Minutes for December 11, 2014 Official Meeting
Countering Terrorism Communications & the 2014 Comprehensive Annual Report on Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting
Thursday, December 11, 2014
Hart Senate Office Building, Room 902, Washington, D.C.
GUEST SPEAKER PRESENT:
Mr. Daniel Kimmage, Principal Deputy Coordinator, Center on Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, U.S. Department of State
COMMISSION MEMBERS PRESENT:
Mr. William J. Hybl, Chair
Mr. Sim Farar, Vice Chair
Ambassador Penne Korth Peacock
Ms. Lezlee Westine
COMMISSION STAFF MEMBERS PRESENT:
Ms. Michelle Bowen, Program Support Assistant
Dr. Katherine Brown, Executive Director
Mr. Chris Hensman, Senior Advisor
The U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy held a public meeting on December 11, 2014 from 10:00-12:00 p.m. at the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, DC. The meeting was focused on the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) at the State Department” and the findings from the Commission’s 2014 Comprehensive Annual Report on Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting.
The Commission Members first welcomed Mr. Daniel Kimmage, who spoke in detail about the Center on Strategic Counterterrorism Communications’ efforts to counter violent extremism online.
The Commission’s Executive Director, Katherine Brown, then reported findings from the Comprehensive Annual Report on Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting Activities.
The Commission Members, experts in attendance, and the audience posed questions about the effectiveness of the State Department’s online CVE efforts, in addition to questions about data in the Comprehensive Annual Report. The specific questions asked and the answers to them can be found below in the transcript. The meeting closed by briefly discussing the Commission’s mandate and plan for the remainder of the fiscal year. The Commission will meet publicly again on February 26, 2015.
William J. Hybl: We’d like to welcome you to an exciting program with an exciting report, which in some depth covers public diplomacy around the world. But first, an introduction to the Commission. Since 1948, the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy has been charged with appraising U.S. government activities intended to understand, inform and influence foreign publics. It also works to increase the understanding and support of these same activities. The Commission conducts research and symposiums that provide assessments and informed discourse on public diplomacy efforts across government.
This meeting, we’ll discuss two topics. First, we’ll discuss the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communication’s recent efforts to counter violent extremism online. Second, and we’re very proud to present the Commission’s 2014 Comprehensive Annual Report on Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting Activities. This report details 89 academic, professional, youth, cultural and sports programs and the cost and focus of activities at more than 180 embassies. This is truly the first comprehensive report the Commission has done, and this is pursuant to requests by Senator Boxer and Senator Coburn in legislation that was passed in 2013. A special thanks to Katherine Brown and Chris Hensman and their staff for putting this together. This really was a Herculean task achieved in less than a year. There are 13 key findings with 35 recommendations. Probably not all of which will be received really well, but I think they are all well founded and certainly would make a difference.
Joining us today are our Commission Members: Vice Chairman Sim Farar, from Los Angeles; Ambassador Penne Peacock from Austin, Texas; and Lezlee Westine from Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, Ambassador Lyndon Olson could not join us today, nor could Anne Terman Wedner from Chicago. Their more detailed biographies are out at the front desk for any of you interested in learning more. We’d also like to thank Senator Barbara Boxer for hosting us today, and Walker Zorensky of her staff for making this room possible. I’d now like to turn to our Vice Chair, Sim Farar to introduce our speaker. Sim?
Sim Farar: Thank you, Bill, very much. We’re honored to have with us today Daniel Kimmage the Principal Deputy Coordinator for the U.S. Department of State’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, also known as CSCC. Mr. Kimmage received his undergraduate education at the State University of New York at Binghamton and earned an M.A. in Russian and Islamic history from Cornell University. From 2003 to 2008, he was a regional analyst at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. And from 2008-2010, he was an independent consultant and Senior Fellow at the Homeland Security Policy Institute. Mr. Kimmage’s published reports on extremist media strategies include Iraqi Insurgent Media: The War of Images and Ideas, The Al-Qaeda Media Nexus, and Al-Qaeda Central and the Internet.
After we hear from Mr. Kimmage, we will open the discussion up to questions from the Commission Members, and then the audience, before we move onto discussing our annual report. Mr. Kimmage, welcome.
Daniel Kimmage: Good morning. I’d like to begin by thanking the Members of the Commission for having me and thanking all of you for turning out to hear me. Before I begin, I’d like to add that my biography’s a bit of a cautionary tale in that sometimes in Washington, you write about the problem, and then you end up asked to solve it. So, in the mid-2000s I was an analyst at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and I wrote a fairly detailed report on the Iraqi insurgent media and then on Al Qaida’s use of the Internet. And, today, I find myself at the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, tasked with coming up with a solution to this problem for the U.S. government. And, it has been both a pleasure and a challenge. But, my involvement with public diplomacy-related issues does go back more than a decade, when I began working for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. So, it’s a real double pleasure for me to be here today.
So, what I’d like to cover in the next 15 to 20 minutes is a little bit of the problem that our Center is working on, which is the problem of extremist propaganda. I’ll talk a little bit about our Center, what we do, and then some specific examples of our work so that you have a tangible sense of what it is that we are doing.
So, let me start with the problem itself. Al Qaida, an organization we’re all well familiar with in its more recent manifestations, has since its inception been obsessing with media messages and with propaganda. In 1998, when it really announces itself to the world, it does so not with a terrorist attack, although soon thereafter, it announces itself with a press release and a press conference. This is an organization that since the beginning has been obsessed with communicating with the world.
The historical arc of Al Qaida is one that tracks very much with developments in communication. In the 1990s, they were using fax machines and giving press conferences and issuing statements. And, in the 2000s, they were at the forefront of adopting the Internet and adopting new technologies to spread their message. I would say that they have almost perfected this by the mid-2000s. This was the period when I was describing the Iraqi insurgent media, in 2007 and 2008. I did a report on Al Qaida’s media nexus and they had created a web of communication online, of distribution mechanisms, a whole virtual network to spread their message. What was fascinating about it is that it was centralized in that their organization did maintain relatively tight message control. But, their distribution was very decentralized, because the Web is decentralized by its design.
That has changed, and it’s changed in some interesting ways. Al Qaida as an organization is not as centralized as it once was. What we’ve seen in recent years is the emergence of affiliates, Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. Most recently, Al Qaida in Iraq has morphed into the so-called Islamic State and has its own communications, so the progenitor in its virulence and size and its influence, so that the organization has become decentralized. At the same, electronic communications have become very decentralized. The emergence of what used to be called Web 2.0 – and now we think of more as social media – has changed communication. It has made it less centralized, has made it less easily controlled. Now, there are many more participants in the process. The old model whereby an organization would come up with a single press release, for example, and send it out by fax, and it would be picked up by conventional media, and we would all read about in the newspaper tomorrow, has been upended by a system in which it can be many, many thousands of participants. This has significantly affected the way Al Qaida and these affiliates and organizations function – except that ISIL is not really affiliated any more, it’s been excommunicated by Al Qaida.
But, these organizations that grew out of the original Al Qaida now communicate in very decentralized ways. They are very active on Twitter, and their fan boys on Twitter pick up their statements and distribute them. So, the communications environment itself has changed radically. We saw this perhaps most vividly illustrated earlier this year when ISIL took over the City of Mosul in Iraq. And, communications was a very big part of that effort. It really fills before they got online, tried to keep up with the city, essentially sowing dissent in the security forces, undermining the morale. Communications was something that they considered a very important part of the campaign and put an enormous amount of time and effort into.
So, that’s the context. The decentralization of the original Al Qaida organization into a group of affiliates and spin-offs, and the profusion of social media means that they can use to spread their message. In that context, that’s the problem or the message that we are trying to counter.
Let me turn to the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) where I’m the Deputy Coordinator. CSCC was born of the idea that the U.S. government needs a war-room type organization to push back against the propaganda that is coming from all of these extremist groups. It’s a very simple idea – some of you may have seen an actually great documentary about political campaigns and communications called The War Room. But, that was the central idea that we would be tracking the communications of Al Qaida, and we would be pushing back with our own communications.
