Minutes for May 5, 2015 Official Meeting
Official Meeting on the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
American Foreign Service Association, 2101 E Street, NW, Washington D.C.
GUEST SPEAKER PRESENT
Jean Manes, Principal Deputy Coordinator, International Information Programs Bureau, U.S. Department of State
Ambassador Laurence Wohlers, Senior Fellow, Meridian International Center
COMMISSION MEMBERS PRESENT
Mr. William J. Hybl, Chair
Mr. Sim Farar, Vice Chair
Ms. Ann Terman Wedner
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 May 5, 2015 from 10:00-11:30 a.m. at the American Foreign Service Association in Washington, DC. The meeting focused on two current issues in U.S. public diplomacy: 1) the need to keep American Spaces open and accessible and 2) the need to reform how the Department of State recruits, selects, trains and advances public diplomacy officers.
The Commission’s Executive Director, Katherine Brown, introduced findings from the new white paper, Public Diplomacy at Risk: Protecting Open Access at our American Centers. She discussed the need to keep 715 American Spaces open and accessible to foreign publics and, in particular, the importance of keeping the 32 American Centers standing in countries particularly important to U.S. foreign policy. American Centers, located in major global cities, are accessible to publics and allow for a broad range of public diplomacy programming such as education, USA advising, cultural programs, and most importantly, forums to communicate what our policy issues. Effective American Centers intentionally connect public diplomacy programs to mission goals and to U.S. foreign policy objectives. Due to the Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act of 1999 (SECCA), when new embassy compounds (NECs), new consular compounds (NCCs) and new annexes (NOXs) are constructed, the Centers shut down and are transformed into Information Resource Centers (IRCs) located on the compounds. These spaces are often secluded and fortified, discouraging public audiences from using them and engaging with the U.S. The trend is quickly accelerating and a majority of the Centers are at risk for shutting down in the next 10 years in cities like Beijing, Casablanca, Chisinau, Ho Chi Minh City, East Jerusalem, West Jerusalem, Mexico City, New Delhi, Shanghai and Seoul – unless they receive co-location waivers. The Commission made three recommendations for the State Department: aim to make existing IRCs open and accessible through a new policy; conduct a study of the impact of American Centers, IRCs, Binational Centers and American Corners; and continue dialogue between Public Diplomacy, the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security Leadership.
For Congress, it recommends a “Sense of Congress” in State Authorization or other appropriate legislation that would signal to the State Department that American Centers should remain open wherever possible, and IRCs should become accessible to foreign citizens.
The Members then welcomed Jean Manes, the Principal Deputy Coordinator for International Information Programs Bureau at the U.S. Department of State, who discussed the larger strategy for American Spaces worldwide. Last, Ambassador Laurence Wohlers, a Senior Fellow at the Meridian International Center, discussed the early findings from the upcoming report, “Getting the People Part Right, Part II: The Human Resources Dimension of U.S. Public Diplomacy in 2015.
The report will be released on June 17, 2015 at the Meridian House. Ambassador Wohlers spoke in particular about the lack of advancement of public diplomacy officers within the Foreign Service system.
The Commission Members, experts in attendance, and the audience posed questions about these issues. The specific questions and their answers are in the below transcript. The meeting closed by briefly discussing the Commission’s mandate and plan for the remainder of the 2015 fiscal year. The Commission will meet publicly again in Washington on September 22, 2015, when it will release the second edition of the “Comprehensive Annual Report on Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting Activities.”
William J. Hybl: The United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy has been in charge of appraising different entities throughout this country as to our public diplomacy efforts. We work to create understanding of and support for many activities throughout the world.
Today we are going to focus on two separate issues that certainly have been involved with the Commission for a number of years. The first is the openness and accessibility of official American Spaces throughout the world, and this will vary from country to country.
Then there’s the question of the people who conduct public diplomacy. As you may recall back in 2008, the Commission issued a report getting the people part right. And that report will be updated as we move forward. It is certainly something that affects the professionals, whether they were at USIA or whether they are now part of the cone in public diplomacy or they work in other areas throughout the world. In fact, this will be our first paper this year, which is keeping American Centers open and accessible which our Executive Director, Katherine Brown, will present in just a couple of minutes.
After Katherine, we will hear from Jean Manes, the Principal Deputy Coordinator of the International Information Programs Bureau. That bureau oversees the American spaces around the globe. We are also pleased to have Ambassador Larry Wohlers here who along with the Commission and certainly the staff has been the investigator and author of our upcoming report, Getting the People Part Right, Part II.
We are proud to work with Larry and the Meridian International Center, which has been involved in a number of projects, and has certainly been very helpful here. The formal release will be on Wednesday, June 17th here in Washington; we look forward to that. Ambassador Wohlers, welcome and thank you for joining the team, albeit briefly, as we move forward on this project.
Before going to our speakers, I would like to introduce the members of the Commission, Vice Chair, Sim Farar—Sim is from Los Angeles, California and receives the Longest Trip Here Today award—Ambassador Penne Peacock from Austin, Texas, Anne Terman Wedner from Chicago, Illinois, and Lezlee Westine who is from right here in Virginia. Unfortunately, Vice Chair, Ambassador Lyndon Olson from Waco, Texas was unable to join us today.
We would like to now ask the Vice Chair, Sim Farar, to come up and introduce our speakers.
Sim Farar: I should get an award. It is a long flight from here from Los Angeles, and I am jetlagged.
First off, I want to thank Katherine Brown and her team who does an incredible job here with Chris, Michelle, and your entire team. I want to thank you very, very much for all the hard work that you do. I think you know being Commissioner is one thing, but you guys do most of that work, and we really appreciate that Katherine. I want to tell you that.
We honored today to have with us today two great guest speakers. The first will be Jean Manes, who will speak after our executive director, Katherine Brown. Jean is currently the Principal Deputy Coordinator of the International Information Programs Bureau. She is a member of the Senior Foreign Service with the United States Department of State. Her two most recent assignments include serving as the Director of Resources for the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy overseeing 1.2 billion dollars—is that right Jean? That is a lot of money—in resources for public diplomacy, domestic and worldwide. It is a lot of money but to her—it is not enough is what she says. She wants more.
She recently returned from Afghanistan where she served as the Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy. Jean and I were talking earlier, she has been doing this for—do you mind if I say—twenty-four years and she started with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, my God, it must have been in 1991. Is that what you are talking about?
Jean Manes: 1990.
Sim Farar: And she is still doing it.
Sim Farar: Enough with the Henny Youngman jokes, okay. She recently returned to Afghanistan; as I said she was the Counselor at the Public Affairs U.S. Embassy. Other oversee positions include serving as the Principal Officer at the United States Consulate in Azores, the spokesman for the embassy, Director of the Fulbright Board, and leading large scale cultural and exchange programs to advance U.S. foreign policy.
Since joining in 1992, she has served in Syria, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Portugal, and Afghanistan as well as holding a number of positions in Washington, DC.
For her service with the State Department, she has received various awards, including the Lois Roth Award for Culture and Education Diplomacy and the Public Diplomacy Alumni Association award for Public Diplomacy Professional of the Year. Welcome, Jean.
I am now going to turn over to Katherine who will announce the findings for the White Paper, which—do you want to come up and speak? Thank you, come up, and speak. You had a long drive here too. About two blocks away.
