Movement on the BBG? (Updated)

imageNo, not yet. The Senate has adjourned until June 7. Questions from Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) to at least one of nominees to the Broadcasting Board of Governors is available from the Huffington Post (scroll down to COBURN’S QUESTIONNAIRE FOR DANA PERINO), or click here for the Word document with the questions.

Meanwhile, the head of the Persian News Network was “reassigned” and his deputy was fired.

See also:

The Catholic Church and Online Media

This is the first of an ongoing series of journal-style peer-reviewed articles that will begin appearing at (and soon at on subjects and issues related to public diplomacy and strategic communication, U.S. or otherwise.

The Catholic Church and Online Media
by Mariana González Insua

View the article or download the article (160kb PDF).

The recent explosion of Catholic sex abuse scandals around the world was the motor that propelled the Vatican to get a foothold on the last social media space that had, until a few weeks ago, remained unconquered by the Catholic Church: Twitter. Given the growing online competition for soul-share, the Church’s negative image in relation to the ongoing scandals and the loss of adherents to Catholicism in the US, the Holy See’s online platforms are valuable tools for broadcasting its message worldwide and, in particular, in the US.

The Vatican’s online presence is certainly not new. The Holy See has had its own website in place for fourteen years and a year ago it created Pope2You, a new site with interactive features such as a Facebook application that allows users to send e-postcards with the Pope’s picture and message to their friends, and the possibility of downloading the Pope’s speeches and messages to iPhones or iPods. The Vatican also has its own YouTube channel, available in a number of languages, which is updated daily with “holy” news.

Earlier this year, the Pope surprised the world when he decided to take a further step into the virtual realm by telling priests to blog. In his message for the Roman Catholic Church’s 44th World Communication Day, Pope Benedict XVI urged priests to make use of all digital tools at their disposal to spread the word: “Priests are […] challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources-images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites- which, alongside traditional means, can open up brand new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis.” The Papal message further encouraged priests to engage with peoples from other religions and cultures: “A pastoral presence in the world of digital communications, precisely because it brings us into contact with the followers of other religions, non-believers and people of every culture, requires sensitivity to those who do not believe, the disheartened and those who have a deep, unarticulated desire for enduring truth and the absolute […] Can we not see the web as also offering a space for those who have not yet come to know God?”

Mariana González Insua just finished her first year as a student in USC’s Masters of Public Diplomacy program. She is originally from Argentina and recently completed a Masters in Latin American Studies at Stanford University.

A Tale from the Field about Religion, Culture, and Perception

By Gregory L. Garland

Matt’s blog has become a force to behold in the discussion about strategic communication, public diplomacy, and State/DOD relations. It has shined a light on what largely was a rarified, inside-the-beltway debate symptomatic of the old USIA’s domestic blank spot. What has been lacking are stories from the field outside the U.S. – examples of PD as it actually is conducted by PD professionals. Here’s one from my own experience that in many ways is typical.

I’ve run effective PD programs that didn’t cost Uncle Sam anything except my own time. I’ve run next to useless PD programs so flush that I couldn’t spend all the money Washington showered upon me. And I’ve run just about everything in between those extremes. As every experienced PAO knows, basic human grit, skill, and talent will go far in assembling a program, but a little bit of cash always helps. And it doesn’t have to be much, especially when compared to what other agencies spend.

Continue reading “A Tale from the Field about Religion, Culture, and Perception

Want a visa? Give €15 and we can talk about it


A reader comment reminded me of the strange reality of US public diplomacy.  As an effort to offset costs after Congress cut their operating budget (we hope this is the reason), some US embassies charge for the opportunity to setup an appointment to get a visa to enter the US.  At US consulate in The Hague, the charge is €15 (about $18). The consulate does recommend making sure you have all your documentation in order so you need only make one call – which they say you can do from anywhere in the world (which is a curious thing to say unless they are implying you can call collect). 

As the reader noted,

What a strange image this builds of America in a country which has diplomatic relations for hundreds of years.

I checked of four other US posts in Europe and failed to find a similar fee, which either makes Amsterdam unique or quicker to implement a policy. UPDATE: Jonathan writes that our embassy in Brussels requires the same payment

If this is the result of budget constraints and not a policy shift, has a demand signal been made to the budget and appropriations committees on the Hill (or to Jack Lew and others in State) on the need to get money to correct such problems?

