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U.S. Department of State

Communicating Public Diplomacy Objectives

Harold C. Pachios, Commissioner, United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy
Remarks to the Committee on Government Reform, Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations, U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC
February 10, 2004

Chairman Shays and distinguished members of this subcommittee, I want to thank you on behalf of our Chairman, Barbara Barrett, and the five other members of the bipartisan U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy for this opportunity to share my thoughts on U.S. Government efforts to inform, engage and influence audiences in the Middle East and around the globe. I would also like to recognize my fellow commissioner, Treí Evers, from Florida who is here with me today.

As this subcommittee has noted, over the past two years, several significant studies have been issued dealing with the conduct of public diplomacy. I most recently served as my commissionís representative on the Djerejian Advisory Group for Public Diplomacy in the Arab and Muslim World. I think the Djerejian group made some important points, but I do have some differences with some of the groupís observations.

Having served on this nearly 50 year-old commission for 11 years, I believe that our public diplomacy programs need to be divided distinctly between two areas, immediate communications and long-term communications.

Our long-term communications include professional and student exchanges, American libraries and cultural programs. We know these programs work. They are some of our most effective. In fact, while they were young, Prime Minister Tony Blair and Afghan President Hamid Karzai both participated in our international visitor efforts. We know that both of these men are friends of America today. Because of the efficacy of these long-term efforts, we must continue to fund them. However, many of these programs are the same projects the United States Information Agency (USIA) used to win the ideological battle for the hearts and minds of people throughout the world during the Cold War. These programs are expensive, and to succeed they require the strategic placement of participants to have success. We often do not see results until at least 10 years into the future.

If we really want to improve our long-term communications, we need to encourage more American businesses to conduct their own professional exchanges, streamline our visa process for student visitors and call on more American citizens to represent the United States abroad.

While constituting a core of what the State Department does to influence international public opinion, the world has changed in a way that requires us to look beyond the influence of elite audiences and the influence of people over the long term.

Hereís what has changed. First, even people in the remotest villages throughout the world receive satellite TV broadcasts. Second, as the worldís only superpower, and an active one at that, everything our leaders say and do is of consequence to ordinary people everywhere. Third, the new technology of broadcast journalism ensures that when our leaders make statements, villagers in Jordan, Indonesia and Pakistan will see and hear it simultaneously with people in Wichita, Portland, and Louisville. Same message, same time.

No longer do we have the opportunity to separate our messages, as we did when I served in the White House many years ago as associate press secretary to Lyndon Johnson. Now, the same words and ideas reach our global audience, sometimes with unflattering editing, as quick as it reaches domestic audiences.

Since international public opinion does have the power to interfere with our foreign policy objectives, the process for unveiling new foreign policy goals, new visa rules or other matters that the global press corps may cover needs to be coordinated and communicated by skilled public relations professionals who serve and have access to the President and other key administration officials.

It is true; the apparatus of public diplomacy at the State Department has proven inadequate, especially in the Arab and Muslim World. The solutions for running a coordinated and agile communications campaign are not yet robust. Now donít get me wrong, we have some very dedicated men and women at the State Department and elsewhere who practice public diplomacy on Americaís behalf around the world, but this system has become outmoded and lacks a cohesive corps of devoted messengers within the foreign and civil service. To really communicate our messages, we need the means to spread our ideas and policies throughout the globe from one source through dedicated teams of communicators skilled in media relations and local languages and equipped with modern public relations tools.

It is our short-term communications efforts that must be improved to change public diplomacy in the short-term. I do not believe this takes a vast amount of money to fix, just a reallocation of priorities. Of course, we need to hire and train more people who can advocate for the United States in relevant languages around the world, and we need to have the proper mechanisms for these people to communicate.

We are making progress and improvements through new thinking and coordination. The Department of Stateís Bureau of Public Affairs is now taping television footage that can be utilized by outlets all over the world and frames the United States positively. The International Information Programs bureau has developed a new magazine, Hi, which targets youth in the Arab and Muslim World. And, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural affairs is conducting new journalist exchanges and reaching out to young audiences through prominent Cultural Ambassadors, like NBA star Tracy McGrady and R&B great Mary Wilson. Additionally, the State Department now has a Media Outreach Center in London that utilizes a spokesperson fluent in Arabic to communicate with Arabic-language media and advocate the merits of American foreign policy and values.

The main problem that I see in the State Department is that our people do not have the ability to communicate with media audiences in the native language of the land in which they serve. For instance, there is only one spokesperson in that entire Media Outreach Center. Additionally, we have a very small capacity to engage third party validators to speak out on our behalf. For example, if we sponsor a Fulbright scholar, we should place that scholarís name in a database. Once this person returns to their native land, he should receive mailings and invitations from the U.S. Government. This will help foster a long-term relationship. And just maybe, in the future, this Fulbright Scholar can advocate for America in front a television audience or civic group in his home country. Currently, we do not do this.

But as I stated before, in the information age, the message that originates from this country and is delivered to the world comes from more than just the State Department. Messages are heard around the globe from the White House, the Department of Defense, the CIA, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security, even Congress. And, this White House has set up the proper infrastructure to communicate a global message. We must, however, utilize these new mechanisms fully.

We now have a White House Office of Global Communications, which draws on many agencies, and Americans to convey a few simple but powerful messages. These messages are designed to combat misunderstanding and conflict, build support for and among United States partners, and better inform international audiences.

We also now have a Policy Coordination Committee of the National Security Council to ensure that all agencies work together and with the White House to develop and disseminate the Presidentís messages across the globe. It is supposed to be chaired by the Under Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy and a Special Assistant to the President. In an effort to fully harness the power of this Policy Coordination Committee, it must meet regularly with the most senior members of the Administration.

To help get these messages out we have Radio Sawa, the popular Arabic-language radio station and the new Middle East Television Network, Alhurra (The Free One) to be launched this month. These stations help offer accurate, balanced and comprehensive news and information programming with high-quality production values. These stations endeavor to broaden the viewersí perspectives, enabling them to think for themselves and inspiring them to make better decisions. The media filter in the Middle East is so thick that it is almost impossible to get a fair and objective story aired about the United States on independently run channels. That is why these popular forms of broadcasting, which are gaining significant audience share, are such an important part of public diplomacy.

Some of our policies may not be popular in some areas of the globe, but there is no excuse for public diplomats to give up on their war of words and communications when we are engaged in a war on terrorism.

Exchanges, libraries, pamphlets, and brochures are useful and necessary over the long term, but it is short-term public diplomacy that will make a difference in the short-term. Whenever the Presidentís media and political advisors consider what might be an appropriate message for the domestic audience, there needs to be a powerful public diplomacy advisor at the Presidentís side assessing the impact of that message on the foreign audiences who are exerting significant influence these days.

Public opinion is always going to ebb and flow in the course of making tough foreign policy decisions. It is the job of the public diplomat to provide the proper mechanisms to enable the proper people to advise the President and key administration officials. These professionals must keep an eye out for the international perspective when rolling out a policy to an audience, whether that audience is in Topeka or Thailand.

International opinion should not change our policy, but it should inform how we communicate strategic objectives. I do not suggest that we modify the direction this government takes based on international public opinion. However, if we are going to succeed in a global media market, we must understand that we can utilize a different phrase or a different word to make a great deal of difference in a foreign land.

Thank you, and I am more than pleased to answer any of your questions.