This week: The Future of US Public Diplomacy

This week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hear from Under Secretary of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith McHale, and three of her predecessors: James K. Glassman, Karen P. Hughes, and Evelyn S. Lieberman. Chairing the hearing is Senator Kaufman, former member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Testimony should be available on the SFRC website the day of the hearing. Date/time/room: March 10, 2010; 3p; Dirksen 419.

The testimony should be worthwhile. This would be a good time for the current Under Secretary to unveil a strategic approach for the 21st century and how her office will strengthen US engagement with the world.

It is worth noting that both this subcommittee and the hearing itself could include Maria Otero, the Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs (the office known as “G”; the office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs is known as “R”). Otero is the State Department’s lead on human rights, democracy, and women’s issues and will arguably be the recipient of nearly half of the $55 million authorized by the National Defense Authorization Act. This funding is part of what is called the VOICE Act – Victims of Iranian Censorship. The $25 million includes $20 million for a new “Iranian Electronic Education, Exchange, and Media Fund” to

support the development of technologies, including websites, that will aid the ability of the Iranian people to gain access to and share information; counter efforts to block, censor, or monitor the Internet in Iran; and engage in Internet-based education programs and other exchanges with Americans online.

The remainder of the $25 million is more generically “for the Secretary of State to document, collect, and dissemination information about human rights in Iran, including abuses of human rights that have taken place since the June 12 Iranian election.”

The $30 million balance of VOICE Act goes to the Broadcasting Board of Governors to develop additional transmission and internet-based capabilities toward Iran (including countering SMS-blocking).

Of course, to include the Under Secretary of Democracy and Global Affairs would only confuse people…