Wanted: an Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy

Wanted: a senior manager that can hit the ground running to build an “influence enterprise.” This person must be deeply familiar with the cultures of both the State and Defense Departments. A proven track record in leading and managing interagency processes across the whole of government as well as private-public partnerships is a must. Ability to be a spokesperson is a plus but not required.

Continue reading “Wanted: an Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy

Recommended Reading While I’m Offline for a Few Days

I’ll be at a weekend retreat discussing public diplomacy, so no posting until Sunday night at the earliest. Enjoy your weekend and be sure to catch (and comment on) these posts:

And in the spirit of P.W. Singer’s excellent book, Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century, that deserves a review post here, a look back at some of my posts on the subject for your entertainment:

And if you want still more on unmanned warfare, check out ACORN.

Three more books worth mentioning are:

Continue reading “Recommended Reading While I’m Offline for a Few Days

As I approaches 0, ROI approaches infinity

Very briefly, here’s a mind-blower for you: As I (Investment) approaches 0 (zero), ROI (Return on Investment) approaches infinity. Ok, maybe it’s not such a revelation but the cost of broadcasting/narrowcasting activities are decreasing significantly, nearly to the virtually free cost to consume.

From Jim McGee at Fast Forward (a required reading blog):

At last week’s Blogwell 2 conference in Chicago, Lee Aase from the Mayo Clinic shared their efforts to use social media to continue to share the Clinic’s message with the existing extended community tightly and loosely surrounding them. The Mayo Clinic has built a worldwide reputation over the course of many decades. Fundamentally, that reputation is a function of word of mouth. That makes social media in all forms a natural fit for Mayo.

They are working across multiple fronts included a fan page on Facebook, multiple blogs, a YouTube channel, and Twitter. At the conference, Lee announced their most recent effort, Sharing Mayo Clinic, which is intended as a place to share people stories about the Clinic and to serve as a hub around which other social media efforts and coalesce.

i was struck by a number of things in Lee’s presentation and Mayo’s overall efforts. First and foremost was the value of simply diving in and learning from their experiences. Coupled with that was the additional leverage found in thinking systemically. The heart of their strategy here is to find and share the human stories connected to the Clinic every day. The technologies serve as multiple ways to get the story out and Lee and his team (which is much smaller than I would have predicted) are smart enough to not get in the way of those stories.

For example, although they are making extensive use of video in their storytelling, they are using the Flip Video Camcorder instead of a more complex (and intimidating) video set up. What they are learning is that the Flip provides good enough production values and doesn’t get in the way of the storytelling. I suspect that there’s more craft involved than Lee let on, but not so much that it is out of reach for any organization that’s willing to make a few mistakes in the early stages.

Lee closed with an intriguing observation about the value of Mayo’s investments in social media. Here’s how he put it:

As I approaches 0, ROI approaches infinity

I suspect that the average CFO would be a bit suspicious, but there’s an important point here. The financial investments in social media can start at zero and don’t need to get terribly far away. The real investments are in organizational time and attention and what Lee and others are demonstrating is that those costs are also readily manageable. Answering questions about ROI does not necessarily entail using a spreadsheet.

In other circles this is called asymmetric warfare and too often described as an unfair advantage agile and unencumbered insurgents and terrorists have over Big Government. No, it’s about realizing the requirements and advantages of the “now media” environment that affects the struggle for minds and wills. It can mean building passive support (community support for a local institution manifested as pride or social support of an action) or active support (voting for municipal bonds to picking up a weapon).

The dissemination and consumption of information is cheap but the impact is priceless.

China and Public Diplomacy

Briefly, China is actively expanding into the world and has been for several years. Here’s a quick look at a few examples of China reaching out to improve their image and gain expeditionary experience.

We have the Mercy and Comfort, the Chinese have the Ship 866. From David Axe’s post at Danger Room last year:

[In October 2008], the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) accepted its first purpose-built floating hospital, the 10,000-ton "Ship 866." While seemingly innocuous on the surface, ships like this are windows into an evolving military strategy for an emerging world power. Hospital ships can be used for a wide range of missions, from supporting full-scale amphibious assaults against heavily defended targets, to humanitarian "soft-power" expeditions winning hearts and minds.

And Ship 866 returns to the news this week in The Washington Times, China tries ‘soft power’ with aid ship:

Ship 866 makes "the country one of the few in the world that has medical care and emergency rescue capabilities on the high seas while also raising the capability of the Chinese navy to accomplish diversified military missions," the Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily said recently.

