U.S. ADVISORY COMMISSION ON PUBLIC DIPLOMACY
MINUTES AND TRANSCRIPT FROM THE QUARTERLY PUBLIC MEETING ON THE STATE AND TRAJECTORY OF PUBLIC DIPLOMACY
Thursday, September 28, 2017 | 10:30-12:00 p.m.
Capitol Visitor Center (SVC) 212-10, First St. NE, Washington, D.C.
COMMISSION MEMBERS PRESENT:
Mr. Sim Farar, Chair
Mr. William Hybl, Vice-Chair
Ambassador Penne Korth Peacock
Ms. Anne Terman Wedner
Ms. Georgette Mosbacher
COMMISSION STAFF MEMBERS PRESENT:
Dr. Shawn Powers, Executive Director
Ms. Jennifer Rahimi, Senior Advisor
Ms. Madison Jones, Non-Resident Fellow
The U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy met in an open session from 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 28, 2017 to discuss the state and trajectory of public diplomacy. Laura Rosenberger offered a keynote address on the growing importance of public diplomacy to U.S. national security, and Executive Director Shawn Powers presented findings from the Commission’s 2017 Comprehensive Annual Report on Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting. The speakers took several questions from the audience and their details are in the below transcript. William Hybl closed the meeting briefly discussing the Commission’s ongoing work.
Sim Farar: Hello and welcome to United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. This is our third meeting for 2017. We have one more that will take place in November and December. I am Sim Farar, the Chairman of the Commission. Thank you all for being here and special thanks to Senator Gardner and his staff for helping the Commission secure this place for our meeting. Thank you again for coming.
First I should say a little bit about the Commission, which many of you probably already know. Since 1948, which is almost 70 years ago, the Commission has represented the public interests by overseeing the United States government’s international information, media, and cultural and educational exchange programs. It is a bipartisan and independent body created by Congress to recommend policies and programs to support the United States government in their efforts to inform, influence foreign publics, mandated by law to assess the work of the State Department and report its findings with recommendations to the President, Congress, the Secretary of State, and of course the American people.
For nearly 70 years, the Commission has applied insight and critical judgment to US government public diplomacy programs, contributing to building public diplomacy institutions in the years after WWII. The evolution of America’s public diplomacy throughout the Cold War, the integration of public diplomacy into the State Department’s mission, and organizational, cultural, and recently charting a course towards a more integrated, synchronous, and strategically oriented public diplomacy apparatus.
Throughout, Congress has recognized the Commission’s effectiveness as an advisory lobby and body depends on its independence, continuity, and bipartisan and professional composition. Before welcoming this morning’s keynote speaker, I’d like to introduce my colleagues in the Commission. We have Bill Hybl, who is our Vice Chairman from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Ambassador Penne Peacock from Austin, Texas. Anne Wedner from Chicago, Illinois, and of course Georgette Mosbacher from New York City. Welcome. Thank you very much, Commissioners.
We have a very exciting program planned for today’s session. First, Laura Rosenberger will deliver a keynote address on the changing contours of global communications and the centrality of public diplomacy, US National Security. Ms. Rosenberger’s a director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy and co-founder of the Hamilton 68. Laura was just mentioning to me today that her organization, Hamilton 68, is on the front page of the New York Times. It’s a very positive article, so pick it up on your way out of here. It’s a bipartisan effort to counter Russian disinformation aiming to weaken Western democratic values and institutions. Previously, Rosenberger served as Senior Advisor to the Deputy National Security Advisor as well as Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken’s Chief of Staff. After Ms. Rosenberger’s presentation, I’ll invite our Executive Director Shawn Powers to the podium.
Shawn will present some key findings from our 2017 Comprehensive Annual Report on Public Diplomacy in International Broadcasting, and once you see that, it’s an incredible report. It’s Shawn, his staff, and the Commission all put together. It’s a little heavy, so be careful when you walk out of here if you have one.
We’ll save the last 30 minutes for Q&A from the Commission members and audience, as we also want to hear from you. If you have a question during either of the presentations, please approach the microphone, tell us where you’re from, what organization you’re from, and your name, please.
Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, please welcome Laura Rosenberger. Thank you very much.
L. Rosenberger: Well, thank you so much, members of the Commission, for inviting me today, to Shawn for reaching out with his invitation, and it’s really good, actually, to see a number of former friends – I mean, friends – and former colleagues. We’re all still friends. I haven’t taken anybody off the list just yet.
It’s really a privilege to be able to be here and to have this conversation with you. I’m particularly heartened that the Commission is focusing on these questions of the changing information environment, and in particular, the issues of disinformation, information operations, and what we can do to counter them. I think for those of us who care deeply about public diplomacy, we always like to think about our messaging in the more affirmative, positive sense, and it takes a bit of sort of wrapping your mind around in a different way to think about the fact that the tools, the technologies that provide for free and open communication are actually being turned and used against us, but it’s something that I think is a really important question for us to wrestle with.
My perspective on these issues is informed by my time in government, which you heard a bit about. I’ll also just note that my early State Department career actually got its start in IIP, way back in the day. So I do know the public diplomacy world a little bit from that perspective as well as having worked my way up to sort of the apex of where I could see from the seventh-floor perspective how a lot of these issues come together. My time at the National Security Council, seeing the interagency processes on these issues as well informed my perspective, as well as the work that I’m doing now, which you heard a bit about and I’ll talk a bit more in a moment.
We’re looking at the full toolkit that’s used to undermine our democratic institutions. So today I just want to look at start with a little bit of an overview of the challenges that we face, give you a sense of the major trends that we’re seeing, and then discuss the role of public diplomacy in meeting this threat, including whether we’re organized and structured to adequately address the threat.
So let’s start with the challenge that we face. I’m going to talk about this largely in the Russia frame, although I think it’s important to note that other adversaries and authoritarian states are beginning to adopt these tools and tactics, so most of what I say with regard to Russia could be applied to other nations as well.
But in the Russia context, what we see is a declining Russia led by Vladimir Putin that’s seeking to weaken those it sees as its competitors, using asymmetric tools. Russia’s goal in these is sowing chaos, a goal that was most clearly laid out by General Valery Gerasimov in 2013 in the doctrine about the use of hybrid warfare and basically really blurring the lines between war and peace.
Vladimir Putin of course, a former KGB officer, is doing this by dusting off an old playbook of active measures, a playbook where information operations are one central piece of this broader toolkit. It’s a playbook that the US public diplomacy community and professionals know well. USIA was central to dealing with active measures in the Soviet Union, but following the Cold War, the US turned its attention elsewhere, and much of our knowledge and focus and attention on these issues atrophied. The same didn’t happen in Moscow.
Instead, Moscow has adopted this whole playbook to new technologies to spread disinformation in new ways. It has combined traditional information operations with the tools of cyber warfare, weaponizing materials to let them hacks in its operations and amplifying and exploiting divisions in societies.
