Assistant Secretary for Education and Cultural Affairs

According to the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations website, the confirmation hearing for Judith Ann Stock to be Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs will be held Tuesday, February 2, 2010. Testimony will be here (PDF) but it is not yet available (and likely getting polished). (Hat tip to Mark Overmann of the Alliance for International Educational and Cultural Exchange.)

Still no word on a nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP). Unlike the ECA job, Judith McHale, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, will get to choose this person. IIP is currently headed by an Acting Coordinator, a very capable retired FSO who just started a six month (maximum) contract. He took over early this month from the previous coordinator, who after retiring as Coordinator mid-2009, opted against renewing his post-retirement six month contract in December.

Perhaps Judith, confirmed in May, wanted to finish her public diplomacy strategy that was briefed to staff Thursday after a long development and a very close hold. The Secretary apparently signed off earlier this month.

Follow up on Marketing a course: which title is better?

Thanks to those who offered suggestions on renaming my course “Understanding and Engaging Now Media”. Right now there are six comments on the original request for comment and more than double that in my inbox. Some of you asked about the target audience for this class. It has been my intention to target US Government and those that work the Government, particularly those who work for State and Defense (i.e. consultants). However, due to a combination of which community is interested in the subject and that the host for the class focuses on the military use of information, the students have and continue to come primarily from DOD and its contractors. Several folks from State were to attend last year but they were ultimately unable to attend.

My current personal favorite for the military audience is “Information as Power: ‘Now Media’ and the Struggle for Minds and Wills”.  For the civilian audience, I like “The Rise of the ‘Now Media’ and its effect on Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs”. Feel free to comment on either.

(I’ll have to look if I posted it, but I did write a short essay on why I use this phrase and why not “winning hearts and minds”. The real short version is struggle=enduring & no clear victory, wills=action, hearts=popularity of us versus them.)

Marketing a course: which title is better?

As many of you know, I teach a seminar-style course in the Washington, DC, area on the modern information environment. It is a 9-hour course held over three consecutive evenings from 6p – 9p. While the content has been a draw, the title – Understanding and Engaging Now Media – has not. Joel at AOC (the organization hosting the class) and I are working on a more catchy title. Here are some of the ideas:

  • Information as a weapon: the struggle for minds and wills in today’s “Now Media”
  • Strategic communication and social media in the struggle for minds and wills
  • Strategic Communication, Social Media, and “Now Media”
  • Uncontested space? Where does the fiction begin in today’s “Now Media”?

If you have suggestions on a title, or if one of the above is your favorite, we’d like to hear from you in the comments or via email.

Meeting of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy

According to the State Department, the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy will hold a public meeting on February 11, 2010, in the conference room of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), 1850 K Street, NW, Fifth Floor, Washington, D.C. 20006. The meeting will be from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The Commissioners will discuss public diplomacy issues, including interagency collaboration in advancing U.S. government public diplomacy efforts.

The Advisory Commission was originally constituted as the Advisory Committee on Radio Programming by Assistant Secretary of State William Benton to provide oversight over America’s international broadcasting and to comfort Congress the programs would be responsibility administered. Members of this Committee included Edward R. Murrow as chairman, Philip H. Cohen, a director for radio and television programming for an advertising agency, Harold Laswell, Don Francisco, of the advertising firm J. Walter Thompson and formerly head of radio operations for the Office of the Coordinator for Inter-American Affairs (CIAA), Walter Millis, editorial and staff writer for the New York Herald Tribune, Sterling Fisher, director of the National Broadcasting Corporation’s (NBC) University on the Air, Malcolm Muir, editor-in-chief and president of Newsweek as well as founder of BusinessWeek, and James Linen, publisher of Time magazine.

The Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 made Benton’s committee permanent as the US Advisory Commission on Information. As a result of the abolishing of USIA in 1999, the Commission is now the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.

Back to the February 11 meeting. I was previously scheduled to present to the Commission between 10a and 11:30a, so I will see you there.

The public may attend this meeting as seating capacity allows. To attend this meeting and for further information, please contact Carl Chan at (202) 632-2823; e-mail:

Assistant Secretary for Outreach and Social Media

The Defense Department’s Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs) has a new deputy: Sumit Agarwal. Agarwal was previously at Google, previously head of Google’s North American mobile products and before that image products. Agarwal’s demonstration of Google’s mobile technology to Robert Scoble from September 2008 is below.

