Every spring, our Foreign Service folks get a stressful season added to their lives. It’s called the EER Season. It’s when most people in the Foreign Service must do their Employee Evaluation Review, their annual report cards. It’s like doing your own tax return. It’s painful. People hate doing it. But it must be done, and done well, if folks want that promotion.
One FSO once quipped about the wisdom of “scheduling EER due dates at the same time as your tax returns; at least you’re combining as much pain and suffering into as short a time as possible.” Another describes it as “a period of several weeks during which the entire service withdraws to semi-hibernation in their offices to produce and push around the mountain of paper that is the annual Employee Evaluation Review.” The Daily Demarche calls it the Creative Writing Season at the State Department, writing, “It is only with slight exaggeration [they] I say some reports use phrases like “when Dick is not walking on water he is busy turning it into wine.”
There are tips and tricks online on EER preparation, see this and this, both written by FS-bloggers, who by the way, are no longer blogging. Also read this old post from Life After Jerusalem, it’ll crack you up.
An old adage is repeated in the Foreign Service Journal: “The EER system doesn’t work, so all we can do is gossip to keep bad people from getting good jobs.”
We’ve heard it said often enough that the EER gets you the promotion, but your corridor reputation gets you your next job. Is that still true?
In a perfect world, the performance evaluation report should be the most useful tool in getting an individual, as they say, on the right bus. But that’s not the case in the Foreign Service. The Foreign Service where the entrance requirement is proudly based on merit, actually bases its assignment process on who you know, and what’s often called “corridor reputation,” instead of ability and talent.
So it was only a matter of time… and bang! This happened.
As I have worked as an FSO for the better part of a decade, I have experienced a lot of different types of employees. Like many others, I have often wondered how certain people got promoted and why certain others did not. I have pondered the ridiculousness of the current EER system and its unnatural obsession with style over substance. How many times do I really need to roll it back to step 4 to make a comma edit and should that really sink my chance at a promotion? I have wished that I would have known going in that my new boss would be horrible, and I have wished I could tell the world by boss was awesome.
Eventually, I came to the conclusion that Department needs a place to discuss the performance of people. It has to be outside official channels and done in a way so others feel like they can comment without reprisal. After this realization, a long period of denial, and more than a few sleepless nights, the site http://www.corridorrep.com was born. It is limited only to people with a state.gov email address and does not pretend to be any type of official or statistically valid tool. It is just a forum for openly discussing the performance of others. The hope is that by providing visible access to one’s corridor reputation, the good performers get publically recognized and the not so good ones know where they can improve. Is this risky? Yes. Will people be offended? Probably. Will I get sued? Maybe. Is it needed? I think so.
Regular folks who get frustrated long enough with the process long acknowledged to be broken will occasionally roll the dice.
The site’s stated goal is to rate 5,000 employees. It has 26 ratings right now. We are unable to read the full reports but one of those “Recently Liked” under “Poor Performer” starts with “It was the longest tour of my life…” Another one under “Officer Bob” starts with “It was a dark and stormy…”
In order to use the site, users “must provide” their state.gov email address. “This is only used to ensure that Department employees can access the site. Your confirmation email will be sent to this address and once you confirm your account none of your activity will be traceable to it.” The site says that registration is limited to U.S. Department of State employees at this time, but may be extended to include other agencies as determined by the site administrator.
Note: Thanks for all your tips. Since the owner of the LLC who operates this new site has not self-identify as site administrator of CorridorRep.com, we will not identify that individual in this blog at this time. We have reached out to the site administrator and will update when we hear more.
You don’t like the new QDDR rolled out recently by the State Department? Just, you wait. Gordon Adams writing for Foreign Policy has hopes. He says that “the next secretary of state will look at the management and planning side of Foggy Bottom and leave it to someone else while he or she flies around the world doing the “fun” stuff. “ Oops! Mr. Adams writes that the longtime effort to reform and strengthen the State Department will be handed off again, as it has been for decades. And you know what, he hit that nail squarely on its tiny head; we kind of share that view.
There’s a race on who will be the most travelled Secretary of State — how many countries, how many miles, how many travel days, total flight time and so on and so forth. Secretary Kerry, so far has registered 791,085 miles, still way below the total miles traveled by Secretary Clinton at 956,733 miles. Secretary Albright held the record of most countries visited at 98 until that record was broken by HRC at 214 countries visited.