Its operations are enabled by money laundering and illicit finance networks, and they’re complemented by state level economic coercion including in the energy sphere and other forms of support for extremist groups and parties such as Fight Clubs. I’m not making that term up. That actually train extremists in European states on hybrid warfare and violent tactics to sow chaos. And while it’s largely Russia using its toolkit now, as I said, other nations are beginning to adopt some of these technologies.
Much of the tactics are exploiting existing vulnerabilities in our society, and in particular, that includes fanning the flames of division. Their tactics have also sought to turn some of our greatest strengths, our free and open information environment, social media platforms intended to serve as democratizing forces, and our open economy against us. This is in part what makes those strategies so insidious and so difficult to combat.
The project I’m leading, called the Alliance for Securing Democracy, is looking comprehensively at these tools that are being used to undermine our democracies and democratic institutions. It’s a bipartisan initiative, so just like the Commission is a bipartisan endeavor, our effort is a bipartisan one, something I believe is important for strategic reasons. So much of Putin’s strategy hinges on exploiting divisions in our society, and if we respond in a divided manner, we play right into Vladimir Putin’s hands.
It’s also a transatlantic effort, because I believe that we have many lessons we can learn from other countries about the evolution of these antidemocratic tactics and about what countermeasures have worked, what have not worked, and why. And because I believe we need to stand together as a united front against efforts to weaken and divide us, including efforts to divide the EU and NATO.
So working with a team of social media analysts, we’ve developed this tool that the Chairman just mentioned, this Hamilton 68. It’s a dashboard that’s tracking Russian information operation networks on Twitter. A brief background on why it’s called Hamilton 68, it’s actually named after Federalist 68, in which Alexander Hamilton wrote about the threat of foreign interference in our democracy. This is something that was on the minds of our founding fathers, and it’s something that I think is really important as we think about why this is such an insidious threat that we remember that this is something that even our founders warned us about.
Our research has shown that across Europe and now in the United States, the same patterns emerged, Russian-linked networks promoting content that fans the flames of division and extremism. It’s important to note that while much has been made of “fake news,” a term that I find less than useful, most of the content is not necessarily false, nor is it necessarily all produced in Russia or by Russian outfits. Certainly, there are instances of that happening, but the much more common pattern that we see is the amplification and laundering in many cases of content that fits the narrative that the Kremlin is trying to advance.
For instance, our dashboard tracking these networks in Germany, we have a German version that’s called Article 38, named after a provision in their constitution about their free and fair elections. In Germany, what we’ve seen is that consistent themes are anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Merkel, in fact very anti-woman in the anti-Merkel spirit, and very pro-AfD, which is the far-right party that just gained a substantial hold in the Bundestag.
In Poland, where the population is more wary of Russian disinformation, their effort focuses instead on historical tensions with Ukraine and seeks to drive a wedge between Polish and Ukrainian citizens and use that as a wedge issue. While I know it’s outside of the purview of the State Department’s public diplomacy efforts, I would just note that what we’ve seen actually in the past week in the operations that we track in the United States, is actually, believe it or not, the Russian networks jumping on the controversy I would say over the NFL and the take a knee versus boycott NFL conversation, and in fact, actually, as written up in the New York Times today, amplifying both sides of the debate, which I think is a really important example again of the fact that this isn’t necessarily about an ideology. This is about chaos.
And so while we’re seeing certain tactics today, I think we need to bear in mind that Russia and other actors learn lessons about what works and what doesn’t and adapt to new technologies and any vulnerabilities that they present. I could go on at length about the problem, as I’m sure many of is in this room could, but I think what’s most important is to talk about the solutions and the role of public diplomacy in it. Let me offer a few thoughts on this.
First, the United States has much to learn from our European partners and allies, both about the disinformation campaigns that they have experienced, as well as what has worked in combating them. Our research has shown and documented that at least 27 countries have experienced Russian political interference across the European space. And there’s a variety of different tactics that they have used, but I think it’s really important that as we are developing our own tools and tactics, we do a lot of listening to our European partners and allies who have unfortunately far more experience in this than we do.
I think we also need to look at lessons from the counterterrorism experience, and there are important differences here, but one of the things that I think is an important question for us to ask in this context is whether or not the US government is a credible messenger as the delivery vehicle. That’s in both the affirmative space and that’s also in the counter-messaging space.
Unfortunately, one of the things we’ve seen in the erosion of democratic institutions in the US and elsewhere is an increasing skepticism and mistrust of governments. And so is government the right voice to be delivering a message? Is that the credible channel? Or do we need to empower other voices and communities to be the more effective deliverer of those messages?
Another question that emerges from a review of the experiences of other countries is whether counter-messaging, or debunking of myths and facts, is the right approach, and I’d offer a few observations on this. Our research is certainly still ongoing, but there are some indications that in fact, number one, staying in the narrative frame that is presented to us actually automatically means we’re responding in the defensive. We are staying within the narrative that our adversary wants. So I think there’s a real question about whether that’s the right frame we want to be engaging in.
Number two, there’s research indicating that simply responding to the direct messaging that we’re receiving in some ways can reinforce in people’s minds the incoming narratives, because it’s actually repeating them. So I think that one of the things that’s really important to bear in mind is that counter does not necessarily mean doing to others what they’re doing to us. I think it’s really important that we think creatively, that we think outside the box. Frankly, we’re never going to be as good at propaganda as Russia is or other adversaries are, and that’s for good reason. We are a values-based society. We are a democracy who believes in truth. We believe in the strength of our open information environment and we believe in transparency. And I think it’s really important that when we are responding to these challenges, we bear in mind that we don’t want to be doing anything that has a further corrosive effect on democracy and on questions of truth.
Instead, we should be engaged on producing affirmative messaging about our narrative, getting our story out in the most effective way possible. Here again, we need to empower credible messengers and give people the technology and tools to create their own narratives. We need to empower civil society and independent journalists. We need to support credible third party voices that understand the situation better and have an audience at their fingertips. But we also need to recognize in this context that when we leave a narrative vacuum, others like Russia will fill it, and we should be the ones setting the framework with that affirmative strategic narrative.
We also in that context need to be focused on shaping the information environment. That includes supporting independent media, but it also includes building resiliency in the population. Media literacy training is an important tool, and I would point in this context to the organization IREX, which has been doing a tremendous amount of work in Eastern Europe on a program called “Learn to Discern” that’s a great example of some success in this area.
Building resiliency is something that we’ve seen the effectiveness of over time, actually, and I would in this light point to Germany as an interesting case, having just been through their own elections, and having done a lot of work to actually both warn the population but also explain to them what the challenge is. Germany actually learned from one very particular disinformation case which I’m sure many of you know, which was the Lisa case of a, what was reported originally as a Russian-German girl who’d gone missing, later resurfaced.
The reports were that she had been raped by Muslim Arab migrants. Later turned out to be a complete fabrication. None of it had ever happened. But that wasn’t before the story had been spread in the mainstream press. It actually resulted in protests and pretty significant uproar within Germany. That instance actually was a learning opportunity for the German population and has resulted in greater resiliency, and I think it’s a lesson for us about how we can use examples like that to help educate populations elsewhere.