Reorganizing State: a comment by Major General Herbert J. McChrystal

The State of State: A Proposal for Reorganization at Foggy Bottom and the follow on conversation in the post Department of State and Non-State elicited the following email from veteran public diplomat Yale Richmond (published here with permission):

I knew Gen. McChrystal’s father, Herbert J.  McChrystal, who retired as an Army Major General. We were together 1969-70 in the Senior Seminar in Foreign Policy, a State Department course for senior officers of various government departments and agencies. Herb had served in senior positions at both Defense and State, and I recall him saying once that if we had State’s personnel and Defense’s organization, we would have the perfect government agency.

Yale began his public diplomacy career in Germany after World War II. He is the author of Practicing Public Diplomacy: A Cold War Odyssey, From Nyet to Da: Understanding the New Russia, and other books.

MountainRunner on the Radio

My interview with Pete Dominick at StandUp! at XM/Sirius on my policy memo State of State: A Proposal for Reorganization at Foggy Bottom at PPI is available below:

It is no longer accurate to say that State is the foreign policy of the President when the Defense Department owns or dominates so much of the direct and indirect engagement, willfully or not, with global publics and governments. Parity in the organizations is necessary as the two models are not compatible. If the Defense Department were restructured in the mold of the State Department, General McChrystal in Afghanistan would call the shots and General Petraeus, as CENTCOM commander, would no longer directly report to the Secretary of Defense and would be subordinated in rank and responsibilities to McChrystal.

See also:

Department of State and Non-State

In The State of State: A Proposal for Reorganization at Foggy Bottom, I intentionally focused on the high-level orientation of the State Department. This is an imperative to make the department relevant and capable today. It is no longer accurate to say that State is the foreign policy of the President when the Defense Department owns or dominates so much of the direct and indirect engagement, willfully or not, with global publics and governments. Parity in the organizations is necessary as the two models are not compatible. If the Defense Department were restructured in the mold of the State Department, General McChrystal in Afghanistan would call the shots and General Petraeus, as CENTCOM commander, would no longer directly report to the Secretary of Defense and would be subordinated in rank and responsibilities to McChrystal.

I knew that shifting the operational focus of the Department from countries to regions, along with the creation of additional under secretaries, would cause significant ripples of changes and require others that may not be immediately apparent. One example is a reader’s recommendation of the need to create specialists, one lost attribute of USIA officers.

The State Department creates Generalists. What it needs are Regionalists. It does the nation little good if its exemplar diplomats are being punted continent to continent.


Recommended Reading: Behavioural Conflict

Major General Andrew Mackay and Commander Steve Tatham, both of the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, wrote incisive criticism on the UK Ministry of Defence’s ability to engage in the psychological struggle for minds and wills is available. It is available here (PDF, 448kb).

[P]ublic perception can have long term and decisive effect upon the nature and success of foreign policy and military operations. Conveying information messages to specific audiences, in order to influence behavioural change for specific political objectives, may well prove more decisive in future conflicts than just the placement of bullets and bombs upon a target. …

[T]he UK Armed Forces have no professional information operations practitioners, no media operators or professional psychological specialists. In their place, well meaning and enthusiastic amateurs are seconded from every branch of the military for two- or three-year tours, who do their best with minimal training but who are unlikely to return to such duties again. …

[H]eavy attrition and manoeuvre warfare does not, we believe, characterise future conflict – although we also accept that it cannot be ruled out. In behavioural conflict – particularly in the information age – we will need to confront very cerebral issues. For example, we may have to reassess notions of victory. What does ‘victory’ in Afghanistan look like? Have we achieved ‘victory’ in Iraq? We would not presume to have an answer to either question but we do have an observation; we believe that ‘victory’ today, and in the future, will look very different to signature ceremonies on Lüneburg Heath in 1945 or Port Stanley in 1982. Indeed ‘victory’ may not even be immediately apparent in current and future conflict. …

Our paper accepts, at its very heart, the Clausewitzian premise that conflict is a clash of wills. We have sought to advance the idea that alongside kinetic power there is potentially a more behaviourist approach which, we believe, can affect the enemy’s will and be as, or arguably more, effective than kinetic power in future conflict.

A required read by those involved in public affairs, information operations, and psychological operations, it should also be read by Congressional staff and others interested in the subject of information to influence and persuade and the need for tactics, techniques, procedures, and training to support non-kinetic activities. Read the whole thing here.

