoretical, it is completely lacking reference to theory.
Dr. Hayden: And just to follow up on that, I think that it’s clear that the academic conversation about public diplomacy tracks with high-level, macro-level assessments about the necessity of public diplomacy as a strategy of global communication. That it is necessary for foreign policy, for geopolitics, etc. But what we see lacking is the mezzo- and micro-level attention to the nitty gritty business of public diplomacy. So there isn’t a lot of interpersonal communication theories of public diplomacy or the organizational level attention to how an organization like the State Department needs to operate in certain cross-cultural formats. We would love to see more of that. But right now we have predominantly macro-level attention. I think there is general agreement between the policy community and the academic community that we need more PD. But let’s unfold that conversation a little bit more and get down to the details of practice.
Mr. Hybl: Any other thoughts? Yes, sir.
Question: Matthew Wallin, I’m a senior policy analyst at the American Security Project. This discussion has – being on the academic side myself, essentially – you mention that there was general agreement within the academic community on how to do certain things, that certain things are a given. Why isn’t that necessarily translating into practice? Where is the lack of communication between the academic community and the policy community and with practitioners? (Inaudible).
Dr. Metzgar: Access, I think. Not that access is denied for malevolent reasons. Access is difficult to get. Certainly for someone coming from the heartland, who is interested in studying public diplomacy, it is very, very difficult for them to develop and nurture the relationships that would allow the kind of access to conduct a study that would look at the mezzo- and micro-levels that would produce the kind of study that Craig is talking about.
Dr. Hayden: First, I would say that it’s not necessarily the academy’s job to just provide useful studies for policymakers and practitioners. I think there is a place to ask questions and to criticize core assumptions about why the government is doing what it is doing. That said, I do think that there needs to be a productive conversation where there is something of use. I think that, especially for practice level, for public diplomacy practitioners, how much utility are they going to get from reading an essay that says, “We need more soft power or public diplomacy, etc.”? Right? Whereas, a more granular attention to the dynamics of communication in the unique context of public diplomacy practice – that might facilitate a more robust conversation and relationship between the government and the academy.
Mr. Hybl: Any Commission Members?
Ms. Wedner: (Inaudible) That urgency scares me a little bit because it is changing the nature of what the expectation is of what public diplomacy can deliver, and that there is even a move to liken public diplomacy efforts to grassroots political theory and getting out the vote, etc. My fear is that we’re looking at public diplomacy as a spin room instead of as a policy organizer and a development tool. I know there are certain institutions that are looking at this, but that kind of thinking frightens me because it is much more short-term and less of a long-term perspective. What do you think about that?
Dr. Hayden: I think that there are different time frames and dimensions to the practice of public diplomacy. If public diplomacy practitioners are operating in an advocacy vein where they need to get out certain messages or need to influence people on a shorter time frame, then they need to pay attention to the state of the art of what grassroots politics looks like or how political communication constrains the context of the political action. That said, that kind of work can’t define the entire enterprise of public diplomacy and the long-term agendas of relationship building and building symbolic capital, what Paul Foldi calls, “the benefit of the doubt” that, I think, public diplomacy in the long-term is really about.
Mr. Hybl: Emily, Craig, thank you very much. (Applause.) Katherine Brown, the Executive Director.
Dr. Katherine Brown: First, I want to thank you all for coming. It’s very exciting to see the Commission make its public debut since its reinstatement this past summer. I’m honored to be in this position and I’m very grateful to work with such a prestigious group of Commission Members. I’d like to thank to thank them for their support the last four months in getting the Commission back and running and for their confidence in me. I’d also like to thank Senator Boxer and Senator Coburn for helping to re-establish the Commission. And a thank you to a member of Senator Boxer’s staff, Ann Norris, for supporting our re-instatement, and to Walker Zorensky, for his help in getting this meeting at the Capitol Visitor’s Center today. I also want to thank our colleagues at the House Armed Services Committee for getting the language for the Commission’s reauthorization in the National Defense Authorization Act earlier this year.