This office was created in 2011 and Ambassador Richard LeBaron was the first coordinator of CSCC. Later in 2011, we received an Executive Order that you can find on the White House website, that lays out the mission of CSCC, which is to coordinate, orient and inform all the government public communications to counter Al Qaida and other extremist groups. I don’t know if that’s the exact working, but it’s very close.
What we do falls into three general areas. The first one, and certainly the least glamorous but in some ways the most important, is the task coordination. That involves supporting U.S. government communicators as they deal with foreign audiences to communicate against Al Qaida. In some ways, this is just the standard and very familiar work of public diplomacy and communications that permeates the U.S. government, and particularly the State Department, which very broadly communicates with the world. So, our job is to inform that, to help in the production of guidance, things that people are all very familiar with. And, as I said, that’s not always the most glamorous part of our work, but it’s vitally important. Some of this involves meetings, some of this is making sure that the right offices talk to each other. But, our job is to focus on something that sometimes touches the lives of people in the U.S. government or in the public diplomacy sphere. But, it’s not always the sole concern, which is extremist communications. This is something we always focus on. When there is a new statement, a new video, a new innovation in the communications sphere, we are tracking this and we are trying to figure out what its significance is, what its impact is and what we can do to blunt that impact, what we can do to blunt that message. So, that is our sole concern, and we use that to help other offices communicate.
The second aspect of our work is working with overseas partners, and we work with them to help their communication strategies, their capabilities and their activities. Sometimes, this means just the sharing of best practices. Sometimes this could be support for local initiatives, and particularly, those that involve communications or the resilience of communities against terrorist and extremist groups. That’s the second category. Once again, I think that’s a fairly familiar kind of activity to many of us.
And, that brings me to the third category of what we do, which is in some ways the newest online, it’s the one that receives the greatest attention, but is in some ways the least traditional, and that is our direct digital engagement against extremist groups online. We have a team that works in Arabic, Urdu, Somali, and more recently in English and we work on social media to engage directly and to counter the propaganda of extremist groups.
That’s really it in a nutshell. There are some very interesting manifestations, and I will show you some examples in a second. But, this is a daily and hourly task that our team undertakes and it is something that changes all the time. The platforms change, the messages change, the means change, there are always new videos, there are new technical innovations and our job is to track this and to the best of our ability to push back in all these same places. So, we pursue three overarching objectives in this area.
The first is simply to contest the space. We want to provide a U.S. government presence, communicating against these groups in places where otherwise they would be communicating in some ways unimpeded and uninhibited. Our team identifies itself as representing the U.S. Department of State, we use the logo, we’re out there communicating as the State Department and we are contesting the space. And, in a way, this sounds very simple, you just have to show up, but you still have to know where to show up. Where is the extremist message propagating? Where are they spreading, in what websites is it on? How do we decide where it’s gaining traction? Where should we push back? These are complicated questions and ones we deal with every day. But, they fit into the general rubric of contesting the space. We will not let Al Qaida’s message propagate unimpeded, so we will contest the space.
So, in contesting that space, what are we trying to do? We’re trying to redirect the conversation. And, for the most part, we try to redirect it in a fairly simple way. Al Qaida is a hypocritical organization, it makes a claim that it is defending people and pursuing a program of change, and almost everything that it does involves killing people – and, in most cases, killing the very people they claim to defend. This is a simple truth, it is one that’s amply illustrated with evidence from around the world, and it is one that we use against them every day. There’s actually a nice example this morning. The BBC and International Center for the Study of Radicalization of Political Violence released a new report called “The New Jihadism, A Global Snapshot.” I suggest everyone take a look. Essentially what this report shows is that in the last month, various groups from the Al Qaida universe have killed 5,000 people, the majority of them Muslims, the very people they claim to defend. And, this is an excellent report in its use of evidence. It is evidence like this that we seek to amplify and use in our communications. So, that’s our redirect of the conversation.
Lastly, we aim to unnerve the adversary. We want them to know that we are there. We don’t want them to think that they can communicate unimpeded, that they can go on a little-known platforms and trying to assuage people there. We will follow them to the extent that we can and we will also push back with communications. So, we want them to be aware. We’ve seen evidence that they are aware and that they are unsettled. We’ve had jihadist groups push back against us on Twitter. We’ve had groups issue communiques to their supporters warning about our team. So, that’s the third thing we pursue.
So, let me illustrate this with some concrete examples. I think we brought six or seven slides just to show what does this actually look like in practice? Let’s go to the first slide.
Okay, so this just a summary of some of the basic activities. These are not all of the platforms where our team is active, but these are the main platforms. As I said, the activity in the Internet has generally moved to social media in recent years, and our team is very present on You Tube, on Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler and discussion forums.
Let’s go to the next slide. Okay, so these are simply banners, what do these banners look like? This is what they look like. They cover a variety of themes. These are Arabic banners. The first one is a very anti-sectarian banner. It is basically calling attention to the exploitation of sectarianism calling unity. The one on the bottom right is calling attention to the atrocities that are committed against women and children in Iraq today. These are not complicated in terms of message. There is an image and some words that go along with this. We produce many of these. The adversary produces many of these as a contact pushing all, and back and forth in a line. But, these are some of the banners.
Let’s go to the next slide. These are more banners we included because they received a significant amount of attention when they were put online. The first one, essentially, shows a scene in Iraq, and it repurposes a quote, a very famous quote from World War II, and it says here that “They killed my Shi’a neighbor and I said nothing. They killed my Turkmen and Christian neighbors and I remained silent. And, then they came for me and I was alone.” We transposed the quote into the contemporary Iraqi context, and it was one that received quite a positive response online. The bottom banner shows a fighter pilot from the United Arab Emirates, which is in the campaign against ISIL. This was another banner that received quite a good response online. So, these are just two examples of Arabic-language banners, of which we produced many online examples.
Go to the next slide. At the top is a banner in Urdu, and it is talking about an attack on what I believe is a vegetable market in Islamabad. And, below it is a banner in Somali discussing the retaking of a city of from Al Shabaab. These are, essentially, combinations of words and images that we use to underscore points, but the point here is that we’re working in a medium where you need to use images, you need to respond quickly and our team produces these on an almost daily basis.
Let’s go to the next slide. These are a few examples of banners in English, essentially, used in exactly the same way. They produce many banners in English, we produce banners in English and we push back on them.
Let’s go to the next one. Okay. So, this is an example of our engagement on Twitter. The Twitter engagement is very, very active, particularly in Arabic, where we have lots of back and forth. These are some examples of supporters of groups warning each other about our team and engaging back and forth. And, you can see here an example of, with the logo of the State Department, how we are establishing a presence online.
Let’s go to the next slide. I want to show only one video because we’re approaching 16-minute mark of the 15-20 minutes I promised. We’ll show the first video. Let me just explain a little bit, because it is in Arabic. This is a video between two and three minutes and essentially what it does is it provides evidence taken from a variety of reports that shows that Al Qaida commits crimes against the very Sunni Muslims that it claims to be defending and protecting. It’s a very simple message.
Mr. Kimmage: What that first sentence is saying, that these are the claims they make, and here is some of the evidence of people they have assassinated, people they have killed but claim to be defending.
Mr. Kimmage: Essentially they are saying, “We’re going to kill whoever we want. We will decide.”
Mr. Kimmage: This is a video illustration of their hypocrisy and it’s a tool that we use to underscore the points that the team makes. I would just add that these are very simple videos. We produced them in-house, they’re not expensive and they’re not complicated. We do a fair number of them. This particular video, I think, got over 40,000 views. It generated quite an active discussion. I know that the supporters have tried to mount campaigns to take these videos off of YouTube. They’ve tried to shut down the message.
So, let me end with two points. The first is that I know that you have probably seen the media coverage of the enormous volume of social media coming out of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Levant. I want you to know and take this as evidence that there is an effort to push back. That these spaces are not uncontested. There are, as I said, hundreds of banners and videos that we have done over the last few years, which have gotten a fair number of views and attention and sparked discussion. So, we are pushing back.
