Braved sleep and the rain yesterday to make it to the early morning meeting of the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, which was going to discuss interagency "collaboration" with a focus on the State and Defense Departments. I'm using quotation marks, since even throughout the meeting it was clear that there is almost no collaboration - particularly at the crucial planning and policy-making stage - between the two departments, let alone proper inclusion of other actors.
One of the points that both Rosa Brooks of the DoD and Walter Douglas (former PAO) of the DoS pointed out was that they are immensely happy and "extremely proud" of the recent institutional achievements on both sides regarding innovation, collaboration and coordination. And yet, they both stressed the need to go much further, especially in Washington (the claim was that "in the field" there is far more interagency collaboration). So, they are "talking" to each other, but at the same time they are not. Especially when it comes to serious matters that matter, like policy-making.
And the other thing that struck me was Douglas' response when asked about other potential members within the larger American PD collaboration: "Come to us with an idea" and "let us know about your initiatives." Effectively, DoS excuses itself from taking a proactive role in the process.
Overall, it was a disappointment, since I did not hear anything particularly new (despite the fact that I have started "listening" only very recently), which was made even more ironic as several members of the Commission expressed gratitude for having "learned a lot." And, the most discouraging fact was that the meeting was adjourned well before the scheduled time - not allowing a proper Q&A session that would provide greater involvement and insights from the audience - with a large number of hands left hanging in the air.
Obviously, the commission was not enthusiastic about listening to the audience or going into detail beyond what was already presented. How is the US planning to make its PD efforts more coordinated, inclusive, "receiver-centric", or engaging, if official representatives are not even willing to listen to Americans (to begin with), be it the wider PD community, or the general public?