Center for Strategic Communication

by Steven R. Corman

I just ran across this “Washington whisper” item in USNWR:

President Obama has nominated longtime national security expert Philip J. “P. J.” Crowley as assistant secretary of state for public affairs, a move that suggests that the department’s public diplomacy with foreign nations will be stepped up. Crowley, currently a senior fellow and director of homeland security at the Center for American Progress, is expected to play more of a background role, explaining U.S. diplomatic moves to the foreign media and nations rather than handling the daily briefings. He is widely respected in the press and among military and diplomatic officials for his past government service and his steady advocacy while at the progressive think tank. During the Clinton administration, he was the spokesman for the National Security Council and a Defense Department communicator. He is a retired Air Force colonel who has also worked with NATO. If he is confirmed, as expected, it will help Secretary Hillary Clinton build on her public diplomacy program, say State Department officials. As one source put it, the goal is to “narrow the perception gap between what we say and what we do.

This is confusing.  I know definitions in this domain are kind of fuzzy, but I always thought public affairs was targeted primarily at domestic audiences.

To wit, says that public diplomacy

seeks to promote the national interest of the United States through understanding, informing and influencing foreign audiences.

Public affairs, on the other hand:

seeks to foster understanding of these goals through dialogue with individual citizens and other groups and institutions, and domestic and international media. However, the thrust of public affairs is to inform the domestic audience.

(my emphasis in both quotes).

Yet the announcement above says Crowley will be “explaining U.S. diplomatic moves to the foreign media and nations” and that he is going to “help Secretary Hillary Clinton build on her public diplomacy program.”

So is this a PA post or a PD post?  If Crowley will be doing PD, what will McHale be doing?  And who will be doing PA?