But, we’re also very cognizant that not only can we not do this all ourselves, we shouldn’t do it all ourselves. In some ways, the most powerful voices are going to come from the region, from other people, not from us. And we realize that going ahead, one of the most important tasks that faces our organization is to expand the circle, to make sure that the chorus of voices raised against this group and others, grows larger and louder, and that in coming years for us, we may make more videos, we may work in other languages. But, the primary focus of CSCC is going to be expanding the circle so that we can increase, as I said, the volume of this chorus raised against all of the groups that have grown out of Al Qaida. So, thank you very much, and I look forward to your questions.
Sim Farar: Thank you, Mr. Kimmage. That was unbelievable, and I’d like to turn to the Commission Members and see if they have any questions before we enter into questions from the audience. So, we’ll start with them.
Ambassador Penne Peacock: Mr. Kimmage, that was fascinating. I have just a question for clarification. I find it interesting that you all coordinate to inform and influence. I think we’re all trying to get to the same place eventually. What I don’t understand is, are there Foreign Service Officers who work at CSCC? Who works with you?
Mr. Kimmage: Sure. So, we are an interagency office. We are in the State Department, yes, we are located in the State Department. We have representatives through multiple agencies. We have contractors who work with us. When we communicate online, we communicate as the U.S. Department of State.
Ambassador Peacock: And, so do you have people based in the agencies overseas?
Mr. Kimmage: No, we take a lot of trips, but we are based in the State Department in Washington.
Mr. Farar: Any other questions from the commissioners?
Lezlee Westine: That was fascinating, thank you so much. As someone who actually, I had the opportunity in 2001 to be in the White House, and what you have done compared to where we were back then – you have developed and built this capability that’s fantastic. Thank you, thank you. I also was impressed with what the ambassador said about the coordination function, your partnering overseas. How do you partner with other nations?
Mr. Kimmage: The simple answer is in all of the ways that the State Department does, so a lot of times it will simply be bilateral meetings, and our colleagues from the State Department will be participants in those meetings. They’ll sometimes invite us to join if the subject is communications against extremist groups. But, we’ve conducted briefings and meetings with many parts of foreign governments that are interested in communicating against these groups. We work closely with embassies that are engaged in this. And, then there will be networks of local partners, like NGOs and other groups in countries that are engaged in this. To come back to the point that I closed with, the test is really to build a network of government -- but also non-government -- partners to communicate. In some ways, it is indeed the non-government partners that are really key here, because, we recognize the limitations to communicating as the U.S. government. It’s necessary, but it’s one among many voices. So, I would just say that we are a part of all of the ways that the department communicates.
Ms. Westine: Well, thank you for your great work.
Mr. Farar: Any other questions from the Commissioners?
Audience Member: I have a quick question. The video you showed with those 40,000 viewers. Are those viewers, are those people looking at it from the region, or where are they from? And is there a message in there someplace?
Mr. Kimmage: So, to start with the first question. You have sort of limited stats from YouTube, which is what we rely on, and from those stats, the majority of the viewers would be from the region. I think the viewership of this video was quite heavily from Iraq, but also from elsewhere in the region. So those are just from the stats from YouTube. It’s a perennial difficulty online, knowing where people are from, who they are, and you tend to get a general sense. But, YouTube does break down the statistics, so that video, I think, the majority of viewers were from the region.
The message of the video is two-fold. The first part of the message is knitting together various pieces of evidence to show that their message is hypocritical, they’re lying when they make these claims. And we could’ve shot a video where I sat behind a podium and delivered that message, but we felt it was more effective to use voices from the media, voices from the region themselves that are out there. Now, our part of that message is the fact that we are pulling this together and presenting it, and that comes at the end where we say this is from the CSCC team and the U.S. Department of State. So, we are presenting that message, but it is not solely coming from us. So, it’s a fairly traditional way, I think, of making the point in the new media universe. It’s a slightly new way of making the point for the U.S. government. But, that’s the idea of it.
Mr. Farar: Thank you very much. Any other, any questions from the Commissioners? We’d like to now turn it over to the audience. If you have any questions, please feel free to raise your hand and we’ll acknowledge you. Just tell us what organization you’re from and your name, please.
Matthew Wallin: Thank you for your presentation. I’m Matthew Wallin from the American Security Project. I’ve been looking at a lot of your work over the past number of months, and one thing that occurs to me is that organizations like ISIL and Al Qaida thrive on displaying violence and using violence as a form of intimidation. It’s also used as a way to recruit. So, when they post beheadings and when they threaten cities and they carry out those actions, document them on the Internet, and then you use those same videos to create your own message, are you actually furthering their message? Are you actually showing that, yes, this is a brutal organization and if you oppose them, you will be ruthlessly murdered? Does that work against what you’re actually trying to do?
Mr. Kimmage: So, it’s a serious consideration, one that we’ve thought about a lot, and our approach to this is that it matters very much how you present this. They present violence, they present what they do in a very particular way. We will present not exactly the same thing. We’re not going to show beheadings. We will sometimes show images that are arresting and graphic, because that’s, that is a truth of what they do, but it also how to bring attention, but we present it in an utterly different way. We present it to show the hypocrisy and the criminality. And, it’s something that we thing about a lot as we put materials together and make them, but the fundamental point, I would say, is that this is an issue of framing. It is really how do you frame these issues, and we frame them to underscore the points that we want to make, not to reinforce the points that we know they are trying to make.
Mr. Farar: Anyone else out there? Please.
Audience Member: Is branding really a problem for the U.S. government when, isn’t it unrealistic to spend billions of dollars on public diplomacy when an aggressive U.S. foreign policy is largely unpopular?
Mr. Kimmage: No, we don’t think that it’s unrealistic at all. We think that the U.S. government needs to communicate. We think that, in particular, our office, which if you look at the reports, does not cost billions of dollars, needs to show that we make the points that we make in our name, and we make them clearly, we make them in English, in Arabic, in Somali, and we’ll make them the same places that Al Qaida is trying to make its points. Yes, there will be disagreements, there will be a polemic back and forth. But, our team and its activities show that we we’re not afraid to defend what, not just our government is doing, but to engage in polemics with the propagandists in some of the same places where they’re trying to win converts. It’s not something that every part of the U.S. government needs to or should be doing. It’s a very specific mission that our team carries out in very specific places. But, we believe very strongly that if you don’t contest the space, if you step back, what message does that send? We think it’s important to send the message that we are going to engage in debate and we are going to make these points.
Mr. Farar: Any other questions? Please.
Audience Member: Thank you. Can you tell us what other governments do similar digital outreach work?
Mr. Kimmage: It’s actually a difficult question. I don’t know that anyone does this exactly like this. No government approaches things in exactly the same way. There are a lot of governments that have done public awareness campaigns, I think, that are similar to this. But, I’m not aware of anyone who has a team that’s exactly like ours. There are websites that some governments have. I think that the French government has just opened a 1-800 number line to call. But, I’m not aware of anyone that does exactly what we do. It’s one of the reasons that we have a lot of interest from some our colleagues in other governments – how do you do this and how do you set it up, what format? But, I’m not aware of anyone who does exactly this sort of thing. You know, communication online is a challenge that a lot of governments are grappling with, because it’s a little bit different than the way people are used to doing business. So, I think that, at the risk of being a little presumptuous, I think we’re a bit ahead of the curve on this. We’ll see how many more people chime in.
Rick Ruth: Thank you very much. I’m Rick Ruth of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the State Department. Another benefit, large and small of the Advisory Commission is that you and I are probably just a few yards apart, but we get to talk here. Drawing not only on your current position, but on your professional and academic background, what would you say is a role that Educational and Cultural Affairs, that exchanges can play in the larger picture?
