Monday, September 14, 2009

Quickie: Hitting Bottom in Foggy Bottom

"The State Department suffers from low morale, bottlenecks, and bureaucratic ineptitude. Do we need to kill it to save it?" That’s the question asked by Matt Armstrong in Foreign Policy. Armstrong is a principal with Armstrong Strategic Insights Group and a member of the Public Diplomacy Council. He publishes the public diplomacy and strategic communications blog Not a pretty read but needs a good reading. Excerpts below:

Years of neglect and marginalization, as well as a dearth of long-term vision and strategic planning, have left the 19th-century institution hamstrung with fiefdoms and bureaucratic bottlenecks. The Pentagon now funds and controls a wide range of foreign-policy and diplomatic priorities -- from development to public diplomacy and beyond. The world has changed, with everyone from politicians to talking heads to terrorists directly influencing global audiences. The most pressing issues are stateless: pandemics, recession, terrorism, poverty, proliferation, and conflict. But as report after report, investigation after investigation, has highlighted, the State Department is broken and paralyzed, unable to respond to the new 21st-century paradigm. […] Some commentators have even wondered aloud whether the best way to fix the State Department might be to destroy it. Foggy Bottom could retain a small core staff for its embassies and ambassadors. All other functions -- such as public diplomacy, countering misinformation and propaganda, and development, including provincial reconstruction staffing -- could migrate to the Pentagon or become wholly independent agencies.

But atomizing the State Department would ultimately prove dangerous and further the militarization of foreign policy. The Pentagon needs a counterbalance, a vertically integrated State Department that the president, Congress, and the U.S. public can count on. Change, rather than creative destruction, is what Foggy Bottom needs.

Read the whole thing here.

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