Last week, China organized a “fifth peacekeeping team for Sudan”:

The team comprises 375 officers and soldiers who come from engineering and transportation corps of the Jinan Military Command Area. Of the team, 72 people will be on their second mission to the African country and 90 percent have participated in fighting against freak winter weather and the Wenchuan earthquake.

In 2005, China was the 15th largest contributor of forces, moving earlier this year to 12th, helped no doubt by increasing its contribution to 1,000 in Lebanon in 2006 to raise its profile in both the Middle East and Europe. In all likelihood, China moved up in 2008, but I haven’t looked. See also Who are the UN Peacekeepers? 

And then in January 2006, China announced a public diplomacy strategy for Africa:

China, the largest developing country in the world, follows the path of peaceful development and pursues an independent foreign policy of peace. China stands ready to develop friendly relations and cooperation with all countries on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence so as to contribute to peace, stability and common prosperity around the world.

See also:

Twittering White House Press Briefings

E&P is reporting some user-generated content during White House briefings. No, not the standing user, the sitting users:

Gibbsx A lot has changed since the days of Ari, Scotty and Dana — and not just the arrival of Obama and Robert Gibbs.  Chris Cillizza, the ace Wash Post political "Fix" blogger, started twittering or live-tweeting or whatever you call, the daily press briefings today.  Here are a few samples:

–"Stimulative" sounds dirty…it isn’t, but it sounds that way.

— Gibbs…heading into the 40th minute…Fix dreaming of a trip to "Breadline" shortly.

— Helen Thomas goes with the Afghanistan question. Direct!

Could be interesting to follow these…

What about the State Department YouTube channel Sean McCormack started? Well, a slew of videos talking about careers in the State Department were uploaded to it on January 20. Otherwise, no word on Briefing 2.0.

Book: Threats in the Age of Obama


Previously posted January 22; this post is updated with a new Amazon link.

Congratulations to real-life friend Mike Tanji on editing his first book. It is listed on Amazon here

From Mike’s introduction:

No author here has been a cabinet officer and none is likely to be one, which gives us a considerable amount of freedom. No one here has to face scrutiny on Capitol Hill, which makes our jobs much easier; but by the same token none of us are beholden to parties or institutions with ulterior motives, nor are we playing our cards in a fashion designed to net us comfortable situations. If you are on a mission to change the way government works, particularly in the national security arena, this is one of the few places where some independent thinking is to be found. It is with that in mind that we offer our view of some of the more pressing threats the Obama administration will have to deal with in these early days of the 21st century.

Author list and an excerpt from my chapter are below the fold.

Continue reading “Book: Threats in the Age of Obama

Public Diplomacy is not Public Relations

To say that the inauguration of President Barack Obama is an opportunity to change the trajectory of America’s global influence and leadership is an understatement. We are, in fact, at a pivotal course change potentially more impactful than any in our history. While it is widely acknowledged that our future course will be shaped by our new President’s words and his actions, the means to ensure and protect the impact of both remain unclear.

In his inaugural address, the President acknowledged the power of public opinion in the conduct and success of our global affairs as he recalled that the defense against communism relied on more than the hard power of the military. “Power alone,” the President said, “cannot protect us nor does it entitle us to do as we please.” The “sturdy alliances” that created and enhanced our security and prosperity were forged by successes in the struggle for minds and wills against a subversive enemy whose primary weapons were not bullets and bombs but ideas and false promises of the future. The United States responded to this “war of ideology” with what was then simply public affairs. There were the “fast” communications of radio broadcasts and movie and newspaper and magazine distribution and “slow” engagement that included cultural presentations and educational exchanges, all of which supported a smart foreign policy that foreign publics could understand, accept, and support.

But over time, the struggle for minds and wills was discounted and even ignored as we supported anybody who was the enemy of our enemy. There was a shift away from a foreign policy that could stand on its own. Foreign aid became a political weapon not a tool to engage people through capacity building and the development of prosperous societies but supporting governments as the struggle shifted from the people to state-against-state. The view from Washington was that our information activities no longer needed to assist foreign policy by promoting it and protecting it from the misinformation and distortions of our adversaries, but to change the subject or to sugar-coat unpopular activities.

The vainglorious policies of the early Bush Administration reflected the utter failure to understand battleground dominated by our adversaries, primarily but not exclusively Al-Qaeda. Our inability to re-adapt to the struggle for minds and wills left open the field to more adversaries blinded us to the importance of understanding solutions as fundamental as trash collection in counterinsurgency.

