Wednesday, December 31, 2008

ST: Sizing Up Diplomacy

This illustrative piece from the Seattle Times was sent out by AFSA, our employee organization. I wonder how many people outside the Foreign Service got the correct answer.

Sizing up U.S. diplomacy
How many diplomats does the U.S. government have in active service?

Throughout the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, President-elect Obama talked forcefully about the need to repair frayed relations with allies. To make it all happen, the new administration must rely on its diplomats. How many diplomats does the U.S. government have in active service?

A. 57,000

B. 12,000

C. 6,400

D. 4,700

How many diplomats does the U.S. government have in active service?

A. 57,000 is not correct.

The State Department employs roughly 57,000 people. However, 31,000 are foreign nationals working overseas as support staff in U.S. embassies and consulates. The United States maintains diplomatic relations with nearly 180 of 191 countries, as well as with several international organizations. Altogether, the State Department maintains nearly 265 diplomatic and consular posts.

B. 12,000 is not correct.

The State Department employs approximately 12,000 Foreign Service personnel. This number includes foreign-service officers as well as support staff and diplomatic security agents, a significant number of whom are stationed in the United States. Throughout much of the 1990s, overseas diplomatic staffing was significantly reduced, as the United States cashed in on the "peace dividend" brought about by the end of the Cold War. Although this trend began to reverse itself by 1997, the American Academy of Diplomacy estimates that the State Department faces a personnel shortfall of more than 2,000 staff-years relating to enduring core diplomatic work, emerging policy challenges and critical training needs.

C. 6,400 is correct.

Among all State Department employees, 6,400 — or 11 percent — are diplomats, meaning they are engaged in government-to-government diplomacy and represent U.S. interests and advocate U.S. policy positions abroad.

Coincidentally, this number is roughly equal to the personnel stationed aboard a typical U.S. aircraft-carrier battle group, such as the USS Enterprise.

D. 4,700 is not correct.

The American Academy of Diplomacy estimates that the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development will need to increase their ranks by 4,700 employees between 2010 and 2014 in order to carry out U.S. diplomatic initiatives successfully. For instance, the public diplomacy staff, which seeks to influence foreign publics by promoting U.S. policies, culture, society and values, is 24 percent smaller than in 1986.

And speaking of increasing the size of the Foreign Service, here is a comment from the blog Enough:

A good article in the January/February edition of Foreign Affairs by former President of the American Foreign Service Association J. Anthony Holmes advocates dramatically increasing the number of Foreign Service Officers (FSOs). Holmes offers some powerful statistics:

The number of lawyers at the Defense Department is larger than the entire U.S. diplomatic corps, there are more musicians in the military bands than there are U.S. diplomats, and the Defense Department’s 2008 budget was over 24 times as large as the combined budgets of the State Department and USAID ($750 billion compared with $31 billion).

Enough made similar calls for reform in a recent report, which noted that that in order to more effectively prevent conflict and mass atrocities, the U.S. Government must address the critical “mismatch between resources and requirements” at the State Department - sentiments which were echoed by former U.S. Ambassador for counter-narcotics in Afghanistan Thomas Schweich in the Washington Post

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