Foreign Assistance:

Actions Needed to Better Assess the Impact of Agencies' Marking and Publicizing Efforts

GAO-07-277: Published: Mar 12, 2007. Publicly Released: Mar 12, 2007.

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The negative perceptions of the United States associated with U.S. foreign policy initiatives have underscored the importance of the United States presenting a complete portrayal of the benefits that many in the world derive from U.S. foreign assistance efforts. Congress has expressed concerns that the United States has frequently understated or not publicized information about its foreign assistance programs. As requested, this report (1) describes the policies, regulations, and guidelines that agencies have established to mark and publicize foreign assistance; (2) describes how State, USAID, and other agencies mark and publicize foreign assistance; and (3) identifies key challenges that agencies face in marking and publicizing foreign assistance.

Most of the agencies we reviewed involved in foreign assistance activities have established some marking and publicity requirements in policies, regulations, or guidelines. USAID has the most detailed policies and regulations relating to marking and publicity. USAID has also established a network of communications specialists at its missions to publicize its assistance efforts and has issued communications guidelines to promote that assistance. According to State officials, its policy is to allow its program managers and ambassadors to use their discretion when determining which programs and activities to mark or publicize. USDA, DOD, HHS, Treasury, and MCC have also established some policies for marking and publicizing assistance, though these policies vary in their level of formality and detail. To increase awareness of U.S. assistance abroad, key agencies that we reviewed used various methods to mark and publicize some of their activities and exercised flexibility in deciding when it was appropriate to do so. These agencies used different methods of marking, or visibly acknowledging, their assistance. In addition, agencies generally used embassy public affairs offices for publicizing, information about the source of their assistance and, in some cases, augmented these efforts with their own publicity methods. We identified some challenges to marking and publicizing U.S. foreign assistance, including the lack of (1) a strategy for assessing the impact of marking and publicity efforts on increasing the awareness of U.S. foreign assistance and (2) governmentwide guidance for marking and publicizing U.S. foreign assistance. First, although some agencies conduct surveys in recipient countries that primarily capture information on public opinion of the United States, little reliable work has been done to assess the impact of U.S. assistance on foreign citizens' awareness of the source of U.S. provided assistance. Second, while the newly appointed Director of Foreign Assistance has begun to address the issue of developing a governmentwide policy for marking and publicizing all U.S. foreign assistance, it is unclear to what extent this policy will be implemented by agencies whose foreign assistance programs are not under DFA's direct authority.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To enhance U.S. marking and pubicity efforts, and to improve the information used to measure the impact of U.S. marking and publicizing programs, the Secretary of State should, in consultation with other U.S. executive agencies, develop a strategy, which appropriately utilizes techniques such as surveys and focus groups, to better assess the impact of U.S. marking and publicity programs and acitivities on public awareness.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: According to State's Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, the Department of State has not developed a formal strategy for assessing the impact of U.S. marking and publicity programs and activities on public awareness.

    Recommendation: To facilitate State's effort to implement its planned governmentwide guidance for marking and publicizing all U.S. foreign assistance programs and activities, the Secretary of State should, in consultation with other U.S. executive agencies, establish interagency agreements for marking and publicizing all U.S. foreign assistance.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: According to State's Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, while there have been interagency discussions regarding marking and labeling policy, there is not governmentwide guidance on this issue.

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