Mr. Kimmage: I think exchanges are probably one of the most important and powerful tools that we have, not for the short-term tactical tasks of rebutting a particular statement or showing that we are present on Twitter as the U.S. government to push back against propaganda, but in the broader task of showing the full range of what we are about as a country and who we are. I don’t think that there’s anything that brings the benefit of the exchanges. I can just say, personally, when I used to travel for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, it was always astonishing to me, you would be in some very distant place and run into someone who had an exchange student who had visited. Some had parts of America I had never heard of, and it was always to me a very encouraging example of what could be accomplished by human contact. And, in the long term, that is one of the ways, I think, that we can expand the circle, not so much on, as I said, the specific task of countering extremist propaganda. But, more broadly in terms of increasing the number of people who have, I think, a fuller and better understanding of who we are and what we are about. So, I think it’s very important.
Mr. Farar: Anyone else out there? Please, in the background, there’s somebody.
Jamie Simms: I’m Jamie Simms, also from the State Department. You mentioned that you were looking to expand your network to maybe non-government groups. How are you doing that? Are you reaching out to them digitally? And then also, do you have plans to do training for groups that interested in supporting your work?
Mr. Kimmage: We do have plans to do what I would describe more as outreach than training. And, the reason is that every saying has its own specific context. One of the lessons that we’ve learned about the digital space is that the way people are communicating and the platforms they’re using in Somalia are different than in Urdu. And, we understand that the experience that we’ve developed is in some ways specific to us. And, so we first sort of reach out and share rather than train people to do exactly what we do, because everyone’s going to have to work in ways that are specific to their environment. But, the short answer is that, yes, we’re exploring a variety of outreach possibilities, and in terms of working with organizations, I would say that we seek to be a part of the broader work of embassies in general that work with organizations. And, we in general defer to their expertise, they are on the ground, they know who’s who and who is working in what ways. And, we try to do is bring our particular expertise of just how terrorist groups communicate and how we should counter them, and link that to embassy partners and look for synergies there.
Mr. Farar: I think there’s a question in the back of the room on the left.
Audience Member: I was just wondering if you could speak a bit on how you’re measuring the success and effectiveness of your campaigns, and which platform and language have been most useful, successful for you guys? Thank you.
Mr. Kimmage: Thank you. I was counting the minutes, waiting for someone to ask about measures of effectiveness. It’s a good question. And, there’s a couple of ways I would answer that. The first and the simplest is we have to track the actual volume or activity, and we have basic numbers on how many times we’ve engaged. I even wrote something down, I think. Yes, since 2011, we’ve done over 20,000 engagements in the form of text, graphics and video. That includes individual tweets, so, you know, some of those are long, some of those are short. But, the first task is to have a good sense of what the team is producing. So, we keep track of what the team is producing, the volume, how many videos we release, etc., how many views those videos have. The virtue of the digital environment is that it gives you a lot of good data, and we’re actually in the process of hiring a data scientist to help us work through that and get a better handle on it. So, that’s number one.
Secondly, you know, we have what I would still describe as anecdotal examples of what we think we are accomplishing with these tasks. So, contesting the space, redirecting conversations and unsettling the adversary, we have examples of them. We have representatives of Al Qaida telling trying to organize campaigns against our team online. And, we have examples of us punching back and forth with banners. The most difficult part of our mission is redirecting the conversation, because it’s very labor intensive to go into these conversations and pick them apart, analyze them and react. We have shied away from using expensive analysis tools. We looked at a variety of tools, but that’s the area we’re going to be focusing on in the coming months. We’re very aware that everyone who looks at these online activities more broadly asks, how do you show what you’re doing? So for us, the simple answer would be that we have hundreds of thousands of people who look at our videos. We have lots of evidence. If you look at media reports, there is often the sense that the issue is communicating and no one is out there. They are totally dominating the space. That’s not true. We can show that they are not dominating the space. We are in the fight. We may not be producing the same volume of material, we may not have the same easy measure that they do in terms of recruits. If we think for a second, it’s unlikely someone is going to post on Twitter that I saw your video and I changed my thinking and decided to curtail my plans, my travel to join that mission in Iraq. That’s unlikely, so we’re going to have to look for secondary measures. Some of it is going to be data-driven in terms of details. Some of it is going to be looking at how we are redirecting the conversation. And, we’re looking at what are the best ways of measuring these online conversations, what are the best ways of analyzing. But, lastly, where we do have, what I would still describe as anecdotal, what we really have these instances of them pushing back.
It sort of stands to reason that we have the most examples in Arabic, and then, again, where we have the most examples of both media groups associated with Al Qaida affiliates and other people, is really pushing back against our team in a way that shows that they are afraid, I think. They wouldn’t push back otherwise. They would ignore it, and so that’s mainly been in Arabic, although we have some examples in other language. But, what I would say is that this is one of the things that we talk about most internally, both within our office, within other government offices, it’s something that we discuss at public events like this. And, we’re going to be collecting and analyzing, presenting data as we go.
Mr. Farar: Is there another question back there? Please.
Ivan Pils: Hi, Ivan Pils from the Daily Caller News Foundation. It’s been a difficult week, especially in certain, the jihadi Twitter community for the U.S.’s image, with the Senate Intelligence Committee report this week and other things. Between that and how you described earlier Al Qaida and other jihadi networks’ distribution mechanisms being very decentralized, do you think having the seal of the United States Department of State – do you think presenting publicly as representatives of the U.S. government, or, I mean, of course, there’s only so much you can say in a public forum – is that potentially an obstacle or a potential sort of strategic or structural weakness in the way that work is being done?
Mr. Kimmage: I would describe it as a characteristic rather than a weakness. Everyone who communicates does so from a perspective. We believe in, and this goes back to the question your colleague from Al Jazeera asked, that it is important for the U.S. government to be a part of this discussion online as well as offline. Our team is mainly online, but there are many discussions. So, we think it’s important. We recognize that we’re not going to be able to address every single issue, and there are going to be times where people will look and say, “Oh, this is the U.S. government, I don’t care what they say.” There may be other people who say, “I’m impressed that someone in the U.S. government is addressing this. I’m impressed that someone is communicating in Somali,” for example, online. So, we think it’s important, but we recognize that you need a broad range, and that’s why we work and look to work more with partners. But, the bottom line, to answer your question, is we don’t think that we should fold up our operations, because we’d have to use the seal of the State Department. The State Department communicates every day. I don’t think anybody at the State Department thinks that we lack credibility. No, I mean, there are some questions where we have more credibility than others, but we’re going to communicate and make our case, and we’re going to make it on Twitter as well as behind a podium.
Mr. Farar: Any further questions? Thank you very, very much, Mr. Kimmage. That was very informative. Thank you. I want to thank members of the audience. Turning to our staff, this is a phenomenal report, very informative, and it couldn’t have been made possible without our Executive Director, Katherine Brown, and of course, our Senior Advisor, Chris Hensman. I’d now like to welcome our Dr. Katherine Brown, who will introduce the key findings and recommendations from the 2014 Comprehensive Annual Report on Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting Activities. Please welcome, Dr. Brown.
Katherine Brown: Thank you very much, Sim, and thank you, everyone, for coming. Thank you to Daniel Kimmage and Carolyn Glassman from CSCC, who just left us, for opening the meeting today.
I’m very honored to present to you some of the findings and recommendations from our first ever Comprehensive Annual Report on Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting Activities. This was a report that was specifically written into the reauthorization language for the Commission in 2013. Some of you may know that the Commission was de-authorized in December 2011, three years ago, and was brought back with a specific mandate to actually map public diplomacy and broadcasting activities worldwide for Congress. And, to go into such granular detail as the cost per participant, cost per visitor, etc. for our exchange programs. And to also show where our American Spaces are and also what are our missions are doing post-by-post, where the money is going, and how is it being spent.
So, this was an enormous task that we began to really dig into in late spring with the help of many people in this room. I won’t embarrass anyone really by name, but we do have some leaders from the Policy Planning and Resources Office – well, actually, I will embarrass by name. Roxanne Cabral, thank you very much for all of your help at R/PPR. Tania Chomiak-Salvi is here, who helped with the Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau, and also with the International Information Programs Bureau. And Rick Ruth, who was our main point of contact at ECA. All of them helped us pull together this data. Tricia King, thank you very much for being here for BBG. Jodi Reed also helped us tremendously in compiling data, and we also have our summer analysts, Kayli Westling and John Pope, who spent their summers – unpaid – compiling and sorting through 180 countries’ worth of data. So, thank you, guys, for being here as well. I’m sure I’ve missed some people, but this was a big effort and it was all brought together when Chris Hensman, our Senior Advisor, joined our team over the summer as well. So, thank you, Chris, and thank you to the Members for your support in putting this together.