Katherine Brown: Okay everybody, that you so much for coming. It is wonderful to see you all. You received a preview of our findings, but we are happy today to present to you our White Paper, which we titled Public Diplomacy at Risk: Protecting Open Access at our American Centers. This is an issue that is very important to the Commission, and something we have been digging into for a long time, especially with the help of the International Information Programs Bureau.
So to start here, we want to go back to 1985. This is when the Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, which supported the U.S. Information Agency at the time, did a report Terrorism and Security: The Challenge for Public Diplomacy. It is a report that we cite heavily in the report in the background section. This is a quote from Edwin Feulner, who was the Chairman of the Commission at the time—in the Washington Post. This report was in reaction to the Inman Panel that looked at the security of embassies overseas after the attacks on the U.S. Mission in Lebanon in 1983 and 1984. There was also an attack against the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait. No Americans were killed, but the consular section was destroyed is my understanding. The Inman Report advised that there would be a 100-foot perimeter between the U.S. embassies overseas and the street, which would protect and move a lot of the American embassies away from publics. This would require many embassies move to suburban locations. It did not take into consideration USIA’s mission, which included American Centers—or as they were called, libraries, back in 1985.
The Commission at the time was very concerned about the effect this would have on foreign public engagement and the effect it would have on public diplomacy. They wrote this report Terrorism and Security: the Challenge for Public Diplomacy where they talked to different PAOs about what they would do if USA libraries would have to shut down and move to suburban locations. He wrote this quote in the Washington Post editorial called Don’t Let Security Hide Our Light was the title. It says, “USIA Public Officers know that by retreating, the agency will become inaccessible to most of the people it is trying to reach. Wholesale retreat to safe, but inaccessible enclaves is not the answer. Personal contact with global opinion leaders is essential to the conduct of American foreign policy.”
This was something that came to my attention from Bruce Gregory, who used to be the executive director of the Commission back in the ‘80s. When we talked to him about how we were concerned about the effects of the Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act in 1999 on American Centers being open and accessible, he handed me this document from 1985 from the Commission. We decided we should look at this issue again, 30 years later. The main recommendations or findings from this report are on our website in the archives; the PD Commission page on the state.gov site.
As we know, threats can rapidly change. They can vary from country to country and sometimes city to city. As we know, a place that might seem safe one week can rapidly change the next week. So threats happen and therefore we need flexibility and understanding of the role the public diplomacy plays in each mission. Therefore, there needs to be a close collaboration between security and public diplomacy. The 1985 report said at the time that you cannot overlook the mission of the USIA. Now of course we all know what happened to USIA and that it was folded into the State Department in 1999. That same year was the creation of the Secure Embassy Construction of Counterterrorism Act of 1999, and this was in reaction to the horrific bombings against our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
The response by the Congress was to enact this law really to keep our civilians safe. It mandated that all U.S. agencies in-country be co-located into new embassy compounds or NECs, as they are referred to, new consular compounds or NCCs, and even new annex compounds, which are called NOXs, have a one hundred foot setback for each newly acquired facility. So it is our understanding that a lot of the Inman standards from 1985 were then kind of enshrined into law in 1999.
Today, we find that our concerns are very similar to 1985. We are specifically concerned about our American Centers, which we will get into in a minute. These are our more traditional, standalone, platforms for public diplomacy and foreign public engagement. We are concerned that because of SECCA, the trend of them closely down is quickly accelerating—we will get into that in a minute. We are really recommending a selective and flexible application on a case-by-case basis—a security standard as a public diplomacy platform.
We also believe that the construction and security maintenance of U.S. facilities in specific public diplomacy facilities needs to consider the mission goals and objectives, which normally have public diplomacy at the core; we are increasingly finding this in all of our travels. We are concerned that SECCA might be automatically, and maybe asymmetrically, applied to U.S. controlled public diplomacy platforms. By U.S.-controlled, we mean American Centers and Information Resource Centers and not necessarily our partner spaces, which we will get into in a minute but those are workarounds for U.S., controlled spaces.
So regardless of the individual characteristics of a mission and a country, we feel that SECCA is indiscriminately, automatically being applied and there needs to be time to consider what this will do to our long-term interests in the country and what this will do to our long-term foreign public engagement goals.
Now I do not want to get too much into specifics of American spaces because we are going to hear from Jean Manes in a second about them. But for the sake of this paper, we distinguish between U.S. controlled spaces, and partner spaces. For the Commission, we count 715 American spaces. Only 17 percent of those are U.S. controlled spaces. There are 32 standalone American Centers and 87 open Information Resources Centers. Those are the spaces—the small libraries that are housed in the embassy compounds, the consular compounds, or the annexes.
Eighty-three percent of our worldwide spaces are partner spaces, and we will get into this more in a second. Essentially, there are Binational Centers, about 110 of which are in the Western Hemisphere. Many of you know about those. They are very successful models that are focused on teaching English. I think 107 of them are in the Western Hemisphere, and ten of them are in Europe. Of course, there are the workaround American Corners. There are 479 of those worldwide.
It is the American Center, we feel in the Commission, that is preferred. It is standalone, it is accessible to publics, it allows for a broad range of public diplomacy programming such as education, USA advising, cultural programs, and most importantly, forums to communicate what our policy issues are, and to connect intentionally all of public diplomacy programs to mission goals and to U.S. foreign policy objectives.
Here we have a geographic breakdown at 12 in the Asian-Pacific, and eight countries—there are seven countries in Africa, there are five and three countries in the nearest Asia region, four and two countries in South and Central Asia, and three countries in Europe, and then there is one in Mexico. Of course, the Binational Center model is very popular in the Western Hemisphere, and there is just one in Mexico City. We will get into that in a second because that is one of the locations that is at risk for shutting down.
Information Resource Centers are libraries with some space for public outreach activities, but they often operate in cramped and restricted spaces on the embassies, which because of SECCA are often hard to reach locations. So, here we count 87 because 87 are open to the public. There are also 37 that are “by appointment only,” and Jean may get into this. Some of the really good studies that IIP has been doing include looking at these “by appointment only” spaces and their effectiveness. These “by appointment only” spaces have 24-hour to 48-hour lag times, which help streamline security, but also inhibit public engagement and visitor use of the spaces. We understand that 61 of these IRCs have closed since 2004. Worldwide, if you look at just the 87 that are open, most are in Africa and it goes down the line—there are only about five open IRCs in the nearest Asia region.
Then we have our partner spaces. Partner spaces are Binational Centers in American Corners. We feel like they are important alternatives to American Centers and IRCs because they offer open access, but they also really hinge on the reliability of partners and the willingness of an institution to publicly associate themselves with the United States. So they are not as reliable. They are good workarounds especially in places where there might just be an IRC, and they need to find other spaces to engage foreign audiences other than the embassy, but not ideal. Again, Binational Centers are private, autonomous, non-profit institutions, and they are self-sustaining organizations and created through agreements with the host organizations and the U.S.
American Corners do have collections of material and programming spaces with the local host institutions—things such as libraries. We have gone to visit many American Corners especially in the past couple of months in South Africa and Kenya. They can be great workarounds, but they are not really under the control of public affairs section staff and managed by the host institution. There are 479 of them, the majority of which are in Europe—there are only about 31 in the Western Hemisphere.
