‘Atmosphere of secrecy’ pervades State Dept. office, audit finds
A key State Department bureau that manages the official face presented by the U.S. to the rest of the world is rife with management problems that have left “an atmosphere of secrecy, suspicion and uncertainty,” according to a department watchdog review released Thursday.
A 2011 reorganization of the Bureau of International Information Programs, which oversees several of the State Department’s official Facebook pages, didn’t solve the problem and actually “caused new organizational difficulties,” the State Department's Office of Inspector General (OIG) said in a report based on a recent inspection of the bureau.
The bureau’s coordinator, Dawn L. McCall, “resigned” effective April 12, though it was not immediately clear whether the OIG report was the reason. Another top official from the bureau was recently promoted, despite the scathing review.
The report concludes that “morale is low” at the bureau, which plays a little known, but vital role in overseeing what the State Department officials describe as the infrastructure needed for sustained conversations with foreign audiences abroad.
An official description posted on the State Department’s website says the bureau “supports supports both physical and virtual places, including approximately 820 American Spaces around the world, as well as a growing social media community that numbers over 22 million followers.”
One official, Maureen Cormack, who previously served as the Bureau of International Information Programs‘ principle deputy coordinator, was promoted on April 15 to the position of “acting coordinator for international programs,” according to the State Department’s website.
While Mrs. Cormack and Mrs. McCall are named only at the end of the OIG report, a section titled “Executive Direction” near the middle of the report appears to make unflattering reference to both women.
In an apparent reference to Mrs. McCall, the report outlines how “shortly after her arrival, the coordinator initiated a business review, led primarily by outside consultants with whom she had worked previously, which resulted in a full-scale reorganization.”
“Staff involvement was limited,” the report states, adding that the “coordinator’s top-down approach to change management and daily leadership damaged morale and created a gulf between her and staff.”
Then, in an apparent reference to the activities of Mrs. Cormack — prior to her being promoted in April — the report states that a “new principle deputy coordinator, who arrived after the business review and reorganization, engaged in outreach that failed to resolve this fundamental disconnect.”
The report says the bureau did make “a significant contribution to the Department of State’s digital diplomacy outreach effort” during recent years. The report also says the bureau “increased the reach” of department publications overseas, and “expanded the use of video in public diplomacy (PD) work.”
But it slams the bureau’s leadership, saying broadly that leaders “failed to convey [the bureau‘s] strategic vision to staff members” and that “there has been limited outreach by top leadership to counterparts in the [State] Department or at sister foreign affairs agencies.”
A connection to Clinton?
The OIG report arrives during a stretch of weeks in which Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill have increasingly scrutinized the record of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is considering running for president in 2016.
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