So, back to the slide. The focus of the data was mainly on Fiscal Year 2013. We know that we’re already in FY15, but FY13 was the only actual data that was available to us at the time of compiling this report. So, whenever we could show FY14 actual or planned data, budget data, we would, as we would with FY15 requested budget data. We do have those FY15 numbers for you as well, but they are not consistent. So, it is backward-looking into FY13, but we try to focus on the now as much as possible, and the changes that have been made in different State Department bureaus.
We want to point out that when you look through this, you can’t look at just the cost of the program or the cost of PD in a country in a vacuum. There is a lot of context that goes into why these numbers exist, and we try to provide it. But, we do ask that when you look through the report, that you do follow up and ask, for instance, why is it so expensive to do public diplomacy in Japan? Why is it so expensive, to also conduct PD in Afghanistan? We’ll go through that, but there are a lot of questions that should be raised when you look at these numbers. And there are usually some good answers for them, especially when you look at the cost per participant for some programs that might require exchange participants coming to the United States but require a lot of logistics in getting them to the U.S. They may live in a remote location and not be near a central airport hub. Also, for BBG services, there might be enormous program delivery costs, and countering censorship activities can raise the cost of broadcasting. So, it’s important that you don’t just look at the numbers alone, although the numbers are interesting.
One of the challenges in doing this report was that we were asked to do an effectiveness assessment to look at really what is working and what isn’t. The original instructions were fairly conflating the idea of cost efficiency and program impact. So one of the first things that we did as a newly re-instated Commission was to do a systematic deep dive into how the BBG and the State Department measure the impact of their various programs. That was reflected in a report we delivered three months ago called “Data Driven Public Diplomacy.” In the report, we showed that there was real progress in measuring the impact of programs, both at BBG and State. But, we still have a long way to go, and mostly, this is because—and we’ll get to this again—it’s just woefully underfunded at both agencies. So, if we are to get to the point where we’re able to tell Capitol Hill, okay, this program was impactful and this is why, or this one was not and this is why, there needs to be organizational change at those agencies so that we can deliver these impact findings more consistently and get to the point where the Commission is also relaying those findings. So, we’ll continue to support that.
Back to the report. It is divided between Washington-directed activities and field-directed activities. Washington-directed activities mainly comprise of the public diplomacy cones and offices at the State Department and the BBG. There are six sections to the Washington-directed half of the report that includes: Educational and Cultural Affairs; International Information Programs; Public Affairs; CSCC, which we just heard about; and also the Office of Planning, Policy Planning and Resources, which is the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs’ Office, which gives strategic guidance to the cone. And, then, of course, we have BBG. Then, when you get to field directed activities, it’s organized by the six regional sections in the way the State Department organizes the world. So there is a regional overview of the different regions, the U.S. embassies and American Spaces in the region, and a broad summary of what the main foreign policy goals are, how public diplomacy is or is not supporting those goals, and then also the breakdown in PD spending and costs per country.
We also did something that isn’t normally done with the BBG, which is that we separated the different BBG services along those regional lines. So, you’ll see that it’s not organized by agencies, for instance, it’s not organized by just Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Of course, with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, you have some overlap between the Europe section, the South and Central Asia section, and the Near East Asia region section. We try to break down exactly how much money was spent on those countries and how much public diplomacy funds were allotted. To the best of our ability, we also tracked where the money went by theme -- was it gone to support education? Was it supporting democracy and good governance? Was it supporting civil society? We break that down and color code the data as much as possible. We also break it down by activity. Was that money spent on American Spaces? Was it spent on kind of field-generated exchange programs, or field-generated speaker programs? Was it spent to support ECA activities of various exchanges and visitor programs? So, you will see that in the report as well.
Given that this report is data-heavy and fairly light on analysis given the scope of the report – it amounts to 258 pages – we wanted to give some more depth in the report to at least a few countries, to show how different foreign policy and public diplomacy goals translated on the ground and the different challenges they faced in their respective environments. We went to Germany; Czech Republic, where we also went to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty headquarters; Ukraine, fairly last minute; Vietnam; Indonesia; and Mexico. We give more depth in treatment to those countries. Next year, we hope to reach more countries and give them more description and analysis based on what they’re doing.
Again, this report was compiled with the extraordinary cooperation and support from State Department and BBG leadership, who essentially opened up their databases to us and worked with us to make sure that we were getting the numbers right, and to present this data in a way that has never been presented publicly before. So with that, we’ll just go over quickly the budget information that we were looking at.
There are two different sources of funding at the State Department for public diplomacy activity. First, there is the Diplomatic and Consular Programs budget. This is the money that goes to PD activities that are Washington-directed, but also to the different U.S. embassies around the world, and often referred to as “.7 funds.” Then there is a separate Educational and Cultural Exchange budget, which is dedicated towards ECA programs and exchanges. In FY13, this was combined to $602 million, and it was about 1.7 percent of the total $54.844 billion International Affairs budget. In FY14, we saw that the budget decrease to $562.65 million, but the percentage increased to 1.8 percent, because the budget for International Affairs went down. In FY13, the Broadcasting Board of Governors worked with a budget of $713.3 million. That did go up to $733.5 million in FY14, but the FY13 numbers are the ones that we’re breaking down.
We’re going to briefly go through the key findings, which is in the summary document available at the head table. The first finding is something that we’re repeating from the report we released three months ago, which is that research and evaluation is greatly underfunded at both agencies. The industry standard at philanthropies and foundations for research and evaluation is normally 5 percent of the budget. When you look at the ECE budget alone, measurement and evaluation is about .25 percent of it. It falls below 1 percent of the BBG budget. So, this is something we feel really strongly about, and we will continue to talk about it in the coming months, because if there is to be systematic impact assessment of programs, the people who do the work at State and BBG need more support. There are many talented people who are doing the research and evaluation work, but they need more specialists to round out their teams. They also need more funding in order to employ a wide variety of methodological tools that do cost money. It also takes much time to determine the long-term impact of these programs.
The second key finding is—and we saw this mostly in our travels overseas—that Washington- directed activities need to remain responsive to different needs in the field. Missions need to support U.S. foreign policy, which comes from Washington, but they still is a need to be mindful of the different challenges that embassies face in their local context.
The third finding from our travel was that some of the most fundamental, foundational public diplomacy programs are the best ones that we have. They are some of our best brands. You can look at the Fulbright program and how universally celebrated that is in every country that we went to, how prestigious it is, and the incredible networks of Fulbright alumni that we have. This is something that was incredible to see in Vietnam. We have Anna DuPont here with us, who is a Cultural Affairs Officer in Ho Chi Minh City, and she brought me around to meet their Fulbright networks, but also the Fulbright Economics Teachers Program, which essentially was created before U.S.-Vietnam relations were normalized. And it was absolutely essential to build trust for the normalized relations we have with Vietnam. They are about to break ground on the Fulbright University in Vietnam, I think, next year. So we see the amount of goodwill that the program has brought and its contribution to a remarkable, drastic change in our relations with the Vietnamese people, as one example.
Also, the International and Visitor Leadership Program is essential. The new evolution of the IVLP “On Demand” program also shows how flexible the IVLP program can be to bring professionals in areas critical for U.S. foreign policy to the United States on short-term visits. With EducationUSA, it was remarkable going to American Spaces in different countries and seeing how in demand educational advising was, in addition to preparing students to go to school in the U.S. English language instruction, of course, is also a valuable way to connect with foreign populations, and also the International Information Programs’ American Spaces themselves, which provide platforms to for engagement with foreign publics. Having these spaces is fundamental to our public diplomacy programs and our foreign policy. So, we’ll get back to that in a second, but those are some of the first key findings.
