state department

The use of sport as an instrument of foreign policy is nothing new for the U.S. government. [...] The Sports Diplomacy Division of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs employs only five staffers and spends only .0001 percent of the Department budget. And yet, it has still managed to recruit some of the country's most celebrated athletes to the cause, and its programs have reached thousands of people in more than 100 countries over the past 15 years.

I believe that a final, negotiated FY 2018 budget request for the State Department should include continued funding – if not a gradual increase – of what has been a relatively small amount of money allocated every year to the soft power of “cultural diplomacy.” Roughly defined as the use of an exchange of ideas, traditions, and values to strengthen relations and encourage engagement, cultural diplomacy is perhaps most easily seen in the use of music, arts, and sports to build cross-cultural understanding.

Former U.S. Ambassador Curtis S. Chin on the proposed funding cuts to cross-cultural programs.

Beginning this week, the U.S. Department of State, in partnership with Global Ties U.S., will sponsor Diplomacy Begins Here Regional Summits, bringing together leaders in business, government, and the nonprofit world to further citizen diplomacy and forge new connections in local communities. The summits will take place across the United States, engaging Americans from diverse backgrounds on the innovations and impacts that stem from international relationships.

Core practices of open government are eroding in the Trump Administration, with new limitations on the ability of the press to effectively question officials on U.S. foreign policy. The problem is starkly illustrated by comparing the press briefing schedules of the State Department for May 2016 and May 2017. In May 2016, the State Department held a press briefing nearly every weekday of the month, with only two exceptions. One of them was Memorial Day. In May 2017, by contrast, there was not a single State Department press briefing. The last briefing was on April 27.

The No. 2 diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing resigned Monday, telling staff his conscience would not permit him to formally notify the Chinese that the United States is withdrawing from the Paris climate accord. David H. Rank, a career Foreign Service officer of 27 years, had been acting ambassador until former Iowa governor Terry Branstad (R) was confirmed as the new ambassador last month. Rank held a town meeting with embassy employees to explain he had offered his resignation and it had been accepted.

As President Trump strains alliances and relationships around the world, some of the nation’s top career diplomats are breaking publicly with him, in what amounts to a quiet revolt by a cadre of public servants known for their professional discretion. On Monday, the chargé d’affaires at the American Embassy in Beijing, David H. Rank, announced his resignation after telling his staff he could not defend the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has declined a request to host an event to mark Islam's holy month of Ramadan, two U.S. officials said, apparently breaking with a bipartisan tradition in place with few exceptions for nearly 20 years. Members of Congress, Muslim civil society and community leaders, diplomats from Muslim countries and senior U.S. officials usually attend the State Department Ramadan event, a symbol of the U.S. government's diplomatic efforts with Muslim countries and people.

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