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Congressmen Urge More Public Diplomacy Funding
Congressmen Urge More Public Diplomacy Funding
February 4, 2004 - Repeatedly citing polling data showing profound anti-American sentiment around the world, senior members of Congress today expressed disappointment at the Bush Administration's reaction to a major report on U.S. public diplomacy in the Middle East, calling the response
'lackluster', 'tepid', and 'discouraging'.
At a hearing of the House Commerce, Justice, State appropriations subcommittee, which funds the Department of State, Congressmen pressed Margaret Tutwiler, the new Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public
Affairs, about how to strengthen American public diplomacy in the Muslim world. The members focused particularly on the recommendations in the 2003 report, 'Changing Minds, Winning Peace,' which described public diplomacy
efforts in the region as 'inadequate' and 'outmoded'. The subcommittee effectively commissioned the report, prepared by the Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim World, chaired by Ambassador Edward Djerejian.
Members repeatedly noted the report's conclusion that public diplomacy funding in the region is 'dangerously inadequate', and hammered on this point in their comments and questions to Tutwiler.
'The Bush budget request does not - and I underline not - contain a significant increase for public diplomacy," said Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA). Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) returned to the funding theme and pressed Tutwiler
repeatedly as to whether public diplomacy needs could be met by reprogramming, or would require additional funds.
"I'm going to deal with the budget as it is," Tutwiler said. She indicated that money could be freed up through reprogramming "where there is elasticity and flexibility".
Tutwiler did note that in 1991, USIA had 2500 public diplomacy officers worldwide, and that the current complement of State Department public diplomacy officers is only 1200. "Obviously, if we have more competent
people abroad, we could be getting more done," she said.
Wolf questions public diplomacy structure Stating that "maybe we made a mistake in the abolition of USIA in 1999", Wolf asked Tutwiler what is being done to reorganize the State Department's public diplomacy structure.
Tutwiler replied, "I understand and appreciate the debate about the agency [USIA] and the State Department structure. My concern is what can we do with that which is. Is it perfect? We all know it's not. I have not spent as much time as some would choose that I do on structure."
Wolf noted that Tutwiler is the State Department official ultimately accountable for the success of public diplomacy, yet the Under Secretary does not manage the field resources for public diplomacy, which are
supervised by regional bureaus.
"The bureaus and their assistant secretaries know much more than an Under Secretary can know," Tutwiler responded. "I have excellent working relationships with the regional assistant secretaries and also meet often
with our ambassadors and line officers.
"To be honest, I'm not positive how effectively you would restructure within State."
Tutwiler calls for exchange expansion, focus on youth and non-elites. In her opening statement, Tutwiler said, "I would like to see us expand our exchange programs however we can."
She also noted that public diplomacy must reach more effectively beyond traditional elite audiences. "Where we have not placed enough effort and focus is with the non-elites who, today much more so than in the past, are a
very strong force within their countries. This must be a priority focus now and in the future."
Tutwiler highlighted the Partnerships for Learning (P4L) exchange initiative, which "seeks to extend our exchange programs to undergraduate college students and also high school students". She cited the Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program, which in its first year has brought 170
Muslim high school students to the U.S. for an academic year, and plans to bring 450 next year. "Small numbers, I acknowledge," Tutwiler said, "but a beginning&These are exactly the kind of initiatives I believe we should be
Tutwiler announced that she is exploring the idea of "micro-scholarships for English learning and to attend our American schools overseas. The U.S. has been incredibly successful with micro-credits for entrepreneurs and small businesses. Why not take that same concept and apply it to education and English language learning?"
"We must engage, listen, and interact - especially with the young. They are the key to a future peaceful world."
Tutwiler called reaching out to the Muslim world a "top priority", and indicated that 25 per cent of State exchange funding in FY2004 will go to the Middle East and South Asia, up from 17 per cent in FY2002. She noted
the recent arrival of 25 Iraqi Fulbrighters, and that 20 Afghan Fulbrighters will arrive next month. She added that priority would also be given to exchanges in Muslim countries elsewhere in the world, including Africa,
Eurasia, and East Asia.
