Ambassadors Call for a Public Diplomacy Professional at State Department

Friday, May 24th 2013

Secretary Kerry is urged to pick a FSO to lead Public Diplomacy

May 24, 2013 - Some of the blogs and news media have picked up on the letter sent this morning  by a number of ex-ambassadors and senior government officials to the Secretary of State. 

The letter speaks for itself, so it is repeated here:

 The Honorable John F. Kerry

Secretary of State

Washington DC 20520


Dear Mr. Secretary:


We urge that a career foreign affairs professional be appointed as the next Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.  Such an appointmentwould support your efforts fully to integrate public diplomacy into U.S. foreign affairs.

No career professional has served as Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.  Coincidentally or not, today there is a wide consensus that U.S. perspectives are less well understood abroad, and people-to-people exchanges are less robust than they should be.  In today’s globalizing but still threatening world, and as our military forces abroad are drawn down, it is more important than ever that America strengthen its “soft power.”  For this, public diplomacy is an essential and powerful tool.

A career foreign affairs professional, with years of overseas and Washington experience, is more likely to understand the larger world context and how public diplomacy can help achieve America’s policy goals.  And it is challenging to direct and energize public diplomacy if the leadership  has brief tours or vacancies are lengthy.  Prior to the incumbent Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, leaving after just over a year in office, the previous four served, on average, nearly two years.  By comparison, the previous four Under Secretaries for Political Affairs, all career professionals, served, on average, nearly three-and-one-half years.  The U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy reportsthat the position of Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs has been vacant more than 30% of the time since it was created in 1999.  The position of Under Secretary for Political Affairs has been vacant only 5% of that time.

Studies by the Defense Science Board, RAND,and other independent groups have found that America’s engagement with foreign publics succeeds best when led by experienced officials having the authority to establish priorities, assign responsibilities, transfer funds, and concur in senior appointments.  Leaders must have direct access to you and the President on critical communication issues as policies are formulated and implemented.

When done well, public diplomacy works.  Large numbers of foreign heads of government, legislators, and social, economic, and political leaders -- many of them America’s staunch allies and stalwart friends -- have participated in U.S. public diplomacy programs.  The University of Southern California recentlyreported that of individuals exposed to U.S. public diplomacy, 79 percent have used what they learned to bring about positive change in their own communities by running for political office, organizing a civil society group, doing volunteer work, and starting a new business or other projects.  Fully 94 percent say the exposure has increased their understanding of U.S. foreign policy, and America’s people, society, and values.

The President’s and your public engagements are among our country’s greatest diplomatic assets.  You have over a thousand skilled, culturally-aware, and language-trained public diplomacy officers ready to leverage advanced technology and person-to-person communications skills in order to change foreign outcomes in America’s favor.  All they need is truly professional, experienced leadership.


Leonard J. Baldyga, Career Minister (Retired), U.S. Information Agency

Adrian A. Basora, Ambassador (Retired), Director of the Project on Democratic Transitions,

Foreign Policy Research Institute, and Past President, Eisenhower Fellowships

John R. Beyrle, Director, U.S. Russia Foundation, and former Ambassador to Russia and


Barbara K. Bodine, former Ambassador to Yemen

Edward Brynn, former Ambassador to Burkina Faso and Ghana, and Acting Historian of the

Department of State

Brian Carlson, former Ambassador to Latvia and Public Affairs Officer (PAO) in Spain,

Norway, and Bulgaria

John Campbell, Ambassador (Retired), Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies,

Council on Foreign Relations

William Courtney, former Ambassador to Kazakhstan and Georgia

Shaun Donnelly, former Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives

Craig G. Dunkerley, former Special Envoy for Conventional Armed Forces in Europe

Sally Grooms Cowal, former Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, PAO in Mexico, and Deputy

Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs

Walter L. Cutler, former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Zaire

John Evans, former Ambassador to Armenia

Linda Jewell, former Ambassador to Ecuador 

Robert Finn, former Ambassador to Afghanistan and Tajikistan, and Opening Chargé d'affaires

in Azerbaijan

Jacob P. Gillespie, former PAO in Spain and El Salvador

Robert R. Gosende, former Special Envoy for Somalia and PAO in the Russian Federation and

South Africa

Donna J. Hamilton, former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs

John R. Hamilton, former Ambassador to Peru and Guatemala

William Harrop, former Ambassador to Israel, Kenya, Zaire, and Guinea, and Inspector General

of the Department of State

Arthur Hartman, Career Ambassador (Retired)

Dennis K. Hays, former Ambassador to Suriname and President of the American Foreign Service


H. Allen Holmes, Ambassador (Retired), former Assistant Secretary of State for Politico-

            Military Affairs

Robert E. Hunter, former Ambassador to NATO (non-career) and senior member of the National

Security Council (NSC) Staff

Morris Jacobs, former President of the Public Diplomacy Council

Linda Jewell, former Ambassador to Ecuador and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for

Western Hemisphere Affairs

Joe B. Johnson, Public Diplomacy Council and former PAO in Ireland and Panama

Richard D. Kauzlarich, former Ambassador to Azerbaijan and Bosnia and Herzegovina

Dr. William P. Kiehl, President & CEO, PDWorldwide, and former PAO in Czechoslovakia,

Finland, and Thailand

Melinda Kimble, Senior Fellow, United Nations Foundation, and former Acting Assistant

Secretary of State for Oceans, Environment, and Science

Daniel Kurtzer, former Ambassador to Egypt and Israel.