I think it’s also important in this context, again, to think about the full public diplomacy toolkit. It’s not just about messaging and counter-messaging, but exchanges, capacity building, literacy training, all these have to be core to what we do. Stepping one step beyond that, I’d want to just ask the question about whether we’re structured and organized right to deal with this challenge. And while I think a lot of progress has happened within the State Department and the interagency since I left government in July of 2015, I think we still have a long way to go.
First, public diplomacy has not always been central to policy making and policy execution, and I don’t think I’m telling anybody in this room something earth-shattering with that. That has to change. It has to change both in terms of organization, and it has to change in terms of resources. But I’d also offer that we can’t think of this just as a public diplomacy challenge, nor can we think about information operations in isolation. As I mentioned earlier, these operations are just one part of the toolkit that’s employed to undermine democracies, and they depend on and interact with other parts of the toolkit. If we silo our response, we will continue to play checkers while others are playing chess.
But that means actual, real, meaningful interagency coordination. This is an area that falls in the seams. It falls in the seams between agencies and it falls in the seams within agencies. We continue to lack for real clear interagency leads, and instead we’ve ended up with both a siloed process and a kitchen sink process, where we are trying things rightfully because we need to be trying things, but we need a much more systematic, organized approach. An organized approach to understanding who is doing what, to actually sharing information with one another, and to being able to learn lessons about what works and what doesn’t.
We also need to have a coordinated approach with our partners and allies. We need to be learning these lessons in real time. I think that there’s been a tremendous amount of progress in this space with the various STRATCOM operations that are working with each other. I think there’s a lot of work being done by those who are engaging in media literacy with each other. But I think that we need to really work to build that capacity, build those coordination mechanisms, so that we can actually be really swimming together, not just kind of swimming in our separate lanes.
It’s really important that appropriators take this threat seriously. I think that the resources are still not there for the nature of the threat. We have a nation-state actor that is really delivering this on a constant, steady drumbeat basis, and we are putting in marginal resources to combat it. I do think that those resources are in many cases best directed at the local level. I think that empowering our embassies to have some creativity to do some local programming to really be able to empower local actors is going to be some of the best return on investment.
The last point I would just make here is that I haven’t talked much about the role of social media in this, and we can certainly discuss that in question and answer, but I think as we’re seeing, later today Twitter is having closed meetings with both the Senate and House Intelligence Committees. There’s been a lot of stories in the news about Facebook and the use of those platforms, including in addition to the reporting we’ve seen about the United States, we’ve seen accounts of how many false or other kinds of illicit accounts have been taken down in Germany and France and elsewhere.
The problem is that a trust gap continues to exist between government and the tech sector, and this is a challenge that mostly started with the Snowden revelations, but it’s one where despite a lot of efforts to close that gap, the distrust remains. I actually worry that, in some cases, the recent reporting about the role of the use of these platforms for these operations may actually serve again to increase that trust gap. I think that there needs to be a tremendous amount of work on both sides going into closing that gap. We need real, meaningful information-sharing mechanisms between government and the private sector, warning systems, and a serious conversation about what we need to do together in response.
But at the end of the day, and this is how I’m going to close, all of this requires political will, and it requires support from the top. I would respectfully submit that you members of the Commission play an incredibly important role in reinforcing to the highest levels of our government and to the highest levels of members of Congress that this has to be a top priority. It needs to be resourced, it needs to be supported, and it needs to have the will from the top. Thank you very much.
Shawn Powers: Thank you. Speaking of resources, I’m thrilled to have you all here. Thank you so much for taking the time to join us, and thank you to the Commission members for taking the time out of their busy schedules to join us, and then, of course, the wonderful keynote address.
The 2017 Comprehensive Annual Report is the fourth iteration of the Comprehensive Annual Report, and I emphasize the word “Comprehensive,” because this report aims to track every dollar spent on public diplomacy and international broadcasting activities in the fiscal year of 2016. Tracking those resources, as many of you know, is incredibly difficult. It required liaising with over 25 different offices, bureaus and agencies, triangulating different databases which indicated different levels of spending, interviewing offices when needed to try to figure out which database was probably more accurate, a tremendous amount of fact-checking, and narrativizing this information to make sure that it actually makes sense to the public. The goal of the report is not just to document these resources and how they’re spent, but it’s also to talk about the value of those resources so that the members of Congress, the administration, and the American public can better understand why this is an important investment and why it’s a crucial part of our national security.
I’m going to focus for a little bit on fiscal year 2016 funding to give you a sense for where the money went last year. In fiscal year 2016, we spent 2.03 billion dollars on public diplomacy and international broadcasting. This reflects a $58.9 million dollar reduction from the previous fiscal year. That is a 2.8% reduction. When I’m talking about public diplomacy spending, I’m referring to the Diplomatic and Consular Public Diplomacy programs budget, otherwise known as D&CP.7, Educational and Cultural Exchanges or the ECE budget, the Broadcasting Board of Governors allocation, as well as supplemental funds which include OCO, the Overseas Contingency Operations Funds, AEECA, which is Assistance for Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia, PEPFAR, as well as Economic Support Funds. Those supplemental funds, as a side note, are very difficult to track, so I’m very proud that the Commission was able to get access to the resources and information to be able to accurately reflect those expenditures in fiscal year 2016.
One important takeaway that stands out for me in this report is fiscal year 2016 public diplomacy spending constitutes just 3.7% of the International Affairs budget, less than 4% of the International Affairs budget, and perhaps more importantly, 0.17%, less than one-fifth of a percent of the total federal discretionary budget. It is a minor investment of federal resources that has a tremendous payoff for our national security, our economic prosperity.
These resources, while lean, were quite meaningful, and I’m going to mention a few highlights to give you a sense for all of the accomplishments that a lot of people in this room helped achieve in the last 12 months. This includes the creation of approximately 2000 weekly hours of original BBG content in 61 languages reaching 278 million people. Over 75 exchange programs supporting nearly 55,000 US and foreign participants, many of whom will likely go on to be or already are public opinion leaders in their countries. 694 American spaces, which hosted over 44 million local visitors and help over 1.4 million programs in foreign countries.
These resources supported regional media hubs that facilitated more than 1,100 media engagements with US government officials, which were then placed in over 825 local media outlets. It also helped modernize and support 260 US Embassy and Consulate websites in more than 50 languages, resulting in over 600 million page views. Quite a few accomplishments. And last but not least, tens of thousands of post-managed small grants to local partners in support of the values and institutions that form the bedrock of our national security.
