Tuesday, December 10th 2013
Even in the middle of a busy week, the story stood out: 49 Russian diplomats posted in the United States were charged with participating in an organized scheme to defraud Medicaid out of $1.5 million in illegal benefits.
It wasn’t a one-time theft. According to the criminal complaint, the diplomats had been stealing money from America’s federal health benefits program for the needy for the past nine years.
President Vladimir Putin’s government must have been shaken by the news, and at least initially worried about how it would affect their interests. But that worry couldn’t have lasted long. When reporters asked the U.S. State Department spokesman about the impact of the scandal, she replied, “We don’t think this should affect our bilateral relationship with Russia. Quite frankly, there are too many important issues we have to work on together.”
Well, hold on just a second.
Thursday, July 25th 2013
I can’t say that I was very surprised by the news that the State Department spent $630,000 to boost traffic to four of its International Information Programs (IIP) Facebook pages.
Was it a waste of money at a time of fiscal austerity? Absolutely. Did it result in a bump in traffic? At least temporarily, yes. Will IIP be able to hang on to those followers and advance its mission to “build America’s reputation abroad”? Probably not.
The reason it won’t is because of what social media has become: A place where a lot of people (and institutions) are talking, but very few are listening.
Monday, July 8th 2013
Stories about $650 thousand spent by the State Department’s International Information Programs (IIP) bureau on Facebook advertising have proliferated, prompting extensive discussion (see John Brown’s public diplomacy blog for examples.)
The background comes from an inspection report recently made public by State’s Office of the Inspector General. Our busy commentators can’t possibly have read the report, or their accounts would pick up far more salient issues.
Monday, February 18th 2013
Have you subscribed to Under Secretary Sonenshine’s biweekly Snapshot of Public Diplomacy in Action?
It’s the first newsletter of public diplomacy activities available to the general public that I recall. That’s a step forward in this age of government transparency. Every Snapshot contains text and photos about conferences, receptions and other happenings organized by U.S. public diplomacy staffs around the world.
But I wonder what unintended impressions thoughtful taxpayers might draw from these activity reports. Do they seem soft, perhaps superficial? In the impending reduction of government budgets, isn’t this the first thing you would cut from the foreign operations budget?
Friday, January 4th 2013
I notice that the National Defense Authorization Act not only reauthorizes the Public Diplomacy Advisory Commission (see Brian Carlson's post below.) It also reduces long-standing restrictions on the dissemination of public diplomacy materials, aimed at foreign audiences, within the United States.