The state of the State Department
Via Glenn Reynolds, I’ve been growing more and more interested in this anonymous group blog by State Department Foreign Service Officers who happen to be Republican. This post on what Condi should do to reform the management at Foggy Bottom rings true: Slash and burn. At times it appears that half the FS is involved ...
Via Glenn Reynolds, I've been growing more and more interested in this anonymous group blog by State Department Foreign Service Officers who happen to be Republican. This post on what Condi should do to reform the management at Foggy Bottom rings true:
Via Glenn Reynolds, I’ve been growing more and more interested in this anonymous group blog by State Department Foreign Service Officers who happen to be Republican. This post on what Condi should do to reform the management at Foggy Bottom rings true:
Slash and burn. At times it appears that half the FS is involved in making personnel decisions on the other half. The teeth-to-tail ratio is very poor. The assignment process must be streamlined; the seemingly endless negotiations for assignments must end; the protracted meetings and deal-makings must stop; show less sympathy for special needs, e.g., tandem couples. It can take a year or more to assign someone to a posting. Absurd. Reduce the size of the personnel (HR) operation. Put an end to the little empires that exist in HR, empires established by bureaucrats who “homestead” themselves in the HR system, spending years there accumulating power, establishing networks to reward themselves and friends and to punish “enemies.” It is tempting to rely on these persons’ “expertise,” but resist it; rotate them out. Make them stand in a visa line in Mexico City. Get them out of Washington on a regular basis. It’s the Foreign Service. They don’t want to go? They can go work for the DMV. Drastically reduce the layers of bureaucracy. Do we need so many staff assistants, special assistants, executive assistants, etc.? Flatten out the pyramid. Work on eliminating whole offices and bureaus. Have the Secretary go to Congress and argue for eliminating the annual human rights report exercise — an enormous and wasteful enterprise that keeps hundreds of people employed to appease a handful of NGOs who don’t like the reports anyhow. Kill off this requirement; eliminate the whole human rights bureau (DRL). Scrap the Undersecretary for Global Affairs (G): what the hell is that job anyhow? Cut the oceans and environment bureau (OES). Merge the three quasi- pol-mil bureaus and reduce their overall size. Beef up the INR function. Spin off USIA, again. Take a merciless look at the consular affairs (CA) bureau, and get rid of all those lawyers in that bureau! Do we need to baby long-term American expats who haven’t lived in the US for years and years and often don’t pay taxes? Split the CA bureau: hive off citizen services from visa issues. Until you reform the assignment process, have the Secretary not assume that a person who is, for example, working on Arab-Israeli affairs, actually knows something about Arab-Israeli affairs or that what he knows is actually right or worth knowing. That person could have gotten the job thanks to some complex deal having nothing to do with substance. Take a hard look at the size and number of embassies abroad. Do we really need an embassy in every African and European country? Do we need them so big?
I don’t agree with all of their recommendations — yeah, we do need embassies in all of those countries — but their observations about the excessive levels of bureaucracy are spot-on. When I had my CFR fellowship and was choosing between going to State and Treasury, I took the Treasury option even though it was at a lower level. It took only one visit and one glance at the two organizational charts to realize that Treasury’s hierarchy was much quicker and flatter — and as a result, policy was able to be altered and implemented much more quickly.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
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