Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Diplopundit on Reforming the State Department: A Look Back

Diplopundit has a good piece today on reforming the State Department.

Reforming the State Department: A Look Back

Eight years ago as the new Bush administration came into office, an independent Task Force cosponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Center for Strategic and International Studies came out with a report on State Department Reform. The bipartisan group was led by Frank C. Carlucci, who was a former Foreign Service Officer, U.S. Secretary of Defense (1987-1989) and National Security Advisor (1987).

It is striking that some of the key issues addressed in this report have not really gone away. If I did not know that this was written in 2001, I’d think that this was written for the new president who will come into office in 75 days.

In its Memo to the President, the Task Force listed six problematic areas at the State Department - from long-term mismanagement to antiquated equipment, and dilapidated and insecure facilities. (Note: Thanks to Secretary Powell, State has gotten out of the Wang wilderness. On facilities, from 1999 to the end of calendar year 2005, State completed construction of 18 embassies and consulates at a cost of approximately $1.3 billion). But in 2008, one cannot help but marvel at this prescient perspective:

“These deficits are not only a disservice to the high-caliber men and women of the Foreign Service and the Civil Service who serve their country under the Department of State. They also handicap the ability of the United States to shape and respond to the opportunities and growing challenges of the 21st century. If this deterioration continues, our ability to use statecraft to avoid, manage, and resolve crises and to deter aggression will decline, increasing the likelihood that America will have to use military force to protect our interests abroad. In short, renewal of America’s foreign policy making and implementing machinery is an urgent national security priority.”


“Finally, not only has America’s foreign policy agenda become heavier, more interdisciplinary, and more complex, but it has to be exercised in an environment of growing threats. As societies abroad continue to experience radical social and economic change, they will become more unstable and at times less hospitable to Americans. And the danger posed by international terrorism is increasing. The last decade’s bombings against U.S. military and diplomatic facilities demonstrate that terrorist networks will become more global in reach, will wield greater destructive capacities, and will be more difficult to track and counter.”

“The Department of State’s human resource practices and administrative policies are dysfunctional.The department’s “up-and-out” promotion system is having the unintended effect of forcing qualified personnel out of the service. Its antiquated recruitment process is unable to meet the department’s workforce needs in both number and skills. The department’s lack of professional training opportunities for its personnel, its inattention to the family needs of its overseas personnel, and its inflexible grievance system have become major incentives for employees to seek work elsewhere.”


We need our smartest and our brightest to come forward now (not later, after retirement) and say here are the things that needs fixing and here’s how we’re going to fix them; here’s why we need your help and here’s what you will get in return, and here are the consequences for our inaction. But this is Colonel Boyd’s to be or to do moment, the proverbial fork on the road. So...who will come forward? Anybody there?

The sad part is, I can very well imagine us in 2020, looking back at this point and adding a few more dozen reports to the bibliography of reforming the State Department.

Among those major incentives to work elsewhere, I would argue, is the Department's continued treatment of its gay and lesbian employees as second class citizens. In a time when the Department is desperately understaffed and extending the time folks can stay on the register in order to fill all the slots they have for incoming Foreign Service Officers, current FSOs continue to have to choose between family and career. Many of the changes necessary to make the Department more friendly to gay and lesbian families are purely regulatory, and yet the Department continues to drag its feet and offer crumbs. Yes, it is nice that the partners of GLBT employees can now sit in the empty seats in the Security Overseas Seminar and it is great that they can take the short course in language. But when will the Department offer more assistance with visa, both overseas and here, so families can stay together? When will they offer equal employment opportunities to the spouses of GLBT employees so that their families can make ends meet?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

From guest blogger Kelly Kilpatrick: 5 Foreign Policy Blogs Worth Looking Into

The following was written by Kelly Kilpatrick, who asked if she could do a guest entry on LAJ. I hope you find it useful.

5 Foreign Policy Blogs Worth Looking Into

Although we may not always agree with what others are saying, it is a fundamental right of free speech to be able to speak one’s mind. In order to prepare for what’s to come, one must know what others are thinking and why they think that way. Foreign policy can be a divisive issue, as can domestic policy; blogging gives people the opportunity to express their views and initiate a dialogue about the current state of the world. Here is a short list of blogs that discuss foreign policy and a brief description of each one.