Bruce Laingen, former Ambassador to Malta and Chargé d'affaires, Tehran

Richard LeBaron, former Ambassador to Kuwait and Founding Coordinator of the Center for

               Strategic Counterterrorism Communications

Melvyn Levitsky, former Ambassador to Bulgaria and Brazil, and Assistant Secretary of State

for International Narcotics Matters

Thomas E. McNamara, Ambassador (Retired), former Assistant Secretary of State for

Political-Military Affairs

Richard Miles, former Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, and Georgia

John O'Keefe, former Ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic

Thomas R. Pickering, former Ambassador to Nigeria, Jordan, El Salvador, Israel, the United

Nations, India, and Russia, and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs

Christopher Ross, Personal Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General for Western Sahara,

and former Special Coordinator for Public Diplomacy and Ambassador to Algeria and


William A. Rugh, former Ambassador to Yemen and to the United Arab Emirates, and PAO in

            Egypt and Saudi Arabia

Harold H. Saunders, former senior member of the NSC Staff, Director of Intelligence and

Research, and Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs

Michael Schneider, Senior Executive Service (Retired), U.S. Information Agency

John W. Shirley, former Ambassador to Tanzania, PAO in Warsaw and Rome, and Counselor of

the U.S. Information Agency

Katherine Shirley, former ambassador to Senegal

Pamela Hyde Smith, former Ambassador to Moldova and PAO in the United Kingdom

Patrick Nickolas Theros, former Ambassador to Qatar

Hans N. Tuch, Career Minister (Retired), former PAO in the USSR, Germany, and Brazil, and

Deputy Chief of Mission in Bulgaria and Brazil

Alexander F. Watson, former Ambassador to Peru, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent

Representative at the United Nations, and Assistant Secretary of State for Western

Hemisphere Affairs

Marcelle M. Wahba, former Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and PAO in Egypt,

Jordan, and Cyprus

Philip C. Wilcox, Jr., Ambassador (Retired), former Chief of Mission in Jerusalem and

Ambassador at Large for Counterterrorism

Kenneth Yalowitz, former Ambassador to Belarus and Georgia  

cc.  National Security Advisor Thomas E. Donilon 

3 people have commented on this article so far

Board member 

Summary: A career public diplomacy officer, Brian Carlson advises the InterMedia research organization on military and foreign affairs issues and manages communication strategies for private clients. 


Ambassador Brian E. Carlson, a former Career Minister in the United States Foreign Service, currently assists international media and audience analysis firm InterMedia on defense and diplomatic sector activities. authors name for more info

Author: Brian Carlson

We welcome comments from our readers that advocate and shed light on the subject of public diplomacy. We avoid discussion that is politically partisan, commercial in nature or offensive. To prevent inappropriate comments and spam we screen each comment before publishing it, so please excuse us if you do not see your remark right away.

Appointment of Career Foreign Service Personnel

I am a Career Foreign Service Specialist (Retired), who served not in the State Department, but in an allied Foreign Affairs Agency [the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, U. S. Department of Agriculture (APHIS-USDA), with my most recent postings as International Regional Director], and as a former Plant Quarantine Officer, Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). In my international travels and overseas postings, I have found, on a person-to-person basis, and organizational/country/international representative, that the interests of the United States and the World, are best put forward and served by international career individuals. The appointment of politicians and political fund raisers, while serving as a reward for steadfast service, is generally not an effective means to attain our goals, mission, policies, and objectives. The appointment of the career politicians, who have no international experience, demean our country, and have many times made us an object of derision. It is most important to have individuals with considerable international training and experience, multiple overseas residences and foreign language skills.

Therefore, I heartily endorse the recent letter urging our Honorable Secretary of State to appoint public diplomacy professionals (or at the very least, career international persons) to the positions of Under Secretary, and also Ambassadors! As a sideline, I would add that, all things being equal, I was selected for my FAO position by the Branch Chief (who was an American, and a former resident of Hawai’i) to show the world that not all Americans are WASPs.

Appointment of public diplomacy professional

Long, long overdue. I remember fondly my time at the USIA Library in Bombay during the 60s. It was instrumental in forging a love affair with America and I became the first member of my family to not head automatically to the UK for further studies. Am still here. We need not just a public diplomacy professional but a well funded and staffed office. The U.S. needs it, the world needs it. Sarwar.A.Kashmeri

diplomatic Advisor

Through my diplomatic career in several countries in five continents , of more than 30 years expertise in Diplomatic service , specially in issues of the Middle East , I think I can give some advice .I speak , English , Arabic , French , Spanish , Italian + understandin , German , and Russian .

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