Unfortunately, there is no race on who will be the secretary of state who can sit still long enough to do the necessary fixes needed by our “lead institution of U.S. foreign policy.”
[T]he first QDDR missed a great opportunity for fundamental change — change it might have pulled off with the star power of Clinton, which would have elevated the State Department to real foreign-policy leadership and would have eliminated some serious organizational dysfunction. It did not broaden the mission of the Foreign Service to include dealing with governance issues in other countries. It did not change training of Foreign Service officers fundamentally to provide skills in strategic planning and program development and management, and to make mid-career training and education available. It did not reform a broken architecture for security assistance at the State Department or make an effort to recapture leadership over U.S. security assistance policy from the Defense Department.
It did not end the division of planning and budgeting between a stovepipe over on the “management” side that does personnel, buildings, security, administration, and IT/communications support, and the other stovepipe over in the foreign assistance program office that plans and budgets for U.S. foreign assistance. And it did not even discuss the reality that the United States has far too many foreign assistance programs — an uncoordinated diaspora of offices and agencies scattered around the bureaucratic universe in D.C. from the Justice Department to the DoD to the Commerce Department to the Export-Import Bank to the Treasury Department and beyond, to the bewilderment of anyone the United States does business with overseas.
So I hammered away a little last year in this column after the new QDDR was launched, urging the new team to at least try to address some key institutional problems that make the State Department (and its USAID partner) dysfunctional and unable to lead U.S. foreign policy. I picked three themes: 1) make governance dilemmas in the world a core mission of U.S. foreign policy, and build the programs and training to implement that priority; 2) take civilian control of U.S. security assistance (much of it is now at DoD), and embed that effort in stronger civilian governance overall; and 3) centralize and empower a capacity at the State Department to do integrated strategic and resource planning.
It will not surprise you that this latest QDDR did not go for the gold on any of these three core problems. At best it gets a fairly weak incomplete. Secretary of State John Kerry, like his star-powered predecessor, earned few points; in the end he didn’t actually put his credibility and heft on the line to get fundamental change, a change the department needs if it is going to give reality, not talk, to its claim that it is the lead institution for U.S. foreign policy.
On its home page, the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training shares a funny ha!ha! joke that the Foreign Service has undergone major reforms and tinkering over the past century so much that people often say that if you didn’t like the current system, just wait a few years and it would change. One of the fascinating periods of change at the State Department occurred during the tenure of William Crocket, the Deputy Under-Secretary of State for Administration from 1963-1967. He was responsible for bringing Chris Argyris to write a report on the Foreign Service, now only available to read at the State Department library (anyone has a digital copy?). He did T-groups, organizational development and such. When Mr. Crockett retired in 1967 many of the programs he started were barely alive or already buried and forgotten. He was never credited for some that still lives on. He felt he was an outcast from the Foreign Service and left a disillusioned man. He tried to change the service, and it wasn’t quite ready for him (see pdf of oral history).
We recently just read ADST’s oral history interview with Stephanie Kinney. We have previously quoted her in this blog in 2009 and are familiar with her ideas for change. Ms. Kinney is a former Senior Foreign Service Officer, one of the first “tandem couples” (i.e., both are FSOs), and winner of the Department of State’s Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) Harriman Award for her leadership role in creating the Department’s Family Liaison Office (FLO). She was interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy in 2010 for ADST.
Below is an excerpt from her 2010 interview. Check out her full oral history interview here.
[T]he problem at the State Department, I believe, is its lack of institutional leadership and its lack of a single, unified and vibrant corporate cultures. Its culture is still fundamentally 20th century and divided between Foreign Service and Civil Service and the growing overlay of short-term, Schedule C [political appointees] leadership. There are people, pockets of people, working to change that, but it is an uphill battle.
The drafters of the 1980 Act did not believe in a generalist Foreign Service officer corps. Bill Backus and I argued about “generalists” versus “specialists” ad nauseam; he wanted to create a Foreign Service more like the Civil Service, of which he was a part. He and the other drafters wanted to tie the Foreign Service to the Civil Service and create an equivalency that has never existed because the two personnel systems and cultures are so different. They also created something called LCEs, Limited Career Extensions, which seriously corrupted the Senior Foreign Service through their abuse, and then created an infamous senior surplus, the cost of which was the gutting of a generation of largely 01, political officers in the mid 1990’s. [Note: An FS-01 is equivalent to a GS-15 and is the level before entering the Senior Foreign Service.]
