Active or Passive Strategic Communication: What’s the Role of Government?

By Jamie Gayton

Army War CollegeIf we ascribe to the United States Army War College interpretation of U.S. national interests, we accept, 1) Defense of the Homeland, 2) Economic Prosperity, 3) Promotion of Values, and 4) Favorable World Order, as the categories that represent those national interests. The United States Government generally accepts responsibility for developing and refining these national interests and as such should initially take responsibility for developing a road map consisting of actions and communication that would foster movement toward their attainment. This is commendable – it is clearly responsible action by the developer of the goals and objectives supporting our interests, but must the government remain the lead executor in any specific category? Could it be possible that other organizations or entities might better support the achievement of national interests in certain areas for example, Economic Prosperity or Favorable World Order?

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Event: Homeland Security’s Wicked Problems

Homeland Security’s Wicked Problems: Developing a Research Agenda for Homeland Security” is a two-day event co-hosted by The Heritage Foundation, Center for Strategic and International Studies, The U.S. Army War College’s Center for Strategic Leadership, and The George Washington University’s Homeland Security Policy Institute.

The location is The Heritage Foundation’s Allison Auditorium and the dates are November 12, Thursday, 9a-4p and November 13, Friday, 9a-12:30p. RSVP to attend.

I will be on the first panel Friday morning at 9:30a: Communications During Crisis: Roles, Responsibilities, and Capabilities. On the panel will be Jonathan Thompson, Executive Vice President, Systems Media Group, and former Director for External Affairs, Federal Emergency Management Agency; Kimberly Dozier, CBS News Correspondent; and Matt Armstrong, Armstrong Strategic Insights Group, LLC. Moderating is Professor Dennis Murphy, Professor of Information in Warfare, United States Army War College, Center for Strategic Leadership.

Ackerman: State Dept Project Signals Foreign Policy Shift

Spencer Ackerman has an article at The Washington Independent on the forthcoming Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) based on his interview of Anne-Marie Slaughter, the State Department’s influential Director of Policy Planning. The QDDR is the State Department’s initial foray into strategic planning. According to State’s website, the QDDR

will provide the short-, medium-, and long-term blueprint for our diplomatic and development efforts. Our goal is to use this process to guide us to agile, responsive, and effective institutions of diplomacy and development, including how to transition from approaches no longer commensurate with current challenges. It will offer guidance on how we develop policies; how we allocate our resources; how we deploy our staff; and how we exercise our authorities.

Anne-Marie says this exercise is “not an abstract planning exercise” and that the “implications go far beyond the budget.” According to Anne-Marie, the QDDR will result in institutional changes, but what remains unknown except that USAID will not be completely absorbed by State.

Anne-Marie put forward three operating themes for the QDDR. First, “U.S. foreign policy is beset with “collective problems” — from terrorism to climate change to pandemic disease — that require joint international action.” Second, is “how State and USAID work with the military to address “the question of civilian operational capacity to crisis.” And third, is the “space between what AID or DIFD [the U.K.’s foreign-assistance agency] or UNDP [the United Nation Development Program] does and what peacekeepers and international armies do.”

Spencer’s interview unveiled who is working on the QDDR. Anne-Marie is overseeing five working groups of senior officials from both State and USAID.

  • Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of State for East Asia, and Karen Turner, director of USAID’s office of development partners, head the group responsible for “Building a Global Architecture of Cooperation.”
  • Maria Otero, the undersecretary of state for democracy and global affairs, and Gloria Steele, USAID’s global-health chief, work on whole-of-government solutions.
  • Johnnie Carson, State’s top African-affairs official, and George Laudato, USAID’s Mideast chief, handle “Investing in the Building Blocks of Stronger Societies.”
  • Conflict prevention and response is under Eric Schwartz, State’s assistant secretary for population, migration and refugees.
  • Susan Reichle, USAID’s senior democracy and humanitarian assistance official.
  • Ruth Whiteside of State’s Foreign Service Institute and JeanMarie Smith, Lew’s special assistant, are in charge of “Building Operational and Resource Platforms for Success.”

It seems to me, as Spencer wrote from our interview, that the QDDR is focusing on interagency processes rather than intra-agency barriers and friction. In this case, it may be safe to say that the interagency process is the “low hanging fruit” that is easier for the picking.

We will see what, if any, real change the QDDR will bring. As I said in the article, the “QDDR will ultimately be just a document. What it spurs will be the real test.”

Related:

Hitting Bottom at Foggy Bottom at ForeignPolicy.com

My article “Hitting Bottom at Foggy Bottom” is online at ForeignPolicy.com:

Discussion over the fate of Foggy Bottom usually focuses on the tenure of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the troubles of public diplomacy, and the rise of special envoys on everything from European pipelines to Afghanistan and Pakistan. But Americans would benefit more from a reassessment of the core functionality of the U.S. State Department.

Years of neglect and marginalization, as well as a dearth of long-term vision and strategic planning, have left the 19th-century institution hamstrung with fiefdoms and bureaucratic bottlenecks. The Pentagon now funds and controls a wide range of foreign-policy and diplomatic priorities — from development to public diplomacy and beyond. The world has changed, with everyone from politicians to talking heads to terrorists directly influencing global audiences. The most pressing issues are stateless: pandemics, recession, terrorism, poverty, proliferation, and conflict. But as report after report, investigation after investigation, has highlighted, the State Department is broken and paralyzed, unable to respond to the new 21st-century paradigm. …

Read the rest at ForeignPolicy.com. Originally titled “Fixing State” (my title was too staid and the “State of State” was taken), it highlights forgotten or ignored structural and capacity issues at State that contributed to Defense leadership in foreign policy and public diplomacy.