Do we need a National Strategy on Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communication?

Here is a question for the community interested in public diplomacy, strategic communication (or signaling integration), and global engagement: Does the U.S. Government need a national strategy on public diplomacy and strategic communication?

My view: yes, the President must issue a strategy that declares the imperative of synchronizing words and deeds across the interagency and within the departments, provides a high-level and flexible definition, and avoids details like specific themes. This document must provide flexible guidance and support to empower organizations to support strategic goals, such as the global information environment, global audiences, telling the truth, bolstering morale and extend hope through actions supported by words (and vice versa) and not words alone, and combating misrepresentation and distortion. 

Building the necessary capacity follows the development of necessary capabilities, which follows developing the appreciation for the need which includes understanding the gap. These all require not only awareness of the modern environment (physical and informational) but also support from the top, hence the need for the President to provide the guidance and imperative necessary to fight the bureaucratic and intellectual inertia that must be overcome for our national (physical and economic) security.

This document would replace the National Strategy for Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communication by Karen Hughes, which, absent a replacement, continues to come up in conversation.

Your thoughts?

See also:

Event: U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Business Meeting

On May 25, 2010, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will hold a business meeting at the Capitol Building in S-116 at 2:15 p.m.

Presided by Senator John Kerry, the meeting will go over the following legislation:

  • S 3317: Haiti Empowerment, Assistance and Rebuilding Act of 2010
  • S 3193: International Cyberspace and Cybersecurity Coordination Act of 2010
  • S 3104: A bill to permanently authorize Radio Free Asia, and for other purposes
  • S Res 469: A resolution recognizing the 60th Anniversary of the Fulbright Program in Thailand
  • S Res 532: A Resolution recognizing Expo 2010 Shanghai China and the USA Pavilion at the Expo

The meeting will also review two nominations for the Broadcasting Board of Governors:

  • Michael P. Meehan to be a Member for a term expiring August 13, 2010
  • Dana M. Perino to be a Member for a term expiring August 13, 2012

If nominations are approved, all eight BBG nominees’ names will be on the Senate floor, subject to the final step in the confirmation process.

Why the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs tweets

Last week, Federal News Radio interviewed Capt. John Kirby, Special Assistant for Public Affairs for Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on why the Chairman actively engages in social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The chairman, who began Tweeting and Facebooking in 2009, understood that social media was quickly becoming a part of mainstream media and it was just as important to listen to online conversations.

Prior to engaging in social media, the Admiral learned from his troops that his internal military audience, which includes younger men and women in uniform, frequently use social media to communicate with each other. 

Other federal organizations can learn from Adm. Mullen’s online efforts, who does personally “tweet,” as he continues to more effectively utilize Web 2.0 and Gov 2.0.

Click here to read the full article by Federal News Radio.

See also:

Renee Lee is a new contributor to and will be providing links and overviews of material – online and offline – deemed important for the individual or organization interested in public diplomacy, strategic communication or “signaling integration”, or global engagement.

Renee Lee is a graduate student in the Master of Public Diplomacy program at the University of Southern California. Renee spent six years in the U.S. Air Force as a public affairs officer in the Asia-Pacific region. Renee graduated cum laude from the University of Washington in 2003, earning a B.A. in Communications.

Expanding the MountainRunner Team: Renee Lee is growing: today begins a new era as this blog will have its first regular contributor: Renee Lee.  Renee will post on material – online and offline – we believe is important enough to be considered by the individual or organization interested in public diplomacy, strategic communication (or “signaling integration”), and global engagement.

Renee’s official title is communication operations officer, which is a fancy way of saying she’s helping me with engagement across all mediums both here at the blog and at the MountainRunner Institute

Renee Lee is a graduate student in the Master of Public Diplomacy program at the University of Southern California. Renee spent six years in the U.S. Air Force as a public affairs officer in the Asia-Pacific region. Renee graduated cum laude from the University of Washington in 2003, earning a B.A. in Communications.

And, it’s worth noting, continues to welcome guest posts on issues related to the blog’s focus.  Criteria are (generally): 600-1200 words, no product or service promotion, and no lobbying. 

Welcome Renee!

P.S. I’ll admit “Communication Operations Officer” is not my favorite title, but both PAO and Assistant were inadequate.  The proposed replaced “Strategic Communication” which doesn’t lend itself to a title very well: “Signaling Integration Officer”.  Suggestions?

