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A History of the Merger of the Bureaus of Public Affairs and International Information Programs

Our ability to communicate American foreign policy and values around the world is absolutely core to our success at the State Department. This critical change and evolution within our public diplomacy operation will ensure we deliver on that mission in the 21st century.

Michael R. PompeoSecretary of State

The May 2019 merger of the Bureaus of Public Affairs (PA) and International Information Programs (IIP), conceptualized and led by PA Assistant Secretary Michelle Giuda in partnership with IIP Acting Coordinator Nicole Chulick, was the largest restructuring at the State Department in 20 years. Its purpose was to create a global, integrated communications operation – now known as the Bureau of Global Public Affairs (GPA) – that effectively engages the world on behalf of the United States in a fast-changing digital, technology, and media environment.

The History of PA and IIP:  Partners in Communication to U.S. and Foreign Audiences

PA was established in 1944 to provide Americans with greater information about the nation’s foreign policy. PA engaged domestic and international media and the American public to communicate official U.S. foreign policy, further U.S. national security interests, and broaden understanding of American values.

IIP was established as a separate bureau within the Department of State following the 1999 merger of the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) and the Department following the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998. IIP supported people-to-people conversations and other engagement with foreign audiences on U.S. policy priorities and values through traditional and emerging platforms.

The Case for GPA

The first two decades of the 21st century brought dramatic changes in the media, technology, and communications landscape, accelerating the speed and scale of information around the world as well as a proliferation of media platforms.  With the urgent need to communicate on U.S. foreign policy and values at the tempo of modern diplomacy, it was a necessary and natural evolution to merge PA and IIP to integrate needed capabilities, communicate effectively in the digital world, increase collaboration and impact, and deliver on U.S. communications objectives both foreign and domestic.

We’ve got an increasingly complex communications landscape. Same thing when it comes to foreign policy. And we have to be able to adapt, to lead, to thrive and communicate American values and American foreign policy in that type of environment.

Michelle S. GiudaAssistant Secretary

Enhancing Public Diplomacy and Communications for the 21st Century

In the summer of 2018, a task force of PA and IIP colleagues collaborated with bureaus and offices Department-wide to design a proposal for the new merged bureau. Extensive consultation with Congress as well as key leaders and organizations both inside and outside of the Department continued throughout 2018 and early 2019. Following State Department approval and congressional notification, the new Bureau of Global Public Affairs became a reality in May 2019.

File - The Harry S. Truman Building, headquarters for the State Department, is seen in Washington, in this March 9, 2009 file photo. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)Then and Now: U.S. Secretaries of State
Reach Out to the World

GPA is led by an Assistant Secretary and includes the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Department Spokesperson, and Deputy Assistant Secretaries. The bureau focuses on communicating American foreign policy and values to audiences in the U.S. and internationally through integrated capabilities:

  • rigorous data, research, insights, and analytics
  • creative content production and design
  • social and digital media strategy, including exploration of emerging platforms
  • worldwide employee communications
  • U.S. and international media strategy; including six regional media hubs in Brussels, Dubai, Johannesburg, London, Miami, Manila; and two Foreign Press Centers in New York and Washington, D.C.

As part of the merger, several entities from PA and IIP not aligned with GPA’s core communications capabilities transitioned to key areas of the Department to better achieve their mission:

  • American Spaces, the U.S. Speaker Program, and TechCamps joined ECA from IIP to bring together people-to-people functions;
  • Regional and functional policy liaisons, judicial liaison, networks team, and the Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy Secretariat moved from IIP to R/PPR along with the U.S. Diplomacy Center from PA to consolidate strategic planning, capacity development, and ensure public diplomacy resources align with policy priorities; and
  • the Office of the Historian joined the Foreign Service Institute from PA to integrate the Department’s research and historical resources.

The moves would affect more than 500 positions across five Department bureaus or offices and count as the largest restructuring at the State Department in 20 years.

U.S. Department of State

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