State Department Inspector General criticizes the Africa Bureau

state_oig_af_Page_01The State Department’s Inspector General released an important report on the Africa Bureau (689kb PDF), or “AF” in State’s lexicon. Of particular interest is AF’s resource troubles and problems with integrating and supporting public diplomacy.

As the report notes, there were significant expectations with regard to Africa policy with the election of President Obama. It is important as both the President and the Secretary of State have recently completed high profile trips to the continent.

The troubles at AF could indicate deeper problems at the State Department at a time when Congress is asking why America’s public diplomacy wears combat boots. The report includes a little data on the military support to public diplomacy that may surprise Congress and shows State must do more to not only fix its organization but to solicit more funds.

The report repeatedly highlights the failure to incorporate public diplomacy into AF operations ten years after USIA was abolished. However, it never addresses the reality that AF public diplomacy has, at best, only an informal relationship with the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs office, known as “R”. This is a widespread but hidden issue many, especially in Congress but also pundits on public diplomacy don’t “get”: the Under Secretary actually has severely limited direct authorities over not only money but staff and programs. The report fails to mention that public diplomacy taskings from “R” to AF do not go through official channels to AF’s leadership but through informal channels that bypass the leadership, both in the Bureau and in field, does not always know what the public diplomacy officers are working on or their impact.

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Senate Foreign Relations Committee Report on American public diplomacy centers and programs

The GPO will issue a report Monday (March 2, 2009) from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee titled “U.S. Public Diplomacy–Time to Get Back in the Game” (2.3mb PDF modified to be searchable, see below for a more useful version). It will be the latest in a series of events from the SFRC that includes a resolution recommending changes in security policies that pulled American “libraries”, now known as the by the sterile name “Information Resource Centers”, away from possible users, an op-ed by Senator Lugar at Foreign, and a hearing titled Engaging with Muslim Communities Around the World that included testimony from former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and former CENTCOM Commander Admiral William J. Fallon testifying, among others.
This is an interesting report with interesting and sensible recommendations. I have made, by permission of the report’s author, a “live” version of the report that is in color and includes clickable URL links. The GPO’s black and white version is a technological “marvel:” they clearly printed out the document then scanned it using a black and white scanner. They did not even make the report text searchable (tech-speak: it is an image-only PDF; will somebody tell the GPO to update their processes?). A “live” report with clickable URLs and color charts and pictures is available here (2.5mb PDF).

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Transitioning to the Department of State and Non-State (Updated)

“The world today can be much better understood if you think of it from the perspective of regions and not states,” said Gen. Jim Jones

International affairs is increasingly shaped by geography that disregards state boundaries and the primacy of governments. Discussions around America’s ability to operate in this modern reality often ignore the effect bureaucratic structures and cultures.  

In the debates over how the State Department will engage foreign publics, lost in the shuffle is how the State Department remains oriented on countries instead of regions. The Department of State needs to become the Department of Non-State if it is to be effective as international affairs transcend the increasingly quaint issues of bilateral diplomacy.

For a variety of reasons, the Department of Defence has increased its role in foreign affairs. Decades ago, at the same time USIA was introduced, State was to have primacy in international affairs. Now it is one member of the interagency collaboration of unequal partners.

The map below gives a clue to an aspect of continuing incompatibility between these two agencies, and suggests an functional division that does not match modern needs. The lack of alignment in three critical area – Africa, Middle East, and South Asia – is one issue. Another, arguably more critical, is not indicated by the map: while Defense looks at regions, State functions at the country level. This is a problem when public affairs officers in one country does not have the same priorities as the PAO in the neighboring country. The greater issue is when the ambassadors in a region do not agree or concur on courses of action. 

Source: Depeartment of State
Source: Depeartment of State

State can, and must, do more to be a partner, or a leader among equals. Authorities at several levels of leaders do not equate across the agencies, the ranks do not match, and resources available fosters real and perceived differences in power to affect change with audiences abroad and domestically. 

As collaboration between State and Defense increases, State and Defense must align how they divide up the world and adjust their organizations accordingly. As it is, State should adapt its nineteenth century model to Defense’s model. This means State needs to do some promoting and one elimination. State must get rid of the Under Secretary for Political Affairs and elevate the Assistant Secretaries in charge of each regional bureaus to Under Secretary, making the head of the regional bureau the equivalent of a four-star general and thus a co-equal, by rank, to the Combatant Commander. Whenever a Combatant Commander appears on the Hill, so to should the Regional Under Secretary.

I’ve received some push back on this structure because of the additional reporting to the Secretary of State, but if the Secretary of Defense can have Combatant Commanders report directly to him, why can’t the Secretary of State have Regional Bureaus report directly to here? Let’s flatten the hierarchy and move away from the 19th century alignment. Food for thought: should State instantiate a Joint Chiefs-like entity for an additional advisor?

Sure, Ambassadors would lose some independence as the Bureaus become more powerful as State shifts to a regional view from a country-level view, but this isn’t necessarily a zero-sum. (Side note: regarding Ambassadors, keep in mind that everyone at State and Defense are the President’s representative.)

H/T to DF who scored big time finding the above map. 

Tomorrow: Blogger Roundtable with Under Secretary Jim Glassman

There’s another blogger conference call – “roundtable” – with the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs tomorrow, Tuesday, 28 October 2008. The focus of the call will be on South America. Jim will probably discuss the public diplomacy / citizen diplomacy within Colombia against FARC.
The official invite:

You are cordially invited to call-in to an on-the-record blogger’s roundtable with Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs James K. Glassman on Tuesday, October 28, 2008, at 2 pm EST.  During the roundtable, Under Secretary Glassman will provide an update on public diplomacy efforts, with an emphasis on recent efforts and successes in combating terrorist groups in the Western Hemisphere.

Should you wish to join, please RSVP to, by noon on Monday, October 27, and, if it’s your first roundtable with us,  please provide a link to your blog as well as a brief biography of yourself.  A link to U/S Glassman’s biography is attached.  Because we wish to facilitate a valuable discussion of the issues, we unfortunately need to limit the number of available callers, so please RSVP quickly, as callers will accommodated on a first-come, first served basis.

The number to call and the passcode to enter the conference will be provided to you upon receipt of your RSVP. Also, a transcript will be provided 24 hours after the roundtable.

Interested? The contact information is above.