Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Public Diplomacy and the Resource Shortage at State

Mountain Runner had an interesting piece today about a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Mountain Runner writes:’s Kellie Lunney reports below on a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, The Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia. The hearing was spurred by the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy report earlier this year. Dirksen room 342 must have been a fun place to be (not).

"On the public diplomacy side, there is some positive news, but it's a grim picture overall," Amb. Scott DeLisi, director of career development and assignments in State's Bureau of Human Resources, said before a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee. ...

The Foreign Service overall is short at least 1,000 officers "just to fill the jobs we have," DeLisi said. DeLisi, who spent most of his career in the field and assumed his current post just a year ago, called the situation "frightening." Even with those slots filled, many officers are not getting the training they need to be successful overseas, he noted, adding that the agency also would benefit from the creation of additional positions. "We need more [officers] in China, India, parts of Africa, the Middle East and parts of Indonesia," he said.

There’s more to this, of course, but it’s good to get more attention on the huge lack of resources for State. Tell me, where’s the senior leadership hammering Congress to actually commit itself to both allocating money and resources to State? Secretary Gates does not count. State’s leadership, with Congressional support, must push for not just more $$ for hiring FSO’s, but programming flexibility, hiring FSN’s, a training float (hear about this? seeking details), etc.

The piece he asks if you have heard about is this, from Abu Muqawama: deep bit of inside baseball from the world of professional-military education (affectionately known as PME) is the difficulty in recruiting foreign services officers as students in the intermediate courses (like CGSC or its Marine equivalent at Quantico). While these schools are geared toward military officers, there is a noticable interagency presence as well. FSO's, however, are more commonly found only at the "top-level schools" like the National War College). Now, astute readers of this blog will know that's because State is miserably under-staffed. (Insert military band comparison here.)

So, LTG Caldwell has once again put his money where his mouth is: he's offered to cough up one officer for each FSO the State Dept. sends to CGSC. (Charlie's guessing these officers take up slack at Main State, not in the Embassies, but she's willing to be corrected on this score.) This is exactly the kind of wealth transfer Secretary Gates has been calling for: using the vast resources of DoD to enable more flexibility at State.

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