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PD Inspections Examined at September 26 PDAA Lunch Program

Kenton Keith and Jeff Brown

Kenton Keith, left, and Jeff Brown answer questions from PDAA lunch participants, 26 September 2016. (A. Kotok)

(Updated 27 September 2016) PDAA launched its 2016-2017 program year hearing from two highly regarded public diplomacy experts discussing the current state of public diplomacy work around the world.

Ambassador Kenton Keith and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Jeff Brown offered insights on public diplomacy challenges and successes, gleaned from their experiences inspecting embassy PD operations around the world, including an assessment of the long-term effects from the merger of USIA and State Department.

Entitled Inspecting Public Diplomacy – Challenges and Opportunities, the luncheon program was held on Monday, September 26, 2016 from 12:00 to 2:00 p.m. at the DACOR-Bacon House, 1801 F St NW, Washington DC.

The Department of State’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) inspects each of the approximately 260 diplomatic posts, and international broadcasting installations throughout the world, as well as domestic bureaus, to determine whether policy goals are being achieved and whether the interests of the United States are being represented and advanced effectively.  Preparations for OIG visits and findings from inspection reports compel PD mission personnel to look critically at their operations and outcomes, and to make changes as necessary.

Recent OIG reports, for example, have highlighted major disinformation challenges facing public affairs staff in Iraq, significant management weaknesses in Tokyo and overly centralized operations in Mexico that are impeding effective public diplomacy operations.

Their careers span a long arc of change and innovation in public diplomacy operations and perspectives over almost half a century.  In retirement, both have inspected numerous overseas posts.

Ambassador Kenton Keith spent 33 years as a foreign service officer with the United States Information Agency, becoming an expert on Near East, North Africa and South Asian affairs.  He was ambassador to Qatar from 1992-1995.  He retired in 1977 after serving in many posts overseas and in Washington, receiving two Presidential meritorious service awards. Keith was recalled to service as special envoy to Islamabad in 2001. After retirement, he served as vice president at the Meridian Center until 2010, and continues to lecture and serve on many advisory boards and councils related to diplomacy, public affairs and international education.

Jefferson Brown retired in 2015 as the deputy assistant secretary for public diplomacy in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. From 2010 to 2013, he was deputy chief of mission at U.S. Embassy Buenos Aires, Argentina and at the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador from 2005 to 2008.  Brown was director for multilateral affairs at the National Security Center and the director of the Office of UNESCO Affairs.  Other overseas assignments include: minister counselor for press and cultural affairs in Mexico City; cultural attaché in Brazil; and press attaché in Paraguay, El Salvador, and Portugal. From 1995-97, he served as executive assistant to the counselor of the United States Information Agency.  He was director of the Foreign Press Center 1998 to 2000. From 1998 through 2000, he was a senior advisor in the State Department’s Office of Policy Planning, working on democracy initiatives.  Brown frequently lectures at the Foreign Service Institute on public diplomacy to PD and non-PD officers.

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