The Smith-Mundt Symposium

The 2009 Smith-Mundt Symposium was last night. The goal was to foster an interagency, inter-tribal, and cross-governmental discussion on the fundamentals of America’s global engagement. While the organizing principle was the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, it was really an act of subversion to have a discourse on shaping America’s discourse.

My desired outcome of the Symposium was not to generate new legislation, but to shake up the perceptions of what we are doing, how we are doing it, and why are doing it, “it” being global engagement, known in some tribes as “public diplomacy” and others as “strategic communication”. I believe that mission was accomplished.

Keynotes by Under Secretary Jim Glassman and now-Special Advisor (former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense) Mike Doran both included new ideas, which of course generated a lot of good questions (as all the questions were through the day), as well as some humor. 

The interest in the event was high. Over 260 people registered for the event. The final attendance was, I believe, more than 190. Due to the capacity of the venue, over twenty remained on the waiting list.

Two indicators that the event was useful to the audience was the surprisingly few empty seats at 5:30p and that many who had to leave actually came back to finish the day.

I’m not going to recapitulate the day’s events now, but I believe the variation on the panels and in the audience achieved the desired affect: creating new knowledge and challenging old beliefs.

I want to publically thank Under Secretary Jim Glassman, Congressmen Paul Hodes and Adam Smith, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Mike Doran for taking the time to participate in this discussion; moderators, Len Baldyga, Marc Lynch, Kristin Lord, and Doug Wilson; panelists Dick Arndt, Barry Zorthian, Mike Schneider, David Jackson, Karen DeYoung, Jeff Grieco, Greg Smith, Ted Tzavellas, Nancy Snow, Colleen Graffy, Bill Kiehl, and Lynne Weil.

Also, thanks to Jeff, Wes, Dan, Stacy, Eliot, and the rest from Booz Allen Hamilton who helped make sure the day went off without a hitch so I could focus on the proceedings. Also, Gepetto Catering and the Reserve Officers Association provided great food and a great venue for the discussion.

And thanks to the attendees who are so interested and passionate about the subject of America’s global engagement.

I’ll post the transcript of the event, as well as a brief report on the proceedings, later this month or early next.

There will be a second edition of this discussion. I’ll post and email details later.

Important: If you received email from me over the past week regarding the Symposium, I have your email. If you have not, use the Symposium’s registration page ( to get on the list. This is an opt-out list, so if you do not wish to receive email, let me know.

It was a long day. I used to finish Ironman triathlons in less time than yesterday’s event. However, it was a very valuable and productive day. I hope those who attended yesterday feel the same way.

More to come on this.