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Interagency Coordination Efforts Hampered by the Lack of a N'tl Communication Strategy - GAO Report
U.S. PUBLIC DIPLOMACY
Interagency Coordination Efforts Hampered by the Lack of a National Communication Strategy
Issued April 2005
Report to the Chairman, Subcommittee on Science, State, Justice, and Commerce, and Related Agencies, Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives
Results in Brief
The White House has launched several recent initiatives designed to promote the coordination of U.S. public diplomacy efforts, and agencies are working to improve public diplomacy operations, but the government does not yet have a national communication strategy. Two of the White House initiatives were designed to broadly facilitate the coordination of all U.S. strategic communication efforts, but they have not been fully implemented. In September 2002, the National Security Council created a Strategic Communications Policy Coordinating Committee to facilitate interagency public diplomacy efforts.
The committee drafted a national communication strategy to help address a range of messaging and program issues; however, the committee disbanded in 2003 and did not issue this strategy. In January 2003, the President formally established the Office of Global Communications (OGC) to facilitate and coordinate the strategic direction of White House and individual agency efforts to communicate with foreign audiences.
This office has not developed a national communication strategy. Moreover, according to a recent report by the Defense Science Board and senior agency officials, the office has not facilitated the development of strategic guidance, which would serve to promote the effective coordination of U.S. public diplomacy efforts. The White House and other agencies have also made efforts to coordinate communications on a smaller scale.
In July 2004, the National Security Council created a Muslim World Outreach Policy Coordinating Committee and tasked this group with developing strategic and tactical plans to help guide and coordinate U.S. communications with Muslims around the world. According to senior officials at State, the group has drafted a communications strategy and is developing a tactical plan to implement this strategy.
The State Department, USAID, and DOD are seeking to improve and evolve their public diplomacy operations in recognition of the increased importance attached to U.S. outreach efforts. State has formed an office to help the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs guide and coordinate the agency's diverse public diplomacy efforts. USAID and DOD are defining expanded public diplomacy roles for themselves. The Broadcasting Board of Governors continues to implement the largely independent role mandated by Congress for international broadcasting, while focusing its coordination efforts on policy-level discussions with the State Department.
State has engaged the private sector in U.S. public diplomacy efforts, primarily in the area of international exchange programs. State Department data indicate that three of the department's top exchange programs received roughly one-quarter to one-half of their funding from nongovernment sources.
However, other efforts led by State's Under Secretaries for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs to engage the private sector have not yielded significant results. In 2003, the then Under Secretary sponsored the formation of a panel of outside advisors to review and recommend areas where the department and the private sector could coordinate their efforts. The panel issued a report in July 2003 with a number of suggested areas of cooperation; however, none of these suggestions was acted upon due to a lack of resources, bureaucratic resistance, and a lack of management commitment. Current engagement efforts by the Under Secretary's office are limited to periodic contacts and small-scale initiatives with the private sector.
Recommendations. This report recommends that the Director of the Office of Global Communications fully implement the role envisioned for the office in the President's executive order, including facilitating the development of a national communications strategy to help guide and coordinate the diverse public diplomacy efforts of the State Department, USAID, BBG, and DOD. We also recommend that the Secretary of State develop a strategy to promote the active engagement of the private sector beyond international exchanges. In commenting on a draft of this report, State, USAID, and BBG generally concurred with our findings, conclusions, and recommendations. We have reprinted their comments in appendixes III through V. We also incorporated technical comments from DOD, State, and BBG where appropriate. The White House declined to comment on a draft of this report.