Wolf proposes Corporation for Public Diplomacy
Wolf noted that the State Department had rejected a recommendation to create a Corporation for Public Diplomacy, and asked Tutwiler if such an entity
might not provide some valuable flexibility. He suggested that such a corporation could, as an example, ask every high school in the U.S. to accept an Islamic exchange student. "Think of the impact you could have in
a single year," Wolf said.
Tutwiler said that she "understood that [the State Department] did not take a position one way or the other [on the corporation proposal]. We need to satisfy ourselves that we know what capabilities already exist in government agencies. I'd urge caution and real thought in creating a whole new entity."
Kolbe asks about visas
Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) noted that he had recently met members of the Arab Business Council at an international meeting, and they have given up trying to come to the U.S. because of 'humiliating' visa procedures. "How are you
going to make exchanges work if people are humiliated?" he asked.
"We are making it work," Tutwiler said, citing the recent arrival of the Iraqi Fulbrighters.
Noting the need to balance security with openness and citing her recent experience as U.S. ambassador to Morocco, she noted that visa processing was improving as consular sections adjusted to new procedural requirements.
Ranking Democrat Jose Serrano (D-NY) asked if Tutwiler supported the Djerejian commission recommendation for a visa 'fast track' for exchange participants.
Tutwiler said she was not in a position to comment, as she did not have access to all the information available to the Department of Homeland Security. "We have to trust their judgment," she said.
Djerejian cites exchanges an effective element in public diplomacy
Djerejian echoed Tutwiler's support for exchanges, yet noted there is "very little outreach in the Muslim world." He said the Advisory Group he chaired
found that, public diplomacy outreach comes to "only $25 million for the entire Arab and Muslim world - a depressingly small amount", and called for "major increases in resources" to be devoted "to helping Arabs and Muslims gain access to American education, both in the U.S. and in Arab and Muslim countries." Djerejian cited the "drastic reduction in USAID scholarships
awarded to students in the region" that went from 20,000 in 1980 to 900 currently, adding that the commission calls for a "significant increase in funding for scholarships across the board."
"We [the commission] urge creativity in linking U.S. educational institutions with their counterparts in the regions," he said.
Among the group's findings, Djerejian told the Committee, "The most effective programs of public diplomacy - the ones most likely to endure and
have long-term impact - are those that are mutually beneficial to the United States and to the Arab and Muslim countries. We urge that care be taken to emphasize programs that build bridges and address the region's weaknesses, especially in education, while at the same time advancing the American message and building a constituency of friendship and trust."
Djerejian called attention to the need for language specialists, noting to committee members that, "you cannot have effective public diplomacy without language competence."
Panelists highlight funding inadequacies and structural needs
Djerejian emphasized that "the current level [for public diplomacy programs]is absurdly and dangerously inadequate, and no amount of reprogramming of existing resources can correct this." He told the Committee that the State
Department spends "approximately $600 million on public diplomacy programs worldwide." Coupled with $540 million for the Broadcasting Board of Governors and a $100 million spending proposal for the Middle East Partnership Initiative to expand economic, political and educational
opportunity as well as to empower women, funding for these programs "represents three-tenths of one per cent of the annual Defense Department budget."
Djerejian, and fellow panelist, Ambassador David Abshire, emphasized the need for a new strategic direction for public diplomacy guided by the White House, coupled with the proposed Corporation for Public Diplomacy.
The advisory group recommendations include creation of a new Special Counselor to advise the President on the U.S. government's global communications and coordinate a strategic blue print that integrates the public diplomacy activities of many government agencies. In his remarks,
Djerejian said, "In retrospect, I think it was a mistake to dismantle USIA."
Djerejian called the proposed Special Counselor "one of the most important recommendations" of the group.
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