The 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.
The October 1 operational launch of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), on the eve of a new American presidential administration, provides an unprecedented opportunity to reshape U.S. strategy toward Africa. Significant attention has been devoted to the structure and functions of AFRICOM–and to its strategic communications challenges. Less thought, however, has been given to identifying the core security interests that should guide U.S. strategy on the continent or to defining the new kinds of partnership with a more self-assured Africa that are most likely to advance those interests.
With its capacity for political as well as military engagement and for conflict prevention as well as traditional war-fighting, AFRICOM has the potential to serve as a model for future interagency security cooperation efforts abroad. But what AFRICOM does is more important than how the command is structured. What is the strategic rationale for increased U.S. security engagement with African countries? What are the emerging threats and challenges in Africa, and how should they be addressed? AEI’s Mauro De Lorenzo and Thomas Donnelly will host two panel discussions with African security experts to answer these and other questions.
When: Wednesday, October 1, 2008 10:30 AM – 1:30 PM