Monday, June 23, 2008

McCain supports reconstituting USIA

According to a piece in the foreign Policy Association's Public Diplomacy blog, Senator McCain has stated that if elected president, he would reconstitute USIA, the old U.S. Information Agency that was folded into the State Department during the Clinton administration.

In a 2007 op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel, McCain said:

"Dismantling an agency dedicated to promoting America and Americans amounted to unilateral disarmament in the struggle of ideas. Communicating our government’s views on day-to-day issues is what the State Department does. But communicating the idea of America, our purpose, our past and our future is a different task. We need an independent agency with the sole purpose of getting America’s message out in a factual and persuasive manner: managing radio and TV broadcasts to those in need of objective news; establishing American libraries with Internet access throughout the world; sending Americans overseas and sponsoring foreigners’ visits to America for educational and cultural exchanges; and creating a professional corps of public-diplomacy experts who speak the local language and whose careers are spent promoting American values, ideas, culture and education. And it should recruit the best and brightest not just from the ranks of the Foreign Service but from business, academia and the media.”

I wonder what this would mean for those of us who are public diplomacy coned. Would be be forced to leave State and join the new (old) agency? And what of those who are not only public diplomacy coned, but also part of tandem couples? Would we still be able to be assigned overseas with our spouses?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Undong the Merger of USIA?

There are a number of USIA veterans who still rail against the merger and campaing for the reestablishment of ECA's independence - for the most part they are retired.

Whether it is better or worse, the current status quo is different - but there was a substantial transition period (it took over four years before I had access to Department Notices). I don't think anyone wants to go through that transition again.

What have the effects been? Parts of the old USIA are better integrated into the Department (PD Offices within Regional Bureaus); parts are more isolated (ECA, to a lesser extent IIP) - the planned relocation of those elements to Foggy Bottom might help. At the individual level, it is now much easier for former USIA officers to become Office Directors (of non-PD offices); DCMs, and even Ambassadors. On the other hand, the status of a PD Office Director, or a PAO is diminished (there's a big difference between being a section head vs. being an Agency Representative).

These changes result in different incentive structures. Whereas a position like PAO London might once have been a career topper, now it might seem more of a deadend. This parallels the complaints that you heard ten years ago about "multi-functional promotions" - that top officers were turning down jobs like Political Counselor Rome to become DCMs at small Embassies (I remember a specific continent being invoked, but why bother.)

In response to your question: there were pre-merger tandem couples that included State and USIA partners (just as there are now State - USAID tandems). The system may not have been as seamless, but it was possible.