Matt Armstrong's blog on public diplomacy, international journalism, and the struggle against propaganda

U.S. Public Diplomacy Commission

About the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy

The U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy was the only organization dedicated to the oversight of and advocacy for U.S. Government activities that “intend to understand, inform, and influence foreign publics. From 1948 – 2011, the Commission was charged with advising the President, the Secretary of State, and the Congress on how to make these activities more effective. In addition to its oversight function, the Commission was charged with increasing the understanding of and support for this engagement, whether called public diplomacy, public affairs, strategic communication, or something else.

Despite significant support in the Senate and the House, the Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy ceased operations on December 16, 2011, when the Congress failed to reauthorize its operations.

Official website of the Advisory Commission: http://state.gov/pdcommission

The Commission, as a federal advisory commission, was subject to a periodic renewal of its charter.  Since the late 1990’s, but the effectiveness and direction of the Commission waxed and waned, with few brights spots.

On March 28, 2011, Matt Armstrong became the last Executive Director at the Commission.  As the hub of an organization of part-time Presidential appointees, the Executive Director provides critical day-to-day management of the research and operations of the Commission.  The marginalized and disregarded office reestablished connections with the various stakeholders associated with the Government efforts to understand, inform, and influence foreign publics.

The makeover of the Commission’s operations was reflected in the new palette of written products from the Commission, as well as a new focus on short papers released more frequently to provide timely and relevant advice.  Also, the Commission increased the frequency and changed the format of its meetings to better the discourse about public diplomacy to not only better inform the Commissioners in their research but to create an informed community of interested practitioners and discussants.

This new approach to informing and engagement was based on the need to provide timely and actionable information to the President, the Secretary of State, and the Congress.

During the calendar year 2011, the Commission was operating under a Continuing Resolution from Congress that authorized the activities of the State Department and the Commission.

Senators Boxer (D-CA) and Lugar (R-IN) offered an amendment to authorize the Commission for two years, FY2012 and FY2013.  The reauthorization was blocked by one Senator.

For FY2011, the operational budget of the Commission was $135,065 / year.  There was one permanent staff, the Executive Director, one military advisor on loan from the Defense Department, two student interns, and the Commission was working on getting one or two Foreign Service Officers on “short tour” assignment. The funding of the Commission came from the State Department’s budget and not an appropriation from the Congress.

During 2011, the Advisory Commission website was expanded to include nearly all of the past reports (the exceptions being reports in the 1970s stored on microfiche that are now unreadable) and other resources. Please visit the Advisory Commission website at http://state.gov/pdcommission.