Something new this year that I’m pretty excited about is we did a deep dive in comparing fiscal year 2016 spending to previous fiscal years going back to 1980. This is tremendously hard, as many of you know, to actually figure out how much money we spent on public diplomacy going that far back. A lot of people in this room helped me find those figures and so I’m grateful, but one of the things I was hoping to do is create a metric that would be helpful in thinking about those resources in a comparative sense. And so what we did is we adjusted all of the public diplomacy expenditures for inflation according to 2016 dollars. We compared the amount of public diplomacy money the US government spent per foreign citizen, and the reason why that metric is important is because the mission of public diplomacy is to engage, inform, and influence foreign citizens, so as there are more foreign citizens to inform, engage, and influence, that increases the burden and the responsibility of the public diplomacy apparatus to reach out to those people.
That last part of the metric – the number of foreign populations’ constituencies that we have to reach out – has not been something we focused on previously. If you take that metric into consideration, what you’ll see is we spent far less per foreign citizen in public diplomacy spending in 2016, than we did in 1980. In fact, we spent 36% less per foreign citizen in 2016 than we did in 1980. Accounting for inflation, we spend an equal amount today as we did in 2006, so as the foreign populations have grown, as the difficulty and the challenges of actually engaging with foreign citizens in an incredibly saturated, highly competitive, highly technical market, has become more difficult, we’re not investing the resources that are required to cultivate that expertise, to invest in new platforms, invest in new strategies, and support the people that really are driving all of these important.
Talking about how public diplomacy resources were spent regionally or at the post level, once again, similar to 2015, the most PD resources were spent in South and Central Asia. As you can see in this heatmap, we spent 193 million dollars in South and Central Asia, and Europe was the second most PD spent region with 170 million dollars. Two countries in particular stand out on this map. Afghanistan and Pakistan each spent over 50 million dollars each in public diplomacy resources in 2016. That also is in line with the previous fiscal year, and that shows how much of a commitment there is to extending American influence and engagement in those two very important countries.
Rounding out the other top ten countries, Iraq was third. I think we spent almost 12 million dollars on public diplomacy in Iraq. Russia, Ukraine, Japan, Indonesia, and China, Nigeria, and India round out the top ten, and all the very detailed fiscal information is in the Comprehensive Annual Report.
I want to move on to a couple recommendations. In the report you’ll see there’s quite a few recommendations targeted to Congress, to the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, to the Office of Policy, Planning, and Resources, to IIP, ECA, etc. etc. I’m going to highlight just one recommendation for most of the offices because I don’t want to go too deep. But I do want to highlight some of these to give you a sense for what we are hoping to see moving forward.
First, I’d like to highlight one particular recommendation to the US Congress, and this is something that the Commission is really excited about, in part because I think there’s a lot of excitement in this room for this recommendation, and that is to work with Congress to redraw the language that authorizes US government public diplomacy activities. Public diplomacy activities are currently guided by primarily four pieces of legislation, each of which was written in a different decade of the 20th century. This is to say we’re competing in a highly competitive information space with guidance from 1948, 1956, so on and so forth.
Efforts to reform those pieces of legislation have been helpful, but they don’t resolve fundamental contradictions between all four, and certainly don’t give us a vision for how we can be effective moving forward. The Commission’s going to work closely with the appropriate committees in Congress to redraft brand new language that will put us on a solid footing, give us the guidance to focus our resources properly, and engage in a competitive way moving forward. We look forward to as much feedback as possible in getting that language right, but it’s a big priority for us in 2018. And there’s lots of support in Congress to get this right as well.
The Office of the Under Secretary and the Office of Policy, Planning, and Resources … I think I got that right. We’ve got a couple of recommendations, but I want to focus on one in particular, and that is finding ways to focus on getting the right resources and assisting folks at post, at embassies and consulates to do their jobs better. What I mean by this in particular is two things. One, finding ways to reduce the bureaucratic burden that we place on folks at post, which sometimes can include tremendous amounts of paperwork for a grant the size of $250. Sometimes this includes overlapping reporting systems, which we support lots of reporting, but we think one system that gets all of the information is probably more than enough. And in particular, helping Public Affairs sections prioritize issues and campaigns that matter. All too often public diplomacy in the field is trying to be everything to everyone, and I think one of the most important things Washington can do is offer guidance on what issues need to be priorities and how people can focus on making all their public diplomacy weave through those priority areas. Focus is crucial to having an impact, and I think this will be really well-received from folks at post who feel like they’re stretched too thin running from one fire to another.
To the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, I wanted to focus on the first recommendation, which is a strategic review of all ECA programs. There are currently over 75 active ECA programs supporting anywhere from 2 to 18,000 participants per year and operating on annual budgets ranging from 45,000 to 185 million dollars per year. The proliferation of programs puts substantial administrative strain on ECA as well as Public Affairs sections at post too oftentimes. There, the burden of recruiting and administering lots of these programs.
ACPD recommends a full strategic review of the scope and organization of ECA’s programs with an eye towards consolidating similar programs, revising internal organization and division between programs, and minimizing inefficiencies that result from managing such an extensive portfolio. These reforms would also facilitate greater clarity and public understanding of the value of US government-funded exchange programs to US national security as well as our economic prosperity.
To the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the number one recommendation, and I was very fortunate to have a productive meeting with CEO John Lansing on this specific issue. We’re recommending an initiation of a blue-sky discussion about what the future of the Broadcasting Board of Governors should hold, and in particular, what, in an ideal space, what would the BBG look like if it wasn’t hampered or burdened by existing administrative or legislative constraints. What does a Broadcasting Board of Governors look like if it was created from scratch in 2018, and how can we facilitate that process moving forward? I’m looking forward to working with the Broadcasting Board of Governors, bringing in external expertise and in particular, international expertise from organizations that have been rethinking their missions like the British Broadcasting Corporation, who have lots of insight on how to manage a shift in massive organizational culture and resources, something that’s very forward leaning and really effective.
To the International Information Programs Bureau, we want to focus on one recommendation which I think is really important, and that is to expand their investments in the contact relationship management system which they’ve been piloting for the last 12 to 18 months. This is a really cool system that helps folks at Public Affairs sections at post manage the variety of contacts that they have in ways that increases the efficiency through which that management system takes place and increases the ability to share information about contacts regardless of turnover between people at the embassy or at the consulate.
It also aggregates a lot of important information from the Department of State into a single portal, and that makes it easier for us to think about how to strategically engage and communicate our ideas with a particular person or a particular audience. It automates a lot of reach-out and engagement efforts through newsletters and email systems, so we’re recommending an expansion of the pilot program, which has been aggressively rolled out to a full-on enterprise-level solution at the Department of State, which would require resources and of course additional training to make sure it’s implemented properly.
Finally, I want to just reinforce the message that Laura was really excellent at pointing out, which is the importance of bipartisanship in this conversation, and really, the bipartisan support for public diplomacy. In the back of the report, if you have it in your hand, ACPD research fellow Madison Jones helped us track down quotes from every single president since Ronald Reagan on the importance of public diplomacy to American prosperity, economic strength, and national security. And this is an important moment, I think, to emphasize the bipartisan and historic support for these programs across party lines. One of my favorite quotes, in large part because President Reagan said it at a Commission meeting in 1984, reads as follows.
