At the same time the House goes to the floor today to pass its version of the State-Foreign Operations spending bill (in which educational and cultural exchanges are funded at $600 million, $33 million less than the Obama administration’s request but a $62 million increase over current levels), the Senate Appropriations Committee will begin work on its own State-Foreign Operations bill. Senators will seek to increase funding for diplomacy and the Foreign Service, “even as overall funding for foreign affairs takes a hit,” reports CQ.com:
President Obama’s trip to Russia this week was an important public diplomacy opportunity, a chance to strengthen a bilateral relationship that has faltered in recent years, and is initially being judged a success, the Washington Post reported:
Sergei Rogov, director of the Institute for the U.S. and Canadian Studies, said Obama's visit was more successful than most in Russia had expected. Obama "made all the right sounds in a very respectful way" and did much to reduce mistrust in Moscow, he said.
"It's not only a change in tone. It was a change in substance," he added. "The new agenda is much broader than ever."
The International Relations and Security Network (ISN) reports on the Obama Administration’s attempt to utilize web 2.0 technologies and blend them with public diplomacy to create a new kind of engagement termed “21st century statecraft”:
These 21st-century technologies are not being deployed for their own sake, but to advance a State Department initiative called “21st-century statecraft.”
“The goal is to move beyond just government-to-government relationships and enhance government-to-people and people-to-people relationships around the world,” Alec Ross, a senior adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, told ISN Security Watch.
Eight former U.S. Secretaries of State jointly penned an op-ed in yesterday’s Politico calling for a drastic increase in U.S. global engagement:
We, former secretaries of state of different administrations and different political parties, and with differing views on many other issues, are nevertheless of one mind on this issue of critical importance to our country’s national security. We call on Congress to act accordingly and fund this critical need.
In a brief profile published today, CQ.com noted the strong support State and Foreign Operations subcommittee chair Nita Lowey (D-NY) has long shown for diplomacy and foreign aid:
Emphasizing the need for strong international relationships and increased person-to-person engagement, Judith McHale delivered her first speech as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs yesterday at an event sponsored by the Center for a New American Security. McHale outlined her vision of an American public diplomacy that consists of two principal functions: communication (“the air game, the radio and TV broadcasts…websites and media outreach”) and engagement (“the ground game of direct people-to-people exchanges”).
The House Appropriations Committee moved forward in the FY 2010 funding process today, reported the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign in its International Affairs Budget Update:
Progress through partnership and the recognition of a common humanity were two pervading themes of President Obama’s speech delivered in Cairo early this morning: “Whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners of it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; progress must be shared.”
A House bill to increase aid and enhance partnerships with Pakistan—originally marked up on May 20 and recently tweaked again—includes language calling for an expansion of international exchange activities with that country. The Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Cooperation Enhancement (PEACE) Act of 2009 (HR 1886) would authorize democratic, economic, and social development assistance for Pakistan, including implementation of “a more effective public diplomacy strategy in Pakistan.”
International exchange programs drew brief focus yesterday at two Senate committee hearings focused on the FY 2010 international affairs budget. Speaking before both the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed the same enthusiasm for educational and cultural exchanges that she has consistently shown since taking office. At the State and Foreign Operations subcommittee hearing, Clinton said: