That will be the question tomorrow when the senior public diplomacy official, Michelle Giuda, appears before the Advisory Commission for Public Diplomacy to discuss the ongoing merger of two bureaus under her aegis.
The Council is co-hosting this event with the Advisory Commission at at George Washington University Elliott School’s Lindner Family Commons, 1957 E Street St. NW, 6th Floor. See our News and Events page for a link.)
Two issues are worth flagging. One is the long hiatus between Under Secretaries since the position was created in 1999 for the consolidation of the U.S. Information Agency and the Department of State. (Giuda is acting under secretary.) Council Member Matt Armstrong provides a close account of this in a recent post on his blog.
Another — addressed by both Matt and Brett Bruen, a former Obama official and close observer of public diplomacy — is the current merger of a former USIA bureau, International Information Programs, with State’s Bureau of Public Affairs. The new bureau is called Global Public Affairs. In the process, some elements of IIP were moved into the Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau, a core public diplomacy function.
IIP’s editorial staff — formerly a field-oriented unit aimed at supporting PD offices at embassies around the world — is the point of contention. In a Twitter post, Bruen (@BrettBruen) contends that IIP’s ShareAmerica website, meant to provide posts with support materials, has become propagandistic. Indeed, PD field officers report a change in the balance of content toward Beltway foreign policy issues (Iran, North Korea) of little relevance for most bilateral relationships.
ShareAmerica is the publicly accessible part of a comprehensive editorial support operation. Still, it would be worthwhile to conduct an audit of ShareAmerica to compare content before and after the merger took effect earlier this summer.
A core principal of the USIA consolidation was to keep America’s message to the world intact and separate from State Department’s domestically-oriented public affairs. Has that separation been degraded with the current and ongoing merger?
Michelle Giuda will face these and other questions tomorrow. Once again, the Advisory Commission is serving a vital oversight function for U.S. public diplomacy.
Joe B. Johnson consults on government communication and technology after a career in the United States Foreign Service. He is an instructor for the National Foreign Affairs Training Center, where he teaches strategic planning for public diplomacy. Read More