Saturday, March 6, 2010

Public Diplomacy Off the Seventh Floor

I've heard from two reliable sources that the office of the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (yes, the "real-world," physical office) is no longer on the prestigious Seventh Floor at the State Department. One source said this office has been moved "down" to the fourth floor; the other to the fifth floor.

As where you sit is all-too-important in the foreign-policy bureaucracy, I wonder what the "lower" relocation of the Under Secretary's Office means for public diplomacy in the Obama Administration. My inclination, perhaps wrong-headed, is to think that this move is something of a demotion for PD (see my March 2, 2009 article, Smart Power In, Public Diplomacy Out?). Consider this quotation:

Washington jargon gives buildings human powers and characteristics: The White House says, the Pentagon wants, Treasury insists, Commerce drags its feet. In the Department of State, this kind of language is applied to floors -- and to letters. Letter codes designate all State Department offices. The secretary of state is S. The executive secretariat is S/ES, which manages information to seventh-floor principals like P, the undersecretary for political affairs, or M, the undersecretary for management. The Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs is EAP, the Office of Japanese Affairs (also called the Japan desk) is EAP/J, and so forth. It is quite possible for the seventh floor to be furious when S/ES bounces a memo that P tasked to EAP back to J, because the sixth floor did not sign off. ...

The office of the secretary of state would probably hold some two dozen employees if it were on the third or fourth floors.

--From Harry W. Koop and Charles A. Gillepsie, Career Diplomacy: Life and Work in the U.S. Foreign Service (Washington DC: Georgetown University Press, 2008), p. 38; above image from

8 comments:

Paul Rockower said...

Thank for pointing this out, John. Just a reminder that there is no hope for public diplomacy as long it is left in State, where it is viewed as a red-headed stepchild. Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) had a blog post in Heritage about his bill for a Center for Strategic Communications. I don't love the militarization of PD, but that might be the only way it gets Rodney Dangerfield's vaunted "respect."

Paul Rockower said...

While the PD office is moving, lets just take it a few floors down to the first floor and out the front door.

PDWorldwide said...

John: According to the Department of State organizational directory, R is on the fifth floor.
See:
Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R)

Undersecretary Under Secretary Judith McHale 5932
Personal Assistant Ellen Nelson 5932
Chief of Staff Kitty DiMartino 5932
Executive Assistant Walter Douglas 5932
Special Advisor to the Under Secretary Corley Kenna 5932
Special Assistant Joe Mellot 5931
Special Assistant Mark Davidson 5931
Special Assistant Deidra Avendesora 5931
Staff Assistant Joseph Witters 5932
Staff Assistant Elizabeth Franke 5931
Staff Assistant Tracie Davis 5932
Special Advisor on New Media Katie Dowd 5931
Special Advisor Christine Falvo 5931
Deputy Director for Private Sector Outreach Matthew Jacoby 5931
Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications Glen Roberts 5931 Senior Advisor (DoD Liasion) Brian Carlson 5931
Office of Policy, Planning and Resources (R/PPR) Director, Acting Christopher Midura 1442
Director (Vacant)
Senior Advisor for Management Robert J. "Jim" Bigart SA-5 5-TO6
Budget Analyst NaKissa Smithers 1442 Financial Management Officer Rodney M. Reynolds 1442 OMS LaVonne McAlpine 1442 Public Affairs Officer Seema W. Matin 1442 PMF Andrew Rabens 1442 Acting Director for Evaluations and Measurement Unit (EMU) Cherreka Montgomery 1442 Senior Evaluation Officer (EMU) Sarah Brewer 1442
Evaluation Officer (EMU) Juliet Dulles 1442 Project Coordinator (EMU) Subrena Tumblin 1442
Global Strategic Engagement Center (GSEC) Director Peter Kovach 6803
Secretary Renita Johnson 6803
Subject Matter Expert (Arab) Omar Amach RRU, 2313
ECA Affiliate Mary Jane Bushnaq SA-44, Room 336
Policy Officer James Fisher-Thompson 6803
Senior Communication Specialist Vladimir Nacev 6803
Senior Advisor Robert Petersen 6803
Information Programs Officer Eric Schoennauer 6803
NCTC Liason Lee Wilkinson 6803
12/2/2009


Of course the State Department is notoriously out of date with everything including their directories so while this may have been true on December 2, 2009, it may not be true today. Those listed for SA-44 were moved into the new "Pharma" building at 22nd and C sts. My understanding was that Ms. McHale would be compensated for losing the all- important 7th floor suite with the beautiful and impressive old USAID director's office (now renovated) in the Old State wing on 21st Street. This was Secretary Marshall's office before the "New State" wing was constructed. While nice if true, nothing rpt nothing really compensates for a 7th floor suite a few steps from the Secretary in the hide-bound bureaucracy of State. Cheers, Bill

PHK said...

Agree with Paul Rockower.

Question re 7th floor office downgrade. I thought that the PA/PD Under Secretary's Office had been removed from the 7th floor during Hillary's earliest days and well before McHale arrived. Wasn't it done to make space for Jack Lew, the newly created Deputy Secretary for Management?

Whenever this happened or for whatever reason, however, I agree, the decision speaks volumes about the position's (and function's) seeming lack of importance in DOS's hierarchical firmament.

Yale Richmond said...

As someone who has served as Office Director or Deputy Director at State for 10 years, I have a somewhat different take on the proposed move of the PD Under Secretary from the 7th to the 4th or 5th floor at State. Such a move would put the PD Under Secetary close to the Office Directors, and that is a smart move because that is where most of the action at State originates.

John Brown said...

From an e-mail by Richard Arndt, posted here with his kind permission:

The downward move, if true, reflects the need on the seventh floor for the various special envoys, czars, and other "people who can really do things as opposed to all the drones on Floors 1-6," as USIA mythology tends to charge. Not so much a lower priority for PD as a higher one for lots else when the nation has two wars and a stumbling economy on its mind.

Yale Richmond is dead right. I served only two years in State space and found it highly complex but necessarily so--see FRKings. I note that the early USIA respondents to this story join in the USIA-alums' ritual of blaming it all on State. Comforting as this may be to aging retirees, it might be more useful to do a little soul-searching and recognize the faults of USIA, not to mention those built into the great American nation, its political system, and the resultant character of its legislature.

R is an office serving the purpose the PAO job does--disguising the contradiction of jamming informational diplomacy and cultural diplomacy into a single office and one concept. State/ECA manages to function more or less well, even with greatly reduced resources, and produces roughly what it always did, relatively untouched by R. The beleaguered field reps do what they can with what they have, as they have done since 1942. Charles Frankel, a Public Enemy to most USIA vets, dreamed up the idea that an Under Secretary held more power than an Assistant Secretary. Seven appointees in ten years have proved he was wrong.

Alan Kotok said...

There are times I'm reminded why I left government for the private sector. This is one of them. I would rather worry about hitting financial targets than which floor I work on.

Akanksha said...

I am glad to read your blog. It is quite interesting one. everyone has showed their complete interest in this blog..Just moved out my office to 5th floor and feeling very much tired.
Moving Company