The derogative view of public opinion in international politics was reflected in the 2004 presidential election the mere suggestion that public opinion should be considered in the formulation of our foreign policy was decried as surrendering sovereignty. America’s “public diplomacy” was, until at least 2008, focused on changing the subject and hoping people would ignore today and focus on the future, both of which were unsurprising failures.

Today, we have an opportunity to reestablish public diplomacy as the tool of national security it must be. The promised sea-change in our foreign policy and the return of the United States to a position of global leadership will not come from deeds alone. What we say and what we do must be synchronized lest the gap between the two becomes exploited by our increasingly adroit adversaries even if what we do is right.

While our national security is dependent on shared goals and convictions with people around the world, we cannot rely on merely who we are and what we say we stand for. This is more than the intelligent use of power. It is about understanding the world around us. We must exercise on a global scale that fundamental principle of democratic leadership: understanding and marshaling public opinion. It is naïve to think that passive access to information about our actions will be the necessary catalyst for action. Likewise, we cannot rely on hard power to create a peaceful environment. Just as we cannot, nor could we ever, “kill our way to victory,” we cannot talk our way to peace.

Public diplomacy is not about changing public opinion unilaterally, but the proactive engagement of global audiences in support of a foreign policy that will stand alone and influence public opinion positively. Public diplomacy must be redefined not as a tool of simply promoting ideas and values but as a critical element of America’s national security based on the direct and indirect engagement of foreign publics, states, and nonstate actors.

It has been over seven years since Richard Holbrooke asked how “can a man in a cave out-communicate the world’s leading communications society” and yet Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates continues to ask essentially the same question. The shortcoming was, as Holbrooke said later in his 2001 editorial, the “apparent initial failure of our message and the inadequacy of our messengers.” The inadequacy of our messengers remains today as our global outreach remains underfunded, poorly structured and underutilized.

We can and should, as the President extolled in his inauguration speech, “do our business in the light of day.” The United States is uniquely positioned in the global struggle for minds and wills to let our foreign policies stand on their own as they will be, or rather should, just and right.

The President and Secretary of State must reform the State Department to be relevant in today’s global “now media” environment. Even “traditional diplomacy” has a strong public awareness and enlistment component. Working with the rest of Government and Congress to empower and equip its Public Diplomacy bureau, the revamped Global Engagement Bureau must coordinate interagency activities and inform everyone from policymakers in Washington to American media and the public to the people of the village of the President’s father in Kenya to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan.

Bold leadership that understands, and can work with, the interagency and inter-tribal processes is necessary. Just as important is working with Congress for funding and tasking. The State Department must become a hub of innovation that implements, trains, and coordinates with the rest of the government. This path requires revamping the incentive structure, breaking from zero-tolerance of informational errors, introducing the military concept of “commander’s intent,” and educating, empowering, encouraging, and equipping all of the State Department of the “now” and ubiquitous global information environment.

If not State then who? It must be the State Department lest it become irrelevant tomorrow as it nearly is today. I wrote a book chapter in 2007 that opened with the sentence “American public diplomacy wears combat boots.” It was a statement of unfortunate fact. If we are to reverse this and have the State Department lead, a situation that the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and nearly everybody in the military who works in information operations and Psychological Operations wants, then the State Department must not look at public diplomacy as public relations but as a core mission of the Department. 

The power to engage global audiences is a national security imperative and must not be a mere tool of public relations. To ignore the critical components in the global struggle of minds and wills is to put our national security at risk. The “justness of our cause” must be aggressively and proactively positioned with the peoples around the world or we surrender the narrative of our actions and intentions to others.

See also:

DipNote and FP

Josh Keating at Foreign Policy noted the revamp of the State.gov website yesterday. He also noted who wasn’t on State’s blogroll.

I also can’t help notice the conspicuous absence of Passport (or any of the new FP blogs) from Dipnote’s new blogroll. The previous editors were nice enough toa dd us after some cajoling. I’m not sure if we were removed before or after the changeover.

MountainRunner has been on DipNote since nearly day one, but I can’t help but notice that MountainRunner is “conspicuously absent” from FP’s blogroll.

A government of, by, and for the people that informs the people

The Obama Administration continues the technology revolution. From a press release from one of my favorite “now media” companies, Newsgator:

The Federal government today announced the availability of breaking news and information RSS feeds on the award winning USA.gov website managed by U.S. General Service Administration’s Office of Citizen Services. With a long history of providing electronic access to government information through the Web, the USA.gov site is delivering on a commitment to streamline and simplify access so that the public no longer has to scour a vast array of government sponsored websites to learn what is new in their areas of interest.

The new service (http://news.usa.gov/), powered by NewsGator, lets anyone subscribe to “really simple syndication” (RSS) feeds on USA.gov, the U.S. government’s official portal, and receive news and information in industry standard feed readers, many available for free, just as it is posted by editorial staff. Alternatively, web visitors can bookmark the Web site in their browser.

Users can subscribe to RSS feeds from any or all of the following categories:

   – Agriculture 
   – Environment and Energy
   – Business and Economics 
   – Family, Home and Community
   – Consumer News and Recalls 
   – Health and Nutrition
   – Defense and International 
   – Public Safety and Law
   – Education and Employment 
   – Science and Technology
   – General Gov and Reference 
   – All Categories

Read the whole press release here or check out Newsgator technology powering USA.gov information dissemination here.

A government of the people, by the people, and for the people should be transparent. Increasing transparency in domestic programs is important. Why not do the same in foreign affairs? State.gov, DipNote, and America.gov should adopt similar technologies. In fact, I’d wager that the cost to do so would be minimal based on how I expect the USA.gov contract is worded based on my experience of connecting “R” with a USG-available service paid for by another Department.

Disclosure of sorts: I’ve been a Newsgator customer for several years using their RSS reader apps to managing MountainRunner’s blog roll.

Smith-Mundt Symposium in the Blogosphere +

The Smith-Mundt Symposium in the blogosphere and “formal” media.

VOA News Blog by Alex Belida (link)

VOA Director David Jackson, a panelist at the symposium, did make a couple of points we believe are worth repeating here. First of all, he stressed that all those working in the VOA headquarters in Washington are journalists. He said U.S. officials can “no more tell them what to write” than they can tell journalists at the Washington Post (newspaper) what to write.And he suggested that removal of the Smith-Mundt restrictions on VOA could help silence critics who claim the contents of VOA shows must be suspicious if the American people aren’t allowed to see them.

Intermap by Craig Hayden (link) ** REQUIRED READING **

Here are some basic takeaways:

1) The dissemination ban contained in the Smith-Mundt Act was for many an irrelevance.

2) The difference of perspective between what we might call “traditional” PD experts, usually from the ranks of the former USIA (retired or otherwise), and those charged with implementing new policies of public diplomacy.

Reliable Sources by Pat Kushlis (link)

A Rear Admiral on one of the panels admitted that the US military did not have and will not have in the near future anywhere near the number of language qualified troops needed to engage people overseas in their own languages. As a result, Uncle Sam relies on contractors to carry out the function. He later added that what was most important was that the Iraqis and the Afghans see what we do, not just rely on being told what to think.

Talking Smith-Mundt by Pat Kushlis (link)

State has just never “gotten” the importance of the information game – either at home or abroad. It’s not and never will be part of its “core diplomatic functions” so will always receive the short end of the stick. Secrecy and hierarchy are the rules of State’s road – and they’re so ingrained in the bureaucracy and its operation – that they just plain aren’t going to disappear.

Congressman to Propose Some Form of Update for Smith-Mundt Act by Fawzia Sheikh of Inside Defense (subscription only)

Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) plans to propose some form of update for the Smith-Mundt Act, a Cold War public diplomacy law, but many experts who spoke at a recent, related conference argued the current statute is not problematic and no more than minor tweaks should be made.

Two Agenda Items for Next Week’s Smith-Mundt Pow Wow by Steve Corman (link)

The SMA impairs domestic oversight.  In response to a “so what” question from Spencer Ackerman, the panelists pointed out that the SMA prevents proper oversight of U.S. strategic communication by those outside the government.  For example if the press has questions about specific overseas communication efforts, the State Department can’t answer them for fear of violating the SMA.

Getting Past Smith-Mundt by Craig Hayden (link)

George Clack related some humorous stories about how his department has to navigate around the prohibition in order to help US students who wish to use its resources to do school work, and offered two interesting observations. First, in response to a question from Patricia Kushlis of Whirled View – he worried that a removal of the dissemination ban might muddle the divisions between messages designed for foreign audiences, and those that already are released to explain policies to the American people. Basically, he argued that the U.S. needs to retain its capacity to tailor its publications and messages to specific audiences, and not have that process be subsumed by the production of domestic, political talking points. Second, he concluded that the future of U.S. diplomacy will be defined by the notion of “dialogue” – and that the Department of State should embrace Web 2.0 technologies such as Twitter and other social networking tools.

(not) Measuring the Now Media audience with Technorati

Measuring the audience in the Now Media environment is challenging. Accuracy in the virtual world is an abstract where a single “reader” may actually be an aggregator that services 0 to x readers. One solution has been to count the number of times a blog is referenced by other blogs.