So today what do we have at the State Department? The vast majority of our FSOs have less than five years experience. You have officers expecting to be promoted to 01 who have done only their obligatory consular tour, maybe a tour in their cone, and one or two others.
Another pattern is that many entry level officers now have to do two consular tours, then return to the Department for a desk job and then go to Iraq or Afghanistan, where they do ops with the military. They have never done the first lick of what you would call mainstream diplomacy. One wonders what the impact of this will be on the system?
Now this is not to say that what they have been doing is not a kind of diplomacy; it is and it is utterly essential to the 21st century. But their experience to date is not a kind of work that has prepared them to come back into the civilized world and maintain proper relations and perform with long standing successful states and cultures. These more established states—be they developed or “emerging” like the BRICs [Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, and China], all value tradition and diplomatic savoir faire more than we, and they far outstrip the value and importance of either Iraq or Afghanistan.
The people to whom you have referred as the high flying “staffers,” have taken no interest in their own institution, which is the base of their power and their work. It is the nature of a profession that it is involved in its own institutions. Otherwise, it is not a profession.
I could not sustain the assertion today that diplomacy is a profession at the Department of State. I think it can be. I think it should be. I am working to move it in that direction, but there is no evidence that the current culture and conditions and leadership are encouraging and helping the younger generation assume the responsibilities and take the measures needed to improve the situation….
But minus strong leadership that seeks to instill common ethics and standards and professional pride, there seems to be growing concern that what we are getting is a group of people for whom little matters beyond one’s own interests. If the Foreign Service culture is all about stepping on someone else to get to the next rung, it is not going to work. You are going to hang separately, because, in my view, that is how it has gotten us where we are.
When I came to State, there was no such thing as a Schedule C Assistant Secretary. Jimmy Carter took eight FSOs—well they were almost all FSOs under the age of 38 who had resigned over Vietnam, such as Dick Holbrook and Tony Lake—and he made them Assistant Secretaries. They were known as the Baby Eight. So when Ronald Reagan came in he said, “Oh, I will pocket those eight, and I also want a DAS in every bureau,” and so the Deputy Assistant Secretaries became politicized. Today it goes down to the Office Director level. (Note: see this graphic – pdf)
The politicization, along with Secretaries of State who also have no sense of responsibility for or interest in the Department as an institution, continues to sap the institution of vitality. That in my view is one of the primary reasons that the institution has fallen on such hard times.
What’s remarkable is that Mr. Crockett in his oral history interview (pdf) conducted in 1990 said practically the same thing:
“The absence of Secretarial interest in the operations of the Department and many of its functions is often pointed out as one of State’s major deficiencies. Most Secretaries, when faced with the choice of being part of the policy development process or managers of a Cabinet Department, opt for the first to the detriment, I believe, of the second. I am sure it is far more attractive to run around the world like Shultz did–involved in diplomatic activities–that staying at home managing a fairly large organization–certainly a complex one. State is unique among Cabinet Departments in that regard because a Secretary can get by without paying much attention to the management of his Department.”
What’s that they say about change — the more things change, the more they stay the same?
In related news, Secretary Kerry is on travel, this time to Seoul, Beijing, Jakarta, and Abu Dhabi, from February 13-18, 2014. On his first year as Secretary of State, he was on travel 152 days, to 39 countries, travelling 327,124 miles. If he keep at this, he will break Secretary Clinton’s travel record. He may also go down in the history books as the Secretary of State who was almost never home.
Secretary Kerry Swears in Heather Higginbottom as Deputy Secretary of State U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry swears in Heather Higginbottom as the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on January 30, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]
Ssecretary Kerry made some remarks at her swearing-in ceremony (excerpt below):
Heather now is the first woman to hold the title of Deputy Secretary of State. (Applause.) That’s a statement in and of itself, as you have all just recognized, and it’s important. But I want you to know that no one ever said to me about this job, “I’m so glad you found a woman.” They have said to me, “I’m really glad you gave this job to Heather,” or “Heather is the right person for this job.” And we are here because – I know many of you have worked with Heather either in her role on Capitol Hill or over at OMB. Some of you worked on the campaign trail with her in 2004 and 2008, where she served in 2008 as President Obama’s Policy Director. Many of you worked with her in the White House where she was serving as the Deputy Director for the Domestic Policy Council and then Deputy Director of OMB.