“I believe that our public diplomacy represents a powerful force, perhaps the most powerful force at our disposal for shaping the history of the world.” So enjoy the quotes. They’re hopefully useful and maybe even a little bit inspiring. With that, I’d like to save lots of time for questions and answers for both Laura and the Commission. Thank you.
And of course first the Commission members have a chance to ask some questions.
Penne Korth Peacock: I loved your presentation, first of all. Thank you for joining us this morning. I had a question though about when you got to the part about “We can’t work against the Russians strongly enough because all of our moral values in America now … right with our moral values.” It seems to me like it’s maybe a boxing match, and there are two guys in it and one guy is “Hulk” and the other guy is a nice American, and the bell rings for the first round and Hulk comes toward him and the guy says, which is the American, “Please don’t mess up my hair!”
I don’t understand why we’re in a game of hardball, and we are. Why we can’t meet him at the mat.
L. Rosenberger: It’s a really important question. Let me sort of clarify exactly what I was saying too, which is I don’t know that sort of “boxing” on their terms is necessarily the way we’re going to win. I think that what we need to do is make the floor fall out beneath the boxer, right?
Essentially, if we think about it in the terms of “Let’s talk about disinformation specifically,” some of what the Russians do is they make things up wholesale, but they also deliberately try to play on divisions within our societies. And more broadly, there is a desire of, as I mentioned, sowing chaos, and undermining faith in institutions, faith in public trust, and faith in truth, really. I believe that in the long run, the United States engaging in any activities that play into those agendas will ultimately weaken us. Weaken our democracy. It will weaken who we are as a country. And so, because we’re not willing and should not, I believe, be willing to engage in those kind of activities, we’re never going to be able to do the propaganda piece of the information warfare as well as they’re going to be.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be hitting back. We should just be hitting back in other ways. We have a whole series of asymmetric tools that we can use ourselves. We can respond in different domains. My background is as a sort of hard national security person, so trust me. There’s many things I would recommend doing to them that are outside, in many cases, of the public diplomacy space. I think that one of the most important things that we can do in the public diplomacy space is the resiliency piece. It’s the affirmative messaging piece. It’s creating our own narrative. It’s reinvigorating our own narrative. And then it’s building the resiliency of populations.
There is a utility for debunking and engaging in counter-messaging in very sort of, I think, specific instances, and I’m not discounting doing it wholesale, but I do think that if we continue to just respond in the frame of countering what they’re doing by doing what they’re doing, we’re never going to be able to actually gain the upper hand, and my interest is in gaining the upper hand and using the full toolkit that we have at our disposal as the United States of America to do just that.
Penne Korth Peacock: Can you give an example?
L. Rosenberger: Sure. For instance, number one I would say the sanctions package that Congress passed this summer actually, I think, is really important in terms of just turning the screws on the actors in the Russian apparatus you are engaging in some of these activities, I think there’s a lot more we can do there. I think being the target people who are behind the troll farms more systematically, thinking about a broader set of targets is one way we could do that. Another thing we can do is in a cyber domain, there’s a long-running question about how much the US should engage both in offensive cyber operations, how much we should do to actually respond to certain cyberattacks. So far, the United States has not engaged in a lot of that kind of activity. I think it’s worth asking the question about whether it’s time that we step up in that space.
There’s also, frankly, if we think very broadly, in the energy security space, which sounds unrelated, but actually, especially if we think about the European context and the way that there’s been a constriction in the broader sort of political discourse, a lot of that is related to energy dependency and energy coercion. The more L&G we can be exporting to Europe, the better off that our European partners and allies are going to be in their own resiliency.
And then I think the last point I would just make is that I think, again, we need to take a good look at what our strengths are as a country, and we need to play to our strengths. What, again, is so insidious about what Putin is trying to do is hit us at our strengths, and we need to not allow that to happen, but we need to play to our strengths as well, and I think that really requires a broad look. That’s a few examples of the kinds of things that I would look at.
Sim Farar: Hi Laura. I have a question for you if you don’t mind. Since watching your dashboard, I’m just curious if there’s been any pushback from the Russian government or the Russian trolls out there from your dashboard.
L. Rosenberger: We are definitely on their radar. Yeah. I stopped counting. I haven’t counted recently. As of a couple weeks ago, it was something like 20 separate Sputnik articles that have attempted to discredit or discount our work, smear us in one form or another. When Ambassador Kislyak, who was the ambassador to the United States, when he first returned to Moscow to the Foreign Ministry, gave a big interview and spoke to a number of different issues in that interview, but one of the things that he took time to comment on was actually our efforts, which again I think of as a badge of honor. We’ve gotten their attention. And we’ve definitely seen troll activity pop up from time to time. We don’t engage the trolls because we don’t engage the trolls. But there has definitely been some responses from them.
It’s similar to a separate effort that’s totally unrelated, but just thinking about what gets under their skin in a response, it’s an interesting case study, is this commission to investigate Russia that a couple of, Rob Reiner and Morgan Freeman have launched last week, and the Russian networks went big time at Morgan Freeman and tried to slander him. Some of it was just slander. Some of it was really ugly stuff that, again, when you get under their skin, they let you know.
Georgette Mosbacher: I have … this is like what comes first, you know the chicken or the egg. If the American public doesn’t trust the government and it doesn’t trust the media, where do we start with this? We export, Hollywood exports, and movies, television shows, and most American families around the world, and yet we don’t seem to have any dialogue with respect to what we’re trying to accomplish here. I’m not even sure that we could.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t. But I think in some ways it could be helpful. It seems like where do we start with this? Because fake news, while we may not like the term, does exist, so we are actually working against ourselves, and in doing that, we are aiding the so-called enemy in what they’re trying to do. Propaganda’s been around for as long as … I think it’s just the tools are different today. It’s not something new. We don’t really have to invent this. Propaganda’s been around forever. We have the tools. The question is do we trust those tools, and in what way have we shot ourselves in the foot because we no longer trust some of those tools?
L. Rosenberger: Yeah, it’s a difficult question as you noted in the beginning. I think I would offer a couple things. One is that just more broadly, there’s been a lot of research done on the erosion of faith in expertise. The beauty of the advent of the internet is that people can go on Google and they can type in a search term and they can find out a bunch of information, but some of that information may be garbage, and some of that information may be good. Similarly, social media networks have flattened how people can receive news and information, and people no longer necessarily look to, think about edited publications as a way of providing that decision-making function of “Is this credible or not?”
So, it’s a long-term challenge, but one of the things I think is really important, as I mentioned, is media literacy and frankly, critical thinking, because we need to accept that the information environment is different, and that people are not going to go back to reading hard copies of the New York Times and Washington Post or their national papers in Europe. Although, actually in the European context, there’s still much greater reliance on traditional media for news and information than there is in the United States. But we need to accept that the environment has changed, and so we need to adapt our tools to that reality. So that means making sure that citizens and consumers of that information have the tools they need to assess and evaluate that information for themselves, is one big piece of it.