Foreign Policy Passport: This blog comes straight to you from the editors of Foreign Policy Magazine. Browse through the blog for opinions on the latest foreign policy issues and different views on stories from the magazine. There are many interesting snippets related to what’s going on around the world in the way of other countries’ own attempts at improvement as well as pieces related to the US and its role in the world.

Foreign Policy in Focus: The purpose of this think tank’s website is to help initiate a dialogue related to US foreign policy. From articles related to how our domestic policy affects the way we create foreign policy, to news on the presidential candidates and their running mates’ experience and plans for the future, Foreign Policy in Focus certainly does focus in on specific foreign policy issues.

Foreign Policy Watch: Political analysis and diplomacy are the primary topics discussed on this foreign policy blog. Take a look through recent articles and posts, or search through their archives for past analysis and see what the bloggers at Foreign Policy Watch have to say about the issues you’re concerned about.

American Footprints: For cutting-edge commentary on issues around the world, look no further than American Footprints. Regularly updated, this blog tries to get at the heart of the matter when it comes to foreign policy, whether it’s something we want to hear or not. Of course, these are just opinions, but sites like this one allow us to read and understand what others are thinking, ultimately leaving it up to us to decide how we feel about the issues.

Young Professionals in Foreign Policy Blog: There are a wide variety of different people that contribute to the content of this blog. Linked to its sister website, which posts articles on foreign policy and affairs, the Young Professionals in Foreign Policy Blog has government employees, think tank members, and others in the field of foreign policy making posts about a wide variety of issues regarding foreign policy and its ramifications around the world.

This post was contributed by Kelly Kilpatrick, who writes on the subject of a masters program for criminal justice. She invites your feedback at kellykilpatrick24 at gmail dot com

Retired U.S. Foreign Service Officers for Obama

I found this today at Durango Dave's blog:

Retired U.S. Foreign Service Officers for Obama

Former U.S. Ambassador Peter Bridges writing at The Huffington Post says:

"A friend and former colleague of mine in the Foreign Service, Kevin McGuire, some time ago drafted a short statement of support for Obama and began to ask retired Foreign Service officers if they would sign it. So far 334 of us have done so, including by my count 66 former American ambassadors.

If you would like to know why we have done so and who we are, you can find our reasons and our signatures at Foreign Policy for Obama.Com: Declaration of Support by Over 280 Former Diplomats.

You can go to and click on the link in the left hand column.
I will remind you that the Foreign Service of the United States is our country's career diplomatic and consular service. We staff both the State Department in Washington and our embassies and consulates abroad. Usually two-thirds or more of our ambassadors are Foreign Service officers, although both Democratic and Republican administrations have made a number of ambassadorial appointments for political reasons. Some of these Republican appointees and, by my count, two former career officers, have come out for McCain."

As Ambassador Bridges points out, these are people who understand America's role in the world better than most politicians and pundits. Their support for Obama adds considerable substance to the idea that Barack is the best candidate to deal with America's international issues and restore our reputation as the "Good Guys" that has been severely damaged by Bush-Cheney.

You can read the entire Ambassador Bridge's entire piece here. Democracy In Trouble also covers the endorsement here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Message for the next president

I've had a brief hiatus while I took a long weekend to visit family down South. So I will try to do a bit of catching up in the next few days. I hope you will bear with me.

WhirledView has a message for our next president regarding diplomacy and soft vs. hard power:

This guns-and-steel-first approach by which America has been engaging - or more accurately disengaging - the world throughout the past eight years has boomeranged. It has increased – not decreased – support for those who truly hate America. It has resulted in budget busting defense spending. It has created an overstretched and weary professional military unable to accomplish the Herculean tasks assigned it. And it is an unsung piece of the current financial crisis. This lethal concoction has weakened the country abroad and sapped our ability to meet our citizens’ needs at home.

Leading with Diplomacy: The Single Realistic Foreign Policy Option Left

The next president will, in reality, have only one foreign policy option. This is the imperative to rely far more on traditional diplomacy, public diplomacy and foreign aid delivered through civilian means to begin to repair America’s face and effectively conduct its business abroad. The military first “solution” has proven to be no solution. Fighting elusive militant terrorists ensconced in ungovernable areas is not akin to rolling back the Axis Powers in 1944 or facing off the Red Army and the Warsaw Pact over the Fulda Gap during the Cold War.


