About the Commission
Today’s global news media and communications environment is remarkable for its speed and diversity. Until 1999, a single government agency was responsible for facilitating awareness about and shaping international public perception of the United States to a variety of international audiences. Today, this work is a whole-of-government affair and is carried out by several agencies. There is significant opportunity for representatives of the United States, regardless of their department or agency, to improve global knowledge and understanding of our values, policies, and actions.
Since 1948, the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy (ACPD) has been charged with appraising activities intended to understand, inform, and influence foreign publics and to increase the understanding of, and support for, these same activities. The ACPD conducts research that provides honest assessments of public diplomacy efforts, and disseminates findings through white papers, reports, and other publications. It also holds public symposiums that generate informed discussions on public diplomacy issues and events. The ACPD reports to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress. Currently, the office of the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs supports it.
The ACPD was originally established as two sister Commissions: the U.S. Advisory Commission on Information and the U.S. Advisory Commission on Educational Exchange, under Section 601 of the U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948, commonly known as the Smith-Mundt Act, as amended (22 U.S.C. 1469). The Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961, commonly known as the Fulbright–Hays Act, led to the reorganization of the Advisory Commission on Educational Exchange into the U.S. Advisory Commission on Educational and Cultural Affairs. In 1977, the Commissions were merged and became the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.
The ACPD’s seven Members are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. They have been selected from a cross-section of professional backgrounds and serve three-year terms, although they can be reappointed. It is a bipartisan body; not more than four members are to be from any one political party. The ACPD’s Executive Director oversees daily operations and works actively with the executive, legislature, NGO community, businesses, and academia to produce critical and constructive thought on how to improve the government’s public diplomacy processes and activities worldwide.
The ACPD serves as a convener for the variety of practitioners throughout the U.S. government who work to communicate and build relationships with foreign audiences, in addition to the researchers, practitioners, and thought leaders outside of the government who can help us rethink the future of public diplomacy. Its primary product is the Comprehensive Annual Report on Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting Activities, which breaks down roughly $2.0 billion of programs worldwide. The Commission periodically publishes special reports, such as Can Public Diplomacy Survive the Internet: Bots, Echo Chambers, and Disinformation [6 MB], which highlights the various ways communication technologies are changing the practice of diplomacy, and suggests several paths for success moving forward.
Informing and building relationships with critical foreign audiences for U.S. foreign policy requires commitment and patience, and the strategic investment of limited resources (PD and international broadcasting activities make up 0.17 percent of the federal discretionary budget) to inform, engage, and influence foreign publics. In order to support these efforts, the ACPD has paid acute attention to how the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) conduct research for and evaluation of their activities; the professional development of PD personnel; the openness and accessibility of American Spaces platforms and the ability of officers to engage foreign publics in high threat environments; and other long-term strategic planning issues for PD, such as the urbanization and fragmentation of key audiences for U.S. foreign policy and the challenge of malign influence and disinformation efforts in the global information space.