So we’re all very grateful for this opportunity. And we really feel as if this opportunity is extraordinary in that we’ve been reauthorized until October 2015. This has given us time to think about how we want to spend our limited resources and the areas that we can focus on that will add the most value to the public diplomacy community at large. In addition, it’s also given us time to think about whom we want to partner with in order to meet our goals of appraising and strengthening public diplomacy practice throughout government.
First and foremost, we want the Commission to be a convener for the variety of practitioners in the interagency who communicate and build relationships with foreign audiences. But also for the researchers -- like Emily and Craig and so many of you who are in the room today -- and the practitioners and thought leaders outside of the government who can help us rethink the future of public diplomacy.
As Chairman Hybl remarked, we really feel as if 2014 is a turning point for public diplomacy as we have 14 years of lessons learned from the merger with the USIA and the State Department and 12 years of lessons learned after the events of September 11th. And we’re moving into a year with new public diplomacy leadership at State and a revived Broadcasting Board of Governors. So we’re excited about the chance to better inform Congress on their activities and advise on what needs to change and how to change it.
So this is our charter. This is on our website, state.gov/pdcommission. But basically, this is the core of our work. We’ve had some changes made to our mandate, which I’ll get into in a second. But we are here to appraise government activities that intend to understand, inform and influence foreign publics. That is the very wide definition of public diplomacy activities that we have been given.
Now, just to give you an idea of the resources we have to complete our work. The Commission has an operating budget of roughly $133,000. We’ve been able to carry over funds from fiscal year 2013, which gives us about $200,000 to work with. We’ve decided to focus a considerable amount of our funding on research. This means less international travel so we can really focus on how we can help strengthen practice, using the expertise that exists throughout the community. We also have a limited staff, which includes myself, a Director of Research who will come on board sometime early next year, and a part-time administrative assistant who – I’ve been promised – will start early next year. We expect to have several government employees on loan to work with us in the coming year on our projects, and they help will supplement our staff significantly. And before I forget, because we are so short-staffed, I want to thank three volunteers here with us who are graduate students at American University: Grace Choi, Emily Heddon and Tim Allen. Thank you very much for coming to help today.
Since the Commission must serve as a watchdog and an advocate for U.S. public diplomacy activities, the Commission Members and I have decided to group our work plan into these two different areas, while trying to build in enough flexibility to entertain different ideas or thoughts or priorities that might come our way.
As a watchdog, we will complete our mandate, which is to complete a report that details and analyzes public diplomacy and Broadcasting Board of Governors’ international broadcasting activities. We will, to the best of the resources available, break down the activities and review how their impact is being measured. We intend to provide Congress with recommendations for legislation that will strengthen these efforts and support the President’s goal for a more coordinated interagency strategy for U.S. global public engagement programs. The first iteration of the report will be delivered to Congress in late 2014. And we’ll share the developments and findings of this reports we are able to.
But a very key part of this is looking at interagency cooperation, which is something that Jason Bair from the Government Accountability Office spoke about earlier. And I’d like to thank State Department and BBG leadership in helping me gain access to their activity trackers and the research methods they are using to gauge impact. They’ve been extremely helpful to the Commission since its reinstatement. We hope this report will not just help inform Congress and the President, but illuminate issues for them as well. So, thank you.
The second area of activity is advocacy. As an advocate for the role that public diplomacy plays in national security, we intend for the Commission to be a forum for practitioners and researchers to together address issues that affect public diplomacy. We plan to advocate for the reform that’s already happening within the bureaucracy, and to take the best ideas outside of government on how to improve our strategic approach to programs.
To do this, we’re mainly going to be producing white papers and convening forums that bring together practitioners – in and outside of government, whether they work for NGOs or in other capacities – and the researchers that exist in and outside of government. And I want to thank Craig and Emily for laying the foundation of understanding on where public diplomacy research is and where there may be opportunities to bring some of that in and make it applicable to practice.
So the first area we’re going to look at is research methods for public diplomacy.
