Last week, Representatives Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced a bill to amend the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 to “authorize the domestic dissemination of information and material about the United States intended primarily for foreign audiences, and for other purposes.” The bill, H.R.5736 — Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 (Introduced in House – IH), removes the prohibition on public diplomacy material from being available to people within the United States and thus eliminates an artificial handicap to U.S. global engagement while creating domestic awareness of international affairs and oversight and accountability of the same. This bill also specifies Smith-Mundt only applies to the Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors, eliminating an ambiguity creatively imagined sometime over the three decades.
Threats to America’s security are complex and require understanding that policies and words are both necessary and both must be synchronized, mutually supporting, and formulated and executed in a way that recognizes the global environment. But for some, strategic communication and public diplomacy are about speaking to audiences, turning up the volume if a particular message doesn’t immediately resonate. Fortunately, in recent years the reality began to sink in. Strategic communication and public diplomacy – two similar but not synonymous terms – are once again becoming recognized as powerful and essential means of global engagement.
In the US House of Representatives, there is a new non-partisan group to created to share information on issues related to global engagement. The purpose of the Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy Caucus is to “raise awareness of the challenges facing strategic communication and public diplomacy and provide multiple perspectives on proposed solutions.” Congressmen Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Adam Smith (D-WA), co-chairs of the caucus, described the purpose of the group in a letter to their colleagues dated March 3, 2010 (PDF, 35kb):
By Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX)
On September 11th, 2001, America changed. Since then the United States has been at war with violent Islamic extremists who plot and plan against us every day. We have sent American troops to Afghanistan and Iraq to defeat them in combat. Our intelligence and special operations forces have fanned out across the globe to disrupt terrorist networks and deny them safe havens. And we have cooperated with friends and allies to reinforce existing counterterrorism resources and build new coordinated capabilities. While these actions are necessary to defeat the jihadist threat against the United States, they are not sufficient to do so.