Talking about IIP, we feel very positive about the direction that IIP is headed. One of the things that we get asked the most about is the 2013 Inspector General Report about IIP. IIP has moved on from that and our report discusses the reorganization under Fiscal Year 2015. That’s another main finding. We do, however, have some concern about the inevitable overlap in digital activity that’s happening at the State Department in public diplomacy and public affairs. Given that we live in a transnational digital media landscape, messages coming from one bureau may not be received from foreign publics as coming from different segment and office of the State Department. So, this is something we’re going to continue to look at.
Back to American Spaces, because these are so foundational to engagement, we’re very concerned about the increasing isolation of these spaces. And, this is something that we were definitely looking into more next year. It’s something the Commission has been concerned about for 30 years, in another report that was done in 1985 on “Terrorism and Public Diplomacy.” The effects of the Secure Embassies Construction and Counterterrorism Act in 1999 make it so that any time there’s a New Embassy Compound, or NEC, our American spaces essentially have to shut down from city centers and move to new embassy compounds, or NECs. Sometimes, they’re in the suburbs and they are inaccessible to publics. We saw this in Mexico, where they’ll be relocating the Ben Franklin Library in the center of Mexico City, which has been there for, I think, 80 years, and moving it into a New Embassy Compound in an elite neighborhood in Mexico City. They’re taking every precaution they can to make sure that it will remain accessible; there are open access principles that the International Information Program Bureau has been pushing for right now with Diplomatic Security. And, we feel very strongly it’s the least that can be done right now. But, it’s an enormous concern of ours.
Another key finding is that the BBG has announced its intent to hire a very highly qualified CEO, Andy Lack from Bloomberg, and we’re looking forward to seeing what that brings to BBG, and I know that they’re eager for him to start as well.
Turning to the numbers again, we ask that you don’t look at these in a vacuum, and we’ll explain context wherever we can.
We found that the average cost of the top 100 public diplomacy missions -- which are listed and start with Afghanistan and end with Mali -- is $3.04 million. That average is skewed significantly with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, because those three countries’ public diplomacy programs are supplemented with Economic Support Funds, meaning that there are specific development funds that are meant to support transitions to democracy. So, the numbers are significantly skewed, but the median cost for public diplomacy missions is really $1.34 million. That number is repeated significantly through the list of top 100 countries. In this list, we see a lot of our strongest allies and powers in different regions on this list. I believe these numbers have never been publicized before, but the breakdown in the report goes through exactly what every mission is spending and, again, how they’re spending it.
For the 74 BBG language services, the average cost is $4.09 million. Those numbers are skewed by the top agencies’ figures, which is Al Hurra, the Persian New Service, Radio Sawa, and Radio and Television Marti. Again, there’s program delivery costs that go into these amounts; it can be difficult to actually deliver the programing and develop the workarounds with different radio towers and countering censorship efforts, such as jamming. So, a lot can go into that. But, you see here that many of the U.S. foreign policy priorities countries and languages are in this top group.
With the Educational and Cultural Affairs budget break down, this gets interesting. We have to thank, again, Rick Ruth, for supporting us going through the ECE budget and really breaking it down by participant and cost. There are 89 exchange programs that we talk about in this report – academic, professional, cultural, youth, and sports programs. With academic programs, we found there were 43 academic programs with approximately 36,700 participants. The average cost per participant was $31,889, but that is skewed by some of the more costly exchange programs that are authorized by Congress. This includes the U.S.-South Pacific exchange program, which costs us somewhere in the hundreds of thousands, $104,000, I believe, over the course of four years. So, the median cost and the mode is really $23,000 per participant. And, when you get to youth exchanges, there were 12 programs with 3,000 participants, and the average cost is much lower. It’s $12,913. With academic programs, we should point out, too, that many of them are yearlong, so we were pleased to see, especially when you get to the Fulbright program, there are massive cost share agreements completed, where other countries might take on 40 percent of the cost. So, that brings down costs. But, youth exchange programs are about $12,900 on average.
There were 13 professional exchange programs with roughly 1,200 participants, the average cost was $24,530. The median cost, though, is more around $13,000. There were 13 cultural programs with 740 direct participants. We should emphasize that cultural programs are normally designed to have an audience. So unlike an academic experience that is very personal and individual, the cultural programs are meant to bring in hundreds of people. So, there was no way to really quantify the audiences who benefited from the cultural programs. But, the direct beneficiaries in the programs were 740 people and the average cost of their participation is around $20,000. And there were four sports programs with 530, again, direct participants. The average cost is $11,600 per participant.
And there’s the International Visitor Leadership Program with roughly 90,390 participants. There are four different subdivisions within IVLP, down to the Congress-Bundestag staff exchange, which is something that’s been around since 1983 between the U.S. and Germany. We were in Germany and met with the German Bundestag Members firsthand who support that program and we’re strongly supportive of both the youth exchange and staff exchange. We feel it’s very critical to our bilateral relationship with Germany. And, that’s something that we point out later in the recommendations.
The last program to go through ECA is the Private Sector Exchange program and the J-1 Visa Visitor Exchange Program. They had almost 300,000 participants at zero program cost.
Those are the only numbers we’re going to go through here today. Of course, there’s much, much more data in the report. I’m going to quickly go through recommendations and we’re going to focus mostly on overall meta-recommendations at the State Department and the BBG and not get too into the country-specific recommendations.
One of the first recommendations is to continue to connect public diplomacy with policy decision-making at both Washington and the country team levels in the field. The Policy, Planning and Resources Office for Public Diplomacy at State is working hard to reform this and make sure that there are new strategic planning tools. And we encouraged that they are connected so that they can both support public diplomacy themes at the strategic level and also support our second recommendation, which is to expand the research and evaluation capacity.
There are a few different recommendations, sprinkled through the report, that relate to research and evaluation. One is a repeat recommendation from our September report about creating a Director of Research position that reports directly to the Under Secretary and based in the R/PPR office, who is able to coordinate cross-bureau research and to check the methodology and interpretations of different evaluations. We feel it’s very positive that the, in the new budget for ECE, there’s going to about 119 percent more funds given towards alumni relations. We just hope that that the alumni office is linked to evaluation efforts so that we can see the long-term effects of programs and exchanges with our worldwide alumni.
Part of the reorganization within IIP has been to make sure that campaign analytics are at the front-end of campaign design, which is great. We think they need more people and some more resources to really do it well, and to make sure that they’re measuring every campaign. On that note, we do hope that CSCC can greatly expand their own analytics division in understanding really how their messages are resonating among their target audiences. We currently feel that they are drastically under-resourced in doing that.
We also believe that there needs to be a metrics capacity within the Public Affairs Bureau, and also that there needs to be a condensing of the various different media monitoring activities that are currently underway, and are very labor intensive. We want to make sure that these efforts are being streamlined and that they are also linking back to the metrics and evaluation work that can be done with Public Affairs.
Another meta-recommendation that we made earlier, too, is to work toward tolerating mistakes and embrace risk. With public diplomacy, of course, there are a lot of unknowns and a lot of risk that you take in engaging various publics and conducting different programs. But, to know when it doesn’t work – that’s okay. We need to be open to that if we’re going to actually course correct programs and make sure that we’re effective in the long run.
Another recommendation is to reform public diplomacy training, and this is something that is one of the first projects that we’re taking on in 2015.
Another recommendation is to maintain if not increase Fulbright funding levels. There was worldwide backlash when people heard that the Fulbright budget was being cut by $25 million. We believe that was unfortunate and that Fulbright levels should be maintained if not increased, because it is such as iconic brand for the United States.
We feel strongly that the head of the International Information Programs bureau should also be an Assistant Secretary, not a Coordinator. This is especially as digital media and online campaigns becomes increasingly important to public diplomacy. We need the person who heads that to be at the table; currently, the Coordinator’s seat is more personality driven than institutionalized.
Going back to the open access principles for American Centers, it’s imperative that these spaces located on New Embassy Compounds remain open, friendly and accessible to the publics that we want to engage.
