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

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

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)?” »

R we there yet? A look at the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy (and Public Affairs)

What is the role of the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs?  That has been an enduring question of the State Department, the Defense Department, National Security Staff, the Congress and the many others interested in America’s efforts to understand, inform, and influence global audiences.  Established thirteen years ago to manage many of the activities formerly run by the abolished United States Information Agency (USIA), its role within State and with other agencies across Government has been subject to reinterpretation nearly every time there was a new Under Secretary.

The last report of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy looked at the turnover in the position of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.  The Commission found that the position has been unfilled for over 30% of the time since it was established.  Moreover, the average tenure of the six Under Secretaries since 1999 was about 500 days.  Indeed today, the office remains unencumbered since June 30, 2011, while Tara Sonenshine awaits confirmation by the Senate.  The office is never “vacant” as there is always a someone in an “acting” capacity.  Today, Assistant Secretary Ann Stock runs the office in lieu of a confirmed Under Secretary.

The Commission compared the tenure of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs with two peers: the Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs (as of January 1, 2012, known as the Under Secretary for Civil Security, Democracy, and Human Rights) and the Under Secretary for Political Affairs.  The differences in tenure length and gaps in tenure is stark.

Continue reading “R we there yet? A look at the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy (and Public Affairs)” »

Mid-Week Quote: “information consequences of policy ought always be taken into account”

Today’s quote comes from the Fourth Semiannual Report of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Information, submitted to the Congress in April 1951.

Sometimes policy is “made” by the junior officer who writes an original memorandum. Sometimes it is made by an unexpected utterance at a top-level press conference. But the information consequences of policy ought always be taken into account, and the information man ought always to be consulted.

The Mid-Week Quote will be a recurring feature of the blog, although it may not appear every week.  Email me to suggest a quote.  See below for more on the report this quote is taken from.

Continue reading “Mid-Week Quote: “information consequences of policy ought always be taken into account”” »

Civilian Response Corps: Smart Power in Action

imageThe Civilian Response Corps has a website: http://www.civilianresponsecorps.gov/. From the about page:

The Civilian Response Corps is a group of civilian federal employees who are specially trained and equipped to deploy rapidly to provide reconstruction and stabilization assistance to countries in crisis or emerging from conflict. The Corps leverages the diverse talents, expertise, and technical skills of members from nine federal departments and agencies for conflict prevention and stabilization.

We are diplomats, development specialists, public health officials, law enforcement and corrections officers, engineers, economists, lawyers and others who help fragile states restore stability and rule of law and achieve economic recovery as quickly as possible.

Visit the site and check it out. See the below links for previous discussions on CRC and the State Department Coordinator for Reconstruction & Stabilization (S/CRS):

U.S. “Hedge Fund” Diplomacy in Egypt

By Michael Clauser

Like many Americans, I am conflicted about recent events in Egypt and even more so about what the U.S. government should do.

On one hand, the United States has an immediate interest in the stability of Egypt and its government–and not just to keep the peace in the Middle East or secure the two million barrels of oil that pass through the Suez Canal every day.  But also because ditching a longtime U.S. ally like Hosni Mubarak at his moment of need does not send a reassuring message to other embattled pro-American leaders in unstable countries.  Especially when you consider what type of leader may be waiting in the wings in Egypt or elsewhere in the world.

Continue reading “U.S. “Hedge Fund” Diplomacy in Egypt” »

Revamping Public Diplomacy at the State Department (updated)

imageSince the abolishment of the United States Information Agency, the State Department has struggled to balance the need of the embassies with what Washington perceived was needed. This challenge has been particularly acute on the Internet where the resulting mix of information and voices can undermine the very purpose and effectiveness of engagement.

On January 28, I spoke with Dawn McCall, Coordinator for the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP), to discuss the recently announced reorganization of the Bureau. IIP is responsible for developing and disseminating printed material, online information and engagement efforts, and speaker’s programs (a kind of offline engagement using subject matter experts). It is half of the operational capability of the Office of the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs to engage people outside of the United States.

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) completes the other half of the Under Secretary’s toolbox. While most observers like to imagine (or don’t know better) that U.S. public diplomacy is a monolith, the reality is that these two offices are the Under Secretary’s only direct reports. Other cogs in the public diplomacy machine exist within – and report to – the geographic bureaus (such as Western Hemisphere Affairs, European and Eurasian Affairs, and Near Eastern Affairs) and posts in the field.

Continue reading “Revamping Public Diplomacy at the State Department (updated)” »

Pop Quiz: identify the author or the name of the report and win an Amazon Gift Card

The problem with history, I’m told Mark Twain said, is that it repeats. Be the first to identify the source of the following statement and I’ll email you a $10 gift card Amazon.com. Answers must be submitted in the comments of this post. You may answer anonymously, but if you want the gift card, I’ll need your email. Email addresses entered into the appropriate comment field are not public. This contest closes Wednesday, 19 January, at 8a PT. I have sole discretion in judging the contest. This contest is closed.

Here’s the quote:

The adequacy with which the United States as a society is portrayed to the other peoples of the world is a matter of concern to the American people and their Government. Specifically it concerns the Department of State. Modern international relations lie between peoples, not merely governments. Statements on foreign policy are intelligible abroad in the spirit in which they are intended only when other peoples understand the context of national tradition and character which is essential to the meaning of any statement. This is especially true of a collaborative foreign policy which by nature must be open and popular, understood and accepted at home and abroad.

The full answer and the context will be posted when either a winning entry has been submitted or the contest closed. Good luck. I believe this will be more challenging than the first contest, which was won in less than 40 minutes. Good luck.

Revisiting the Civilian Response Corps

The Small Wars Journal recently published a paper from Mike Clauser, a friend who was until recently on the staff of Rep. Mac Thornberry, Republican from Texas (no, his departure was unrelated to the paper). The paper, entitled “Not Just a Job, an Adventure: Drafting the U.S. Civil Service for Counterinsurgencies,” is an interesting recommendation to fill the empty billets of the Civilian Response Corps.

In 2007 and 2008, I wrote several posts on the Reserve Corps concept and on the State Department’s Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS), including one for Small Wars Journal entitled “In-sourcing Stabilization and Reconstruction” (and posted on MountainRunner here). I also met with now-retired Amb. John Herbst, who headed S/CRS, several times to discuss S/CRS, the Reserve Corps ideas and other topics. So this is an issue I’ve delved into, at least at the conceptual level.

Continue reading “Revisiting the Civilian Response Corps” »