Ms. Higginbottom gave her own remarks (excerpt):
For me, balancing our presence in Asia, to making peace in Syria, to rolling back Iran’s nuclear program, to embracing our friends in this hemisphere, to the many crises we cannot begin to predict, the people at the State Department and USAID will confront tremendous challenges and opportunities in 2014 and beyond. In this role, I’ll share in the global responsibility for U.S. foreign policy, but I’ll also seek to drive institutional reforms.
A top priority for my team will be working to ensure our posts and people are safe and secure. We need our diplomats fully engaged wherever our vital national interests are at stake, and that means we must constantly improve the way we protect our people and our posts. I’ll also work to ensure that we use taxpayer resources wisely and efficiently. As you all know, America’s investment in diplomacy and development is critical to our global leadership, to our national security, and to our nation’s prosperity. It’s one of the very best investments we can make for our country and it’s the right thing to do.
But we must do everything we can to increase the return on that investment. That’s why I’ll focus on management reform and innovation.
Excellent! There’s a small matter that folks might want to bring up to the new D/MR’s attention in terms of reform — a recent change on the Foreign Affairs Manual concerning State/OIG, updated just weeks after the nominee for OIG was announced:
1 FAM 053.2-2 Under Secretary for Management (M) (CT:ORG-312; 07-17-2013)
The Under Secretary for Management (M) is the Secretary’s designated top management official responsible for audit and inspection follow-up and the Secretary’s designee for impasse resolution when Department officials do not agree with OIG recommendations for corrective action. See 1 FAM 056. 1, Impasse paragraph.
Look at this nice org chart for the DOD IG:
It’s not like the State Department does not have a Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, right? And because we can’t keep this straight in our head, we have to wonder out loud, how is this delegated authority going to work if the IG had to review “M” and half the building that reports to “M”? We asked, and we got an official response from State/OIG:
“Per the IG Act of 1978, as amended, and the FAM (1 FAM 052.1 Inspector General – (CT:ORG-312; 07-17-2013), the IG reports directly to the Secretary and Congress. IG Steve Linick has access to the Secretary and meets regularly with the Deputy Secretaries and other high officials, as needed.”
Okay, but the State Department is the only federal Cabinet-level agency with two co-equal Deputy Secretaries. And yet, “M”, the office with the most number of boxes in the org chart among the under secretaries is the Secretary of State’s designated top management official responsible for OIG audit and inspection?
In 2012, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) performed an audit of OES’ administration and oversight of funds dedicated to address global climate change to be responsive to global developments and the priorities of the Department.
In March 2013, OIG closed eight of these recommendations (Nos. 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, and 15) after verifying evidence that OES had provided showing that final corrective actions had been completed. At that time, OIG considered the remaining 10 recommendations resolved, pending final action.
Following initial discussions with OES and A/OPE officials on the status of the open recommendations from AUD/CG-12-40, OIG expanded its original scope to include an assessment of the Department’s actions on all open recommendations from the report.
Consequently, OIG incorporated the intent of AUD/CG-12-40 Recommendation 18 into a new recommendation (No. 9) to the Under Secretary for Management (M) to assign authority and responsibility for the oversight, review, and approval of nonacquisition interagency agreements that will ensure compliance with applicable Federal regulations and Department policies governing them.
As of December 31, 2013, neither A/OPE nor M had responded to the IG’s draft report.
Well, okay there you go, and what happens then?
* * *
According to history.state.gov, in 1957 the Department of State elevated the position of Chief of the Foreign Service Inspection Corps to that of Inspector General of the Foreign Service. Between 1957 and 1980, the Secretary of State designated incumbents, who held rank equivalent to an Assistant Secretary of State. The Foreign Service Act of 1980 (Oct 17, 1980; P.L. 96-465; 94 Stat. 2080) made the Inspector General a Presidential appointee, subject to the advice and consent of the Senate, and changed the title to “Inspector General of the Department of State and the Foreign Service.”The two most recent OIG for State are Clark Kent Ervin (2001-2003) and Howard J. Krongard (2005-2008). State did not have a Senate-confirmed OIG from 2009 to much of 2013.
We understand that during the Powell tenure at State, OIG reported to Secretary Powell through Deputy Secretary Armitage. We could not confirm this but it makes sense to us that the inspector general reports above the under secretary level. It demonstrates the importance the Secretary of State place on accountability — the IG reports directly to him through his Management and Resources deputy; the only D/MR in the whole wide world. What’s not to like about that?