Now we want to get into American Centers, having established that they are the preferred spaces. Eight of them have relocated to embassy compounds—that we understand—in the last 10 or 11 years or so. They are Bucharest, Cotonou, Guangzhou, Osaka, Mumbai, Ouagadougou, and Riga. These are the ones that have recently moved into new embassy compounds, new consulate compounds, and new annex compounds. We counted that there were 21 American Centers at risk for co-location, meaning that they will close down from their urban centers potentially and move into IRCs, which are more restrictive. You can see on the map in red where those are, but these are the cities.
We see here that some of these are incredibly important urban power centers where much of the international system in going to be shaped, and where American influence is essential. We see Asmara; Ashgabat; Beijing; Casablanca; Chisinau; Colombo; Hanoi; Harare; Ho Chi Minh City; East Jerusalem; West Jerusalem; Kinshasa; Kolkata; Maputo; Mexico City; New Delhi; Niamey; Ramallah; Shanghai; Seoul; Windhoek. So these are the cities where essentially we will lose our urban center for foreign public engagement in the next ten years potentially.
We also prefer American Centers because they attract six times more visitors than Information Resource Centers do. People are more likely to stumble upon them—to find it by accident. The State Department discovered in a study of how users use American Centers that about twenty percent intentionally go into American Centers for information about the United States. But how we interpret that is that you have about 80 percent who really are attracted to the space and can learn about the U.S. during their experience there that may not have intentionally wanted to engage with the U.S., but end up doing so because of the different programs and utilities that the Centers have to offer.
There are about five core public diplomacy activities that we hope they focus on. That includes cultural programming and events, the provision of news information about the U.S., providing English-language education, student advising via Education USA—about 3.6 million students make contact with Education USA advisors worldwide every year according to the Educational Cultural Affairs Bureau. That is in person and then about 3.7 do virtually. Of course, as we know, students coming to study in the U.S. add millions of dollars to the American economy every year.
There are also recruitment and alumni engagement platforms for about 1 million alumni worldwide and a place to maintain those relationships that are open, accessible, and central. Also, especially in places where the internet is restricted, our American Centers are used to have unfettered access to the internet depending on the broadband capacity country by country. It really is a place that we can exercise the best of American values and openness.
If you look at what other countries are doing; they also recognize the importance of freestanding centers that really display their culture and their languages. France has about 850 of their Alliance Francaise Centers worldwide—those are standalone. Of course, the British consul has 196 in 110 countries. Germany has the Goethe-Institut, 159. China, of course, we know about the Confucius Institutes. There are about 480 that we know of; I think there might be more in American high schools. But these are maybe the equivalent of American Corners; they are hosted in universities. I think 96 in the United States alone host Confucius Institutes. We also know—but not a ton—about Iran Cultural Centers that are in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Western Hemisphere increasingly.
Engagement platforms are recognized by other powers as essential. We feel as if we need to have a presence there as well. Again, most of these centers offered by the UK, France, Germany, China and Iran are open and accessible to publics.
In conclusion, of course we know that security is important. In the extreme cases where it is not permissible to have public engagement platforms, logically, they need shut down. But it is important that the State Department and embassy work together to consider these spaces on a case-by-case basis. It is paramount that these American Centers stay standing, especially the ones that are at risk. We also feel as if we need to make sure that the Information Resource Centers that exist are open and accessible to foreign publics, and that some of the restrictive security requirements are lifted for the sake of engagement.
We have four recommendations moving forward. One is for Congress; the other three are for the State Department. What has been encouraging during this process is seeing how much is already happening on this front. With Congress, we really feel that there needs to be some kind of signal sent back to the State Department. When it comes to SECCA, there is an intention to consider on a case-by-case basis the need for openness and accessibility for our American Centers to keep them standing, but also to apply principles to keep IRCs open and accessible. Right now, State Authorization bills are being crafted, and we hope very much a final bill that is passed sends a message back to the State Department that is the intention for public engagement spaces to fulfill their mandates whenever possible. This would help co-location waiver requests within the State Department, and emphasize the need for a flexible case-by-case approach that takes into consideration centrality of public diplomacy to fulfilling different U.S. missions.
Another recommendation is — and this is something that is happening and the groundwork has been laid for this—is the aim to make existing Information Resource Centers on new embassy compounds, new consular compounds and annex compounds, more open and accessible through a new policy. This would lift “by-appointment-only” restrictions where they exist, create a separate security screening from the main chancery, permit unescorted access for visitors, and allow the use of personal electronic devices and allow wireless internet access as well. Whenever possible, the public affairs section staff should be able to sit in the IRCs really to be able to interact, engage, and develop a relationship with visitors. We really feel that particularly if American Centers must relocate that these different open access principles must apply to the relocation onto NACs.
The next recommendation is really a continuation of two different studies that have already been done about American Centers. My understanding is, and Jean can contradict me, that there has been a sense of “let a thousand flowers bloom” when it comes to American Spaces and Centers around the world. So it was a fairly recent effort to understand exactly how many different spaces there were worldwide, and really to dig deeply into how they are doing and functioning. There was a study done in reaction to a Government Accountability Office report, which I do believe that Lynn Weill asked for when she was on the House Foreign Affairs Committee staff. Specifically, that GAO study looks at how many spaces there were worldwide and really asked the State Department to conduct a study about the user experience of these spaces. That report was done -- it was very well done, and it helped with the management of American Spaces and re-thinking exactly what IIP should do to contribute to how Public Affairs Officers run the Spaces at post. Then there was a second study about the more restrictive, “by-appointment-only” centers. We feel that there now needs to be a third study, now that the foundation has been laid, to look at the impact of these spaces—and we say spaces in general, but our priority is centers—to really understand how they do or do not contribute to U.S. foreign policy objectives, and maybe how they can be improved to do so.
The last recommendation is something that we are encouraged to see. There is a continued dialogue between the Overseas Building Operations and Diplomatic Security and public diplomacy leadership to raise the concerns of public diplomacy at the outset of construction for these new embassy compounds to make sure that public diplomacy goals are brought to mind at the beginning. This way, hopefully, American Centers can stand alone and that the IRCs can remain open and accessible.
So those are our recommendations. We will take questions a little bit later. The white paper is at the table when you walk in. We are happy that you can all be here, and we look forward to hearing from Jean. Thank you, everybody.
Sim Far: Thanks, Katherine, and now we are going to welcome Jean Manes.
Jean Manes: It is terrific to be here, and first, I just want to thank the Commission. You see this room packed because people are really passionate about this issue, and there are so many people in this room who have worked on this issue over the decades and value what you are doing and the importance of the work that this report does. In many cases, it is all about timing. I would say if your staff had embarked on this type of report even two years ago, we would not be able to have this kind of report that was just mentioned with the recommendations. We just were not there yet.
So let us go through where we are in our partnership. Then I just want to highlight the partnership factor that we have worked very closely with the Advisory Commission on the report. The type of data compilation that you see in the report—where you see these numbers—is really a testament to the role of the Commission and the partnering with the academic community and how important that is to us as practitioners to have people really look at the data and have the time to sit and analyze the data and wrap it all up, and present the picture that you have just seen Katherine present today.
