In a world with increasingly complex political and security challenges, bridging the gap between diplomacy and defense is of vital importance to U.S. foreign policy. Global issues are increasingly interconnected and cross-cutting, with both political and military aspects, making it more important than ever to have an agile, adaptable approach to foreign policy that can quickly adjust to changing circumstances.
That is where the work of the State Department’s Foreign Policy Advisors (POLADs) is invaluable. Timothy Betts, Acting Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs recently congratulated Andrew Ou, the Deputy POLAD to the Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), and Kanishka Gangopadhyay, a POLAD at U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), on behalf of the Department and the American people for their hard work and dedicated service as recipients of the 2021 Robert D. Murphy Foreign Policy Advisor of the Year Award.
The State Department has assigned over 75 POLADs to mid- to senior-level positions in the Department of Defense (DOD) from the Office of the Secretary of Defense to each Geographic Combatant Command, with about one third serving in overseas assignments. POLADs help to bring a State Department perspective to military operations and ensure that commanders and other military staff benefit from the diplomatic expertise of Foreign Service Officers.
During Andrew’s extended service to INDOPACOM, he demonstrated exemplary policy expertise and interpersonal acumen, providing cogent analysis and timely guidance to the four-star Commander and three- and two-star leadership through multiple geopolitical crises. His performance would have been impressive in normal times at this vast Command, but the fact that it occurred during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic make it truly extraordinary. Andrew stepped up to serve as Senior POLAD to the four-star Indo-Pacific Command when the incumbent unexpectedly retired. His contributions to Indo-Pacific Command as acting senior POLAD contributed to enhanced coordination between the State Department and DOD and advanced key policy objectives across this vital region.
Kanishka was recognized as the mid-level POLAD of the year for his efforts to enable full integration of foreign policy considerations into all AFRICOM’s public messaging. Thanks to these efforts, AFRICOM is a public affairs leader among the Department of Defense’s geographic combatant commands, with foreign audiences and domestic audiences seeing AFRICOM and the State Department speaking with one voice.
Kanishka’s efforts have had positive impacts in AFRICOM’s work with both new and more established partners. When dramatic changes in U.S. policy toward Sudan opened the opportunity for engagement with AFRICOM, he ensured that public statements during visits to Sudan by senior AFRICOM leadership supported the top U.S. government diplomatic goal of emphasizing civilian control of the military. He also helped shape messages on high-level engagements by AFRICOM’s Commanding General and the U.S. Navy in Kenya around our shared commitment to fighting terrorism, making it clear that the United States sees Kenya as an equal, sovereign partner.
Beyond advancing national security goals, the POLAD experience has also improved Kanishka’s skills as a diplomat and national security professional. “I came into this tour with virtually no experience in how the Defense Department or our combatant commands operate,” he said. “Serving as a POLAD has broadened my perspective on how we solve critical national security problems. Defense and diplomacy work best when we work together.”
Established in 2012, the Robert D. Murphy Foreign Policy Advisor of the Year Award recognize the contributions made by individual POLADs during their assignments to Department of Defense commands and offices worldwide. The award is named after the first POLAD, Robert D. Murphy, who advised General Dwight D. Eisenhower during World War II. The award criteria include sustained superior performance which significantly enhanced relationships or the partnerships between the State Department and the Department of Defense; effective interagency engagement ensured the POLAD’s respective command’s exercises and activities promoted U.S. government foreign policy goals and objectives; and any action or contribution on a political-military issue with a direct, positive impact on U.S. national security.
About the Author: Brooke Leader serves as the Speechwriter in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Office of Congressional and Public Affairs. For further information, please contact PM-CPA@state.gov, and follow us on Twitter @StateDeptPM.