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A Blog on Understanding, Informing, Empowering, and Influencing Global Publics, published by Matt Armstrong

The President’s National Framework for Strategic Communication (and Public Diplomacy) for 2012

It should be common knowledge that the “information consequences of policy ought always be taken into account, and the information man ought always to be consulted. This statement, from 1951, is reflected in Eisenhower’s dictum of the next year that “everything we say, everything we do, and everything we fail to say or do will have its impact in other lands.” It was understood then that words and deeds needed more than just synchronization: public opinion could be leveraged to support and further the execution of foreign policy.

What was true then is more so in a modern communication environment of empowerment. The interconnected systems of Now Media, spanning offline and online mediums, democratizes influence, and undermines traditional models of identity and allegiance as demands on assimilation fade as “hyphens” become commas. What emerges is a new marketplace for loyalty that bypasses traditional barriers of time, geography, authority, hierarchy, culture, and language. Information flows much faster; at times it is instantaneous, decreasing the time allowed to digest and comprehend the information, let alone respond to it. Further, information is now persistent, allowing for time-shifted consumption and reuse, for ill or for good. People too can travel the globe with greater ease and increased speed.

It is in this evolving environment that the President issued an updated “National Framework for Strategic Communication” for 2012 (3.8mb PDF, note: the PDF has been fixed and should be once again visible to all). This report updates the 2010 report issued last March that was little more than a narrative on how the Government was organized for strategic communication. The report is required under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2009.

Some highlights from the 2012 Framework:
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Ambassador George Venable Allen, Smith-Mundt, and the Voice of America

George Allen served as the State Department’s third Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, following William Benton and Archibald MacLeish.  MacLeish, the former Librarian of Congress, was the first office holder, when it was known as the Assistant Secretary of State in charge of Public and Cultural Relations.  Benton changed the title to simply “Public Affairs.”  Throughout, however, the role was fundamentally the modern equivalent to the combined responsibilities of the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy (and Public Affairs) and the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs.  The Assistant Secretary’s job would change several years later with the establishment of the United States Information Agency.  Allen’s comments on the purpose, and temporary nature, of the Voice of America are enlightening, especially in the modern context of the Smith-Mundt Act.

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Public Diplomacy: Books, Articles, Websites #60

This list, #60 dated March 2, 2012, is periodically produced and distributed by Bruce Gregory, Professor of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University.  It is a necessary and thoughtful review of resources for teachers and students, practitioners and policy makers of public diplomacy and related courses and activities.  Bruce welcomes suggestions for future updates.

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Event: Global Reach: Innovative Communication for a New Diplomacy

Readers may be interested in an upcoming discussion with the French on their perspective of diplomacy in the modern communication environment.  Global Reach: Innovative Communication for a New Diplomacy with Bernard Valero, Spokesman, Head of the Press and Communication Office, Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, Embassy of France, will take place Thursday, Friday 23, at 10:30am – Noon at 1717 Massachusetts Ave NW in Washington (the Johns Hopkins DC Center).

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Beijing makes its voice heard: CCTV expands in the U.S.

 

The FT today reports on the continuing expansion of China’s CCTV in the United States. “China has started to serve US citizens its own side of the story with CCTV America,” writes the FT’s reporter.

CCTV America, from its studio in Washington, D.C., is part of Beijing’s outreach of telling its own story through its own voice.  The expansion has been dramatic and expensive.  They are covering stories of Chinese interest that are not covered by Western media or not covered in a way the Chinese want.  Such is the purpose and advantage of Government International Broadcasting.

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“An inch closer feels like a good mile” – Foreign Relations moves on Tara’s nomination

Today’s business meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee includes Tara Sonenshine, nominee for Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy (and Public Affairs).  While perfunctory and the time spent on Tara and her cohort will be measured in single-digit minutes (all the real work is done before the business meeting), it is a major move toward confirmation.

Indeed, by the time you read this, Tara’s nomination was already referred to the floor.  Next up: confirmation by the Senate.

How long will the Senate take confirm Tara?  No one knows.  The Senate has all but come to a halt on nominations, allowing only a few through.  One insider labeled the GOP hold on nominations as the “How-Dare-the-President-Make-SoCalled-Recess-Appointments Hold.”

The State Department, in a show of its confidence in the Senate last week, named Amb. Kathleenn Stephens as Acting Under Secretary.  Amb. Stephens, by the way, is a good choice, a Foreign Service Officer with the rank of Career Minister, whose service as U/S will undoubtedly be impacted by the unknown of how long she will serve, an unfortunate and common reality of this particular job.  Place your bets: Will she serve until the election, or beyond, or until the end of the month?

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Amb. Kathleen Stephens named Acting Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy (and Public Affairs)

From the State Department:

The Secretary announces that President Obama has designated Ambassador D. Kathleen Stephens as the Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs pending the Senate’s confirmation of the President’s nominee, Tara Sonenshine. Ambassador Stephens will begin work on February 6, 2012, and will exercise all of the authorities of the office for the duration of this designation.

Tara’s nomination remains in limbo as we wait for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to refer her to the floor.  Maybe there will be a business meeting next week to move her to the next step, along with several Ambassadorial nominees.  However, the real challenge is not the Committee but the floor of the Senate where the general sense is few if any confirmations will be allowed in the current less-than-bipartisan environment.  Hence, the appointment of Stephens as Acting Under Secretary.

Amb. Stephens was most recently the U.S. Ambassador to South Korea.

For more on the unencumbered Under Secretary of Public Diplomacy (and Public Affairs), see “R we there yet? A look at the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy (and Public Affairs).”  Unless there is some surprise in the Senate, perhaps a Valentine’s Day gift (to both Tara to give her the office and Amb. Stephens to relieve her of it), this Under Secretary position will have been empty, or not encumbered by person confirmed by the Senate to the position, for 1 out of every 3 days since the position was established in 1999.  The question will be how much more than 1/3 the time will the seat be vacant (no slight to Amb. Stephens intended)?

Note: Amb. Stephens’s bio at state.gov hasn’t been updated in a while.  In fact, “outofdate” is actually in the current URL of her bio: http://www.state.gov/outofdate/bios/109797.htm

Behavioral Economics Go to War: reviewing Behavioural Conflict, Why Understanding People and their Motivations Will Prove Decisive in Future Conflict

By Amy Zalman

Review of Behavioural Conflict, Why Understanding People and their Motivations Will Prove Decisive in Future Conflict, by Andrew Mackey and Steve Tatham

I cannot think of any books about warfare’s future that come across as hard-hitting, full of actionable pragmatism, and deeply humane all at the same time.  But Behavioral Conflict: Why Understanding People and their Motivations will Prove Decisive in Future Conflict is all three.  The authors, both career members of the British military, Major General Andres Mackey (Ret) and Royal Navy Commander Steve Tatham (who I count as a friend, having met him in Ankara a few years ago), make their case by drawing on a combination of their own experience, case studies and close analysis of how communication actually factors in war.

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R we to have a new “acting” Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy (and Public Affairs)?

There’s word there will be a new “acting” Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy (and Public Affairs) as early as next week.  The current “acting” for R, as it is known at Foggy Bottom, is Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Ann Stock.  I have not heard a single negative comment on Ann’s leadership while the “acting” U/S, except for early concerns she’d pay less attention to ECA.  However, I’ve also heard no complaints about the “acting” leader of ECA in Ann’s “absence,” Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary Adam Ereli.

So what is the reason for replacing Ann? Continue reading “R we to have a new “acting” Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy (and Public Affairs)?” »