The last recommendation for the State Department is to work to understand local audiences and their challenges. We saw examples where Washington developed products or programs that didn’t make sense within the local context. So there needs to be a continued, two-way dialogue in why and how programs are formed.
We’ll go through BBG recommendations very quickly. When it comes to measurement and evaluation, there’s a new impact framework model that the strategy office has created to understand the impact of BBG services. We want to continue to emphasize that it should look at the actual impact of these programs and not just the programs’ estimated reach. Reach is normally the first thing that people ask of media institutions – What’s your reach? How many people do you reach in an audience? But, we need to know more than that; we need to know how many people you are impacting with your programs. With the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, they’re funded consistently above the requested levels. We believe that if there’s going to be extra money given to broadcasting, it should go towards research and evaluation. So the recommendation for Congress is to maintain OCB funding at the request that’s made.
My colleague, Chris Hensman, was able to go to Ukraine and to better understand how U.S. broadcasting is being received there. In the report, we emphasize the need for the continued expansion of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America coverage to respond to the crisis there. Particular to my time in Vietnam, too, is the need to expand digital media content for both Voice of America and Radio Free Asia in Vietnam.
Finally, looking ahead to 2015, now that there’s a fixed process underway to complete this report, we are looking forward to delivering this much closer to the end of the fiscal year. So, we will deliver this in September of next year. We’re going to give deeper treatment to regions that we weren’t able to visit in countries that includes Africa, Middle East, and if we have enough in our budget in time, South and Central Asia as well. The data will have more visualization and analysis. Also, we are open to specific requests. This is our first time doing this based on very little guidance. So, we’d like to hear from you all what you would like to see more of, and what would be easier to understand if we presented it differently. We’re really looking forward to doing next year’s. We already a very long list of what we’d like to improve. But, we’d like to get your feedback as well. And, moving forward, we will be looking at, hopefully, more agencies that do work to understand, inform and influence foreign publics. There is more opportunity for us to kind of cascade out into the interagency.
And, so on that note, please do stay in touch. That’s my email. I know many of you in the room, so I look forward to continuing to get your feedback. And, the report in its entirety, 258 pages, will be available on our website soon, on state.gov/pdcommission. Please don’t print it out all at once. And, with that, we’ll just take your questions, and thank you very much for being here and for all your support.
Leitia King: Thank you, Katherine. We really appreciated working with you all on the Commission to report on international broadcasting. We’re in full agreement about its importance and thank you for continuing to foster it. I will, just in terms of a point of information, you had a side about numbers, and rightly observed that some of those figures were skewed when you’re looking at broadcasting. And, it just is very different than how you look at exchanges on those, in that exchanges you did across participants and observed on cultural it was cost per direct participant. And, if you were to do the same in a simple audience, numbers of people, you would see the cost per audience member would be in the single digits for broadcasting. So, in a case of, let’s say and in 2014, their reach was over 29 million people, and that is people actually watching, listening, tuning in, not simple who might have heard or seen. So, that’s impressive, and from VOA in Indonesia alone, it’s 31 million, that’s just one of the broadcasters, 31 million people. And, we’re really proud. Those numbers do tell a story, and we also appreciate there are other measures of impact. We know, for example, in Ukraine, we couldn’t agree with you more. We have to continue to expand our work. We’re very proud that VOA has doubled their audience there. So, thank you.
I do also have a question. You mentioned your were watching training? In what way? Is that for your staff, is that for other training participants in programs? I’d be glad for a clarification.
Dr. Brown: Thank you so much, Tish. We will be talking about the numbers that we’re presenting in next year’s report with you probably in February. When it comes to training, we’re looking at public diplomacy training at the State Department within FSI, the training that’s given to PD officers. One of the things that we didn’t put on the presentation, but that is in the report is the fact that in Africa, for instance, you have many first-tour officers representing embassies as the Public Affairs Officers. What kind of training does that individual receive? So we’ll be looking exactly at how officers are prepared to do this work. In 2008, the Commission did one of its more well-known reports called Getting the People Part Right, which looked at training and advancement of PD officers, and we believe it’s time for an update. So, we’re going to be taking the baseline information from 2008 and trying to update it early next year. This is something the Commission’s been asked to look at.
Rick Ruth: I’m Rick Ruth from the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. I hope none of you mind being commended again for the time and the attention and the work that went into this. One of the earlier speakers called it a Herculean task and it certainly was, but it came out well. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs will look closely, of course, at all the recommendations. We’ll look particular closely at those where we don’t agree, or may not agree. What we really appreciate is seeing areas where individuals as Commissioner Peacock mentioned, who are really all working on the same of the issue. We look at the same set of conditions, look at the same set of facts and come up sometimes with differing variations of opinion. And, that’s what we want to look at and see how we might be able to modify and improve what we do in that area. So, nobody needs another member of the chorus. We need an independent oversight body to cast a light on these things. To put you a little bit on the spot, since you were authorized specifically by Congress as you began to note, to do certain things, do you have any sense yet on whether the members of Congress who revived you are happy with what you’re doing, or how they react to it?
Dr. Brown: Sim, or do any of the Members want to take that? I’m happy to.
Mr. Farar: I can address that. A few of the members of Congress that I have spoken with, Senators Boxer and Feinstein – they’re really very pleased with the work we’ve been doing, with getting this report completed. The more I gather from them, personally talking to them, they’re very pleased with what we’ve been doing. So, we’re very, we’re hoping to be re-authorized.
Adam Powell: Adam Powell from the University of Southern California. One of your findings, which will come as a surprise to many people perhaps not in this room, certainly outside of this room, is that the cost per person of the Fulbright program is significantly less than the cost per person of the six-week programs. And, in the report, you said you would be looking more closely into that 2015. Could you just expand on it a little bit? What will you be looking at as you focus on that?
Dr. Brown: Sure. To also answer your question, Rick: I’ve had the pleasure of working with a lot of the staffers in the different committees that are relevant to the Commission. One of the concerns and questions that come up is, What is the proof that a short-term program is just as effective as a long-term program? The assumption is that when you’re in the long-term program, you develop a greater connection with the country, you develop organic networks, the country means something to you. When it’s a short-term program, you might have a great experience, but then you go home, and then what happens? So one of the questions that keeps coming up is the value of short-term versus long-term programs. There’s been an increased push from the White House to access more people more quickly, and to be more responsive to foreign policy crises, which sounds good. But there’s a lot of skepticism on the Hill about that. So, it’s something that we’re trying to figure out how to do some research into, and looking at whether or not there is empirical research that shows that one can have as meaningful of an experience in six weeks than they can in one year; is a short term program going to advance U.S. interests in the world like long-term programs.
But, yes, one of the findings was that a six-weeks program can cost more than a year-long program, in the case of Fulbright. The YALI (Young African Leaders Initiative) Program, I think was $24,750 per participant for six weeks. That did not include the work that USAID is doing on the ground to maintain a connection with these students once they return home, which we think is really admirable and we discussed in our public meeting on YALI in March. The reason why Fulbright – and Rick, correct me if I’m wrong –is less is because there is a cost share with Fulbright boards in respective countries that raise the money as well. So that is a partnership that makes the Fulbright extremely cost efficient. I don’t know yet the answer to the short-term versus long-term question. It’s something we need to look into. Short-term programming sounds strategic, but is that based on research and findings? Not so much. We’re trying to find the research so that we can learn more about where program funding should go in the future.
Chris Dayton: Hi, I’m Chris Dayton [PH] and I’m the Public Diplomacy Advisor in the Department of State for the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. One, I’d like to thank the Commission, first of all, and the staff for highlighting the American Spaces issue. I just returned from the field, and it was one of the biggest issues I faced. We used to have a library downtown and people could just walk in. Now, they feel like we’re in a fortress. So, thank you very much for addressing that. I do have a question looking at the summary here in the report. I was wondering if there was a reason that India was not included in one of the top countries? I imagine it’s got to be one of the places we spend the most money.
