Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Slash Non-Fiction: There Goes Diplomacy 3.0 But They Sure Ramps It Up in Iraq

Via WaPo's Walter Pincus on the State Dept. reeling from budget cuts

The Senate committee on Sept. 21 approved $44.6 billion for the core State, Foreign Operations budget for next year, which was $6 billion below the original request and $3.5 billion below the current level. The House subcommittee approved $39.5 billion, slashing the administration’s request by $11.2 billion, or 22 percent.

In describing the cut, the Republican draft report on the bill said it preserves national security priorities while making “necessary reductions in spending.”

Among the largest House subcommittee reductions was a nearly 20 percent cut in the funds that pay for Foreign Service officers and the civilians who support them. In justifying this action, the subcommittee report said it eliminated funds sought for 184 new staff because since 2008, some 1,622 Foreign Service officers and 1,001 civilians had been hired above attrition.
The House panel took an even bigger cut from the personnel budget for the Agency for International Development (AID), which saw its fiscal 2012 request dropped from $1.5 billion to $900 million. The report notes that 820 new Foreign Service officers have been added to AID since 2008.
Read in full here.

Diplomacy 3.0 is the State Department's ambitious multi-year hiring program that recognizes diplomacy as one of the three essential pillars of U.S. foreign policy: diplomacy, development, and defense.  But since most in Congress only recognizes the third pillar of U.S. foreign policy, I was just waiting for the other two shoes to fall.

And now there they are.

Tell me again -- how are we going to have a US Consulate Basra with 1200 employees  or a US Consulate Erbil with 1400 staffers the way this is going? (which would make these two diplomatic posts larger than most embassies anywhere in the world).  With less money available, State maybe forced to shuffle the deck, which probably means post-closures in other parts of the world not called Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. Expect a new mothership cable to ALL POSTS urging posts and mission personnel to do more with less given this newest budget constraints. Unless you're in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, of course. But fear not, the way this is going, there will come a time when you'll me able to do everything with nothing.  Except on a diplomatic reception.

The Pulitzer Center on Crisis reporting recently had this update on the State Department's ramped up presence in Iraq:
The ongoing expansion of the diplomatic facilities—including two smaller outposts in Mosul and Kirkuk—is deeply controversial in Washington, where many lawmakers have questioned whether it makes sense for the U.S. to devote such an enormous percentage of the State Department's total budget to one country.
A Jan. 31 report from the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, for instance, estimated that the State Department will spend $25-$30 billion in Iraq over the next five years. The panel said that U.S. diplomatic operations in Iraq in fiscal year 2012 will spike to at least $3 billion, roughly a quarter of the State Department's global operations budget. Other State initiatives here - like the large and growing Office of Security Cooperation—will push the fiscal 2012 numbers even higher.

It's far from clear that Congress is willing to spend that kind of money on Iraq, given the war's deep unpopularity at home. Lawmakers slashed State's fiscal year 2011 budget request by almost 20 percent, to $2.1 billion from the $2.6 billion originally requested. Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont told The Huffington Post earlier this month that he doesn't "know why [Iraq] has to be one of our highest priorities."

"I think we've reached the point in Iraq where whatever we're spending money on, we're throwing good money after bad," he told the Web site.
The Senator had a point, no sense throwing good money after bad.  Most especially if we don't have a lot of money, good or bad.  Anyways, perhaps Congress should write that in the appropriation bill -- the money for the State Department that must not/not be spent on Iraq. Of course, that's like the prohibition clause of no permanent bases in Iraq, Afghanistan  and elsewhere that we regularly see in those bills.

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