Center for Strategic Communication

I just got my hands on the first Comprehensive Annual Report on Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting, produced by the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. I am still processing this large document (it’s 262 pages long).

This is undoubtedly an important report that will help to clarify the practice of public diplomacy for a broader audience, and perhaps expand the domestic constituency of interest for US engagement abroad. But before I provide some observations on its content, I have to say the first thing I thought was that this report would unleash another wave of armchair public diplomacy pundits and critics. I’m not saying criticism isn’t warranted or welcome in many cases, but consider this:

Within hours of the reports release, the following report was posted on the Daily Caller, which criticized the lack of resources across all aspects of US public diplomacy for measurement and evaluation. This (important) observation is not really controversial and is present in previous Commission reports. However, the headline and subsequent claim seems to suggest another story:

“the committee overseeing the federal government’s “Twitter war” against terrorist propaganda admitted on Thursday that despite nearly $1.3 billion dollars in annual programming, it cannot measure the success of those efforts.”

Clearly, the US is not spending 1.3 billion dollars to counter ISIS propaganda. This figure represents the combined expenditure across all aspects of US public diplomacy, not just its internet trolling of ISIS on Youtube. As the report itself states, the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications budget for FY2014 is $6.07million.

Scoring points on a public diplomacy for clickbait is understandable, I guess, but there is so much more to the story of US public diplomacy around the world than pilot social media projects. Read the report before framing information out of context.