This system is in wrack and ruin and a new administration needs to change it sooner rather than later if it is to address America’s pressing foreign policy needs. Diplomacy is, in the end, our only option. We desperately need to change direction. To make it work effectively, those changes must begin at home.

You can read the entire piece here.

Anti-War comments on the issue as well:

While the Pentagon's budget has risen to heights not seen since World War II, US diplomatic and foreign aid assets have largely atrophied and must be quickly rebuilt by any new administration that takes office in January, according to a new report released here this week by former senior foreign service officers.

The report by the American Academy of Diplomacy (AAD) and the Henry L. Stimson Center is calling for a nearly 50 percent increase in the number of diplomats and aid and development specialists recruited into the foreign service over the next five years. This would cost about three billion dollars – or approximately what the Pentagon is currently spending every 10 days on military operations in Iraq – over current budget estimates.

''Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the diplomatic capacity of the United States has been hollowed out," according to the 26-page report, "A Foreign Affairs Budget for the Future." "The status quo cannot continue without serious damage to our vital interests."

The vacuum created by the lack of diplomatic resources – particularly in comparison to the Pentagon's budget and manpower – has translated into the militarization of US foreign policy, warns the report.

You can read that entire piece here.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

State Department urged to boost hiring

From today's Government Executive:

State Department urged to boost hiring

If the State Department does not beef up its workforce, diplomatic programs will suffer and foreign policy will become more militarized, a new report warned.

"Today, significant portions of the nation's foreign affairs business simply are not accomplished," stated the report, released earlier this week by the American Academy of Diplomacy and the Stimson Center. "The work migrates by default to the military that does have the necessary people and funding, but neither sufficient experience nor knowledge. The 'militarization' of diplomacy exists and is accelerating... . The status quo cannot continue without serious damage to our vital interests." The report also studied staffing levels at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The report recommended that the State Department hire 4,735 more Foreign Service staffers and other key personnel between fiscal 2010 and 2014. New hires would be involved in core diplomatic efforts such as operating embassies and working with businesses and nongovernmental organizations abroad; engage in public diplomacy; administer economic assistance programs like those at USAID; and manage reconstruction and stabilization projects similar to ones in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those staffers would fill a 2008 shortfall of 2,400 employees, the authors said, and help State expand its activities while allowing more employees to receive much-needed training.

The authors identified USAID itself and public diplomacy programs at State as areas where more staff is critically needed. The number of public diplomacy staffers has fallen 24 percent, from 1,742 in 1986 to 1,332 in fiscal 2008. The current staffing levels are enough to sustain some traditional outreach efforts like media campaigns, the report said, but are not sufficient to allow public diplomacy officers to make extensive personal contacts and develop media efforts to reach out to younger generations.

Public diplomacy officers create and manage programs designed to inform audiences in other countries how American history, values and traditions shape the country's foreign policy.
The contrast at USAID is even more striking. In 1990, 3,500 people administered $5 billion in program funding for economic assistance; currently 2,200 staffers oversee $8 billion. The agency employs only five engineers to oversee projects worldwide, and 29 education officers are responsible for programs in 84 countries. As a result, the report said, USAID has stopped managing many programs directly and relies on 1,200 temporary contractors rather than on career staff with technical expertise directly relevant to the projects at hand.

The report was the latest salvo from the foreign affairs community in a battle to increase staff in a range of areas at State and USAID. The U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy released in June its own comprehensive recommendations for reforming the public diplomacy workforce. The academy and the Stimson Center are co-sponsoring a forum next week on their report.

Sens. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, and George Voinovich, R-Ohio, chairman and ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Federal Workforce Subcommittee respectively, have held a series of hearings on the subject. Voinovich in particular has expressed impatience with the idea that State has been asked to "do more with less."

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Gay Bush Appointee Loses Appeal for Fair Treatment

This from The Advocate:

Richard Grenell was appointed spokesperson for the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations by President Bush more than seven years ago and became the longest-serving public servant to hold that post. But when it came to having his partner of six years listed alongside the spouses of other U.N. diplomats, his dedication to the job didn't carry much weight with the State Department.

Gay Bush Appointee Loses Appeal for Fair Treatment

By Kerry Eleveld

Richard Grenell spent most of his days as spokesperson for the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations putting out fires for the Bush Administration and battling to keep issues like human rights in Burma and Zimbabwe in the public spotlight. But after working for the U.S. Mission to the U.N. for more than seven years, his final media push was publicizing a more personal struggle that he fought internally with the State Department.

