Thursday, November 20, 2008

Separating Fact from Myth: It’s Harder Than You Think

On November 18, Mr. McCormack, the Department’s Spokesman asked the Under Secretary for Management to give a Briefing on State Department Funding Levels. I must say, the timing sounds strange - why give this briefing now, unless a flurry of these think tank reports are starting to grate. But in any case - the purpose of the briefing was in Mr. McCormack’s words to help you “separate fact from myth.”

Below is an except that makes for quite an interesting reading:

MR. MCCORMACK: […] The motivation here is, you know, I see a lot of news stories talking about the Secretary’s efforts regarding resources for this building. And let me just say, there’s nobody who’s fought harder for resources for this building, to make sure that our people can do the job that they’ve been tasked by her and the President to do. And she’s been successful at it. So what I – and, however, I’ve seen news stories occasionally that pop up that take a contrary view, and we see some of those same tired old quotes and mems out there. And I thought what we would do is have Pat down here to help you separate fact from myth.

UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: (Start Long Excerpt) [...] If you look at – you know, and this is just the last three years, the ’07 and ’08, and then the FY ’09 budget that is now pending up on the Hill. And this is just for State Department operations, the operating accounts. I’m not talking about the foreign assistance accounts. I’m not talking about contributions to international organizations. I’m just talking about the funds that I use on behalf of the Secretary and deploy worldwide to conduct our missions.

And so you can see there – that there’s an upward trend. And that says to me that what we’re – what we’ve got here – and I’m going to use the ’09 budget, I think, as the example to talk to because that’s the one that’s pending on the Hill now, as an example of how the Secretary has pushed forward on getting us budgets, both, as you can see, in ’07 and ’08 that are growing, but also worked very closely with OMB and the White House personally to build a budget to get to the Congress for FY ’09 that reflects our needs.

We started this process out over a year ago, shortly after I came back to the Department. Lots of meetings with the Secretary going over options, going over numbers, arriving at conclusions, getting them to OMB, deploying the Secretary at OMB and at the White House to end up with the package that is now pending on the Hill.

And if you look at some of the quotations or concerns that people have raised about, for example, enhancing training capacity, in the ’09 budget that the Secretary has out – has on the Hill right now, there are over 450 new positions simply for training, 300 of them for language training, because we can see very easily, as she does in her travels, or from General Accountability Office reports, need for more people with Chinese, Japanese, Urdu, Pushtu, Arabic, et cetera. So a big chunk out there – 300 of the 450 – for language training.

Another 75 for enhanced – what we call professional training, newissues that’ll come along, whether it be, you know, climate change or new economic trends or whatever. So big chunk there. And the last 75 of the 450 are for – to send additional State Department personnel to the senior military schools: Carlisle, Montgomery, Leavenworth, Newport, ICAF, and NDU down at Fort McNair.

I think this goes to another point that is often talked about is, do we have enough personnel who are trained to work collegially to understand, you know, the civilian-military relationship, to understand how to work in essentially the new world, which is much more of an interagency world than it was before. And so we already have numbers of students going there, but the request has – we’ve put an additional 75. That means every year we could run 75 more State Department personnel through the military training institutions, which are absolutely fantastic in what they teach. But also the leavening that takes place that the – that our students who go there bring back after working for a year with the military students and civilians from the intelligence community, from the law enforcement community, from other civilian agencies that are also in attendance at all the military schools.

Following up on that for a second, one of the criticisms of – is that we’re not preparing ourselves for this new, you know, multiagency world, so to speak. The Secretary’s budget request also includes 50 positions to expand our cadre of what are called POLADS, political advisors, State Department personnel who are assigned to major and subordinate military commands. We are now – we now have people at all the major combatant commands and at the major domestic commands, but we need to bolster that capacity and, in fact, put two in some locations and also expand out to more subordinate commands. And the 50 additional positions in this budget request would do exactly that.

There’s also been discussion about what is our outreach: are we doing enough in the public affairs and public diplomacy world. There are 39 positions in the budget to expand public diplomacy and educational and cultural exchanges, again, focusing on what the Secretary sees is major needs in the time ahead.

Another issue that’s often addressed in a number of the reports are: Are we taking the right steps in stabilization; are we moving ahead in the right direction on being able to deploy personnel to countries coming out of turmoil or still in turmoil. And the budget, again, on the Hill right now has 350 positions to provide the permanent cadre for the Civilian Stabilization Initiative as well as the funding for deployment that goes with that. You know, I think you’ve all seen some of the material that John Herbst has put out – is putting together. This puts this on a permanent footing, also gives us the funding for the initial tranche of the 2,000 federal employees who would constitute the Ready Reserve.

So you put all of this together, this package of position requests is almost 1,100 – 1,095 new positions the Secretary has put into the budget and has gotten OMB and the White House to buy off on, and it’s now pending on the Hill for the factors that I have outlined. There – additionally, because we also are concerned about various other things, there are another 200 positions for our security services, because obviously, security remains all of our concern, and a particular one of the Secretary, and that there are an additional 448 positions as part of our Consular and Diplomatic Security services contribution to the overall border security initiative. In sum total, there are over 1,500 positions pending Hill appropriations.

