In a new article, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) employee union, American Federation of Government Employees Local 1812, criticizes the Agency’s executive staff for their attacks on BBG members.
If the purpose of the release of the recent State Department Office of Inspector General’s report “Inspection of the Broadcasting Board of Governors” (ISP-IB-13-07) was to attract attention, it certainly has done that.
In our commentary “Hatchet Job“, AFGE Local 1812 addressed how a good portion of the OIG report focused on unfairly attacking BBG member Victor Ashe and trying to make him the culprit for all the woes that beset the Agency including the ignominious title of “worst place to work in the Federal government.” However, it’s interesting to note that other unnamed Governors were attacked as well. This can only mean that the Agency’s Executive Staff prefers pliable BBG members who ask no questions and rubber-stamp anything and everything that the staff puts before them, whether right or wrong. Once the members deviate, then they become the enemy.
This attitude is insulting to those professional men and women of accomplishment who agreed to be members of the Board believing that they could do positive things for U.S. international broadcasting and public diplomacy and be of service to their country.
Another aspect of the report we found curious was what seemed as unmitigated cheerleading for the controversial 5–year strategic plan entitled “Impact Through Innovation and Integration”.
This plan was not created by the Board but is the brainchild of members of the Senior Executive staff.
In the OIG report, this 5-year strategic plan is referred to as “bold”. Really? That hardly sounds like an impartial opinion from an investigative Agency. In coming to that conclusion, how many people were asked by the OIG to critique the plan during the various interviews the investigators conducted? How many international broadcasting or public diplomacy experts were consulted for an opinion on this plan? In fact, if the OIG had done its homework, they would have found that the former “strategic” plan of the Agency seemed to have resulted in a huge drop-off of listeners world-wide. Was that inconvenient truth disclosed to the OIG investigators? We would venture to say it wasn’t.
The OIG also neglects to mention that it was the United States Congress which overruled the senior executives’ plan to shut down most of Voice of America as a result of this supposedly “bold” strategic plan approved at one time by the BBG. Or does the OIG now plan to conduct a review of the bipartisan U.S. Congress members who disagreed with the strategic plan?
Outgoing Secretary of State Clinton, an ex-officio member of the BBG, during testimony in the Congress on Benghazi expressed her consternation about the ineffectiveness of international broadcasting. In an answer to Congressman Meeks of NY, the Secretary of State said: “We need to do a better job of countering the extremist jihadist message. We have abdicated the broadcasting arena.” Neither Secretary Clinton nor the present members of the Board were here when a past strategic plan dismantled VOA Arabic and transferred its functions to a grantee MBN which governs Radio Sawa and Al-Hurra TV. If we are failing to get our message out to the tumultuous Middle East through those grantee communications vehicles, it is the fault of a faulty strategic plan which caused the Voice of America to abdicate the broadcasting arena and to lose its impact in the region, a mistake which has had drastic consequences including the assassination of a U.S. ambassador. So much for “bold” strategic plans.
Various other aspects of the “strategic vision” were praised in the OIG report. For example, the idea of consolidating RFE, RFA, and MBN was described as a positive step. We know others who disagree especially in the Congress and within the Agency itself. How did the I.G. come to the conclusion that this was a “positive” idea? Based upon what evidence?
Nowhere in the report does the OIG mention that the real reason for the dysfunction in the BBG, as described in many reports of the OPM Human Capital Survey over the past 8 years, is the lack of leadership in the management ranks of the Agency and the unprofessional and demeaning treatment of its rank-and-file professional employees in the broadcasting services.