This is consistent with the concerns of the Congress, the GAO, the Inspector General and public diplomacy practitioners, alike. It’s also been an issue that has been a consistent challenge for practitioners since USIA was created in 1953. Knowing when public diplomacy is working can often be elusive, as we’ve already discussed in this meeting. It deals with human relationships in the long-term. Yet, it is also an issue that is important for Congress, strategic planners, and implementers so we want to tackle this and look at it more in-depth.
So far, we are working with teams inside the State Department and BBG to evaluate the methods they currently use, and are solidifying partnerships with respected researchers outside of government to look at what is already being done and offer alternative methods to gauge programs’ impact.
The second area is public diplomacy in high threat environments.
We’ve spoke with dozens of officials in trying to understand where the Commission could help rethink public diplomacy and build our work plan for the next year. And this was a frequent request: To identify the lessons learned from wartime public diplomacy and then to extend the conversation to understand which of those lessons we can generalize to understand foreign public engagement in recurring, high threat environments. What programs and tactics work and what doesn’t? How can we ensure that public diplomats are actually communicating and building relationships with foreign audiences in spaces where they are often shielded from the local public? We really feel as if this is a topic that the Commission can uniquely handle. And central to these conversations will be how diplomatic agencies assess and define risk. How do we ensure that public diplomats – or anyone trying to engage foreign audiences is able to do so?
So we expect to convene forums to honestly address these issues, and share the findings in white papers. And our partners in this area will also be announced once we have solidified them.
The last area is really what I’m excited about. This is looking at the future of the public diplomat and the environment in which they work.
We agree that we are moving into a new era where traditional diplomacy and public diplomacy are converging, as Seth Center pointed out as one of the main findings in his historical document that you hopefully picked up when you came into the meeting. We’ve seen an increasingly ambitious public diplomacy strategy that encourages multi-platform media engagement, investment in youth and entrepreneurship abroad, and frequent civil society interaction in new democracies. So how do we equip public diplomats to do this work? What skill sets do they need and could we re-imagine the public affairs section and the roles that are built-in to support their goals?
We also really take GAO’s advice to heart about the challenges of the public diplomacy workforce. We intend to build off of a 2008 report that the Commission produced called, “Getting the People Part Right.” This report looked at human resources and public diplomacy. So we want to look at, after six years, where have there been improvements for public diplomats within the bureaucracy?
And we want to look at how we encourage a new generation of potential diplomats to join public service and to really be able to able to engage with foreign audiences. We lose a lot of talent every year. Young people who want to join the Foreign Service, who want to be public diplomats, who have worked in NGOs or in some kind of charity or grassroots organizing capacity overseas, come to the State Department and they feel stifled. They feel as if they are laden with administrative and managerial tasks, and sometimes, as we see with high threat environments, they can’t even get out of their compounds. So how do we rethink this? How do we help it so that a new generation of public diplomats stays in public service? And how do we help it so that a new generation of journalists and officials stay at the Broadcasting Board of Governors?
This plan is ambitious, but we’re really excited to move forward into a new year. Again, the Commission Members and I want to emphasize that we are, most importantly, a space that is meant to convene thinking from throughout the interagency and in the research and advocacy communities. We very much welcome your ideas, and if we haven’t already, we will often reach out to you for support.
Our next public meetings, for your information, are tentatively scheduled for March 4, May 8 and September 11, 2014. We will also some other working group events throughout the year on the three themes we’ve identified. Last, I can be reached at BrownKA4@state.gov. Please do not ever hesitate to contact me.
Thank you, I now turn it over to our Chairman, Bill Hybl.
Mr. Hybl: Thank you, Katherine. We have a few minutes for general comments. Lezlee?
Ms. Westine: First of all, I just want to once again add my great appreciation to Katherine for your leadership. You’ve really made such a strong impression on the Commission and it’s really exciting moving forward. I think all of the priorities you’ve identified, particularly the academic work and the white papers and creating some partnerships, is really going to make a big difference. And also, I just want to say to everyone here in the audience – I know many of you and I look forward to meeting the rest of you – you all have enormous expertise. We know that. We appreciate your input. Send Katherine an e-mail and give us your feedback. From my perspective, I’ve been here a few years, on and off, and I just couldn’t be happier and more proud of the direction and that’s really because of you, Katherine. So, thank you.
