Thursday, October 30, 2008

The People Factor and the C Street Bailout

I would define the objective of transformational diplomacy this way: to work with our many partners around the world to build and sustain democratic, well-governed states that will respond to the needs of their people and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system… We must transform old diplomatic institutions to serve new diplomatic purposes, and we must empower our people to practice transformational diplomacy.- January 18, 2006

If this was a speed-dating scene, my elevator pitch would only be two words: people-person, period. Not only are we interested in responding to the needs of others, but also in “empowering our people.” And - we can do this and more with less.

Take this report slightly over a year after this silent earthquake came: CRS says that “Except for needed appropriations, Congressional involvement in the implementation of the transformational diplomacy proposal appears to some observers to have been minimal. Changes were made under existing authorities, and no legislation or new authority was requested from Congress.”

Doing more with less has been State’s mantra for over decades now, so - no one blinked; yup, not even I with my fake Revlon eyelashes. Perhaps there were other reasons why no new money or authority were needed in preparation to launching this pretty ship. But considering that State has had budget issues forever, I would be more inclined to believe that this was launched before all the wings were fully thought out and super glued in place.

State‘s FY 2008 budget finally asked for 254 new positions to “meet new realities in the international arena.” The FY 2009 budget request included funding for a Development Leadership Initiative (DLI) to significantly increase USAID’s permanent Foreign Service Officer (FSO) corps by 300, “strengthening the Agency’s capacity to effectively deliver U.S. foreign assistance on the ground.” But the guys over there at the Hill have a twisted sense of humor. They gave us a continuing resolution that runs through March 6, 2009 so we’re stuck in the FY2008 universe until then.

In the last couple of years we have seen quite a few advocates, besides Secretary Gates, who called attention to the smoldering fire burning the redheaded stepchild's hair. They all are perturbed at the sight and smell of smoke, and flame, and all that call for help which has also been called "whining" at times. I tell you, when your hair is burning, you may actually do more than whine. Anyhow, below are some of the folks with their silly ideas about hiring more people for our Foreign Service.

More People.
The next president should increase the number of Foreign Service Personnel serving in the Department of State by more than 1,000 and consider further expansions in other relevant civilian agencies.
CSIS: Implementing Smart Power: Setting an Agenda for National Security Reform

Major Increase.
A major increase is needed in U.S. resources for non-military activities — where the ratio between military and non-military national security spending is now 17 to 1. This should include adding at least 6,600 Foreign Service officers for the State Department, 2000 for USAID, and recreating a separate "United States Information Agency-like" agency.
RAND: Integrating Instruments of Power and Influence: Lessons Learned and Best Practices
October 2008

46% Growth.

U.S. direct-hire staffing in the four categories above be increased over FY 2008 levels by 4,735 over the timeframe of 2010-2014, a growth of 46% above current levels in these categories (20% of total State/USAID staffing), to be accompanied by significant increases in training and in the number of locally employed staff overseas; the additional staff and related costs will rise to $2 billion annually by FY 2014.
AOD: Foreign Affairs Budget of the Future: Fixing a Hollow Service

New Positions
The Foreign Affairs Council estimates that the State Department needs an additional 900 positions beyond its current training complement. […] staffing became stretched when Congress did not provide the Administration-requested appropriations to fund additional generalist staffing positions in Fiscal Years 2006 and 2007. Some also believe increased staffing levels called for by the global repositioning of the Foreign Service and transferring personnel slots to an increasing number of hardship assignments will only aggravate the staffing situation further.
Congressional Research Service

Invest in people
The security of the United States depends on the capacity of its diplomats to carry out the nation’s business. The State Department must hire more than 1,000 additional diplomats—a 9.3 percent increase—so that it can fill positions at home and abroad while providing the education and development programs that twentyfirst-century representatives of the United States need to reach their potential. Professional education and development programs must be enhanced across the board. The State Department must also, where possible, make greater use of the foreign national component of its workforce at posts overseas.
CSIS: Embassy of the Future

Imagine that. All have come out with the need for an expanded Foreign Service. Looking at these suggested numbers - a thousand here, six thousand there - against State’s “people requests” makes me feel like, you know -- State is not as great at being “people-persons” as people think.

My question is - are we going to see in 2009 that knight in shining armor who believe in the cause (call it smart power, not soft, good grief!) once more and who will come to the rescue with our very much needed C Street bailout? Or are we going to see somehoney who will make you take your folding chairs to the wood kitchen again? Stay tuned.

P.S. Who's not tired of the wood kitchen - that's where you got your hair burned in the first place, hmmm?

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