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United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy – no more

January 12, 2012

Seal of the United States Department of State.

Image via Wikipedia

Madam Secretary, may I ask why you are not fighting to keep, maintain and build the tools you need to properly conduct Public Diplomacy?

One of the United States’ Department of State and Public Diplomacy’s greatest allies was the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.

According to its website, the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy no longer exists.

The U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, the Government’s only body dedicated to overseeing and promoting Government activities that intend to understand, inform, and influence foreign publics, has not been reauthorized by the Congress. As a result, the Commission concluded its business on December 16, 2011, and the office has been closed. The PDCommission@state.gov email will not be monitored and the Twitter and Facebook accounts will not be updated. To reach the now-former Executive Director, Matt Armstrong, email him at blog@mountainrunner.us.

According to the Public Diplomacy Council’s website, during the budget cutting prior to the last Continuing Resolution, one senator decided it would be wise to cut the $135,000 needed to fund the USAC on PD. A number of senior diplomats contributed their thoughts and dismay.

Let me put my spin on this, please bear with me. Let me use the situation with China as an example.

According to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the United States Senate report, Another U.S. Deficit – China and America – Public Diplomacy in the Age of the Internet, there is a huge discrepancy in Public Diplomacy between the United States and China, posted on Senator Lugar’s page.  One Senator whose identity is officially unknown to me decided that the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy was no longer needed, in my opinion blatantly disregarding the recommendations of their own report. Of course I am absolute certain this Senator knew what he or she was doing, I mean, after all they saved money, didn’t they?  They’re a Senator for goodness sake.  In case you’re wondering, this is known as sarcasm.

While the Chinese have reportedly increased their spending to $8 Billion dollars for their Public Diplomacy programs (they actually call it Foreign Propaganda), we are cutting back on what few resources we actually have.  US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy – gone. The Broadcast Board of Governors, responsible for much of the public broadcast into denied areas, cut to the bone.  R, the Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs is not only vacant, but has been vacant for longer than it has been filled.

The Department of Defense kept their corresponding programs intact, does reaching out to foreign audiences around the world have to default to DoD once again? At DoD, they profit greatly from all kinds of advisory panels, support groups, business alliances, etc.  When DoD’s budget is under attack, they can count on those organizations to come to the military’s defense.

State has none of these, or at least now one fewer. State also has virtually no one speaking up for its interests.

Madame Secretary, if you are at all serious about Public Diplomacy, fix this mess!

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