See also:

Recalling History: the rising importance of people and public opinion

What today know as the Smith-Mundt Act was originally proposed in October 1945 in the House Foreign Affairs Committee as a key part of the State Department’s reorientation to the changing requirements of the time. Below is testimony to the committee by William Benton, the new assistant secretary of state for public affairs – a position created only the year before as the assistant secretary of state for public and cultural affairs. The legislation, HR 4368, known as the Bloom Bill after the committee’s chairman, it would pass the House in July 1946 but blocked by Senator Taft. At the request of the State Department, it was resurrected in the 80th Congress by a Republican Congressman named Mundt.
Continue reading “Recalling History: the rising importance of people and public opinion

Pentagon wins turf war with State over military aid

Josh Rogin writes at about the expanding realization that State is still not situated to be America’s foreign policy arm.

The Pentagon has won a major internal battle over control of foreign assistance funding, delaying the Obama administration’s pledge to demilitarize foreign policy, multiple sources tell The Cable.

DOD and State have been fighting vigorously over who would be in charge of large swaths of the foreign assistance budget, billions of dollars in total that are used to aid and work with governments all over the world. Both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have emphasized the need to rebalance national security spending away from the military and toward the diplomatic core, but behind the scenes their offices have struggled to determine where the lines should be drawn. …

Insiders working on the issue also suggested that State didn’t match up bureaucratically inside the fight. The Pentagon just has so many more people and resources to bring to bear, and besides, the State Department’s strategy review, the QDDR, isn’t complete. [emphasis mine] …

The slow pace of rebalancing national security spending and the lack of a comprehensive strategy for guiding that process is the subject of a new book by former OMB national security funding chief Gordon Adams, entitled Buying National Security: How America Plans and Pays for Its Global Role and Safety at Home.

"The tool kit is out of whack," Adams told The Cable. "There’s been a major move over the last 10 years to expand the Defense Department’s agenda, which has been creeping into the foreign-policy agenda in new and expensive ways."

This is not surprising. I wrote back in September that the US Department of Agriculture was asking for $170 million to be reallocated from State, USAID, and DOD to USDA for its work in Afghanistan. We have seen sadly too little support for State’s Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization up to now despite past efforts.

Hopefully the QDDR, State’s own strategy review, the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, will be a blockbuster. This is unlikely because this strategic planning and programming is not in State’s DNA and the only senior person with experience with something like the QDDR is the Secretary, who was exposed as a Senator on the Senate Armed Services Committee. However, I’m eager to see the final QDDR and hope substantial change comes out of both the process and the recommendations.

See also:

  • A Proposal for Reorganization at Foggy Bottom at Progressive Policy Institute
  • Hybrid Threats Require a Hybrid Government at Stimson Center
  • Hitting Bottom at Foggy Bottom at
  • State Dept Project Signals Foreign Policy Shift at Washington Independent

The Soft Power Solution in Iran

In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, The Soft Power Solution in Iran, former Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Jim Glassman and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Support to Public Diplomacy Mike Doran promotes the active use of public diplomacy for the purpose public diplomacy was intended. Beginning with this unattributed quote from presidential candidate Eisenhower (likely inserted by Mike, who’s working on a book on the period), they wrote,

Everything that we do, everything that we say–and everything that we don’t do and don’t say–should be coordinated to meet this goal. Such a policy would have four separate tasks:

Provide moral and educational support for the Green Revolution. …

Tighten sanctions on the Iranian economy and publicize the connection between regime belligerence and economic malaise. …

Do all we can to increase communications within Iran, as well as between Iran and the outside world. …

Finally, we should refute, in campaign style, the four key propositions of Iranian propaganda. …

A serious strategic communications program for Iran could have dozens, even hundreds, of programs like these. It should extend across government agencies with clear leadership and include private-sector participation.

Too often in foreign policy our interests demand that we compromise our core values. With Iran, however, we have been blessed with remarkable luck: Our strategic and moral imperatives stand in perfect alignment. And Iranians like Americans.

The Iranian challenge appears more amenable than any other serious national threat to a soft-power solution. Let’s get going.

Indeed. We know Congress is eager for action – for example the $55 million authorized, but not appropriated, by the Armed Services Committees under the VOICE Act. This does include $30 million for BBG, but Increasing resources at VOA – along with increasingly creative access for Iranians within Iran – is not enough.

(Iran’s PressTV cites a New Yorks Times article about Senators asking State to spend $45 million that was “earmarked” for countering Iranian censorship, but I have not confirmed whether this is the same VOICE authorization or an earlier authorization or appropriation.)

