Military Matters and Public Diplomacy Urgent, Says GAO

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), the nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, has released its list of "urgent," "critical" and "time sensitive" policy concerns for President-elect Barack Obama and the new Congress. Several are military-related, such as the "U.S. efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan," "undisciplined defense spending," "caring for service members," and "rebuilding military readiness." Another priority, "improving the U.S. image abroad," arguably makes the list because of U.S. military actions. The GAO recommends better "strategic planning, coordination, and performance measurement" of public diplomacy efforts. In particular, the State Department should "improve the delivery of public diplomacy messages to Muslim audiences," develop "a strategy to guide department efforts to engage the private sector," and standardize approaches "for marking and publicizing all U.S. foreign assistance." Among the GAO's other top priorities are better managing "financial institutions and markets" by "reforming the U.S. financial regulatory system to reflect 21st century realities."