So Katherine referenced many of these things, and this is really a process that has been happening over the last four to five years where we have been able to get to this point to have the ability to make long-term, smart decisions. It really started back in 2011 with the creation of the Office of American Spaces—and I see that Anne Barbaro is out here. Anne, who frankly led that office in its first iteration, and that resulted in—from the 1990s—the proliferation of American Corners. So you saw in Katherine’s chart that that far-out numbers American Centers. And it really was, let a thousand flowers bloom. I am a person from the field, so I generally support that concept. Except for the fact that it made it really difficult to argue their impact in importance because we did not actually have central data on what we had in the field.
So the first step was recognizing that we needed an office that people reported into, so we could sum it up for the secretary, deputy secretary, what information we had—and I see Jean Cavanaugh out here too, hi Jean. This came out of where the Deputy Secretary Nides, at the time, asked us how many American Spaces we had around the world, and we actually did not know. So we actually had to go out into the field and ask the field, what do you have in your country? What is it doing? That is a critical step, doing the discovery step of what you have, and wrapping all that data up. The creation of the Office of the American Spaces followed, and then in 2012 that led to a fixed budget being assigned for that office. Up until that point, American Corners and Spaces were really funded sporadically. Sometimes a regional bureau would kick into your funds; we would do the same from the Under Secretary’s office, but there was no dedicated budget.
What that means is that people really could not plan. You did not really know how much money you were going to get in each year or if there would be money and then, what would it be for? So in 2012, the Under Secretary established the fixed budget for American Spaces, which was set at 15 million dollars. That is also the year that we started partnering with the Smithsonian. Many of you are aware of a partnership that we have had since then where they are helping us design the look and feel of American Spaces; how to make them engaging and how to take their lessons learned on developing modern spaces. I think there are some foam boards—who has the foam boards out there.
We have before and after pictures. This is of Hanoi. If you have seen the before and after—for those us who have been to hundreds of American Spaces around the world, they pretty much all look like that to some degree. You can see what we are going for, which is a modern look and feel of an engagement space that really represents the United States today. So if you have not seen those, make sure you come and look at them after.
So we have had an overall partnership with the Smithsonian to do look and feel of what these spaces really should be. In 2013—you heard Katherine reference the five core programs in American Spaces. That was a very specific effort. Up until that time, there was no required programming in American Space; everybody just kind of figured it out on their own. Again, it is great, but it is very hard to wrap-up and explain a global impact when you do not have any standards. So that was the establishment of the five core programs in American Spaces, which are—I always forget one, so I am going to look at them. They are English teaching, alumni programs, student advising, information about the U.S., and cultural programs. Again, that happened in 2013 where those standards were developed. At that same time, there was the development of the handbooks on how to run an American Space. Again, this all developed in the field; I am a big grassroots person, but at some point, grassroots has to turn into institutional.
So handbooks were developed for people in the field on how to run an American Space. So I brought them in case people think I am faking this. These are Managing American Spaces. There is one that is for our partner institutions that are not run by U.S. personnel, and then there are Managing American Spaces for Government Employees. So that again, it is not that every person has to make it up as they go, although I do value that, and sometimes our very best programs start that way—by people inventing.
Then that led us to really where we are at today, which in 2014 we figured out—we knew how many spaces we had. We had the data; we did the standards. Now it was, what is the priority of the 700 plus spaces that we have. Not all 700 plus can be a priority then nothing is a priority. So we went to each of the regional bureaus in the State Department and asked them to give us their top ten and bottom five for each region. So that gets you across six regional bureaus to a tier one, top sixty list and a bottom thirty.
Foreign policy spaces—and let me explain what that means. That does not mean your top country around the world and you just pick that top country. This is a specific public diplomacy tool. How important is that tool in that country? So, for example in Vietnam, both spaces—both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are considered tier one spaces. So they take two of the ten slots from the East Asia Pacific region because they are not able to do programming anywhere else. The whole mission uses that space for foreign policy Public Engagement.
Then people give me a hard time about this one, the bottom thirty. People ask “why did you do that?” We did that because we rarely turn anything off in government. We felt that it was important for people to take a hard look. Sometimes things get started and then we never go back and address whether they still should be going on. So dynamics on the ground change—there are lots of reasons why something may have turned into a less effective tool. We have a separate process for the bottom five where we look at maybe it should just be a book donation. Maybe it should be something else. Does it really need to be an American Space?
So that is what happened in 2014. Also in 2014, we took our budget that was allotted and aligned it to those priorities. We have pretty much a 60/40 split; about sixty percent of the budget is going to tier one American Spaces, and the rest will go to the tier twos—the forty percent. We did that, so we could align the big major renovations and investments with our foreign policy priorities. So we started that last year, and that had continued onto FY-15 where that has been completely implemented.
Also in 2014, there was an evaluation done, but let me go back to 2012 because Katherine referenced it, so I did not mention it. There was an evaluation of six American Centers that was completed in 2014—started actually in 2013—where they looked at the look and feel, customer service, what people were really doing there, was it an engagement space, or was it a study hall type of thing. It really helped us look at the management or prioritization of American Spaces, and it also led to the improvement of how we were going to design them going forward.
In R/PPR that was another evaluation that we actually completed. Then in 2015, that leads to the realignment of the IRO Corps. We have a 35 person Information Resource Officer Specialty Corps, similar to how ECA has a Regional English-language Officer Corps—that is a specialty corps. So we went back and looked at the job description based on where we were at IIP—at International Information Programs—and what skills we were looking for in the field, and we have redesigned that position description. That is now in the central bureaucracy with human resources where you can ask Jason Rebholz —who is back here and has been working on that, as well as Dean Cheves who is right in front of him—redesigning the new position description for our Specialty Corps in the Foreign Service. That ties to greater audience targeting, social media analytics, digital tools, and our relationship with Overseas Building Operations and Diplomatic Security.
That is happening now and then we are repositioning—obviously if there are only 35 positions, I think 25 overseas—they have to be positioned with the highest foreign policy priorities. So we are repositioning where those are located including an IRO position has been moved from Japan to Burma, which is where we are opening our first standalone center in many years. It is opening in Burma and there is about a two-year construction timeline so that IRO position is moving this summer so that they can really gear up for what type of programming and policy importance they are going to have there. Then also, we moved one from Poland to Ukraine, also this summer. We also are relocating additional positions—again, all tied where the foreign policy priorities are that are driving the process.
That is where we are today, and that leads us into this report, which is really the right report at the right time. I know many of you in this room—I am not a big believer in reports unless you are actually going to do something with it. I am thrilled about this report because it actually helps us advance our next agenda.
Part of that has also been starting the working group, as Katherine mentioned, with Overseas Building Operations and Diplomatic Security, which is being led by the Under Secretary’s office in “R.” I know that is insider baseball, but that is actually a huge deal. That is really where you have to sync up everything. If you do not get that synced up, then the bureaucracy is really on automatic pilot. That is where you get into the list of the American Centers that are automatically going to be moved into an embassy compound. That is just a bureaucratic reality of a building timeline. Their process is legitimately ten to 15 years out. They are looking at building new compounds, getting land, getting construction designs, all of that, so if you do not actually sync up with that, you can actually have all the great ideas that you want, but you are going to miss the boat every time because you are just not in on the timing.