Seven months after the deadly terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, the State Department says it has reorganized itself so that security concerns rise more quickly to the top and risks are more thoroughly assessed.
But some of the most substantive changes promised in the wake of the attack — including more Marines to protect U.S. embassies, a bigger diplomatic security staff, and more reliable local guards and translators for high-risk posts — will not take effect for months or even years.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry, whose budget testimony Wednesday will mark his first appearance before Congress since taking office, plans to tell lawmakers that the department has taken action on all 24 recommendations made by an independent board that reviewed the Benghazi incident, a senior administration official said.
But the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity before Kerry’s public statement, drew a distinction between those matters that have been resolved and those on which implementation has barely begun.
“Some take some time to accomplish,” the official said.
Republicans on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, for instance, were seized with the “lies” told by administration officials during the presidential race about the nature of the attack and its perpetrators’ possible links to al- Qaeda. Only one committee member (a Democrat) focused on an actual step to improve security, asking if Kerry supported a bill to allow the department to hire local security guards on the basis of the best-value, rather than lowest, bid.
This is a shame, because history suggests that the State Department isn’t going to fix the security challenges it faces without strong support and scrutiny. More fundamentally, as threats grow and budgets decline, Congress needs to vigorously debate the best way for the U.S. to conduct diplomacy in dangerous places.
Ferreting out a supposed White House election-year coverup might have immediate partisan appeal, but it won’t advance the safety of U.S. diplomats in the future.
A few weeks ago, Gordon Adams, professor of international relations at the School of International Service at American University and Distinguished Fellow at the Stimson Center argued why senators shouldn’t head the Pentagon or Foggy Bottom. (see FP, Running Hills, December 20). His piece was published in December before Senator Kerry’s nomination was officially announced (Kerry was officially nominated December 21) and as Chuck Hagel went through the ignomious process of being made a piñata before actually being officially nominated for the SecDef position (his official nomation is expected to be announced on January 7).
The departing secretaries have done many good things, but neither has truly tackled the requirements of waning resources. DOD hates and fears a drawdown — it means choices have to be made and priorities set. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has started that process, somewhat reluctantly, in his relatively short tenure, but has not acknowledged the reality that real cuts are coming and that the budget will not hold at the growth with inflation level he currently projects. As for Hillary Clinton over in Foggy Bottom, she peered over the edge of State’s (and USAID’s) internal problems in the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) but made few fundamental changes. There is little State or USAID planning for the decline in resources that is coming.
We are at an inflection point in both agencies, and the budgetary piper is calling the policy and management tune. The question is whether either Hagel or Kerry have internalized that reality and are prepared for the tough internal leadership both institutions will need over the next four years. There are hard decisions to be made about personnel, acquisitions, and future strategy — decisions that will require taking on baronies and fiefdoms while minding the management store.
The problem at State goes deeper. Management has never been Foggy Bottom’s strong suit, and its shrinking reputation for effectiveness bears witness to that reality. The only secretaries who truly focused on how the department worked were Larry Eagleburger and Colin Powell; the rest have hunkered down on the seventh floor and let the building grind on with minimal attention. Clinton has been there long enough to try to make a dent in the reform of State Department management. QDDR notwithstanding, it was not much of a dent; most of the challenges remain for the next incumbent.
State’s management issues are even more serious, because the building has given short shrift to management for decades.
First, the budget and planning system at State has only barely begun to be created. Foggy Bottom still cannot do long-term planning, meaning it still struggles with accurately forecasting the costs of its programs and projects. A budget office was created in 2005 and has struggled for seven years to gain control over a sprawling bureaucracy, devoid of budget and resource planners. Moreover, that budget office only has responsibility for programs, like Economic Support Funds, Foreign Military Financing, and counternarcotics operations, not for State’s management or for personnel budgets; those belong to the undersecretary for management. In other words, the undersecretary (and the director general of the Foreign Service) oversee things like building security, training, and promotions, while the planning for programs is handled over at the budget office. The two are not connected in any official way, so putting programs and people needs together is almost impossible. The new secretary badly needs to back up and strengthen this budget and planning capability. Senators like Kerry, who have not been appropriators or passed full budget bills will be challenged, but the budget and planning system will not get better without secretary-level support.