Services like Technorati purport to determine authority by measuring gravitas through blog links. However, I’ve found Technorati to be dismal in this regard, especially in the last year as it ignores links from major to so not-so major blogs caught by Google Alerts. Pinging Technorati with urls that linked to MountainRunner were seemingly ignored.

It has gotten so bad that I simply do not trust Technorati to show me links or ‘authority’.

This issue becomes more prominent when network maps are based Technorati.

End rant.

And then there was one

It’s not surprising that now that HRC is confirmed as SecState that the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs gets much-deserved attention.WaPo’s Al Kamen let’s the word out on the top name in the game for Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, a name that’s been in play for a while.

Official Washington is abuzz with word that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is poised to tap a longtime friend and Democratic mega-donor as her undersecretary for public diplomacy. Judith A. McHale, one of the area’s most prominent female executives, who stepped down in 2006 as president of Discovery Communications, may take a job that has been especially difficult given Washington’s reputation abroad.

Her résumé doesn’t reflect an excess of diplomatic experience, but we’re reminded that this is a job that involves selling a message.

Kamen goes on about McHale’s fundraising, but the last sentence is the highlight. I’m not sure who is informing Kamen about the job, but he needs new advisors. I expect McHale won’t show the same ignorance of the purpose of public diplomacy.

See Clinton’s view of public diplomacy in her written answers to Senators Kerry and Lugar. See also my criteria for the Under Secretary.

Continue reading “And then there was one

Demonstration of “Now Media”

Very briefly, we need to stop thinking in terms of “new media” versus “old” or “traditional” media. It is “now media” and it matters very much in the global information environment. Below is required viewing for the Obama Administration’s quick reaction force, which must include blogs like DipNote, America.gov, and WhiteHouse.gov as well as DOD IO, PSYOP, and PA.

This isn’t crisis communication, but crisis awareness through Now Media…

H/T Hill & Knowlton’s Brendon Hodgson.

Also check out screen captures of various sites as the story developed below the fold.

Continue reading “Demonstration of “Now Media”

Q and A with pre-confirmation Secretary State Hillary Clinton (Updated)

Written Q&A between Senators Kerry and Lugar and presumed Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, are below.

In the Lugar Q&A, public diplomacy-related questions, including broadcasting (oddly listed as separate from public diplomacy), are on pages 84-87, questions 139-142. The original report is here. It is an image-only 102 page, 4mb PDF. I’ve uploaded a searchable version of the PDF here (warning 78mb PDF!, but it is searchable).

Senator Kerry’s Q&A with HRC is here and a searchable and bookmarked (for public diplomacy-related questions) version is here (72mb PDF). 

Excerpts from both are below the fold. Also, her testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations committee can be found here.

Continue reading “Q and A with pre-confirmation Secretary State Hillary Clinton (Updated)

Change @ .gov

Briefly, at the tick of 12:00 yesterday, our new President was sworn in. At the tock of 12:01, our President’s tech-savvy team went online with a new WhiteHouse.gov website that includes a blog. Actually, it’s not a blog, without the ability to comment it’s simply a fancy public announcement system masquerading as blog.

This change is reflected elsewhere: check out State.gov. Note the subtitle under “U.S. Department of State”: Diplomacy in Action. Also, note the prominent placement of DipNote on the homepage as well as the social media bookmark feature.

At “R”, the following is available:

The Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs leads America’s public diplomacy outreach, which includes communications with international audiences, cultural programming, academic grants, educational exchanges, international visitor programs, and U.S. Government efforts to confront ideological support for terrorism. The Under Secretary oversees the bureaus of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Public Affairs and International Information Programs, and participates in foreign policy development.

With no link to CitizensBriefingBook.Change.Gov, where “the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government” meets social media, it is likely that any future citizen-input solicited by the Government will primarily come from individual Departments and Agencies. By the way, the public diplomacy topic is here and has received what nothing in the way of professional contributions. 

For the techie in you, see also this post regarding the revised robots.txt file.

Symposium Transcripts: (former) Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Mike Doran

This PDF (72kb) is the second of six transcripts from the January 13, 2009, Smith-Mundt Symposium. This is the lunch time keynote by (former) Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Mike Doran. His comments are followed by an active question and answer session. Audio for this part of the Symposium can be download here (1 hour and 3 minutes, 15mb). My comments will follow in a forthcoming report.

Excerpt is below the fold.

Continue reading “Symposium Transcripts: (former) Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Mike Doran