Mr. Hybl: Anne, anything to add?
Ms. Wedner: One thing I would underline is Katherine’s energy in reaching out to the next generation of public servants. Today in the audience we have her students and a couple students from the University of Chicago, too. We have seen already, just by being out on campuses that students are interested in these issues and these ideas and they want to work on them. So the extent to which the Commission can be a place that helps more interest in the next generation, we’re excited about it. But this is all because of Katherine’s leadership. So thank you, Katherine. Welcome.
Mr. Hybl: And those of you who are here today, any thoughts or closing questions? Something we’ve missed? Something we should be doing? Something we shouldn’t be doing? (Laughter.) I’m going to ask again because I closed one of these meetings early and I took great grief for it. Yes, sir.
Question: Hi, I’m Brendan Yoder with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, majority staff. I wanted to commend you all on these efforts. I’m looking forward to following up on your progress in the next year (inaudible). Katherine, I was really particularly struck by your last point in your presentation (inaudible) about the need for a new generation of public diplomats. In today’s era, many of the most challenging countries around the world, our embassy staff and our diplomats face serious concerns about embassy security and security for our personnel. But while we have to always put those concerns and considerations up front, I think we need to also be very focused on, the point that you made, about getting outside of the bunker and being able to engage the populations. So I commend you for focusing on that point and I certainly look forward to following your research.
Mr. Hybl: Great. Anyone else?
Question: Thank you. I’m Lynne Weill of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, formerly on Capitol Hill. I just want to congratulate all of the Commissioners on returning to activity and, more than that, to a strategic and well thought out plan. Congratulations, Katherine. I think it was most heartening to hear that you’ve come to praise public diplomacy and not to bury it. (Laughter.) Even though you have a watchdog function and a rigorous mandate than ever before with your re-authorization, you see in your duties two things – making sure that public diplomacy is as effective as it possibly can be and making sure that there is a lot of buy-in and support in places where it counts, especially on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Hybl: Thank you. Let me just say again on behalf of the entire commission that we appreciate you being here and making time for public diplomacy. We’d be glad to, as we adjourn, to meet with any of you who have questions. Thanks for being here. (Applause.)
Jason Bair is a Senior Analyst and Assistant Director of International Affairs and Trade issues at the Government Accountability Office, where he has more than a decade of experience analyzing U.S. foreign policy efforts. He received his M.A. in public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and his B.A. in political science at American University.
Michael Hurley joined the Office of Inspector General as a senior public diplomacy inspector in August 2012. He is a Minister Counselor in the Foreign Service, which he joined with the U.S. Information Agency in 1985. He has been posted to Moscow three times and his other overseas assignments include Kuala Lumpur, Surabaya and Budapest. He was also Deputy, and then Director, of the Press and Public Diplomacy Office in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. Mr. Hurley is a graduate of the University of Washington in Seattle and the George Washington University in Washington. D.C. His languages include Russian, Hungarian, Indonesian, and German.
Dr. Craig Hayden is an assistant professor in the International Communication Program at American University’s School of International Service. His current research focuses on the discourse of public diplomacy, the rhetoric of foreign policy related to media technologies, as well as the impact of global media and media convergence on international relations. Dr. Hayden received his Ph.D. from the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California. He is also the author of "The Rhetoric of Soft Power: Public Diplomacy in Global Contexts" (Lexington Books, 2012).
Dr. Emily Metzgar is an assistant professor at Indiana University's School of Journalism. Her research focuses on public diplomacy, political communication, and social media. She received her Ph.D. from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communication in 2008. She is a former U.S. diplomat with additional professional experience at the National Defense University and the United States Institute of Peace.
LEARN MORE ABOUT, FOLLOW, LIKE, RECOMMEND, ENGAGE THE COMMISSION ONLINE:
Katherine Brown, Executive Director