Related Posts:

Preparing to Lose the Information War? is a related post that gets into some detail where “Hitting Bottom” is high level.

Comparing the Areas of Responsibility of State and Defense gives a bit more detail on converting State to a regional actor.

USAID challenges reflect greater problems at the State Department looks at the importance of development. (See also The Intended ‘Psychological By-Products’ of Development on the psychological effects of the Marshall Plan; and from last year, USAID and Public Diplomacy.)

House Appropriations Concerned Pentagon’s Role in Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy examines the theory of House Appropriations and Walter Pincus that “State should be doing this”.

Defense Department Plan on Strategic Communication and Science and Technology is a report that noted a need for leadership and coordination in strategic communication programs earlier this year.

American public diplomacy wears combat boots from May 2008 highlighted the leadership in basic engagement the Defense Department was exercising in the absence of an effective alternative.

Developing a National Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy Strategic also from May 2008 highlights Congressman Adam Smith’s (D-Wash) effort to get the country’s efforts in global engagement on track.

The Cost of Keeping the Principal off the X from October 2007 is particularly relevant post on State’s view of the world. This issue resurfaced with the recent “outing” of the behavior of both the contracted Kabul security and the lack of action by the Department. See also an event I put on October 2006 titled American Mercenaries of Public Diplomacy.

Pushing Humpty Dumpty: the rebuilding of State

There are few that would question that the US State Department is a dysfunctional organization. The structure, fiefdoms, and bureaucratic knots have many knowledgeable analysts whether it is possible to bring State into the 20th century, let alone the 21st century. I believe it is possible, indeed absolutely essential but doing so requires major Congressional intervention as State cannot or will not revamp itself, regardless of the leadership of the Secretary of State or of her Under Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries (many of these critical leadership positions, by the way, remain empty).

Yesterday I asked whether the State Department is so full of problems today that it must be rebuilt from scratch if there is to be effective civilian leadership of America’s foreign affairs? The question was came out of my latest conversation with a colleague who, like many others, wants to break apart the State Department because of the because the impression the present structure is incapable of change. Different constituencies want different things, but the general idea is to break it into smaller pieces, like pushing Humpty Dumpty and don’t him back together again: create an independent USAID, independent USIA-like entity, remove or dramatically revise INR and so on.

Spencer Ackerman (a fine judge of intellect, by the way) is rightly concerned whether there is a constituency or motivation to rebuild State in Congress or elsewhere. 

There is no congressional constituency in Congress for destroying the State Department to create some fantastical super-totally-capable-New State Department. If there’s a constituency at all for destroying the State Department, it’s a constituency that wants to weaken diplomacy as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy. See, for instance, Newt Gingrich’s long-forgotten 2003 rant about the State Department representing a fifth column within the Bush administration. … My suspicion is that overhauling the State Department will miss the point in the same way that the post-Vietnam era military purge of counterinsurgency capabilities missed the point or the period calls to abolish the CIA miss the point.

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Question: is it time to rebuild the State Department from scratch?

Is the State Department so full of problems today that it requires rebuilding from scratch if there is to be effective civilian leadership of America’s foreign affairs? From the recent report on the dysfunction within the Africa Bureau (which ignored the failure of intra-agency integration), the militarization of foreign aid and situation with USAID, to the continuing problem of the militarization of public diplomacy and strategic communication underlying the question of who represents America to the world, are we seeing more of the iceberg?

If change is necessary, are the Secretary of State’s authorities and leadership enough to push the necessary changes without creating a paralyzing backlash from within? Must change come from Congress in a modern (and more sweeping) version of the Goldwater-Nichols Act (which would beg the question of who would be the modern Goldwater)?

What are your thoughts?

Related:

USAID challenges reflect greater problems at the State Department

A primary pillar of US engagement with the world in the modern era is foreign assistance. Institutionalized under the Marshall Plan and later the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 that created the US Agency for International Development, development aid was and continues to be a means of denying ideological sanctuary to our adversaries that prey on poverty and despair as well as focusing on developing the capacity for self-governance through economic and other development.

In March 2008, General Anthony Zinni (ret.) and Admiral Leighton Smith (ret.) told Congress

the ‘enemies’ in the world today are actually conditions — poverty, infectious disease, political turmoil and corruption, environmental and energy challenges.

USAID’s mission today is as important as ever and yet it remains leaderless with declining morale and shrinking funds as increasingly America’s foreign development aid wears combat boots, just like its public diplomacy.

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House Appropriations Concerned Pentagon’s Role in Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy (updated)

American public diplomacy wears combat boots. That was the first sentence of my chapter in the Handbook of Public Diplomacy published last year. I argued that public diplomacy and its related strategic communication had gone too soft and that the Defense Department necessarily, if unwilling and sometimes clumsily, stepped in to fill a gap left by an absent State Department. Today, the situation is different with Defense running increasingly sophisticated efforts, often with the collaboration and support of State and other entities within the Government. And of course, the Smith-Mundt Act has an effect here on public diplomacy and strategic communication.

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