Grenell, the longest-serving spokesperson for the U.S. Ambassador whose final day was Friday, September 26, started inquiring nearly four years ago about having his partner, Matt Lashey, listed in what’s known as the United Nations’ Blue Book, a reference guide of contact information for different member states of the United Nations as well as diplomatic personnel and their spouses.

Though Grenell and Lashey met in New York and have been together six years, they cannot legally marry in the Empire State. “It is not an option for us in New York, but hopefully someday soon it will be,” he says. “In my mind, and in Matt's mind, this is it. We’re married.”

Since the White House regularly included Grenell's partner by name on invitations to official events and parties, Grenell hoped the State Department would follow suit. He began by approaching the department appointee tasked with submitting additions and deletions for the Blue Book with his request -- the first step in a long line of dead ends. When the next edition printed and his partner’s name wasn’t listed, Grenell took it as “a mess-up.” He made several more failed attempts to have Lashey added before being told that “it was a U.N. issue, not a State Department issue.”

“I decided to investigate on my own,” says Grenell, “find out who was in charge of the Blue Book at the U.N.” That led him to the Protocol and Liaison Service, the department that prints the material, where a representative informed Grenell that “the U.N. takes whatever information is given to it by member states and prints it -- they make no evaluation of the correctness of the information.”

Indeed, the inside cover of the Blue Book states: “This publication is prepared by the Protocol and Liaison Service for information purposes only. The listings relating to the permanent missions are based on information communicated to the Protocol and Liaison Service by the permanent missions, and their publication is intended for the use of delegations and the Secretariat.”

Initially, Grenell took a measured behind-the-scenes approach to the situation, but his appeals grew more pointed this past spring.

“What put me over the edge was a friend and colleague who met her spouse after I was already with my partner -- they got married and subsequently were put into the Blue Book in a matter of days,” he says.

After numerous inquiries, Grenell eventually received an e-mail from Thomas Gallo, a U.S. Mission administrator, on July 25, stating, “It has been our practice to include only spouses, when requested by the employee, in our Blue Book updates, because the Blue Book description states that it lists ‘spouses’ and because the Department of State Foreign Affairs Manuel, under the heading of Members of Household (MOH), indicates that the Mission may not request privileges, immunities or exceptions for MOH.”

Privileges and immunities are a certain set of rights and protections afforded to employees of different member states of the United Nations while working in their capacity as a diplomatic envoy. But Grenell takes issue with the reasoning that the Blue Book listing bestows any sort of special status. “I could go down the road and have the legal discussion about diplomatic immunity and legal spouses if we were talking about privileges and immunities,” explains Grenell, “We are not talking about P & I. We are simply talking about a reference book the U.N. prints. I find it very hard to believe that anyone would be adversely affected by printing Matt’s name.”

Grenell replied to Gallo’s e-mail reiterating that the Blue Book is nothing more than a reference and adding, “I want my partner listed in it. I am formally requesting this and I want a legal opinion. Please do not delay this so that we miss the deadline.”

The legal opinion came via e-mail on July 31 from State Department attorney Richard Visek, who shelved the discussion of privileges and immunities and turned his sole focus to the legal definition of “spouse” as it was designated by the Defense of Marriage Act. “The word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife,” Visek wrote, citing U.S. Law, 1 U.S.C. 7. He concluded the e-mail, “In interpreting the term ‘spouse’, the mission should adhere to the definition under U.S. law. We also understand that this is consistent with past practice.”

Legal opinions aside, Grenell believes the last line of that e-mail is perhaps most telling. Noting that he would have been the first known person to have his same-sex partner listed in the Blue Book, Grenell says, “I think the status quo is the enemy here. It is, We’ve never done it before; and you’re dealing with bureaucrats who can't think outside the box.”

Grenell exchanged several more e-mails with John Bellinger, the State Department’s top legal advisor, but nothing came of them.

Contacted by The Advocate, State Department spokesperson Noel Clay reiterated, “The department over the years has not included domestic partners because they are not spouses.”

