2015 Comprehensive Annual Report on Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting

The U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy continues to witness, in the U.S. and abroad, how increasingly relevant public diplomacy is to U.S. foreign policy. Modern public diplomacy strategies and tools are consistently being implemented with larger national security objectives in mind. Non-state actors are rapidly shaping the international system. We believe strongly that people, such as civil society leaders, journalists, youth, and religious leaders, cannot be excluded from the conduct of international relations. Forming relationships with critical foreign audiences requires commitment and patience, and the strategic investment of limited resources to inform, engage and influence foreign publics over the very long term.

ACPD’s overarching and persistent concern, however, is whether or not the proper structures and processes are in place to support the strategic and long-term application of these programs. Ensuring that robust infrastructure exists at the State Department and Broadcasting Board of Governors requires consistent and tireless investment in the details: databases that can help personnel plan strategies and tactics, track their results, and use the feedback to course correct future activities; training programs to keep professionals sharp; and cutting-edge virtual and physical platforms to inform, and develop and maintain relationships with foreign citizens.

Per ACPD’s congressional mandate, the 2015 Comprehensive Annual Report on Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting Activities itemizes major public diplomacy and international broadcasting activities conducted by the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). It is based on data collected from the BBG, every public diplomacy Bureau at the State Department, six 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. It includes the cost per participant for 84 academic, professional, youth, cultural and sports programs; the cost and focus of PD activities at roughly 180 missions abroad; in addition to the cost and programs for 72 international broadcasting services. In FY 2014, the State Department spent $1.069 billion of public diplomacy funding and the BBG spent $733.5 million, amounting to $1.803 billion. While this is an increase from the $1.759 billion spent in FY 2013, it is still just 3.53 percent of the entire International Affairs Budget.

The 2015 report also offers an analysis section, which includes in-depth reviews of ACPD priority issues this past year (research and evaluation; openness and accessibility of American spaces; and the professional development of PD officers) and priorities for U.S. foreign policy (countering violent extremism; countering negative Russian influence in Europe and Central Asia; the young leaders initiatives in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Western Hemisphere; and international broadcasting in Africa).

Due to reform-minded leaders at the BBG and the State Department, ACPD has seen an improvement in the conduct of PD and international broadcasting in the short eight months since we released the 2014 report on Dec. 11, 2014. ACPD makes more than 20 recommendations in this 2015 report, which are meant to iteratively strengthen and modernize public diplomacy and broadcasting strategy and tactics. We believe strongly that in order to make a compelling argument to Congress and the American taxpayers for maintaining, if not increasing, investment in public diplomacy for the sake of U.S. national security, State Department PD offices’ and the BBG’s communication with the Hill on both progress and setbacks must deepen and expand, as should the evidence that these activities matter. Currently, both the State Department and BBG dedicate 1 percent or less of their budgets toward audience research, analytics, and process and impact evaluations; and there continues to be a deficit of research experts and methodologists on staff. ACPD continues to make it a priority to help advance the measurement and evaluation capacity at the State Department and the BBG so that understanding the outcomes of their work can become more systematic, and we can support Congress in understanding which programs best advance U.S. foreign policy goals and which fall short.