2016 Comprehensive Annual Report on Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting

The U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy (ACPD) believes strongly that people, such as youth, journalists, civil society and religious leaders, cannot be excluded from the conduct of international relations and U.S. foreign policy decisions must consider their growing influence worldwide. This is especially critical today, as the world is awash with ideological conflict that is at once challenging our national security and the liberal world order. Just as public diplomacy is essential for fighting the ideology of our foes, it is also important for sustaining the health of our allies. Forming relationships with critical foreign audiences requires commitment, patience and the strategic investment of limited resources to inform, engage and influence foreign publics over the long term. We continue to witness, in the United States and overseas, a committed and tireless corps of public diplomacy professionals who are actively working to advance American foreign goals policy through informational, educational and cultural activities. Likewise, we are encouraged to meet talented journalists and storytellers throughout the world as part of the Broadcasting Board of Governor’s network.

The United States Congress has charged ACPD with compiling this report each year to bring transparency to the combined $1.849 billion core public diplomacy and international U.S. international media budgets and to help illuminate the efficiency of various PD strategies and tools. Our overarching and persistent concern continues to be whether or not the proper structures and processes are in place to support the strategic and long-term application of public diplomacy and U.S. international media (USIM) programs. Ensuring that robust infrastructure exists at the State Department and Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to effectively conduct these activities requires consistent and tireless investment in the details, such as databases that can help personnel plan strategies and tactics and track their results; the ability to use that feedback to course correct future activities; training programs to keep professionals sharp; and cutting-edge virtual and physical platforms to inform, develop and maintain relationships with foreign citizens.

This 2016 Comprehensive Annual Report on Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting Activities itemizes major public diplomacy and international broadcasting activities conducted by the State Department and BBG. Using the 2013 and 2014 reports as benchmarks, this 2016 iteration provides some early indications of budgeting and programming trends. In addition to the $1.1 billion in core PD spending at the State Department, this year we also investigated of supplemental funding applied to public diplomacy operations worldwide for fiscal year 2015. It is based primarily on fiscal year 2015 actual budget data and program descriptions collected from the BBG, every public diplomacy bureau at the State Department, seven regional and 11 functional bureaus in the State Department, and Public Affairs Sections (PAS) at U.S. embassies worldwide. Two-thirds of this report serves as a reference document for worldwide strategies and tactics to advance U.S. foreign policy through information and engagement programs, divided by agency and global region. As mandated, it includes the cost per participant for more than 80 academic, professional, youth, cultural and sports programs; the cost and focus of public diplomacy activities at roughly 180 missions abroad; and the cost and programs for 72 international broadcasting services.

In this report, we also provide analysis. We have seen gradual improvements in public diplomacy and international broadcasting activities since we released the 2015 report on September 22, 2015. We identify the top 10 programs, activities and infrastructure advances of the last year and make more than 50 recommendations, which are meant to iteratively strengthen and modernize public diplomacy and broadcasting strategy and tactics. Half of these are enduring recommendations, meaning that they have not changed in the last two years. Below are the major themes of this year’s report:

  • The significant need for more sustainable public diplomacy budgeting and spending, especially as it pertains to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq
  • U.S. public diplomacy challenges and opportunities in South and Central Asia, South America and the Persian Gulf
  • Public diplomacy’s role in countering violent extremism (CVE)
  • Public diplomacy’s role in countering negative Russian influence in Europe and Central Asia
  • Promoting volunteerism and philanthropy as a core theme alongside entrepreneurship and innovation
  • Improving audience research and public diplomacy and U.S. international media program evaluation investments
  • Re-organizing public diplomacy’s structural apparatus at the State Department
  • Strengthening public diplomacy personnel
  • Changing the conversation on public diplomacy and U.S. international media with Congress

We are proud to report such a voluminous document of record each year with our very limited resources of roughly $434,000 for operation and salary costs for two full time employees. We also enjoy the opportunity to get such a close look at the various informational, educational and cultural activities in play worldwide. We greatly admire the tenacity and the talent of our public diplomats and international broadcasters and are encouraged by their reform-minded leaders at both agencies. We hope that by making more than 50 recommendations and by bringing increasing transparency to the budgets, infrastructures and strategies that allow for these activities, we can more robustly support their ongoing work. While ACPD is heartened by the progress of the last two years, we are mindful that a new administration will commence in four short months and we hope that progress on these fronts does not just continue, but accelerates. We would like to see a new Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs be appointed soon after the beginning of a new administration and commit to a four-year term in order to focus on management issues and re-investing in the infrastructure that supports what our professionals can do worldwide. We strongly encourage him or her to focus on those issues so that our PD talent in the field can focus less on identifying workarounds for their daily operations, and more on building relationships with the global change makers of this century.