Another big piece of it is thinking in the European space, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, where we do have a real constriction of the media environment, and you have fewer independent outlets, greater consolidation in media, and in many instances, you have actually a lot of Russian investment and ownership of media outlets. I think that that’s why, as I mentioned earlier, empowering independent media, cultivating independent media, investing in it, is really important in providing some of those alternative perspectives.
Shawn Powers: Before we get to the audience, I’ve got a question which tries to weave something that I was asking about, with something you mentioned Laura, which is the coordination problem, which I think a lot of us understand to be central to getting the public diplomacy piece right in part of US foreign policy. Given your experience, at the State Department and at the National Security Council, I’m curious if you could offer some advice to the Commission and others as we think about rewriting the legislation that describes what PD should do and how it should be organized. How can we get the coordination piece right? How do we integrate it properly into the policy planning process that still allows for sufficient independence in planning but also is part of that bigger piece of the equation?
L. Rosenberger: I think one sort of media piece is that public diplomacy needs to be, when we think about the national security toolkit, people frequently cite diplomacy, developments, defense. We need to think about public diplomacy essentially as its own piece of that toolkit. It’s obviously part of the diplomatic piece, but it has its own elements, and I think that we need to conceive of it in that core central way as part of the toolkit, and that policy makers need to understand it’s another arrow in a quiver, just like all the other tools of national power.
So that means, in a very bureaucratic sense it means when there are interagency meetings, ensuring that there is somebody from a public diplomacy background, either at the table, or ensuring that those who are coming to the table have as part of their proposals and options before them a reflection of what are the public diplomacy aspects to this. It’s often talked about in terms of strategic communications or messaging plans and things like that in the NSC interagency context, but I think that that kind of misses the point of what the full public diplomacy toolkit is and could bring to bear in that context.
I think, particularly, reflecting on my, I was very involved in the Ukraine propositions at the White House in 2014, and I think in retrospect, we probably weren’t doing enough in the early days to think and talk about what was happening in the public diplomacy space or what we could be doing. We were tracking a lot of the Russian information operations that were happening, especially abroad, MH17, and thinking about how we could push back on the Russian narrative that they were trying to push about what had happened with MH17, but we weren’t really thinking at the local level of what that meant for how we could use our own resources and our own tools in that sense.
I offer that as one example, but I think that, again, making sure it’s central in that way is incredibly important, and then I think that, similarly, ensuring that we think of public diplomacy as one piece of the bigger whole, it’s not its own thing. There are some elements of it that are its own thing, but it’s been the most effective when combined with all our tools of national power, and so incorporating it in all those ways, empowering it and then allowing for a real interagency coordination I think is going to be at the broad level, I think, really critical. So I think that maybe not as specific as you were looking for, but that’s sort of where I would start, for sure.
G. Mosbacher: I think to that point, an observation. I recently spent some time with the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, who told me had just created a public diplomacy division, and that he was personally overseeing it so he could properly integrate it into their foreign policy plans. To your point, I think that that’s right on.
Shawn Powers: That’s great. Thank you. We’ve got a good amount of time for questions from the audience. John Lansing, if you wouldn’t mind waiting for the microphone.
John Lansing: Thank you. First I’d like to thank the Commission and you, Shawn, for the recommendations. We look forward to working with you on the Blue Sky vision for the BBG, which is a long time coming. My question is for Laura, and I just really appreciate your commentary today and your responses to these questions.
We often hear the different terms that treat the attack by Russia euphemistically as a war of information, and I think Chairman Royce is famous for his quote the “weaponization of information.” At what point is it actually a real act of war? Is disrupting a national election … What does it take for it to become an actual act of war, and if we really thought about it as an act of war, REALLY, what would we, might we do differently than what we’re doing today?
L. Rosenberger: Thanks for the softball.
Let’s start by talking about how the Kremlin thinks about this. If we go back to Gerasimov and how he’s framed this, it’s basically blurring the line between war and peace, right, and that’s kind of the entire goal. And so if we take that as the entire goal, it automatically scrambles our reality, and it leads to a lot of gray, which is exactly what they do, and eliminates the black and white questions of “Is this an act of war or not?”
To be candid, I see pros and cons of thinking about some of this as an act of war. I think that we need to understand that essentially these are tools of warfare, and they are being used to attack our country. Whether that constitutes a formal act of war and at what point, I think is a really difficult question, and I hesitate to answer it in a black and white sense, because I’m very mindful of the fact that when we do label something like that, it carries very weighty calculations about what we need to do in response.
If we label something an act of war, we better know what we’re doing, to respond. Because saying it and then not following up or not responding adequately is actually only going to make us look weaker. But there is no question that these are tools of warfare that are being used, and we need to think of them as such.
I certainly think that, again, part of the challenge in dealing with these issues is that we want to see black and white. We want to know, “Is this war or not?” We want to know, “Did they throw an election or not?” We want to know, “Are they on this side or that side?” or “Was this Russia or was this not Russia?” One of the things that I worry about is how much of what they do is also through proxies.
A lot of this is not like somebody at the Kremlin sitting there saying “You over there in Macedonia. Go do this thing.” A lot of it’s like, “Hey, could you maybe when you have an opportunity to do this, and if you do, you can have some money, if it’s to our advantage.” So it makes it really difficult too, when you’re dealing with an adversary that’s not actually always necessarily the government. There’s questions of attribution in here as well. But there’s a whole of question about, “Who is the adversary? Who’s behind it,” etc.
A really good effort that was just started, the European Hybrid Threat Center in Helsinki that was launched a couple of weeks ago that’s got 12 member states from NATO in the EU, they’re looking really hard at some of these particular questions as well, and thinking through “How do we deal with the ambiguities of this and what does that mean?” That’s a little bit of a cop-out answer about really answering your question, but what I would submit is that we absolutely need to think about these challenges as a national security threat and, frankly, what I believe could potentially be an existential national security threat. This is an attempt to attack us without bullets.
I use a trite analogy often, but it’s basically implanting a cancer within the body, and, I don’t know exactly what it would do, but encouraging it to metastasize, so it basically weakens and then eventually kills the body from the inside out. No bullet wounds, no stab wounds, no obvious harm. It might be a long time before you realize that your body is actually dying, but here we are. So I think that we need to think about it in that sort of existential national security frame.
John Lansing: Very good. Thank you.
Shawn Powers: Mike Nelson. Then we’ll go to Brian afterwards.
MIke Nelson: I’m Mike Nelson with Cloudflare, a net security firm. I’m probably the only Silicon Valley start-up in the room, and probably the token technologist as well, so I want to ask a technology question. It’s not just about misinformation, which is the topic of the day and should be. It’s also about internet shutdowns, which we’re seeing in countries around the world. It’s about the fact that we don’t have good identity online, and it’s about something we’re very concerned about, which is governments using botnets to attack their own citizens’ websites and shut up the dissidents.
