The author, a distinguished retired U.S. ambassador, prepared the following in May 2000 as a draft issues paper under the auspices of the Rand Corporation 2001 Project. Summarizing multiple recommendations under ten headings, his penetrating analysis of the problems and needs of the United Statess foreign affairs arm provides a succinct set of guidelines for the next U.S. President and his administration. He makes all too clear the need for a substantially strengthened Foreign Service. ~ Ed.
Reforms are essential to adapt a diplomatic system effective during the Cold War to the very different new environment. . . . The Department of State apparently does not intend to pursue a number of the urgently needed reforms. It is critical that the next administration vigorously carry out the modernization of its diplomatic infrastructure.
HE NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, first to take office in the twenty-first century, will be more dependent upon diplomacy than his predecessors. In the global era the worlds major power and largest trading nation has no choice but to be engaged. The question is not whether, but how the United States will interact with the rest of the world. The international agenda has been transformed since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and most new issues require collective rather than unilateral action. These changes have magnified the importance of communication and persuasion among governments and peoples.
Fundamental reforms are required to equip our diplomatic system for the challenges of the twenty-first century. These reforms have recently been specified and analyzed in three perceptive (and compatible) studies prepared by distinguished American leaders. The failure of a resistant administration and bureaucracy to implement these important recommendations, and to place appropriate emphasis upon diplomacy, has understandably contributed to the reluctance of Congress to provide more resources. Congress seldom appropriates more than the executive requests.
The Components of National Security
Our national security, reliant upon the dynamism of the American economy, is buttressed by three elements of the federal government: intelligence, diplomacy, and the armed forces. Their interlocking functions make up a system analogous to the meshing of the land, air, and sea components of the armed forces. Diplomacy is prevention, our first line of defense. If we can exploit opportunities and resolve international differences through discussion and negotiation, we do not need to risk the lives of our servicemen and women. If diplomacy is weak, or ineffectual, troops may have to be deployed prematurely.
Yet, the international affairs (diplomacy) budget, the 150 Account, is addressed by the Congress as a domestic appropriation, part of discretionary spending. Appropriations for the Departments of State, Justice, and Commerce are debated in a single bill, so that diplomacy must compete directly for resources with the domestic political constituencies of small business, the census, the judiciary, law enforcement, the war on drugs, and so forth. Diplomacy lacks a domestic constituency. By contrast, appropriations to support defense and intelligence, the 050 Account, are addressed quite properly by the Congress as national security: they are protected from diversion behind a national security firewall.
Small wonder, in the absence of the sort of life and death threat posed by the Soviet Union, and in the absence of vigorous presidential leadership, that appropriations for the conduct of diplomacy have plummeted since 1992. In the 1960s, the international affairs account made up about 4 percent of the federal budget. By the early 1990s, it was down to 1.5 percent. Now, the Congressional Budget Resolution agreed in mid-April 2000 has fixed the allocation for Fiscal Year 2001 at $19.8 billion, just 1 percent of the proposed federal budget and $3.5 billion less than total appropriations for this function for Fiscal Year 2000. Since the end of the Cold War, the administration, as again this year, has consistently requested too little for the 150 Account, and Congress has consistently further reduced these already inadequate requests. The budget for foreign affairs, in constant dollars, is today 41 percent below its level of the mid-1980s.
Americas New International Agenda
Meanwhile, the world grows increasingly interdependent and diplomacy is as involved with economic and social issues, notably export promotion and business support, as it is with national security. Financial markets are intertwined. The United States is the worlds largest trading nation. Exports account for a third of our economic growth and have provided a million new jobs in recent years. Overseas markets are pivotal for American agriculture.
So the timing is bad for a decline in Americas diplomatic readiness. American foreign policy now seems more complicated, less manageable, than it was during the Cold War. Then the Soviet threat was a yardstick against which to measure each issue. Whether the challenge arose in the Congo, Cuba, Central America, Afghanistan, Vietnam, the Middle East or Angola, we knew what we had to do. Advanced American technology, and American military and economic power were relevant to the task. We sought, but were rarely dependent upon, the assistance of allies.
How has the international agenda of the United States changed? A new list of issues and problems has replaced the nuclear stand-off of the Cold War. These include:
- The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems
- Enforcement of trading rules (intellectual property rights, dumping, non-tariff barriers)
- International crime, especially traffic in drugs
- Regional conflicts, often ethnic or religious, causing refugee displacements and, frequently, enormous bloodshed and human suffering
- World environment (population growth, global warming, pollution, exhaustion of natural resources)
- Maintenance of international financial and economic stability
- Democracy and human rights, including the status of women and minorities
- Regulation of hundreds of international activities in the age of globalization (telecommunications frequencies, air traffic control, food and drug standards, health, immigration, taxation, etc.)
Such issues seem rather more complex than the decision to deploy American economic and military strength to block Soviet expansion. The new problems cannot be solved by one nation, even by the only global power. They demand communication, building coalitions of concerned governments and organizations, working together with others to address issues which ignore national borders. In short, diplomacy. Other nations tend to hang back, expecting leadership from the superpower .
The Hollowing Out of U.S. Diplomatic Readiness
How has the denial of resources affected Americas ability to defend its national security and to promote its expanded international agenda?
A global power should support its interests through representation in essentially all world capitals (although embassies in small countries need comprise only a few people). There is no telling when a vote in the United Nations may prove critical, where key minerals may unexpectedly be discovered, where terrorists may find a haven, when access to a particular airfield may become essential, when an American tourist or an American company may desperately need help. The cost of such representation is minimal. Yet, at the millennium, there has been retraction in Americas official presence abroad. Since 1992 the United States has closed some forty of its overseas embassies and consulates.
American embassies and the State Department, although information is the bread and butter of their work, operate with outdated, needlessly complex and dysfunctional information management and communications systems. In fact, there are presently four separate information technology systems, none of which provides full service or internet connection to the worldwide web. In fairness, it must be said that this lamentable state of affairs is due to poor management as well as inadequate resources.
The Department of State has revealed that in the year 2000 there are 200 fewer mid-level Foreign Service officers than there are positions around the world to be manned. In the mid-1990s, the dearth of appropriations led the Department to suspend its Foreign Service entry examination, and to drastically reduce both the intake of junior career officers and the promotion of those already in the Service. Unlike the Department of Defense, the State Department, when requesting appropriations, makes inadequate work force provision for the personnel requirements of travel, leave and training . So the actual deficit in the Foreign Service is closer to 700 officers, about 15 percent of requirements.
A result of this situation, beyond persistent staffing shortfalls and tasks only partially accomplished, has been a contraction in professional training, including language study; it has been difficult to spare overworked diplomats for training. The inadequacy of funds has also obliged the Department of State to limit American representation at international meetings and conferences.
The physical state of many American embassies, and the working conditions for overseas staff, are shameful. In late 1999, the Overseas Presence Advisory Panel found that the overseas facilities of the wealthiest nation in history are often overcrowded, deteriorating, even shabby. In regard to the inadequacy of funding for security at overseas posts, the Panel noted that thousands of Americans representing our nation abroad still face an unacceptable level of risk from terrorist attacks and other threats.
Morale has inevitably suffered under these circumstances.
NEXT: Modernization and Reform
Copyright © 2000 American Diplomacy Publishers, Durham NC