After several years of inaction, Grenell decided to go public. “Some people are going to yell at me, because it's been a quiet fight,” he says. “I think a lot of people’s style is to do a quiet fight.”
As a registered Republican and a Bush appointee, Grenell has not always had an easy time waging quiet wars. He was publicly “outed” on an LGBT activist website two years ago, though Grenell says he was out to almost everyone who knew him. The main complaint leveled against him at the time was the fact that the U.S. had recently joined with Iran in a U.N. committee vote to deny accreditation to two international LGBT organizations. Accreditation, or consultative status, allows non-governmental organizations (NGOs) access to U.N. proceedings, conferences, and the right to propose agenda items.

The most common sticking point for granting consultative status to LGBT organizations, says Grenell, is whether they have any ties to the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA). Due to the organization’s controversial nature, groups seeking legal recognition from the U.N. must reject NAMBLA outright. “We needed an unequivocal separation from NAMBLA in order for these groups to go forward,” he says.

LGBT activists and human rights groups were outraged by the January 2006 vote, but after one of the organizations -- the International Lesbian and Gay Federation of Denmark -- changed course and distanced itself entirely from NAMBLA, the U.N. approved it for accreditation later that year along with two other LGBT NGOs. The U.S. voted in favor of all three accreditations. The following year, the U.N. approved two more LGBT NGOs for consultative status.

Despite the scrutiny, Grenell is proud of his work on facilitating LGBT accreditations and touts a couple of other accomplishments as reasons why it’s important to have LGBT people working on both sides of the aisle. He helped secure two former U.S. ambassadors to the U.N., John Danforth and John Bolton, to give keynote speeches at Log Cabin Republican conventions. “It wasn’t difficult at all, I just went and asked,” he says, “but it was the personal relationship.”

Friday, October 03, 2008

AFSA Statement on Iraq Assignments

The following message is from AFSA State VP Steve Kashkett:

AFSA issued the following press release on Thursday, October 2, 2008:

The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) welcomes Secretary Rice's announcement that the Department of State has now filled all of its positions at the U.S. missions in Iraq and Afghanistan for the summer 2009 assignment cycle with qualified, willing volunteers -- as
has been the case every year since those two diplomatic missions came into existence. It is a tribute to the courage and sense of duty of the people of the Foreign Service that our members, as well as a number of Civil Service colleagues, have stepped forward without hesitation every year to staff the embassies and provincial reconstruction teams in those two war zones. These are our largest diplomatic missions in the world, and they present unique dangers and challenges to the thousands of our members who have volunteered since 2003.

AFSA hopes that those journalists, media outlets, and commentators who erroneously reported last October that the Department of State had been unable to fully staff the Iraq mission will now show as much zeal in reporting that, in fact, every one of these positions in both Iraq and Afghanistan for summer 2009 has been filled more than eight months in advance. Those journalists did a great disservice to the Department of State and its employees -- who have never shied away from hardship service in some of the most dangerous places on earth -- and we hope that these journalists will now set the record straight."

Thursday, October 02, 2008

AFRICOM: DOD's New "Soft Power"?

Diplopundit has an interesting piece today about AFRICOM, which was stood up today.

Diplopundit writes:

Pittman writes that "from the beginning, AFRICOM was cast as a different kind of command, one that would focus American military might not on fighting wars, but on preventing them through "soft power." And that as part of the new approach, a civilian deputy equal to Moeller was appointed to coordinate humanitarian operations with other U.S. agencies. AFRICOM's "interagency" makeup was trumpeted as a better way to meet the continent's development needs."

The civilian deputy equivalent to Moeller has the official title, "Deputy to the Commander for Civil-Military Activities," and that is Ambassador Mary Carlin Yates. She will reportedly direct the command's plans and programs associated with health, humanitarian assistance and de-mining action, disaster response, security sector reform, and Peace Support Operations. She also directs Outreach, Strategic Communication and AFRICOM's partner-building functions, as well as assuring that policy development and implementation are consistent with U.S. Foreign Policy.

That makes me feel better. I guess I should say, congratulations for coming into being. But now this is getting me a tad confused. I thought State has the "soft power" while Defense has the "hard" part. Hmmn....that must have changed during the commercial. I hate it when they do that, don't you?

Militarization of our foreign policy? Now don't you believe what you read. In individual countries, U.S. Ambassadors will continue to be the President's personal representatives in diplomatic relations with host nations. State will continue to be the primary foreign policy arm; USAID will continue to be the development arm. Yup! Yup! Except that State is counting pennies and paper clips (don't know about AID, too many stubbed toes under one confusing roof right now) and DOD has the money.

You can read the entire post here.