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.