Smith-Mundt Alert: USC magazine cites VOA

imageFound on page 7 of the Spring/Summer 2010 issue of USC College Magazine is a violation of federal law, specifically the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, as amended.  This magazine contains a quote from the Voice of America, a US Government broadcaster that is not permitted to be disseminated within the territory of the US (see image at right).  Concern over USIA and US Government broadcasters like VOA led the DC Circuit court in 1998 to exempt USIA from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  Think of the damage Wikileaks could have caused if it was around in the 1990s to “expose” Americans to VOA!

Continue reading “Smith-Mundt Alert: USC magazine cites VOA

UN Peacekeeping as Public Diplomacy

Certain countries, China in particular but also potentially Brazil and India, are increasingly leveraging UN peacekeeping as an opportunity to engage local populations to further national interests.  China, for example, has followed through on its word to increase its UN activities to further its image as a responsible power and to create awareness and connections with individuals and countries alike. 

At World Politics Review (subscription required), I have a short article that explores what may be the third transformation of UN peacekeeping.  From its inception as means to keep an agreed upon peace between two warring parties (hence the name), to peacemaking, some countries are using opportunities facilitated by wearing the Blue Helmet to build relations in troubled places that posses valuable resources and, secondarily, markets. 

A subtle evolution of United Nations peacekeeping operations is underway. …

The global movement of people, information, goods, and services creates new opportunities, but also new threats for peacekeepers. With the immediate and persistent availability of information, peacekeepers and their home countries will be increasingly held accountable for their actions, as well as their failure to act — a situation countries were long able to avoid. …

This public diplomacy component of peacekeeping, which connects with the general public and leaders alike, is potentially transformative and empowering for a country’s agenda, as increased contact creates awareness of culture, language, and narratives. This facilitates greater understanding, as well as personal and institutional connections, potentially opening markets and access to resources through the development of formal or informal relationships.

Read the U.N. Peacekeeping as Public Diplomacy in its entirety. A subscription is required, so subscribe or sign up for a trial subscription.

U.N. Peacekeeping as Public Diplomacy

U.N. Peacekeeping as Public Diplomacy by Matt Armstrong, 19 May 2010, in World Politics Review.

A subtle evolution of United Nations peacekeeping operations is underway. If the first of these missions kept an agreed-upon peace, and later missions sought to make peace, several countries now use these operations to advance their foreign and economic policy agendas, and raise their global profile. This shift, selective as it is to date, may potentially raise the standard of conduct in U.N. peacekeeping operations increasingly fraught with charges of criminal behavior, corruption, lack of accountability, and general ineffectiveness. However, there are significant downsides to this approach. …

These same conditions create opportunities to increase the reach and the potential impact of peacekeeping, even in areas where the communications infrastructure is underdeveloped. As the geographic reach of a peacekeeping mission extends further beyond its immediate area of operations, the effects of success, or failure, increasingly shape perceptions of the contributing nation and the mission.

This public diplomacy component of peacekeeping, which connects with the general public and leaders alike, is potentially transformative and empowering for a country’s agenda, as increased contact creates awareness of culture, language, and narratives. This facilitates greater understanding, as well as personal and institutional connections, potentially opening markets and access to resources through the development of formal or informal relationships.

A brief examination of today’s U.N. peacekeepers reveals that three countries are well-positioned to leverage this new facet of peacekeeping, although they are at various stages of this process. The first, China, is demonstrating the power of such an approach as it effectively couples peacekeeping with its national agenda. The second, Brazil, though lacking China’s horizontal and vertical integration of policy and action as well as Beijing’s global aspirations, is using peacekeeping operations as part of its efforts to gain a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. The third, India, is just entering this path, and still struggles to come to grips with its potential leverage as a major contributor of peacekeeping troops, even as it tries to define its role in regional and global affairs. …

The dynamic nature of credibility makes it an important but volatile asset that organizations and institutions must manage with care. Over the past 60 years, the U.N.’s image, credibility, and ultimately its effectiveness have often been tied to its peacekeeping activities. While that image has been tarnished by peacekeeping scandals involving sex, drugs, and corruption, contributor nations have largely escaped public condemnation. However, as peacekeeping forces face increasing transparency and accountability as a result of the global environment’s expanding interconnectivity — including less-developed regions — the potential for peacekeeping to build up or tear down the “brand” of a country will increase dramatically.