Dr. Brown: India is not listed. Well, that was an oversight, so we’ll have to follow up with you on that. We’ll definitely get you the list on that, for sure. It is on the country page for India and in the section on South and Central Asia, just not in the top 100 ranking in the summary pages. Thank you.
Kate Norland: Dr. Brown, this, my name is Kate Norland. I’m with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. I remember from another Commission gathering, someone saying that they feel very micromanaged by the National Security Council and some unfunded mandates. As you talk about 2015 and looking at more of the interagency cooperation, will you be looking at the NSC and their role in public diplomacy?
Katherine Brown: Yeah, that’s a great question. We are going to definitely be talking with them more. On our wish list is the NSC, but also looking at USAID, which is something that appropriations really wants us to look at. And, Defense, which is what everyone wants us to look at. But, yes, absolutely, we’ll be looking into the NSC guidance more and seeing how they’re policy priorities are affecting the State Department. We do mention in the overview that there’s a lot of competing guidance that’s given about public diplomacy. One of the principals in ECA has a side-by-side look with columns of the varying guidance they receive -- what they get from the president and the NSC; what they get from the Secretary of State; what they get from the Under Secretary; and what they get from Congress. When you look at it, it says to empower entrepreneurs, target youth, do it faster, do it digitally, save money, be effective, measure your effectiveness. There’s a lot of work that’s put on the PAOs. So we’re very mindful of that. Because at the end of the day, the work of our public diplomacy officers is to actually engage. And, so we’re very conscious of that balance and, yes, to answer your question, we will look at that.
Vinay Chawla: Vinay Chawla of the Bureau of Public Affairs. I’m part of the digital team. I also would like to offer my thanks to the Commission for the whole process in terms of the way the research was conducted and introduced in the final product. The availability of your own experts that were part of the Commission and part of the research and having made them available was helpful. I think it was a very professional manner in which it was handled, so my thanks as well. My question is in regard to the overall recommendations. I’m a bit curious about your discussion about short-term versus long-term programming. [Inaudible.] Public diplomacy seems almost to be long-term in nature. And, then to another recommendation about listening to the field and this question about the NSC and where policy is coming from. It has to be short term and centralized in nature. Policy really isn’t made in the field. It’s meant to be implemented in the field, but the policy is made here. So, how do we service field needs when policy is really here? And, what does the recommendation mean that says that we are making progress towards public diplomacy being more policy oriented when some policy person says, let’s stop doing ballets and do more of something else? Then, a PD officer might say, “Well, wait a second, that is a long-term objective, that’s your policy.” So, I wonder if you could just address that overall issue.
Katherine Brown: Sure. It’s the main tension within public diplomacy, right? And, we’ve seen this before. The last time I worked at the State Department in public diplomacy was in 2004. So, for me to come back nearly ten years later and see that there was this major cultural shift towards, towards actually ensuring that it serves foreign policy and that everyone was on the same page was remarkable. The Commission Members might have different ideas, but I think the tension is that there’s the long-term interest of the United States and there are the crises of the day as well. And, the long-term interest is to move towards a more democratic, peaceful, economically prosperous world, which can be achieved through different foreign policy strategies and public diplomacy measures to meet them. And, then you have the crisis of the day of responding quickly through either digital media campaigns or through public affairs. That tension’s always going to be there and I think it’s good to have it. I don’t think it’s necessarily something you can resolve. Obviously, there is a tilt right now towards responding to these crises. But, I feel like a lot of the long-term tools that exist are malleable and adaptable to responding to those crises. And, that’s something that you’ve seen with ECA and them moving towards the IVLP “on demand” program; building in that flexibility within a very, kind of flagship program is possible.
Tom Givens: Hi, I’m Tom Givens, the former CEO of Sister Cities International. What is particularly notable to me in the report from my point of view is that ECA is an extremely effective partner with a number of private sector organizations around this country that are working in diplomacy in various ways, whether it’s city-to-city or state-to-state. President Xi of China, as you know, is a product of that state-to-state relationship, from Iowa through China. There was no reference to the work that ECA does, at least I couldn’t find it in the small report, maybe it’s in the larger one, with these private sector organizations and how effective it is and how many exchanges actually flow through those that aren’t even reported here in the statistics, because they’re not necessarily direct funded.
Dr. Brown: The question is about private sector exchanges? Yes, there’s a section in the report about private sector exchanges. Essentially, China is, I believe, the number one country that sends people to the U.S. either on government-funded or privately-funded programs. Yes, China sent the most amount of visitor exchange students, or exchange professionals, on everything from summer work travel to professors to specialists -- 32,224 in FY13. We had to make some calls on what would go in the summary document, so that part was left out in the front of the report.
Also, U.S. public diplomacy spending in India is about $6.5 million. It was left out of the top 100 list. We’ll remedy that in the PDF document online. Thank you for pointing that out. So, it’s up there in the top ten.
Bob Kerry: Hi, Bob Kerry with the National Defense Committee. One of the numbers that I saw that was very interesting was 298,000 J1 participants at zero cost.
Dr. Brown: Zero program cost.
Bob Kerry: At the National Defense Committee we work on the J1 program. It seems that once the participants come over and go back, it seems like they’re forgotten. And, so I’ll pass this along to your email as well, but for next year, I think some of the things to look at and possibly be leveraged with the J1 program in your measures of effectiveness and analytics, is to leverage the J1 program with alumni relations. Also looking at some of the current legislative and regulatory proposals that are out there, what impact that is going to have on the sustainability of J1 programs, especially since it is private sector-funded? At some point the cost of compliance exceeds the benefits to the private sector funder, of utilizing the J1 participants. And, you may very well see a precipitous drop-off in the participation. So, those are recommendations I would make for consideration for next year’s report, especially considering there have been so much discussion about the J1 program, legislatively and regulatorily.
Dr. Brown: That’s great. Actually, Rick, do you have anything to say on that?
Mr. Ruth: Sure. I have something to say on everything. I thank you for bringing that up, because under the very bland phrase that we use, the term “mainstreaming.” But, our current Assistant Secretary, Evan Ryan, has been taking a very hard look at how we make sure that the private sector, that these are the participants who are not funded by appropriated funds, but privately. How we make sure that they are, in fact, not ignored and not neglected and are brought into the same foreign policy apparatus in the sense of the benefits they bring to the United States. The fact that they’re alumni, if you’re the ambassador in Turkey, for example, which is an active participant, it may not be terribly relevant to you which program facilitated by or sponsored or was made possible by the U.S. government, a young Turkish man or woman was on. What you know is that they were in the United States, had this experience, now they’re back in Turkey working their way up through society in one of the professions. And, you want to engage that person. So, we entirely believe that we need to embrace that population as well and are looking at those kinds of issues also.
Bill Hybl: Thank you. I want to thank on behalf of the Commission all of you for being here. It’s a lot to digest. We certainly encourage you to look at the full report, and those parts that may pertain to areas where you have an interest. It was great to have Daniel Kimmage with us, I think his perspective is certainly very interesting as many of you brought out with your questions.
The 2015 edition of our report will address some of the things that you raised, but there are probably other issues that you think are important, that you think need to be addressed and certainly would be relevant to the field. And Katherine and her staff are prepared to deal with that. So we encourage you to participate and be part of this. We also will address Getting the People Part Right, an update from our 2008 report, which we think will be very helpful to the Department of State, particularly the public diplomacy cone. We’re partnering with Ambassador Larry Wohlers and the Meridian International Center on the much-needed update to the report.
In addition, the Commission will continue our work on the measurement and the evaluation of public diplomacy, and we’ll look at the areas in which foreign publics are engaged. We have a special interest in high-threat environments, and we’re working in partnership with the U.S. Institute of Peace. I recognize some of you who were over there for the session that we had also with the McCain Institute on International Leadership and the Truman National Security Project Center for National Policy. We certainly are open for further discussions on that issue as well.
I want to thank my colleagues on the Commission and the staff for the preparation, for work that has been done, not only on this particular issue, but through the year. And, again, thanks to all of you for being here. We hope that it was helpful, and we certainly hope that we’ll have your input for the future. Thank you very much.