The Washington Post of 23 Jan 2013 ran an article (article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/report-blasts-foreign-broadcasting-board-as-dysfunctional-and-ineffectual/2013/01/22/1f3b1a84-64cd-11e2-9e1b-07db1d2ccd5b_story.html?hpid=z9) about a scathing Department of State IG Report (see http://oig.state.gov/documents/organization/203193.pdf) on the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).
The BBG “oversees all US Government-supported, civilian international broadcasting”. This includes the Voice of America (VOA), Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), as well as private, nonprofit corporations: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks. The BBG FY 2013 budget request was $720 million.
The report was classified as “Sensitive But Unclassified” but was redacted in part and released as unclassified. There were a number of “Key Judgments” cited in the report. Among them was a comment praising the commitment of the broadcast entities and professional staff, but that was the only positive comment.
The report blasts the Board from a number of angles. The report indicated that a part time entity such as the board cannot coordinate appropriately especially without a CEO. Dysfunctionality of the board was noted due to “one member”. Systemic issues included chronic vacancies, lack of a logical travel policy, absences of Board members and inadequate by-laws and governance policies.
A review of the entire report reads like a bad Harvard Business School Case Study. The IG provides a number of recommendations including several that appear to be very basic, common sense management.
This posting will not discuss the recommendations, but will step back and look at the impact of the report. The Department of State is the US voice overseas and the broadcasting companies under the BBG are like the ‘information artillery’ for Public Diplomacy. That is, they should provide consistent support to US objectives and provide their audiences with high quality information comparable to any world class information or entertainment medium.
Public Diplomacy is a cornerstone of today’s influence operations. The MISO Community has a symbiotic relationship with the Department of State. MIS teams may be employed to support embassy staff on one end of the spectrum and on the other MIS Task Forces may be deployed to hostile areas to take on the primary burden of supporting US informational efforts.
It is this symbiotic relationship and the need to depend on our DOS partners that underscores the need for an efficient and effective BBG. As the size of the DOD force shrinks, the need for consistent broadcasting efforts will likely increase thereby exacerbating the need for optimal management of the DOS resources.
The fact that the BBG’s effectiveness has deteriorated so drastically should be of major concern to the President as he shifts his foreign policy gears during his second term. It may also mean that MIS forces may not be able to count on any support from a population that has been listening to US informational broadcasts.