This shift in the purpose of peacekeeping from a contributors perspective is positive, but not without potential pitfalls. While contributing nations can increase their global image, international prestige, and soft power through a smart application of traditional and public diplomacy, such concerns could lead to increased selectivity of missions based on potential payoffs to national interests, at the expense of the collective interest that peacekeeping operations are primarily meant to serve.

Understanding State’s Budget Woes

Andrew Exum at CNAS blames – only somewhat tongue in cheek – the absence of federal money creating jobs in Congressional districts for the State Department’s budget woes. His point, of course, is that Congress sees little direct benefit from State’s activities. My friend draws additional insight from Gordon Adams and Cindy Williams and their highlight of an operational difference between State and the Defense Department:

The State Department’s dominant culture — the Foreign Service — takes pride in [the department’s] traditional role as the home of US diplomacy. Diplomats represent the United States overseas, negotiate with foreign countries, and report on events and developments. Diplomats, from this perspective, are not foreign assistance providers, program developers, or managers. As a result, State did not organize itself internally to plan, budget, manage, or implement the broader range of US global engagement … State department culture focuses on diplomacy, not planning, program development and implementation.

This is evident across the board at State, including, but not limited to, inadequate budgeting processes and systems, rigid hierarchies, and cultural bias against outside advice.

Below is a quick list of some of the other substantive issues I’ve talked in various public and private forums:

Continue reading “Understanding State’s Budget Woes

Information Operations Europe Conference

The 9th Annual Information Operations Europe will take place June 29-30, 2010, at The Bloomsbury Hotel in London. The agenda for the first day is here and the second day is here. There will be a pre-conference war game on the 28th. In the lead up, the conference organizers created a document center (or centre) at that includes:

  • 3 podcast interviews: Matt Armstrong, Strategist and Lecturer; Bob Bevelacqua, Vice President of Programs at Leonie Industries; Simon Bergman, Managing Director, Information Options
  • 15 reports from the U.S. Army War College, including: Bullets and Blogs – New Media and the Warfighter; Learning to Leverage New Media – The IDF in Recent Conflicts; You Tube War – Fighting in a World of Cameras in Every Cell Phone and Photoshop on Every Computer
  • and more at

I’ll be on the first panel discussion on the 29th with

  • Major General Gordon Messenger, Chief of Defence Staff, Strategic Communications Officer, UK MoD
  • Air Commodore Robert Judson, Head of Targeting and Information Operations, UK MoD
  • Brigadier Mark Van der Lande, Head of Defence Public Relations, Directorate General and Media Communications, UK MoD
  • Sarah Nagelmann, Strategic Communications Advisor to US European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, NATO

Later the same day I present “Understanding and Engaging Now Media.”

If you’ll be there, let me know.

Wikileaks seeks US Military Email Addresses

imageAfter crossing the line from self-purported “whistleblower” to propagandist with the release in April of a video packaged for “the targeted manipulation of public opinion,” Wikileaks is now hunting for US military email addresses in a May 7 tweet. Adrian Chen at Gawker wonders if this was preparation for the long anticipated release of another video Wikileaks may have of a bombing in Afghanistan. According to Chen, Julian Assange, Wikileak’s co-founder and public face, responded “not yet.”

The intent of Assange is to affect change. The “real diplomacy and real politics,” Assange said, “is something that is derived from the flow of information itself through the population.” Assange certainly tries to increase the flow of information and has primed his pipeline for his next package in the wake of “Collateral Murder,” the edited April video in which a US Army helicopter killed armed and unarmed men, including two employees of Reuters, and injuring two children. Claiming it received more than $150,000 in donations within days of releasing the video, Wikileaks reiterated its claim that it was actually doing journalism.

However, Wikileaks crossed the line from pushing for transparency or change with its selective packaging and willful disinformation regarding the content of the video in interviews (particularly on positive identification of the presence of weapons). Interviewing Assange, Stephen Colbert described the release as “emotional manipulation” and “not leaking” but “pure editorial.” Assange stated Wikileaks propagation is done in a way “to get maximum political impact.”

Continue reading “Wikileaks seeks US Military Email Addresses

Event: Policy, Operations and Knowledge Transfer in Post Conflict Environments

image Today at The George Washington University in Washington, DC: Policy, Operations and Knowledge Transfer in Post Conflict Environments: Security and Safety in a Changing World. Speaking at the event are Doug Brooks, president of International Peace Operations Association and African security issues specialist, and Tom Seal, former Deputy Director
of the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement who managed programs in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. Hosting is Larisa Breton.

Today: May 12th 2010 at 5:00 to 6:30 pm
At: The Marvin Center, 800 21st Street NW, Conference room 310


See also:

MountainRunner Institute at InfoWarCon 2010

By Chris Dufour

This week kicks off the second year of AOC’s InfoWarCon in Washington, DC. Subtitled “Future Warfare Today: The Battle for Information & Ideas”, the three-day gathering sports luminaries from different information disciplines beyond information operations, or IO. Joel Harding, the director of AOC’s IO Institute, has put together an agenda with panelists from across the spectrum of informational engagement: strategic communication, public diplomacy, public affairs, technology, and emerging media. The stated purpose of InfoWarCon is to advance the discourse about the evolving role of information in warfare of today and tomorrow, especially the kind where explosions, in the case they actually occur, are shaping events in support of information activities.

InfoWarCon provides the necessary forum to discuss the real and perceived differences and similarities between information warfare and communication in a modern competitive landscape where information, not platforms, matter most. This environment is one where dissemination and reception are increasingly disassociated from geography as audiences are less likely to be contained within the borders of traditional nation-states.

The opportunities and threats of this modern environment can reduce autonomy, empower, or both. Typically, the empowerment to the non-state actor, whether a group or individual and the restriction on acting unilaterally is on the state. The easy answer for this situation is agility to operate in today’s dynamic, fluid, and hyperactive information environment. No longer do major powers solely rely on direct force-on-force combat to achieve strategic objectives. Similarly, non-violent communications campaigns conducted by private organizations or individuals can no longer succeed without considering the competitive information landscape.

InfoWarCon will provide the opportunity to discuss the issues related to this evolutionary, perhaps even revolutionary, environment and the resulting splintering of doctrine and perceptions of influence.

Chris Dufour is a Senior Vice President at the MountainRunner Institute and will cover InfoWarCon starting with Tuesday evening’s kickoff reception. (See this page for the week’s full agenda.) He will live-tweet the event from @MRinstitute, MRi’s Twitter handle, using the hashtag #IWC2010. If you plan on making it out to InfoWarCon this year, ping Chris on Twitter and contribute your thoughts and observations using the hashtag #IWC2010 (“eye”-w-c-2010).

The Social Media Strategy for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

The Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top military officer in the United States, published its social media strategy. The document provides an insight into the current intended purposes and audience size of the various social media platforms in use now by the CJCS. The document describes four goals in the strategy: Engage, Align, Drive, and Expand. Each goal includes objectives for each goal. This is a good step in the right direction for the Chairman and the Pentagon to increase its transparency and relevancy in the discourse over military and foreign policy. As the strategy notes,

With the internet being the primary source of information for individuals born after 1987, social media is quickly becoming mainstream media.

I recommend reading this strategy. True to the purpose and value of social media, I am sure the author would appreciate feedback.

Beyond Boundaries

Advantages of online media, such as blogs, include the ability to traverse time and space to reach audiences worldwide at a moment convenient to the consumer rather the time of broadcaster, and thus the broadcaster’s choice. This access enables social media to bypass the traditional gatekeepers and hierarchies of information dissemination and access, such as governments, news media, and even scholarly journals. Online tools make it increasingly easy for online content to ignore not just geography but to break through language barriers as well. Such is the world of social media.

Every now and again I highlight the global reach of as an example of the potential of social media. The map below captures some of this blog’s visitors for the month of April 2010. It does not capture those who read the posts via email, RSS, in email forwarded by others, or even all of the visitors to the site (I believe it captures perhaps 50% of the site’s visitors). It also does not capture the increasing use of Google translate to render this site’s content in another language.


When I see data like this, it reminds me that audiences are not contained within a single geo-political region, even if the primary topic of discourse is analysis of government activities.

Hugo Chavez vs. the Online Media Environment

By Melanie Ciolek

President Hugo Chavez has a long history of dominating the media environment in Venezuela, using radio and television to belittle his critics and project his political agenda to national and regional audiences. His administration has referred to the closures of privately held radio and television stations as efforts to “democratize” the media. Now facing the ultimate democratic media environment–an online space featuring millions of independent actors–he seems unsure how to compete.

Continue reading “Hugo Chavez vs. the Online Media Environment