We have the permanent working group that was started with myself, the Deputy Assistant Secretary from DS, Wayne Ashbery, and the Deputy Assistant Secretary from OBO, Casey Jones who have all committed to this process and committed to the importance of American Spaces and public engagement and committed to finding a way forward to continue public engagement. That is sort of where we are now. Katherine referenced the six-core access principles so let me get into that.
This is just to give you an idea of the 700—you obviously cannot focus on 700, and when you get a tier one, this really allows you to really drill down to your priorities. Again, this is before—traditional library setting—and after, with the modern engagement space. Again, just some other views of what that looks like.
This gets us into the open public access principles. Again, these are being addressed in the working group right now with Overseas Building Operations and Diplomatic Security. They are open public access, unescorted access once you first cross the first line of security, separate screening so you are not cuing people up in the same line as consular, personal electronic devices allowed because again a lot of our programming is integrating in that so you want people actually live tweeting and engaging in the space. Wireless internet access, again, that ties into the personal electronic devices, and then dedicated employee space so the employees can sit along with their colleagues.
Again, leveraging technology—I think most people know that the Bureau of International Information Programs—we are known as the digital lead for the Department, always out there kind of pushing the bounds. Part of that is really leveraging technology, but recognizing that the in-person engagement is the gold standard. So technology will allow you to widen your reach to target an audience segmentation but it really is trying to drive traffic to an in-person engagement.
Again, our Information Resource Officers whose jobs are evolving, again, many of you know the Information Resource Officer Corps, they really were leaders when the internet first came on the scene in helping us all adapt to that in the field, and that is the same vision for how we see the corps now leading change.
So with that, I will go ahead and turn the microphone over to Sim—I am not moving. I do whatever Sim says.
Sim Farar: Yeah, that will get you into a lot of trouble. Are there any questions of the Commission? Any questions that you might have for Jean? We are going to hit the audience in a second. Lezlee?
Lezlee Westine: I just want to thank you first of all—what an amazing career you have had. So for all of your service, thank you so much. To the other people who actually started these missions that we are talking about right now, we are just very, very, grateful and appreciative. I had the pleasure of actually going to an American Corner in Russia in Moscow. So I am curious about the centers in Russia in general. I have heard conflicting things. Would you share your insights and your thoughts on it?
Jean Manes: It is complicated, and I think it leads to Katherine’s point when you talk about Corners that they are not owned and operated by the U.S. Government. This is why American Centers are the gold standard. American Corners depend on a partnership. So that means it is contingent upon a partner being willing and able to partner with you. Dynamics have shifted, I would say, over the last year in our relationship. So that asset is not really available to us right now. We do have the Center, again, which is USG owned and operated. But we do not necessarily have access to the Corners, which are partnerships, in Russia.
Penne Peacock: I have a statement actually. Jean, we have just been—some of us—to South Africa and seen what is going on there with the U.S. embassy in Johannesburg and our American Center in Soweto, the Rosa Parks Library. I wish you all could see and be so proud of what this country is doing to bring people up to teach them about America. They are letting them bring in their wireless devices. You know, you just walk in. And as an American, we just felt so good about what was going on, and that makes me even more passionate about what you are doing -- and regarding what Larry is going to talk about. We just have to keep pressing on. I was on the Commission when the USIA went out. We have watched public diplomacy change since then, and it has gone up and down – it’s been like being on a roller coaster at the fair. Sometimes public diplomacy gets a lot of attention, and other times, we are just shuffled away.
If you do get to the field to see one of these working right, in full action and up and modern, I highly recommend it. We are going to fight for you.
Jean Manes: I think Penne raises the exact point. Part of our inability to be convincing has been our inability to be consistent. So because of the up and down, we have not been consistent in our advocacy of American Spaces and the importance of public engagement and how critical it is to foreign policy. I think that is really the point where we are at now in really developing that infrastructure to be consistent. The Advisory Commission is a tremendous ally for us in that effort.
Sim Farar: I think Anne has a question.
Anne Wedner: I love where you are at, and it seems that now we really have a handle on it. So I want to throw something out there that is always in my head. Now you are at a point where this could be a very effective public/private partnership. I mean resources are always constrained so as we are all thinking about it, it would be great to have in mind: How do we partner with the private sector who would have a vested interest in a successful standalone American Center?
Jean Manes: Yes, and I think again, it is getting the recommendation at the right time to actually take action. I think until this point, we were more in an inventory process, and then getting what we had up to speed. Now we are at the point of looking ahead to where we should actually go. Part of that is looking at models for the future. So obviously, we are going to pursue the American Center model, which is USG-owned and operated, but we do have to expand out from that model recognizing that not every one of these spaces can be a priority. Then you have to start developing a model that is country specific, assessing where you might be able to have a partnership or have resources. You could then do a different model in different countries. That is where we are at now. I think now we have a good handle on what we have. We are getting that up to speed, which are the priority spaces, and now the conversation is, where do we want to be and what those models look like?
Sim Farar: I think we are going to open it up to the audience now, but please state your name and your affiliation, and we can go from there. This gentleman had his hand up first; he snuck in real quick earlier. Could you please stand up so we can hear your name.
Tom Gibbons: Tom Gibbons with Xterra Global. Anne Barbaro was there when the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy and State ECA. Anne and her team met and came up with a pilot program back to Anne. We had a very successful—I think Anne Barbaro would agree—program where we linked NGO community leaders here in the states via technology. Referring to two of your points, public engagement, and leveraging technology, where we learned that the American Centers had a deeper desire to meet more Americans. So we were able to do this in the Ukraine and Peru with two pilots where we linked via Skype with the Centers, and we had folks in the Ukraine come to one of the Centers there, American Spaces. We had very dynamic conversations about the topics they were interested about in the Ukraine talking about Americans. That pilot withered away, although successful, I guess because of bureaucracy and funding would probably be the two issues. But that opportunity is still there. I think there are a lot of NGOs, a lot of cities—I am sitting next to Mary Kaine, the CEO of Sister Cities International. There are networks out there that really would be interested in engaging with the American Spaces through technology even though travel may be difficult and/or not necessarily in the cards. I would like to keep that door open, see if we can continue that discussion, and bring some of these NGO organizations into this.
Jean Manes: I think that is an excellent point, and you will be happy to hear that in the Ukraine a new American Center is actually opening in maybe two weeks from now. Under Secretary Stengel will be out there for the opening of that new space out there.
Then on your point—so for Burma, which frankly had American Spaces operating for I think 50 years or a little over, at this point. They have been hubs for NGO engagement. We were just out there getting the groundwork ready—doing the official groundbreaking for the news center and talking with NGO communities and all of our other country team partners, whether it is USAID or others, on how people envision using this center as a hub of activity and how it is going to be used to advance foreign policy; really having the Centers be a whole-of-mission Center where people use it as a whole-of-mission engagement on policy and that it is an active NGO environment.
Sim Farar: We can only take two questions, I am sorry.
Heidi Arola: Hi, I am Heidi Arola, I am the Branch Chief for Education USA. Actually, my question has to do with the Beijing American Center; I know that is one of the Centers that is slated to be moved to the embassy compound. Just for everyone’s knowledge, all eight of our Education US Advisors are located at the Beijing American Center. China currently sends 270,000 students to the U.S. each year, which is about one-third of the entire international student population. I am just concerned—and actually, they bring 27 billion dollars to the U.S. economy each year. What steps are being taken to ensure that the six open access principles will at least be put in place there because it looks like it may be impossible to un-sync this building timetable in this case?
