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American Diplomacy
Commentary and Analysis

June 2007

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American Diplomacy takes pride in being in a position to offer its readers the June 2007 FOREIGN AFFAIRS COUNCIL Task Force Report entitled “MANAGING SECRETARY RICE’S STATE DEPARTMENT: AN INDEPENDENT ASSESSMENT, presented by Amb. Thomas Boyatt of the Council in association with eleven other U. S. foreign affairs organizations.—Ed.


Full report available here

Executive Summary
(NOTE: This is a management assessment. It does not address foreign policy questions.)

KEY FINDING
Between 2001 and 2005, 1,069 new positions and significant program funding increases were obtained through the Diplomatic Readiness Initiative (DRI). Since then, all of these positions/people have been absorbed by assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan and other difficult posts. Today, some 200 existing jobs – most overseas – are unfilled and the additional 900 training slots necessary to provide essential linguistic and functional skills do not exist.

In the first two years of Secretary Rice's stewardship almost no net new resources have been realized. “Job One” for State Department management is to obtain the 1,100 new positions needed to move the Foreign Service from where it is to where it needs to be in the context of Secretary Rice’s highest priority – her signature “Transformational Diplomacy” initiative. Achieving this objective will require the aggressive and sustained personal involvement of both the Secretary and Deputy Secretary, both within administration councils and with Congress. They will have the Foreign Affairs Council’s support.

In January 2005 the new Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, took over an institution undergoing a four-year process of rejuvenation, a work still in progress despite many accomplishments. These included: addition of 1,069 positions, increased and more focused training, complete rebuilding of the State Department’s information technology infrastructure, program budgeting that related resources to policies, overhaul of visa operations and border control in the wake of 9/11, accelerated and cost-contained construction of new embassies to meet heightened security threats and, most importantly, the institution of a new leadership culture. The leadership culture emphasized the responsibility of senior officers to “look after the troops,” provision of adequate personnel and support, and loyalty and confidence from the top down as well as from the bottom up.

Secretary Rice pledged publicly and privately that she supported and would continue to pursue her predecessor’s management agenda. Then she announced her “transformational diplomacy” initiative – to use U.S. diplomatic and assistance resources to “create a more secure, democratic and prosperous world” – that added three management requirements: (1) repositioning personnel from the European epicenter of the Cold War to dispersed and linguistically/culturally difficult regions that are home to emerging powers and new problems; (2) shifting the professional focus from reporting to managing programs and building institutions; and (3) expanding training, especially in hard languages and “transformational tradecraft.”

The impact of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan hit the State Department fully only after Secretary Rice arrived, vacuuming up the additional personnel resources gained during the DRI era, as well as huge amounts of other resources. While appropriations for State’s diplomatic and consular programs in FY 2001 were $2.76 billion, by FY 2005 they were $3.52 billion plus $734 million for State’s Iraq operations. For FY 2008 State is asking for $3.98 billion plus $1.88 billion for Iraq. None of the positions requested in FY 2006 and 2007 for training and transformational diplomacy were granted.

Today, some 750 overseas positions are “unaccompanied,” meaning that employees are separated from their families and stay only one year. More than a fifth of all current Foreign Service officers have served in Iraq. Widespread anecdotal evidence suggests worsening morale. This decline is exacerbated by the fact that, unlike colleagues at some sister agencies, all of State’s junior and mid-level officers take an immediate cut in base pay of 18.6 percent upon departing Washington for an overseas assignment!

Despite these and other challenges, a number of important management accomplishments have taken place at State during the past two years, progress that has been formally recognized within the administration and by the private sector. Management advances have been especially noteworthy in the Bureau of Consular Affairs, at the Foreign Service Institute, in exploiting the skills and knowledge of State’s retiree community, at the Bureau for Overseas Buildings Operations, in information technology, public diplomacy (State’s weakest operation in 2004) and public affairs – all described in the chapters of this report. Additionally, several new initiatives should further improve foreign affairs management. State and USAID submitted their first joint budget to Congress for FY 2008. The budget for the first time, clearly with White House consent, presents both State and USAID as national security institutions. State is leading Project Horizon, a 14-agency strategic planning exercise that looks ahead two decades. And Secretary Rice has formed a number of advisory councils to help define the issues and management actions still needed to cope with likely foreign affairs challenges.

These achievements and new initiatives need to be consolidated and much more needs to be done to meet the urgent need for more people and money. This will require Secretary Rice to devote more time and energy to acquiring resources for management purposes and to apply her full influence both within the administration and with Congress to acquire the resources necessary to achieve her stated goals. In particular, if her “Transformational Diplomacy” initiative is to prosper, it must receive the programmatic resources necessary to permit American diplomats to actually carry out the transformational work now expected of them.

Of singular importance is eliminating the shortage of personnel. Positions for training must be protected from raids to meet operational crises. Legislation must be pressed now to eliminate the 18.6 percent base pay cut inflicted on junior and mid-level officers when they leave Washington to go overseas.

The Secretary has taken the initiative to bring more oversight and cohesion to the administration of foreign assistance. However, improvements in the foreign assistance allocation process must be accompanied by a strengthening of the capacity of USAID (key in achieving transformational diplomacy) to both develop and implement foreign assistance policy. The Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization must be strengthened and its resources assured. And significant further progress is still critically important in information technology, public diplomacy and financial reporting. It is our view that Secretary Rice’s management legacy will depend on her success in winning the resources necessary to truly allow diplomacy to be as effective as possible as our nation’s first line of defense. The Foreign Affairs Council stands ready to help.


  • Michael E.C. Ely, Diplomatic and Consular Officers, Retired
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