Minutes of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy April 2005 Official Meeting

Remarks
Washington, DC
April 13, 2005


Participants:

Chairman Barbara M. Barrett
Commissioner Harold C. Pachios
Commissioner Jay T. Snyder
Commissioner Maria Sophia Aguirre
Commissioner Charles Evers
Commissioner Elizabeth Bagley
Commissioner Penne Korth Peacock
Razvigor Bazala, Executive Director of the Advisory Commission

Subject: The Commission’s second official meeting of 2005.


Background: Elizabeth Whitaker, Director of Policy, Planning and Resources (PPR), Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, and Lloyd Neighbors, Director of the Office of Strategic Communication in the International Information Programs Bureau, briefed the Commission on progress made in the planning and implementation of expanded interagency coordination of public diplomacy programs at the policy and working levels.

Ms. Whitaker opened her remarks with a reference to the recent GAO public diplomacy report, which she said provides a good snapshot of the state of U.S. public diplomacy policy today pointing out that it is currently in a state of transition. The State Department awaits the arrival of Karen Hughes as Under Secretary and is convinced that the much called for center of interagency public diplomacy policy coordination will be wherever she sits. At the same time, Ms. Hughes’ vision for public diplomacy has not yet been elaborated.

Ms. Whitaker characterized her office as a focal point for consideration of issues and resources among the public diplomacy offices established in State’s regional bureaus after the consolidation of the U.S. Information Agency into the State Department in 1999. Her office provides a much-needed global perspective for considering PD issues and is a centerpiece of State’s PD apparatus.

She pointed to the establishment of the Muslim World Outreach (MWO) policy coordinating committee chaired by the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and a Senior NSC deputy and work on reaching an agreed interagency position an MWO strategy paper as the key achievements of her office since its creation ten months ago. The paper has been presented to Secretary Rice and outlines the objective of the MWO, which is to encourage Muslim moderates to play greater roles in their societies.

Ms. Whitaker cited another significant achievement of her office, namely the establishment of a joint USAID-State working level policy council and a project related to USAID Development Outreach Communicators (DOC) to ensure that they coordinate their activities with Embassy public diplomacy sections. DOCs are American, third country, and Foreign Service National USAID employees working on USAID PD projects abroad. The creation of the cadre was a unilateral USAID initiative to which the Department of State did not object. The Under Secretary was briefed about DOCs but a Commissioner hypothesized that Ambassadors may have been caught off guard by this development. Several Commissioners said that DOC coordination with Embassies was essential to ensuring U.S. posts addressed publics with one voice. The Commissioners also asked whether they are receiving training at the Foreign Service Institute. Ms. Whitaker said IIP training material has been provided to USAID regional training sites for use by all USAID personnel in training there. The goal, she said, is to foster effective USAID cooperation with embassy public diplomacy sections to maximize getting the message out about U.S. assistance. That has worked better at some Embassies than at others. To achieve that objective, all State officers in training for overseas assignments are being briefed on the DOC program and public diplomacy sections are briefing all DOC personnel.

Citing the Djerejian report as her bible, Ms. Whitaker concluded by responding to a Commission inquiry about global PD coordination, which apparently has been achieved at the regional level through the MWOPCC. She noted that, to date, no broader context has been established. While she endorsed Djerejian’s recommendation regarding the development of country-by-country public diplomacy strategies, long-term leadership will be required to get the job done.

Lloyd Neighbors echoed that sentiment in his opening remarks adding that control at the top must be supplemented by effective working level ground level implementation. Founded in February 2003, the Fusion Team, which he oversees, has been demeaned and dismissed by people who do not know its mandate. He said it has grown to 400 members and that 35-50 officials attend the weekly Fusion Team meetings. Among agencies represented are DoD (whose contingent is the largest), Treasury, the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, BBG, Homeland Security, USAID and the FBI. DoD funds one and a half staffers in the Office of Strategic Communication to run day-to-day Fusion Team operations and will soon assign a colonel to the stratcom office.

As a case study of Fusion Team success, Mr. Neighbors cited its response to the public diplomacy crisis in the aftermath of the tsunami of last December. It was rapid, well coordinated and got out the message that America’s contribution was both massive and unstinting. Supporting photo, video and print resources produced by a number of agencies were brought together speedily and distributed over websites and to embassy public diplomacy sections. They, in turn, disseminated material to local media authoritatively driving home that message in a unified manner.

Mr. Neighbors referred to a DoD offer of financial support for production of a IIP poster show documenting U.S. tsunami relief efforts available to be displayed at U.S. Embassies and other facilities and local institutions. He said this was an excellent example of the effective coordination and cooperation that was an outgrowth of Fusion Team activities. The result will be far wider dissemination of the posters and cost savings both to State and DoD.

Mr. Neighbors also cited Electronic Journals produced in major world languages as a Fusion Team effort. While they are primarily directed to State Department staff members, they are unclassified documents that the public can access. They are USINFO articles that can be accessed through search engines such as Google and Yahoo. INFOCENTRAL, on the other hand, is a State Department Intranet product for State officials and is available only to about 4,000 persons, although, pending the availability of funds, there are plans to make it available to all U.S. agencies’ public information officers.

Mr. Neighbors discussed the important contribution the Fusion Team has made to ensuring that Military Information Support Teams (MIST, previously Psyops) activities overseas are closely coordinated with Embassies. In fact, a Fusion Team staffer is responsible for vetting all DoD MIST proposals with Ambassadors, whose concurrence is required before MIST teams can be deployed overseas. This ensures that their public diplomacy activities do not conflict with those of the State Department.

Mr. Neighbors also said the Fusion Team has encouraged FSI to extend to public diplomacy training to other agencies, particularly DoD PA officers, using an offsite program, which is informally labeled "Public Diplomacy in a Box." Even though DoD is prepared to pay for FSI training of its personnel, the program is not yet fully developed. Commissioners indicated that they would recommend supporting the proposal.

Mr. Neighbors cited Fusion Team proposals for Turkish TV Coops and Indonesian radio spots aimed at youth as two endeavors directly supporting the objectives of the MWOPCC. He closed his comments with a reference to Fusion Team-created website link to USINFO aimed at countering malicious misinformation about U.S. policies and activities.