Jean Manes: Actually, a fair amount, I think they caught that one in time. So there was actually a re-drawing of the designs to accommodate—to do the separate entrance, to do the open access. We have had a lot of discussion with Overseas Building Operations and Diplomatic Security, and the East-Asia Pacific Bureau. I think there was really a lot of work on the ground to catch that one in time.
Sim Farar: We only have time for one more question; I am sorry. This gentleman here in the front.
Matt Asada: My name is Matt Asada. I am the Vice President of the American Foreign Service Association. It is great to see the Commission here in our building today. We really welcome you and we welcome the release of your report. All four recommendations we would strongly endorse, and we would be happy to partner with you and Congress as we look at a state reauthorization measure, which is quite timely right now.
My question is, for the centers that were at risk. You showed a map where some of them were at risk and moving, and we heard a little bit about Beijing right now. I served previously in Calcutta; we have a great American Center there in Eastern India with 300-million people. Can you talk a little bit about what you envision for the ones that are at risk? How do you see that process unfolding? What the Commission might do in regards to appropriations process? There are ways to influence this, and I am just curious as to your thoughts about how we protect those American Centers that are at risk?
Jean Manes: Right, so I think Katherine showed the map with the Centers that are scheduled to go into a new embassy compound over the next ten years; I think that is the next step. The next step for us is to talk strategy about what is the best approach on which things are going to have an impact, and also be realistic, which is looking at the 21; who do you really want to fight for? Who really is the investment worth the risk? We have not done that analysis yet. I think getting to this phase has really identified where the crucial decisions points are, and now we need to really go back and do our homework together to figure out the best strategy.
Katherine Brown: I will just say that on our end, we are talking to the Hill to sync up our efforts and making sure that they are aware that these centers—especially the places that are so consequential to the U.S. are taken into consideration.
Jean Manes: But I think up until this point, we actually could not even have a smart conversation about it because we were not syncing up our lists with the Overseas Building Operations schedules to go into the new embassy compound list. There were a lot of moving parts in the bureaucracy that actually were not actually synced up to be able to have a smart conversation about the issue.
Sim Farar: How about a nice thank you for Jean for a wonderful presentation.
Sim Farar: We would now like to welcome Ambassador Laurence Wohlers to speak about the early findings from his upcoming report, Getting the People Part Right, Part 2. Ambassador Wohlers is currently Senior Fellow at the Meridian International Center and an Adjunct Fellow with the Commission for the State Department. He was recently the Ambassador to the Central African Republic. Previously, he served as a Senior Advisor for International Programs at the Smithsonian Institution, Executive Assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy, Ministered Counselor for Political Affairs at the U.S. Mission for the European Union, and Ministered Counselor for Public Affairs at the United States Embassy in Moscow. We have been honored to work with him for the last few months and look forward to hearing some of his findings. Please, Ambassador, thank you.
Ambassador Laurence Wohlers: Okay, thank you very much, and thank you to the Commission and Katherine for giving me this opportunity to come back from retirement and think about public diplomacy one more time. I first started thinking about PD as a strategic idea when I was at the National Defense University almost 20 years ago, and I realized how little the rest of the foreign policy world thought about and understood what public diplomacy is. So I started thinking about it and have written on it from time to time. So it is really a pleasure to come back and be able to do this one more time.
This report as we are working on it is a result of interviews both within and without the Department. It also draws on my observations of 36 years—sorry Jean, you are still a kid.
Jean Manes: That is okay.
Ambassador Laurence Wohlers: The Commission and I took as our starting point the thesis that this study would not limit itself just to narrow human resources questions. Part of being a public diplomacy specialist—and actually, in any job—is, it is not just about how you are recruited, and trained, and the promotions that you get. A lot of it is: are you resourced, are you empowered, and are you led in a way that allows you to do that job that you think you should be doing. Especially as you look at the real income cuts that federal employees have taken recently and the ones that are planned in the future, if we do not give our PD professionals the opportunity to do the best job that they think they can do, then we are going to have a hard time holding onto them.
Public diplomacy is fundamentally about interactions with audiences and its falls—that is success or failure. Our activities rest on that. I want to stress that these are just preliminary thoughts today. This is really just a sneak preview of the report; I will not go into everything. It will be, as the Vice Chairman mentioned—the full report will be handed out on Wednesday, June 17th.
I do was to note that so far we have talked to, so far, over 70 people in various formats—individual interviews, focus groups. That is not enough; I could go on forever because everyone I talk to gives me a new idea. But it gives us a pretty good sense of what public diplomacy offers—our thinking about where they are right now.
We also conducted a content analysis of reports on public diplomacy issues, and we are continuing to update the data as best as we can. Two last points before getting into this. The PD function has endured 15 years of enormous changes. One of those, of course, is the structural change of the integration of USIA into the State. Our interviews suggest that although integration has long since been completed on the surface, when one digs deeper you find a lot of what I call untied threads. Those untied threads not only affect the morale of PD Officers, but it affects their sense of whether they have the tools, training, and experience that they need to respond to the public diplomacy needs we have now.
Nobody was arguing that we needed a new restructuring. In fact, they would say please, not another restructuring. But I would frequently encounter the sense from people that they felt public diplomacy capacity was not being utilized as it should be.
Second, the global operating environment is not to our advantage. Although, the new tools of social media are undeniably powerful, the fundamental revolution they create is that they allow poorly funded but nimble entrance to reach a mass audience that 20 years ago only a major state could do. Social media has dramatically reduced our comparative advantage of public diplomacy over our competitors, both state, and non-state actives. So for many of my interviewees, they felt that while we obviously have to be in the sphere of social media, that is not a panacea and far from it.
Okay, moving on. We started out talking to a number of outside stakeholders—representatives of exchanges, educational institutions—and had a fascinating discussion with them, which I am going to summarize in just four points.
First, they were unanimous in saying that today’s hostile ideologies, although less monolistic and state-controlled, are as dangerous to American interests as anything there was in the Cold War. The era where we thought our version of universal values had over won the world is long since over. It is no longer just about training foreign publics in the how of political pluralism and marketing economies, etcetera; it is once again a return to a debate about why. This plays uniquely to the public diplomacy skill set, but we are not as strong in that part of the skill set as we once were; we need to rebuild it.
Secondly, they believe that State undervalues the role of culture. I use culture not just in the artistic sense, but also in the social sense. One noted at a meeting with senior Afghan leaders, the importance of culture coming up again and again. They worry that U.S. embassies abroad have lost their capacity for, and their interest in, culture. One noted that when visiting foreign countries, the embassies had no cultural contacts. And the U.S. military understood this better than the State Department did.
Another point was that other countries are prioritizing information dissemination much more than we are, and Jean went into some of that. Then last, they noted that the American NGO community that is so much focused on contacts abroad, that the grassroots find it hard to get entree into the State Department to talk about these things.
PDs Mission Statement—I am not a fan of mission statements because I think they can delude leadership into thinking that they have built a team culture, which is obviously a much bigger problem. But it is worth looking at the mission statement. Obviously, a very ambitious statement, but what does that mean in practical terms? Like most mission statements, that is hard to tell.