Today: interview on Stand Up! with Pete Dominick (updated)

Today, January 21, 2009, at 4:40p ET (time change) I’ll be on Stand Up! with Pete Dominick to talk about State of State, reforming the Department of State into the Department of Non-State.

P.O.T.U.S.Stand Up! with Pete Dominick is a political talk show broadcast on the POTUS satellite radio channel – Sirius 110 / XM 130. It airs weekdays from 3pm to 6pm Eastern, with replays at 9pm and 3am Eastern. Both networks simultaneously stream the show online, as well.

Due to the Supreme Court decision that came out today, my interview time has slid slightly to 4:40p ET. If you don’t get XM (and I don’t), you can sign up for a free 3-day trial here.

The Disappearance of China Air

To be completely crass, disaster relief and humanitarian aid is huge opportunity to score points with locals. It is, however, best when it is not done blatantly, but making it clear where the aid was coming from both gives your side points and potentially denies opportunities to competitors.

Reading The New York Times on my Blackberry Thursday morning, the article “Haiti Lies in Ruins; Grim Search for Untold Dead” by Simon Romero and Marc Lacey, dated January 14, 2010, struck a nerve. These are the first two paragraphs as they still read on my Blackberry:

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Foreign aid trickled into Haiti’s devastated capital on Thursday morning as the victims of Tuesday’s earthquake, many of them injured and homeless, began to wake from another night spent in makeshift accommodations or out in the open.

A China Air plane landed early Thursday with a search team, medical workers and aid, The Associated Press reported. …

Continue reading “The Disappearance of China Air

The State of State: A Proposal for Reorganization at Foggy Bottom

See my policy memo entitled “The State of State: A Proposal for Reorganization at Foggy Bottom” published by PPI. (PDF here, 910kb)

The past decade has seen the U.S. government expand its activities around the globe in response to complex and stateless threats. In the face of these challenges, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, and members of Congress have all called for increasing the resources and capabilities of the State Department to roll back what Gates has termed the “creeping militarization” of foreign policy. But efforts at reform are hindered by an institutional structure rooted in a 19th-century view of the world.

The days of traditional diplomacy conducted behind closed doors are over. The democratization of information and means of destruction makes a kid with a keyboard is potentially more dangerous than an F-22. Addressing poverty, pandemics, resource security, and terrorism requires multilateral and dynamic partnerships with governments and publics. But the State Department has yet to adapt to the new context of global engagement. The diverse threats that confront the U.S. and our allies cannot be managed through a country-centric approach. For State to be effective and relevant, it needs to evolve and become both a Department of State and Non-State.

Download the full memo here. Comment here at MountainRunner or there.

Understanding and Engaging Now Media – Feb 8, 9, 10

Just a reminder, Understanding and Engaging Now Media takes place next month at AOC in Alexandria, VA, just outside of DC. This is a professional training seminar-style course taught over three consecutive evenings, 6p-9p. The modern, global information environment is reviewed as a blended environment marked by the convergence of “new media” and “old media” into “now media.” The goal of the seminar is to make the participant more capable of operating in the “now media” environment and to be able to explain needs and justify requirements for preactive and proactive engagement to senior leadership.

More information, including registration, can be found at the AOC website. Feel free to email me with questions.

PUBD510: Public Diplomacy and Technology

We are in a world where “old” and “new” media converge to create “now media”. Focus must be on the information, and the listening being generated in a noisy environment, not the channels of delivery. The modern information environment is fluid and dynamic and never simple. Information jumps from one medium to another with ease as it is repackaged and forwarded by proxies. Stories by the BBC or The New York Times do not exist solely in the realm of broadcast or dead trees.

Beginning this week, Friday blogging is likely to be light as Public Diplomacy and Technology begins. This is a graduate course I’m teaching at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism every Friday, 10a – 12:50p.

Several questions are asked throughout the course: What of the traditional gatekeepers to news and information? Who decides where the fiction begins? What is “public diplomacy” and who in the US Government does it? What is the global information environment and how are audiences defined? Where are audiences getting their information and do platforms shape the listening being created?

The is a practical course with real, contemporary examples. Current (or very recently retired) professionals will be available to contribute and guest lecture. After taking this course, the student should be capable of explaining to a senior policymaker the need and requirements to engage in the modern global information environment while cognizant that different geographies – physical, social, and cultural – demand different tools.