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  • Author: Wes Jeffers, Katherine Tarr
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: October 1, 2019, marks the 20th anniversary of the consolidation of the United States Information Agency (USIA) into the U.S. Department of State. USIA, formerly known as the United States Information Service (USIS) overseas, previously oversaw all public diplomacy functions for the U.S. Government from 1953 to 1999. We all know the story after that: USIA was folded into the U.S. Department of State, creating the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R) and making public diplomacy one of the five cones of the Foreign Service. Opinions remain divided about this decision, but the core objective of U.S. public diplomacy has remained the same: Public diplomacy “seeks to promote the national interest and national security of the United States through understanding, informing, and influencing foreign publics and broadening dialogue between American citizens and institutions and their counterparts abroad.” However, in the Foreign Service of today, we are still facing some significant challenges to the landscape of public diplomacy—some old and some new. There’s been no full-time R for 17 months and counting, and educational and cultural programming budgets are annually at risk. The Office of Policy, Planning, and Resources for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R/PPR) is undertaking a massive effort to overhaul public diplomacy portfolios around the world and, thus, to overhaul the very structure of Public Affairs Sections overseas. The new Bureau of Global Public Affairs combines the skills of the former Bureau of International Information Programs and Bureau of Public Affairs to modernize the way we communicate to domestic and foreign audiences. Despite all of this change, one fact remains constant: if we want foreign policy to be effective, we (the U.S. Department of State) must effectively communicate with a variety of audiences through programs and media, as well as continue to invest in future global leaders. This means public diplomacy must be seamlessly integrated into foreign policy formation and implementation. All Foreign Service officers must have the same basic understanding of public diplomacy as they have of writing cables. This also means that public diplomacy must be both championed and defended by a strong leader who can easily communicate with colleagues in the Department of State, the Secretary of State, Congress and the White House. After 20 years, we have indeed come a long way. Where are we now? Where do we want to be in the next 20 years?
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Communications, Transparency
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America