U.S. Public Diplomacy: State Department Expands Efforts but
Why GAO Did This Study
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, focused attention
on the need to improve public diplomacy efforts to cultivate a
public opinion of the United States abroad. However, recent opinion
research indicates that many foreign publics, especially in countries
with significant Muslim populations, view the United States unfavorably.
GAO examined changes in the State Department’s (State) public
diplomacy efforts since September 11, whether State has an overall
strategy for its public diplomacy programs, how it measures their
effectiveness, and challenges it faces in implementing these programs.
What GAO Found
Since September 11, State expanded its public diplomacy efforts
in Muslim-majority countries considered to be of strategic importance
in the war on terrorism. It significantly increased program funding
and the number of Foreign Service officers in South Asia and
the Near East. It also launched new initiatives targeting broader,
younger audiences -- particularly in predominantly Muslim countries
-- and plans to continue them in the future.
After September 11, State acknowledged the lack
of, and the need for, a comprehensive strategy that integrates
all of its diverse
public diplomacy activities. Such a strategy is still in the
development stage. The absence of an integrated strategy could
ability to direct its multifaceted efforts toward concrete and
measurable progress. Furthermore, an interagency public diplomacy
strategy has not been completed that would help State and other
federal agencies convey consistent messages and achieve mutually
reinforcing benefits overseas.
State is not systematically and comprehensively
measuring progress toward its public diplomacy goals. Its overseas
efforts focus on anecdotal evidence and program outputs, rather
than indicate progress in changing foreign publics’ understanding
and opinions of the United States.
State’s efforts face significant challenges,
including insufficient time and staff to conduct public diplomacy
tasks. Public affairs
officers responding to our survey said that burdensome administrative
and budgetary processes divert their attention from public diplomacy
programs. In addition, about 21 percent of Foreign Service officers
in language-designated public diplomacy positions overseas lack
sufficient foreign language skills. We also found that about
58 percent of public affairs officers responding to our survey
the amount of time to attend public diplomacy training is inadequate.
What GAO Recommends
Among GAO’s recommendations are that the Secretary of State
develops a strategy that considers private sector public relations
techniques in integrating its public diplomacy efforts and directing
them toward common and measurable objectives; and strengthens
efforts to train Foreign Service officers in foreign languages
diplomacy. State generally concurred with our recommendations.
Full Report: GAO: U.S. Public Diplomacy: State Department Expands
Efforts but Faces Significant Challenges