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Doug Wilson Will Not Be Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy

Right now, it’s looking very much like Judith McHale, former president of the Discovery Channel, will be the next undersecretary for public diplomacy. What’s also interesting is who won’t be: Douglas Wilson, a former principal deputy secretary of defense for public affairs and senior official with the old U.S. Information Agency. He was one of a very few people scouted by the Obama transition team for the job, and even contributed the policy statement about public diplomacy to the Center for American Progress’ 2008 transition-agenda guide. (CAP leader John Podesta, of course, helmed the Obama transition.)

In a phone interview, Wilson confirmed that the State Department transition team vetted him for the undersecretaryship. “They did talk to me about it,” Wilson said, “but I understand they’ll be selecting someone else.” A State Department spokeswoman would neither confirm nor deny the account.

Wilson, a 30-year veteran of public diplomacy jobs, professed no hard feelings about not getting the undersecretary position. What’s more, he intends to still submit ideas to the administration about public diplomacy. Before the transition, Wilson, a board member of the philanthropic Howard Gilman Foundation, began planning a public diplomacy conference at the foundation’s White Oak plantation in northern Florida that took place on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. The conference produced a series of ideas about the future course of public diplomacy — revamping the personnel structure; working with non-governmental organizations; securing congressional buy-in — and Wilson plans on presenting them to the Obama administration next week.

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