The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2013

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JULY-AUGUST 2013 15 Dear Mr. Secretary: We urge that a career foreign affairs professional be appointed as the next Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Such an appointment would support your efforts fully to integrate public diplomacy into U.S. foreign affairs. No career professional has served as Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Coincidentally or not, today there is a wide consensus that U.S. perspectives are less well understood abroad, and people-to-people exchanges are less robust than they should be. In today’s globalizing but still-threatening world, and as our military forces abroad are drawn down, it is more important than ever that America strengthen its “soft power.” For this, public diplomacy is an essential and powerful tool . A career foreign affairs professional, with years of overseas and Washington experience, is more likely to understand the larger world context and how public diplomacy can help achieve America’s policy goals. And it is challenging to direct and ener- gize public diplomacy if the leadership has brief tours or vacan- cies are lengthy. Prior to the incumbent Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, leaving after just over a year in office, the previous four served, on average, nearly two years. By comparison, the previous four Under Secretaries for Politi- cal Affairs, all career professionals, served, on average, nearly three-and-one-half years. The U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy reports that the position of Under Secretary f or Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs has been vacant more than 30 percent of the time since it was created in 1999. The position of Under Secretary for Political Affairs has been vacant only 5 percent of that time. Studies by the Defense Science Board, RAND and other inde- pendent groups have found that America’s engagement with foreign publics succeeds best when led by experienced officials having the authority to establish priorities, assign responsibilities, transfer funds and concur in senior appointments. Leaders must have direct access to you and the president on critical communi- cation issues as policies are formulated and implemented. When done well, public diplomacy works. Large numbers of foreign heads of government, legislators and social, economic and political leaders—many of them America’s staunch allies and stalwart friends—have participated in U.S. public diplomacy pro- grams. The University of Southern California recently reported that of individuals exposed to U.S. public diplomacy, 79 percent have used what they learned to bring about positive change in their own communities by running for political office, organiz- ing a civil society group, doing volunteer work, and starting a new business or other projects. Fully 94 percent say the exposure has increased their understanding of U.S. foreign policy and America’s people, society and values. The president’s and your public engagements are among our country’s greatest diplomatic assets. You have over a thousand skilled, culturally aware and language-trained public diplomacy officers ready to leverage advanced technology and person- to-person communications skills in order to change foreign outcomes in America’s favor. All they need is truly professional, experienced leadership. — A May 24 letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, signed by 51 former U.S. ambassadors and senior U.S. government officials with extensive foreign affairs experience, urging the selection of a career foreign affairs professional as the next Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Contemporary Quote for advice on how men can live their dream.” Jobs highlighted apply equally to women, but the site’s focus is on “helping men be better husbands, better fathers and better men…to uncover the lost art of manliness.” Here we meet FSO Shawn Kobb, who answers questions about the Foreign Service exams and hiring process, about the challenges and benefits of the job, as well as the misconceptions. When asked what is the biggest misconception people have about his job as an FSO, he says the most frustrating thing is “the fact that most Americans don’t even know we exist.” Also, he adds, “The Foreign Service isn’t an intelligence agency, and many people seem to think we’re spies for some reason.” “Those that do know we exist think we spend our time going to cocktail receptions and signing treaties,” Shawn continues. “There is certainly a little bit of that, but most Foreign Service officers are not assigned to Paris or Geneva. We’re in some of the roughest places of the world: Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, Papua New Guinea, East Timor. Although we are not engaged in combat, we often serve alongside our military colleagues, and we almost always stay behind after they leave.” Kobb also pitches his own website:, where he offers tips on how to join the Foreign Service and pass the tests. n —Associate Editor Shawn Dorman and Communications Intern Samantha Brew