Foreign Affairs for the 21st Century
The Past is Prologue
With the passage of the National Security Act in 1947, the United States positioned itself for the post-WWII world on a new and innovative structure(1). That structure created many of the institutions that still serve us today: The Department of Defense (DoD) merging the War and Navy Departments, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Council (NSC) and the NSC process of inter-agency consultation and cooperation. By the 1980s it was clear that the service rivalries and bureaucratic infighting in the Defense Department was reducing military effectiveness and wasting enormous sums of money through redundancies and inefficiencies. The solution--the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Defense Reorganization Act--was a masterstroke that over time created "joint-ness", a "purple" or integrated military without destroying the individual services that have served the nation so well over two centuries(2). While no one would deny that there remain huge inefficiencies and waste in this enormous bureaucracy, it is generally considered that DoD is infinitely better positioned for the 21st century than the civilian side of the United States Government.
In the aftermath of the tragedy of 9-11, American leaders searched for the cause of the failure to stop a terrorist attack on American soil and found it in the turf-wars and bureaucratic ossification among our intelligence and law enforcement agencies and many of those entities became today’s Department of Homeland Security (3). The intelligence community too was reorganized and the Director of Central Intelligence function was split from the CIA Directorship(4) with the creation of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It is too soon to tell if these were masterstrokes or merely stages in the evolution of these functions.
A Growing Problem
While the Departments of State and Defense were able to keep within their lanes with a relatively clear demarcation of responsibilities during the period of the Cold War, in the post-Cold War era this delineation has become blurred. Even more problematic has been the large and growing imbalance in funding dedicated to military vs. civilian international responsibilities and national security. In large measure the drift of public diplomacy (strategic communication), foreign assistance (civil-military affairs) from the civilian world of the State Department and USAID to the military world of the uniformed services and various DoD contractors is the result of this funding imbalance.
This situation has become untenable and thus it is time for a reappraisal and reassessment of the whole structure of foreign affairs just as Goldwater-Nichols served for the whole structure of national defense.
The Department of Foreign Affairs
To re-right the balance in America’s national security structure, the Department of State must be broadened into a true Department of Foreign Affairs (the original name by the way) and like the Department of Defense should be restructured to accommodate the many roles it must play. Within the Department of Foreign Affairs there could be semi-independent sub-departments, similar to the departments of the individual services in the Defense Department, to deal with traditional diplomacy (i.e. state-to-state relations), public diplomacy (similar to the former USIA), foreign assistance (USAID), foreign trade (USTR, FCS, FAS etc.), stabilization and reconstruction (in league with DoD). These Departments within the Department of Foreign Affairs could function as the Department of Diplomacy, the Department of Public Diplomacy, the Department of International Development, the Department of International Trade, etc.
This Goldwater-Nichols scale reform for the civilian side of national security is long overdue. And while the parallels between the original Defense Department reorganization and the new design for a Department of Foreign Affairs can be overdrawn, the effect could be even more significant and beneficial for the future of United States foreign relations. Although State is now charged with coordinating all civilian activity abroad, it cannot manage this responsibility with current budgeting and authorities. It is recognized widely that State needs a broader mandate and authority beyond the traditional diplomatic and consular functions to encompass wide-ranging end-to-end coordination and management of foreign affairs from public diplomacy to development to trade. Already elements of this design can be seen in the September 2009 Project on National Security Reform’s Report to the President Turning Ideas Into Action (see Chapter 11, pp. 105-107 entitled "Next Generation State Department").