Monday, January 26, 2009

Insider Quote: Replacing the Culture of Equity

The organizational structure, incentives, cultures, and cadres which characterized State 25 years ago are little changed and must be modernized. Operational modes and standards need to reflect the realities of twenty-first century global competition. For that to occur, an across the board “culture of excellence” will need to replace the “culture of equity” that has, among other things, allowed functional illiteracy and poor performance to become too broadly accepted as a norm among many categories of State’s employees.

Stephanie Kinney Needed: A Unitary Diplomatic Service of the United States of America American Diplomacy │ January 2009

This is not pretty but I think it's a "must-read." Kinney is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer with extensive service at embassies in Europe and Latin America and was Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism in the State Department. Since retirement, she has worked as a consultant on change management. She holds MA degrees from the National Defense University and Harvard, and a BA from Vassar. She also authored Developing Diplomats for 2010: If Not Now, When?


Alison said...

Kinney's mentions of public diplomacy ("Is there another course for covert diplomacy, which we don’t know about?") makes me think there were some gaps in her research for this article. In what way is it damaging for Americans to use the internet to learn about State's programs overseas? She apparently equates any non-public affairs functions of public diplomacy with propaganda.

She also argues against specialization in the Civil Service, but advocates for more specialization in the Foreign Service - I'm curious why.

DS said...

Thanks for your comment, Alison.

This is what she said: The cones date from another century – one in which it was possible to think that politics and economics were separable and that the flow of information fundamental to "public diplomacy" could be managed in such a way that it could not and would not be accessible to people in the United States – that is, before the Internet.

This is in reference to the Smith-Mundt Act, the legislation that funds global propaganda outreach using all the latest communication technologies (directed particularly against the Soviet Union during the Cold War).

The act also prohibits domestic distribution of information intended for foreign audiences and still established the programming mandate that serves as the foundation for all U.S. overseas information and cultural programs at the Department of State.

But in the age of the internet, this needs an overhaul. Mountainrunner just did a big do on this here:

Some officers tend to stay in one region, and multifunctional assignments are generally thought of as not career enhancing – that defeats the “generalist” term really. I agree with her that the conal distinction is outdated, after all, everyone is expected to be well-versed in public diplomacy now, some are expected to manage programs, funds and projects, in addition to handling bilateral/multilateral relations. I think her two pieces are good starting points in the discussion of reforming our diplomatic service.