I also looked at the new QDDR that just came out; it is a very impressive document in many ways. It makes clear that the Department recognizes that it needs to engage with non-state actors far more than it has in the past. However, at least in its published version it says nothing about the implications for public diplomacy’s organizational structure. The fact is that the PD as a function is rarely mentioned at all. That may be because the authors perceived PD as a seamless tool of policy. It is not yet clear, and I have some meetings with QDDR to talk about that. But it is important because outreach to populations, of course, requires investment in platforms and PD is the only programming platform that the Department has on the ground in virtually every country. So what QDDR implies about investment in the resources that PD officers need is not clear.
Now we turn to the interviews that we did with public diplomacy officers. You know PD officers—I know from experience—do not agree on much, but there was a widespread consensus on several points. First, they agreed that the merger had been successful in strengthening the connection of policy and public affairs—i.e. the short-term policy messaging. There was real improvement in certain parts of the infrastructure, the creation of the regional press hubs, more focus on press training and particularly identifying early on their careers those with that certain gift for working with the press and training them, a tighter link of messaging to policy and certainly younger PD Officers who are more integrated into State.
Also noted was the growing interest of other cones in participating in public diplomacy. That, of course, is probably a function of the expeditionary diplomacy of recent years. In this sense, the merger has been a success, but there has also been a cost. Here they were unanimous too in saying that they find no collective understanding inside the Department of the strategic value and role of long-term public diplomacy. That is a topic that we can go into later on if you wish, but if you ask why, I think it is fairly clear. The key reason is that because average officers in the Department never have an opportunity to think about, talk about, and be trained in how PD can be not just an event, but a strategic tool. Most people are taught how to handle the press in an interview. The result is—interviewees agreed—that most non-PD officers tends to focus on PD as messaging or onoe-off projects such as an exchange program.
What happens, of course, when that person becomes a chief of a mission or a senior leader, is that the conversation often becomes disjointed because we do not always mean the same things when we are using the word public diplomacy. When asked how this affected her work, one senior PAO told me “We end up spending our time training the front officer on what we do and how it can, in fact, be effective in promoting our broader USG goals. I have found non-PD, and first-time ambassadors leading their jobs finally understanding PD and wishing they had understood its impact earlier.”
Last, I will note that the consequence of this disconnect is not just about policy; it is about resources. If any institution is about allocating scarce resources, and if you do not have a clearly defined mission, then you tend to lose out in the competition for scarce resources. A poorly articulated mission equals lower priority, which equals fewer resources. I do not have time to go into that much more today, but it is a topic that interests me, and there will certainly be more in the report.
More now to the clearly HR aspects of the report—is PD staffed for the mission? The good news is: PD as a cone has grown significantly since the merger. We know that in its last years USIA had declined significantly in its Foreign Services numbers from around 1100 to less than 800. Now, we are at 1500, so that is good news. We are almost doubling, but two important caveats, however. First of all, more people in the cone do not necessarily represent more people working in PD jobs. That is both because of the requirement to do consular work, and there is a lot of demand for that. And the encouragement that officers do out-of-cone assignments in order to expand their horizons. At least anecdotally—and I am still working on this but do not have all the data in—it does not appear that the Department has rebuilt significantly the reduced base of PD positions that it inherited from USIA.
Secondly, although PD is now the fourth largest cone—only management is smaller—if you actually broke PD up into two cones, which some of my interviewees suggested, a press cone and a cultural cone because the two have very little in common. If you actually broke them up in two, they would be by far the smallest cones in the State Department. What is not clear from the discussion that we have had is what is the link between numbers and strategic concept? How many officers do we need to do the job? How many jobs do we need? Is 1500 the right number? We need a better understanding of that. That is something that we will be able to go into more detail about in the report.
Building a highly qualified PD team. Any organization, in order to be successful, needs to build a highly qualified team with a collective sense of vision. In this respect, PD faces several challenges. Recruitment—there has always been attention in the Foreign Service between the generalist ethos and PDs specialized knowledge requirements. To some extent, USIA bridged that with our Junior Officer Trainee program, which, of course, did not come over with the merger. One piece of good news is that since 2007, the Department is using a resume triage process between the written and the oral exam. That has allowed the Department to focus more of the oral exam entrance into people who clearly have some kind of background and aptitude for the kind of work that we do. That does—from people I have talked to who have followed the exam—seem to have increased the extent of PD background in our new entrants.
With that said, the cone is clearly becoming less experienced. That is true in both Department terms, because of the huge hiring increases of the last ten years, and we now have a third of the entire cone with less than five years’ experience in the Department. And it is true in PD terms because today’s PD Officer will spend significantly less time in PD work in the course of a career than was true 20 or 25 years ago -- both because of the imperative to do consular work at the beginning and because of the various out-of-cone and IROG (international relations-branded) jobs.
Then third, USPD personnel are divided into four systems. This is something that our report is sort of catching up on because the 2008 report talked about the human dimension of PD—in fact, it only talked about the Foreign Service side. But PD is four separate systems, if you will—Foreign Service, Civil Service, LES, and Contractors, who are increasingly important here in Washington. Each has its own issues and managing them coherently would be difficult even in the best of circumstances. However, anecdotally, it seems that the various people in the systems have become increasingly disconnected since the merger because they often work for different leadership with different objectives and goals. That leadership is typically not PD professionals but those who come in from outside the profession. Is there also a role here in the fact that there really is not a personnel master plan for how to meld them into a team? That is a question that we need to understand more.
I have been given the two-minute warning sign. Let me see if I can move along.
PD training has not changed a great deal since 2008. There are core, mandatory classes, and there are elective ones. The mandatory ones are relatively short, three weeks that focus on the basic skills. The electives are where the really interesting innovation is going on. Everyone whom I talked to who had taken the marketing college loved it and said everybody should have that course. The problem, of course, is that not everybody will have that course. A very few will have it because of the resources to do that kind of professional knowledge are simply not there yet. How do you improve professional knowledge is going to be a big question.
So what this all comes down to is a less prepared officer corps. All the senior PD, non-PD, chief of missions and even the mid-level officers themselves I talked to warned about this. Because of this—the issues of lack of opportunities to work in the cone in the junior grades, the lack of training, etcetera—people are becoming IOs or CAOs in mid-level posts and they just do not have the background to feel comfortable in articulating what they could do. That is worrisome because it is going to be very hard to replicate that. Opportunities for “experience missed” are not going to be replaced easily.
Is PD as a professional skill set present at the policy decision-making table? I put that in italics because one of the stated rationales for the merger was to bring PD closer to policy. Has it done so? The evidence is mixed. Yes, there are more PD Ambassadors, DASs and DCMs, albeit at a lower level than one would expect given their numbers, but what is really interesting is the absence of PD professionals at the highest levels or responsibility for PD itself. None of the Assistance Secretaries for the PD Bureaus is a PD Cone Officer. Only one has ever been since the merger, as far as I can tell. The Under Secretary has obviously never been a PD professional, and it is true that -- as the American Academy of Diplomacy recent report points out -- that growth of political appointees in the Department has been an issue Department-wide. Anecdotally again, what that suggests is that the conversation about PD at senior levels is consistently under-represented in terms of PD professionals being a part of it.
I am told that I am running out of time.
