The US News & World Report blog Washington Whispers has an interesting assessment of the nomination of Philip “P.J.” Crowley as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs.
The experience of Crowley, as well as the Paul Bedard’s description of Crowley’s duties, indicate Crowley won’t be the official spokesman for the Secretary as Sean McCormack was. This is very good news as the podium time seriously impairs the Assistant Secretary from managing and moving his share of the enterprise forward.
The article indicates the Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs will revert (finally) to a global communications role below the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, unlike the role of the Assistant Secretary in the Rice State Department. Under Rice, adding “and Public Affairs” to the Under Secretary’s title was nearly meaningless because the two sides had little to do with each other, so much so that the Public Diplomacy shop rarely thought of tapping into the resources of Public Affairs even though PA was (on paper) a sibling organization also under the command and control of their boss, the Under Secretary.
It may be that Crowley will be tasked with being an operational lead in coordinating activities between the State and Defense Departments. He has the background to do this. This could fill in a gap left by the demise of the Defense Department’s Office for Support to Public Diplomacy that acted like a “socket” for the State Department’s “plug”.
This appointment could portend good things and an overdue empowerment of the Under Secretary.
Next steps, let’s move the senior advisor on innovation under the Under Secretary (with a dotted line to the Secretary) and revise the title from Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs to Under Secretary for Global Engagement. (“R” by the way never had an attachment to the name of the office or to the guy who came up with “R”, whose has the initials, wait for it, “R.R.”)