And so with that – those kind of numbers, I think that we’re addressing the issues that we’ve been talking about: enhanced training capacity, interagency capability – interagency staffing capabilities, public diplomacy increase, civilian stabilization, obviously continuing the security of our personnel overseas and enabling them to get out and do the missions that they need to do, and lastly, border security. That’s the position side.

The number side, you see the curve going up. The request for 2009 is $1.5 billion over the 2008 request, which is about a 22 percent – 21.8 percent increase over the previous year’s. That money goes with the positions. Obviously, it funds the positions, but more importantly than just salaries, it gives us the resources that we need to deploy the people, to give them the communications tools, the housing, the office space, whatever they need in order to do their jobs, there’s not only the money to hire them, but then there’s the money to train and deploy them as well.

In sum, I think we’re looking at an overall growth pattern here. In FY2001, the State Department position request for Americans was about 15,000. With the request that’s pending on the Hill now, that pushes the State Department’s – so it would push the State Department’s overall staffing to almost 21,000 – 20,960. So the positions have been steadily increasing over time.

[…] So, in sum, I think that this reflects the appreciation that this institution and the Secretary has to find the additional resources that are needed. It reflects our identifying and, in fact, paralleling a lot of the reports that you’ve seen in the newspapers. I mean, just mentioning the Stimson study, it talks about increasing core staffing, it talks about training, it talks about increasing public diplomacy, and it talks about stabilization, and it talks about working with the military. And these are all factors that you can see we are asking for positions for in the 2009 budget. And the 2009 budget is still pending on the Hill. We think that it’s totally appropriate that the State Department is part of the national security apparatus of the United States, and what we need to do is get the 2009 budget passed so we can get on with the task at hand. (End of Excerpt)

Yay! It all sounds like really great fun. I wonder why he's only talking about FY09? We're talking about success and track record here, aren't we? Let’s see if we can cut through the bull -

President's FY 2006 Budget Request Secretary Condoleezza Rice Opening Remarks │ March 9, 2005 New Positions Requested: 221 Results: Congress did not even fund the Administration's inadequate FY05 to FY08 position requests which sought to add a total of 760 additional State positions. (Source: AFSA, July 16, 2008)

(Note: Ms. Rice assumed office in January 2005, so the leg work for the 06 budget request would have been done under the previous SoS; In FY 2005, 183 new positions were requested, also under the previous SoS)

President's FY 2007 Budget Request Secretary Condoleezza Rice Opening Remarks │ March 9, 2006 New Positions Requested: 100 Results: Congress did not even fund the Administration's inadequate FY05 to FY08 position requests which sought to add a total of 760 additional State positions (Source: AFSA, July 16, 2008)

President’s FY 2008 Budget Request Secretary Condoleezza Rice Senate Testimony │ February 2007 New Positions Requested: 254 Results: Congress did not even fund the Administration's inadequate FY05 to FY08 position requests which sought to add a total of 760 additional State positions (Source: AFSA, July 16, 2008)

President’s FY 2009 Budget Request Secretary Condoleezza Rice Opening Remarks │ February 13, 2008 New Positions Requested: 1,100 in the Foreign Service; 300 in USAID Results: Prior to the end of the fiscal year on October 1st, Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR), a stopgap spending legislation that will run through March 6, 2009. Will the next Congress pass this appropriation? Stay tune.

On the FY 2009 request, AFSA in a testimony to Congress has this to say: "As previously reported, the President's now-pending FY09 budget request seeks to add 1,076 new positions at State and 300 at USAID (almost all for Foreign Service personnel). AFSA would have preferred to have seen this funding request made in Secretary's Rice's first -- not last -- year in office, but it undeniably represents a commendable push to better staff and fund the diplomatic platform upon which foreign policy and development assistance are implemented. More here on AFSA’s take on the staffing issue."

If new positions have actually been funded under any of the first three budget requests (FY06-FY08), please do tell. In June 2008, AFSA talked about the FY-08 Iraq Supplemental appropriation that it said “appears poised to pass Congress in the near future which contains $25 million to expand Foreign Service staffing” (on the fiscal year that just ended). It estimated that funding as enough for an additional 120 Foreign Service members. However, I cannot find final word on how many positions were exactly created. There were also 100 new Diplomatic Security positions, which I presumed also came under the Iraq Supplemental, but I'm not sure if these new positions were actually one and the same or altogether different. Grrrr.... yaba yaba do! If there is somebody in the know out there, please enlighten me because this is giving me a bad headache.

In any case, the formal budget request numbers (supplemental not included) tell quite a good story. New positions requested in the last four fiscal years: 221, 100, 254, and 1076.

How many of these requested positions have actually been successfully funded and created? It seems to me that a quick answer to the above question would actually separate fact from myth.

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