The Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs: an updated incumbency chart and some background

The Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs was created in 1999 to lead the State Department’s existing public affairs operations and the reintegration of most of the global public affairs activities previously based in the department. These global activities had been removed in 1953 and rebranded in the late 1960s as “public diplomacy.” (Edmund Gullion is often credited with this rebranding, but proper attribution should go to Rep. Dante Fascell (D-FL), but that’s for another post.)

Since the office was established and the first Under Secretary was sworn-in on October 1, 1999, the office has been vacant 36% of the time. To be more precise, the office has been “unencumbered” with a confirmed Under Secretary for 35.8% of the days since October 1, 1999, with an average gap between appointments of 289 days (over 9.5 months). In December 2011, the Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy released a report about this vacancy issue (at the time, I served as the Executive Director of the commission) and the next month I published a less restrained commentary on the topic, R we there yet? A look at the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy (and Public Affairs). Above is an updated chart showing the tenure and vacancies of the office as of August 26, 2019.

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Guest Post: Congress Takes a Step Forward in Preparing Future Generations of America for the Global Age

By Marlene M. Johnson

The passage of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for FY 2010-2011 (HR 2410) in the U.S. House of Representatives is an important investment in America’s diplomatic capabilities. As Matt observed, “this legislation is necessary and long overdue” and sets the stage for “global persistent engagement rather than persistent conflict.”

Doubling the size of the Peace Corps, enhancing the State Department’s educational and cultural exchange programs, providing scholarships for students from around the world to study in the U.S., and hiring and training more Foreign Service officers are all important elements to bolster the effectiveness of U.S. public diplomacy, foreign policy, and national security efforts. NAFSA strongly supports the enactment of another piece of this important legislation – The Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act.

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