So I guess my question is about your technology budget. I was looking through the book, looking to see if you are funding any technology development projects or if you’re tying in with other agencies that might be doing something that could help you. There have been some incredibly important technology investments by the US government over the last 15 years in this area. Tor, which is a privacy enhancing tool for messaging, was funded by the US government. So is there any place I should look in your budget for research projects on new technologies to solve some of these problems, and are there connections to other agencies?
Shawn Powers: Sure. Thanks, and if you could just pass the microphone behind you to Brian. I can give you a sort of bird’s-eye answer but a lot of the folks in this room could probably give you in more precise numbers. There is a specific Internet Freedom budget allocation at the Broadcasting Board of Governors which does have its separate Internet Freedom operation, and I’m sure they would be happy to talk about the details of those investments which I think at least at one point included Tor.
Then t IIP Bureau and the Global Engagement Center both invest substantial resources in technological solutions which range from “How do we get our content to the right people at the right times?” to monitoring for the precise bots that you’ve mentioned and that Laura’s talked about, so we know when the problems are going to come up. A lot of the technological solutions the Global Engagement Center are investing in are remarkably innovative but not necessarily for public consumption, so they’re not going to be reflected in the report, but the office that does make some of those decisions is talked about in great detail there.
MIke Nelson: Thank you.
Shawn Powers: Yeah.
G. Mosbacher: And CYBERCOM, what you’re talking about in terms of doing actual physical damage to infrastructure.
Brian Gibel: Right. I’m Brian Gibel, and work at the House Foreign Affairs Committee, majority side, for the man who coined the term, “weaponization”. I’m also a Foreign Service officer. I’m actually doing outside detail in the Pearson Fellow, so I spent the last 16 years in the field, actually mainly working on the front lines in China, Pakistan, Korea, multiple tours actually each place. The majority of those have been public diplomacy assignments.
Couple of comments I wanted to ask, one for the Board. I’ve seen in my PD work overseas how the IO position, the Information Officer position, has become sort of more and more attention has been placed on that position over sort of the Cultural Affairs officer, which is a little more predominant I think in the earlier maybe decades of USIA. Now, when we’re talking about information warfare, I’m wondering if that’s going to continue to increase, and one of the things I heard Laura say is that we have to build up this capacity for people to absorb information and be able to assess, and to me that sounds like more ECA, more Education and Cultural Affairs. I just wonder, one, if you could speak to that, the Cultural side of the House, and if it is losing ground, what we need to do to pick that up.
The other question I had, this is for everyone, really, if anyone wants to comment. Just if you’ve read the recent Atlantic Council report on some of the reforms suggested for the State Department, and one of them was specifically for public diplomacy, taking it out of traditionally where it is in State, keep it under the Secretary of State but keeping it a separate … I don’t know what they call it, a “separate entity” as you will, almost like USAID.
Brian Gibel: That’s correct. I wonder if you had read that report, know about if you want to make any of your own comments or opinions with respect to how that would work in terms of information warfare and just PD writ large in the US government. Thank you.
G. Mosbacher: I did read it, and I actually think it’s a good idea. It’s a good recommendation. I think when we took USIA and put it into the State Department, the bureaucracy itself had a way of diluting it. I personally think Atlantic Council’s recommendation of it … It becomes stronger. It becomes more important when it is more freestanding.
Shawn Powers: It certainly is something we’re going to be thinking about as we work with Congress on rethinking the authorizing legislation as one of the potential ideas. And I think it reflects the need that Laura talked about a little bit as well, the need to get an improved bureaucratic relationship between the public diplomacy apparatus and the Secretary of State and the National Security Council. Insofar as it does that, I would see lots of support.
I hate to put you on the spot, Brian Heath, but the question about thinking about the training of information officers connects to an issue that’s near and dear to your heart on rethinking how we advertise and train and promote our Locally Employed Staff, and I was curious if maybe you would like to speak a little bit about that, which is highlighted in the report. I didn’t have a chance to talk about my remarks, so I’m sorry for putting you on the spot.
Brian Heath: It’s okay. I’m Brian Heath, the Managing Director for Resources in the Under Secretary’s Office of Policy, Planning, and Resources, and as Shawn indicated, one of our sort of keystone activities that we actually just implemented for a few initial posts this past fall is the locally employed staff initiative, and what that is doing is reimagining how our locally employed staff in PD sections around the world do their jobs, and how they approach their jobs.
The analogy we’ve been using is going from a horse-drawn carriage to a Tesla in terms of that the basics of what the components of the job involve have to change. It’s got wheels and it gets you from point A to point B, but the technology and the tools and how we get from point A to point B has changed dramatically, and the last time that our position descriptions and the work environment for our overseas PD staff was looked at closely was in 1976, in the mid-70s, so well before USIA integration, well before the emergence of this thing called the internet, which I hear is going to be around for a while. So it’s taking a holistic view at how we structure those organizations and those operations, and the key component behind it is moving from a task-based work environment to an audience-based work environment.
Shawn, this year did a great job compiling that statistic about PD spending up over time and on a per foreign national basis, and mentioned that the trend is not a sort of positive one as foreign audiences grow, so it makes it even more imperative for us to take those resources we have and make sure they’re being deployed most effectively. And so by identifying the key audiences you need in each country and each region to most fully and effectively promote our key policy goals in that region, is a key part of the program.
Focusing on audiences as a second part of that, also looking at strategically then, how do we best reach those audiences, and having a very strong evaluation component, as well to make sure that what we think was going to work actually did work or is working as we look forward to implementation of those policies and programs and activities and goals. So it’s pretty exciting. We did just, as I say, launch in the first couple posts Singapore and Honduras, and we’re hoping to do a few more posts. We’re still kind of in the pilot stage, but first signs are good. We’re hoping it’s going to work out well in the worldwide basis.
Shawn Powers: That’s great. The Foreign Service Institute is also focusing on updating their curriculum to focus on the strategic component and research component as well. We don’t have Will Steven’s here today, but I’m happy to put you in touch with him if that’s helpful.
Meghann Curtis: Hi. Meghann Curtis. I am the Executive Vice President at the Council of International Educational Exchange. Also formerly served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs from 2011 to 2014. I have a question really directed at you Shawn, although it will circle back to Laura’s initial presentation, which was fantastic.
You talked about in the budget presentation the 55,000 exchanges that occur every year with the roughly 600 million dollars of funding that the State Department gets. What is missing from that is 300,000 exchanges that happen every year on private sector J-1 visas. And recently, there’s been some concern that these programs might be taken away. Approximately 190,000 of them on programs that enable people to come to the US and work here, that are no less public diplomacy programs than a lot of the funded programs that require taxpayer dollars.
So I wondered if you could speak a little bit about that and why that isn’t really included as part of the Commission’s review of public diplomacy programming, and really just generally wanted to make the statement that this is a huge piece of our public diplomacy toolkit, more than almost five times the number of people, including many, many Russians who come on these programs, and it would really just be such a shame to see those slip away.
