U.S. Public Diplomacy: Background and Current Issues [December 18, 2009]   [open pdf - 823KB]

"After World War II, during which the U.S. military conducted most information and communication activities, authority for U.S. public diplomacy was placed in civilian hands. During the Cold War, the United States Information Agency (USIA) led U.S. public diplomacy efforts, with a primary mission of combating Soviet propaganda and the spread of communism. Once the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, USIA's role was diminished, and its resources were reduced during the 1990s. Finally, USIA was abolished in 1999 as part of a post-Cold War reorganization, with public diplomacy responsibilities folded into the Department of State. After the 9/11 terror attacks, there was new interest in promoting effective public diplomacy, as a struggle against extremist ideologies became crucial to the overall fight against terrorism. In recent years, many observers have called for increased resources for and improvement of U.S. public diplomacy efforts. A number of challenges and questions, however, currently affect the future of U.S. government communications with foreign publics. Some argue that abolishing USIA was a mistake and that the State Department is ill-suited to conduct long-term public diplomacy. Also, the Department of Defense and the U.S. military have increased significantly their role in communicating with foreign publics. Determining public diplomacy roles, responsibilities, and coordination procedures among civilian and military actors has therefore become a central issue. In addition, with the rise and rapid evolution of Internet communications, the U.S. government must determine how to effectively communicate with foreign publics in an increasingly complex, accessible, and democratized global communications environment."

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CRS Report for Congress, R40989
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