Is there a new post-merger career path? PD performs poorly class-wide, but promotion rates have been so fast that does not seem to matter. There does seem to be an issue with senior promotions. PD is the only cone that has no one at the Career Ambassador level, and that has not had a PD officer promoted to Career Ambassador since the merger, and that is it.
We will be continuing to work on this report and if you have ideas—if you want to raise questions, feel free to email me to talk about it.
Sim Farar: They are going to ask you questions right now.
Ambassador Laurence Wohlers: Okay.
Sim Farar: That was a wonderful report by Larry, and if there are any questions—let me start with the Commission first for a second, please. We will ask some questions and then we will open it up to your audience also. Lezlee, please.
Lezlee Westine: I remember several years ago after 9/11, there was a survey of college graduates, and they asked where do you want to start your career. The number one choice was the State Department, and number two was Google. How are we doing with the millennials and the young folks in the public diplomacy area?
Ambassador Laurence Wohlers: Yeah, from what I have heard, PD continues to be a sought-after cone. I believe—Chris, you probably remember—we were the number two cone in terms of interest, is that right?
Chris Hensman: I think there is a lot of interest. What is unclear is whether we are getting the right candidates. There is a lot of volume going through the system, but the quality of the applicants across that volume is very mixed. So you might be getting good candidates out at the end of the process, but there might be better ways to make sure that the flow in and the people that we are attracting even if you just take the written exam are a better fit for the public diplomacy cone.
Sim Farar: Any questions from the Commissioners at all? We will open it up to anyone here. This young lady in the black sweater, please.
Nike Chi: Thank you so much for a wonderful and important presentation from Ms. Manes, Ms. Brown, and then from the Ambassador. My name is Nike Chi from Voice of America, Chinese. I just want to say VOA is on the same page with the ACPD. My question for the Ambassador is, do you think it is a policy priority for the U.S. Government for the reciprocity with other countries? The reason why I am asking is why two other 21 American sectors facing upgrades including Beijing and Shanghai American Corners are facing crisis of co-location in China, the Chinese sponsor Confucius Institute are growing with the United States. What is you take on that? Thank you.
Ambassador Laurence Wohlers: Well, I neither represent the U.S. Government at this point not do I know much about China. I do not know. Jean do you want to take that one on?
Jean Manes: Well, to take us back to Katherine’s report. The issue for us had not been reciprocity; the issue for us had been our internal system and the laws requiring that everything be co-located behind the new embassy compound according to the laws that are on the books. So the issue has not been reciprocity between our countries, it has been our own internal process and the laws that mandate that everything that is currently external go internal, when there is a decision to build a new embassy compound.
Sim Farar: The gentleman in the back.
Adam Powell: Adam Powell from the University of Southern California, and also the President of the Public Diplomacy Council. Just to read back a quote from you, “There is no collective understanding of or agreement on public diplomacy.” How can we engage to remedy that?
Ambassador Laurence Wohlers: You could wait for the report. Let me just say one thing on this. This is not just simply an inside-the-Department question. This is about the broader worldview of Foreign Affairs and foreign policy Specialists in this country.
If you and I had this conversation with the Director of the Center for Public Diplomacy at USC and he said we work with the international relations people; we get their students to come over, but their professors have no interest. Typically when you study foreign policy in the United States, you study it as a state to state—and then -- oh yeah -- there is this problem with non-state actors. But no one ever sits down and looks at it as a question, you know, how do we handle this? So typically, then they tend to think about public diplomacy as a messaging question when you have a problem and not how do you invest to build on all the different things that PD can do. They have not thought about it because it was not a policy problem. So I think that is really an important area where we need to start.
Sim Farar: The lady in the rear please—your affiliation and your name, please.
Pat Kabra: I am Pat Kabra; I am the incoming Director for Policy Planning for the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs office, and currently Diplomatic Fellow at George Washington University in the Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication. I have met with Larry, and I would like to thank the Commission and all of the hard work that you have done on both the report that was released today, and the report that will be released. They are extremely useful for us. It raises the profiles of the issues. It engages all the players. I am glad to see somebody from USC here today since you have such a wonderful center there, and I look forward in my new position to working with all of you.
I will be meeting later with some of the Commission members with the Under Secretary who is very interested in hearing suggestions of things that we can implement that will make this much better. So thank you very much, and I will look forward to talking to people afterward.
Sim Farar: Thank you very much; we appreciate that. I think we have time for one more question Katherine.
Katherine Brown: We can take two more.
Sim Farar: Two more, okay. Yes, please.
Cynthia Efird: Cynthia Efird, Ambassador to Angola and long-time—38 years—Public Diplomacy Officer. I think one of the things that happened was almost accidental that led to this. During the period when ambassadors were asked to take hits for re-programming positions over in Afghanistan and Iraq, because there were so few Public Diplomacy Officers in the field, often an unencumbered position was a public diplomacy slot. So it was easy to give up an unencumbered slot, which then had the result that there were too few public diplomacy slots, as you mentioned. This led to not enough places for promotion at the mid-level, and also too many people doing too much work, with too few resources, especially personnel.
I wonder—and I see your report points to the important of PD positions. Given that so often it is an ambassador that decides—in fact, if not in theory—his workforce make up, how can we work to get more PD positions especially at the mid and upper levels overseas?
Ambassador Laurence Wohlers: That is a huge, very important question. I think it comes back again to the question of mission. If people do not see a clear mission for longer-term public diplomacy, then the priority goes elsewhere, and the nature of the Department—and I have worked on the PD and the non-PD side of the Department -- the nature of the Department is that there are so many near-term crises that you have to deal with at senior levels, that is what you are thinking about. So unless you have developed a real strategic concept that comes down in some detail about why you need these things, and you get a higher level buy-in, it is very hard to do. There, I think as I look back on it—of course, as we all know, the merger was never a conceptual merger. It was a technical merger, and that is because the impetus did not come from the professionals inside either organization; it came from outside. So people just did it, but there was not a conceptual merger, so, the kind of thought about how you do this was never there.
I do think, looking back on it; the biggest miss was not creating a public diplomacy bureau that would have created a functional home. The way consular has one, and management has one. That could have led the function fight for the resources, fight for the concept. The large expansion of the Office of Policy Programs and Policy Planning and Resources has been a step in that direction, but it is clearly a lot smaller than a bureau. No, we are not going to go and talk about a bureau right now, I know. But I think the function needs a home; a bureaucratic home.
Unidentified Male: I would also just say that a lot of times we do look at these positions from the perspective of the field and the ambassador. I think one of the disservices that we do is not sharing the information on the implications that that has on the system as a whole. Larry talked about the impact on Junior Officers and what it means for PD not to have enough Junior Officer positions is that more Junior Officers are serving consular tours than any other cone other than Consular. So that means that we are not getting any cone experience by the time we get to the mid-level, and that creates a ripple effect through the system. But by providing that information back to the decisions makers, I think that will also put pressure on the issue from a different direction.
Sim Farar: Good, thank you, Jean. Thank you, Larry. Let me just say—thanks to all of you for being with here today. Do not forget, June 17th is the release at Meridian of Larry’s report along with the Commission. Then on the 22nd of September, the comprehensive annual report, which will be a follow-on to last year’s comprehensive report on public diplomacy throughout the world. Of course, Katherine, Chris, Michelle, thank you for the great work you are doing on behalf of the Commission and to my fellow Commissioners, and thanks to all of you for being here.