Shawn Powers: Sure. And thank you for the question and for the opportunity to talk about this. The answer is twofold. One is mostly legal, which is the Commission’s mandate is to assess and evaluate US government-funded public diplomacy programs aiming to inform and influence foreign audiences, and that mandate is actually really important right now, because I think there’s a clear need to understand why the US government should be investing its resources in public diplomacy programs. There’s growing questions about “Why can’t the private sector just do this?”
And so part of the reason why the Commission is focused on US government resources is because that is what Congress has asked us to do, but it’s also important I think to think exclusively for a minute about the important of those resources and then open a conversation to the broader public diplomacy programs that are connected to the US government funded programming that amplify the impact of these exchanges, or can build on the impact of these exchanges, or that we can learn from, which may be the case for private sector exchanges. As we spoke last week, we’re very supportive of the J-1 Visa program, and we’ll work with you and others to make sure that it’s not reduced in any way that would harm the important PD objectives that you’ve identified.
Matthew Wallin: Thank you. I’m Matthew Wallin. I’m the Fellow for Public Diplomacy at the American Security Project. A two-part question, one for you Shawn, regarding journalistic exchanges and what role they might have to play in either just approving the practice of journalism overall, discerning fake news, etc. etc. Who’s responsible for it right now? ‘Cause I’m not finding much information in the reports that I’ve been looking at in terms of how much we’re spending, how many journalists are participating, etc. I figure Jeff might have a comment to say on that.
The other question is for Laura about what I call information inoculation here at home. A lot of people have been using the term “media literacy”. What role is there for perhaps state and local governments to make this a priority, whether that’s in the education system of what level should it be at … What is the best way we can institute this in a practice to make sure that that future long-term generation is protected from the type of disinformation that’s out there?
Shawn Powers: Just quickly on the journalism training component. It’s a good question. We did not break out PD programs on that specific subset in the report. Not because it’s not important, just because it’s not something that’s easy to collate. But I know the Broadcasting Board of Governors is active in this space, first of all.
Second of all, a lot of the exchange programs or the training programs are actually post-driven, which is to say an embassy decides it’s a priority by assessing the local needs. We saw that in Berlin when we were there earlier this year. I know it’s certainly the case in Ukraine as well, and while we do try to track those, we tracked the most spent PD resources closely. I don’t have a specific number of the number of people we’ve trained in fiscal year ’16, though we could probably get close to it. In addition of course USAID is active in this space as well. There’s quite a bit of activity there, and let’s keep on talking about the way they kind of put a finite number or as close to finite number on it.
L. Rosenberger: And on the media literacy question in a role of state and local governments, I’ll sort of stipulate up front here that I’m not a US domestic policy or education expert, so I don’t want to sort of get over my skis on that particular question. What I would just say on this, again, is number one, obviously in the United States the way that our education system is structured would sort of inherently point to an incredibly important role for state and local governments to be involved in media literacy programming and ensuring that its important place is elevated within those communities.
I would add as a corollary that I think broader civic education is really important. There’s some really distressing polling about the state of belief in the importance of democracy as a form of government in the United States, particularly amongst millennial generation. I think it’s something that media literacy and civic education kind of need to go as two parts of the coin there, but I would again point to this is an area where I think there is so many lessons that we can learn from especially frontline states, our Baltic allies, Central and Eastern European countries that have been building resiliency and doing the inoculation work for a greater period of time, where I think that we can really look to some programs that could provide some instructive lessons for us in terms of best practices.
Now, there’s always limitations on what translates from one context to another. Not everything that works in one country is going to work in another, so it’s also important that we understand the variables, but I do think that there’s some really important lessons, but I think it does mean, just to respond to two of the other comments that were made, it really does go to why I think we have to be looking at the education and cultural elements of our public diplomacy toolkit in a really robust fashion in this context, but I’m not sure if it’s surface enough. I think we just think about messaging, messaging, messaging too much. It’s not that messaging isn’t important, but the resiliency piece, the inoculation piece, the ensuring that populations are better able to withstand the incoming, that’s really got to come out of the other parts of the public diplomacy toolkit, and so I think that that’s really important as well.
Penne Korth Peacock: I would like to add to that, just we don’t always sit up here at a front table. We travel a lot, and what we have found most recently it’s universal as American Spaces. You were wondering how the young people were going to learn technology or speak English. Inevitably, it is a wonderful thing, and they try and knock it out of State a lot, but some people like the Ukraine are overdone on it, but that’s okay for what they’re doing and going through now, and some people are underdoing it or have been canceled from American Spaces, but there they get everything about America. They get people who love our country, and they go there from a very young age to a very old age, so as long as that stays there and American Spaces are available to people in other countries, it’s very important.
Shawn Powers: We visited an American space with Ambassador Peacock in Kyiv in June. It was maybe 1:00 in the afternoon on a Tuesday, and this place was hopping, I mean truly hopping in a way that was very impressive, and they have really cool programming and they teach all sorts of technological tools, 3D printing, lots of good stuff.
We’ve got time for maybe one more question. In the back. Lynne please.
Lynne Weil: Thank you, and thanks both to the Commission members and to Laura for this incredibly important and interesting conversation. Congratulations Shawn and your team for this report. It is an enhanced addition of what had come before and will be a really useful tool, speaking now again as a member of a staff on Capitol Hill, I know it’ll be spread around our office, into other offices and read.
Laura had made the point that appropriators are especially important in strengthening public diplomacy, and the Commission is making the point about authorizing authority. This is an opportune time to speak to authorizers, not necessarily appropriators who are trying to get a budget done, but briefings on an individual basis are key, and if you haven’t thought of it already, and maybe you have, there’s a new nominee for R who has nothing but time on his hands right now with respect to the briefing up process and can’t consult with outsiders. But given the State Department’s relationship with the Commission, this would be a great time to speak with him about that.
Shawn Powers: That’s a great idea. Thank you so much.
The White House announced the intent to nominate Steve Goldstein to be the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy. Thank you. I’d like to invite Mr. Bill Hybl to come up and offer some concluding remarks.
Bill Hybl: Thanks, Shawn. You know, the Commission wants to thank you and the staff for the great work that you’ve done, and I think Laura – great presentation today. I think that energizes all of us. The fact is that as we look forward, this is public diplomacy and its importance is a continuing effort. It’s not one that we didn’t have before, but it’s one that has new challenges, new nuances to what is being done. We’ll be having our next meeting in December, and we want to thank all of you for being here today and in the future as we meet four times a year. We want to encourage you to join us. The fact is that this sort of understanding, and this isn’t an easy issue … You get a one-line definition of public diplomacy. That certainly doesn’t meet the criteria of understanding and moving forward in a credible way. Thank you for being here. I think it’s been helpful today, and one of the things that we try to do is be helpful for your schedule and conclude before the assigned time of 12 noon. Thank you all for joining us.