Smith-Mundt Act: Facts, Myths and Recommendations

The Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 is the authorizing legislation for America’s public diplomacy and strategic communication. This three-page information sheet addresses confusion surrounding the Act and makes recommendations that are fundamental to any improvement to US public diplomacy and strategic communication. It is ironic that legislation intended to counter misinformation is itself subject to misinformation to the point few know the Act’s purpose and true application.

The following is a short three page overview written at the request of and for a (pro bono) client who is neither the State Department nor the Defense Department. Download here or read below or at Scribd.

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2 Replies to “Smith-Mundt Act: Facts, Myths and Recommendations”

  1. I’m surprised the summary doesn’t call for more than just minor editing of S-M. I might think in this day and age that revitalizing our information efforts abroad requires more than just ‘tinkering.’ Why can’t we be prepared to start with a fresh slate? I disagree with State’s assertion that we must build a new cadre of FSOs in order to expand public diplomacy; one could argue that the process of creating FSOs is part of the problem. Instead, why not have a new mandate from Congress that gives the Under Sec for PD real budgetary clout (and the money to go with it) and a requirement that State develop plans that are regionally based and require embassies to collaborate not just with themselves but with other agencies that support USG objectives. Just for a start…. Minor tinkering with Smith-Mundt? No thanks.

  2. ErsatzG7, I agree with you entire regarding the need for the U/S for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs to have real authorities, including control of budgets and personnel, across State Department. This includes becoming the U/S for BOTH public diplomacy and public affairs such that the U/S is the global engagement chairwoman for the US Government. As it is, the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs is far more of a global communicator than his boss (which is his boss only on paper). Additionally, the (Acting) Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs is also a global communicator and has greater communicative authorities than the U/S for PD/PA. This does need to be rectified. I push that in other papers, presentations, and on the Hill.This Smith-Mundt info sheet is, however, focused on a singular aspect of the Act to reestablish the legislation as a foundation, an enabler, not a muzzle. To me it is a foundational step that will permit the larger issue. This is not the only piece of the puzzle I’m working on. You may (or may not) be surprised at the resistence I’ve encountered over this babystep.

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