Public Diplomacy’s ‘Missing Years’

Cover page for USIS daily news bulletin from Sep 1945

There was a time before USIA when the U.S. Government practiced what we now call public diplomacy. This period is often forgotten or ignored.  For too many, the history of U.S. public diplomacy begins with the establishment of United States Information Agency, or USIA.  However, it did not and pretending it did start with USIA not only misrepresents the past and subsequent trajectories, it is also a disservice to those who worked hard to establish peacetime public diplomacy. Continue reading “Public Diplomacy’s ‘Missing Years’”

A Tale from the Field about Religion, Culture, and Perception

By Gregory L. Garland

Matt’s blog has become a force to behold in the discussion about strategic communication, public diplomacy, and State/DOD relations. It has shined a light on what largely was a rarified, inside-the-beltway debate symptomatic of the old USIA’s domestic blank spot. What has been lacking are stories from the field outside the U.S. – examples of PD as it actually is conducted by PD professionals. Here’s one from my own experience that in many ways is typical.

I’ve run effective PD programs that didn’t cost Uncle Sam anything except my own time. I’ve run next to useless PD programs so flush that I couldn’t spend all the money Washington showered upon me. And I’ve run just about everything in between those extremes. As every experienced PAO knows, basic human grit, skill, and talent will go far in assembling a program, but a little bit of cash always helps. And it doesn’t have to be much, especially when compared to what other agencies spend.

Continue reading “A Tale from the Field about Religion, Culture, and Perception”

Event: The Abolition of USIA and Its Effects on U.S. Public Diplomacy

At The Heritage Foundation December 9, 2009, 10a – 11:30a: The Abolition of USIA and Its Effects on U.S. Public Diplomacy. Speakers include Joe Duffey, Bill Kiehl, Stephen Johnson, Robert Schadler and hosted by Helle Dale.

Founded in 1953, the mission of the United States Information Agency (USIA) was to “understand, inform and influence foreign publics in promotion of the national interest, and to broaden the dialogue between Americans and U.S. institutions and their counterparts abroad.”  For years, USIA was the U.S. government’s public diplomacy arm, charged with telling America’s story abroad.  Ten years ago, USIA was disbanded and its functions were folded into the State Department under the management of Undersecretary of State for Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy.  Since then, U.S. public diplomacy has fallen upon hard times.  The new administration has repeatedly proclaimed that U.S. engagement in the world would be revitalized and yet there has been little change at U.S. foreign policy’s lead agency.  Our panelists will analyze the changes that U.S. public diplomacy has gone through in the past 10 years and what should be done to improve America’s ability to “understand, inform and influence foreign publics in promotion of the national interest.”

I won’t be there but RSVP here if you want to be there. I’m interested in your feedback on the discussion.