Second, U.S. foreign-policy institutions are a diaspora of organizations. State only owns a bit; its relationship with USAID is strained, even though USAID reports its budget through State (and Clinton’s QDDR strengthened USAID’s semi-autonomous capability — needed, but it poses a continuing coordination challenge). Treasury owns the international development banks programs; the Millennium Challenge Corporation splits the foreign aid portfolio; Peace Corps, EXIM Bank, OPIC, TDA — this alphabet soup of independent agencies further fragments the portfolio and weakens America’s civilian statecraft. Will a senator have the skills to work the kinks out of this system?
Third, in the 21st century, America’s civilian statecraft needs a makeover. This is a human resources issue. For centuries, the task of a diplomat has been to represent, report, negotiate, and advise. Today, all those things are needed — and U.S. diplomats are the best at this — but also much, much more. They have to run programs (foreign assistance, counternarcotics, anti-terrorism), support stronger governance through the embassies (nation-building), help prevent and resolve conflicts, carry out public diplomacy, manage budgets, and persuade Congress to keep the taps open. The Foreign Service is only at the edge of this revolution in competence; the department lacks a comprehensive training program, especially as a career progresses, and officers who serve in non-traditional billets (political-military affairs, development, public diplomacy, management) find they are still sidelined for promotion. This is nitty-gritty personnel stuff, but critical to the long-term sustainability of America’s diplomacy. It is not the normal grist for the senatorial mill.
These are only a few of the management challenges the next two secretaries will face. But as resources shrink in both departments, there will be a crying need for tough, smart, experienced leadership at the top. We can get a drawdown right, but we will need leaders who understand these needs, even more than we do leaders who understand policy issues. The task of running huge, complex bureaucracies like the State Department and the Pentagon is about much more than just showing up and making policy — now more than ever. If they want these positions, Kerry and Hagel are going to have to prove that they are ready manage, roll up their sleeves, put on their green eyeshades, and get to work inside their respective buildings.
Click here to read on revamping the Foreign Service from 27-year FS veteran, Dr. Jon P. Dorschner. Click here to read Political Officer Tyler Sparks’ piece on Overhauling the EER Process, FSJ Sept 2012, p.17
Click here to read Ambassador John Price on why The State Department Culture Needs to Change via Diplomatic Courier
Given the smoke signals coming from the Hill, it is almost certain that Senator Kerry will sail through his nomination painlessly.
So the challenge then becomes not only how to manage The Building, but also bringing in the right senior people into the Kerry bus to deal — with the secretary’s full support — the management challenges within the State Department.
For all the reasons that Mr. Adams described above and more, the new secretary of State will need an effective Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources (D/MR). We presume that Senator Kerry will have some leeway on his picks for his deputies. This position currently incumbered by Thomas Nides, and previously occupied by Jack Lew (rumored to be the next Treasury secretary) is the Chief Operating Officer of the Department. Somebody told me recently, “Jack Lew did a great job, but got sideswiped by Afghanistan.” With the drawdown in Afghanistan looming large, the next D/MR could get sideswiped again by the same culprit.
The COO is not only the principal adviser to the Secretary on overall supervision and direction of resource allocation and management activities he/she also has responsibility for the overall direction, coordination and supervision of operational programs of the State Department, including foreign aid and civilian response programs.
As an aside — whatever happened to the Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources (F) which supposedly ensures the strategic and effective allocation, management, and use of foreign assistance resources? Who knows?! It lost its teeth and for the last four years has been on D/MR’s orbit. Meanwhile, USAID hangs on trying hard not to get swallowed by State. How many agencies and offices are doing foreign aid again?
Another crucial office is the Under Secretary for Management (M). The Under Secretary for Management leads the bureaus of Administration, Consular Affairs, Diplomatic Security, Director General of the Foreign Service/Human Resources, Information Resource Management, and Overseas Buildings Operations, the Foreign Service Institute, the Office of Medical Services, the Office of Management Policy, the Office of Rightsizing the U.S. Government’s Overseas Presence, and the White House Liaison.
The cogs in the the domestic and global wheels of the Foreign Service tightens or comes apart under this bureau. The incumbent Patrick Kennedy has been on this job since 2007. Remains to be seen if he will be asked to stay on or if he’ll ship out to an overseas assignment. Retired FSO, Peter Van Buren, who is not/not a fan of Mr. Kennedy notes in his blog that the later’s last overseas posting with the exception of a Chief of Staff stint with the CPA in Baghdad 2003-2004, was in 1991 in Egypt.
For those who might argue that State does not have a management problem, all you need to do is look at its performance evaluation process. By one FSO’s account, an extremely conservative estimate on the number of hours spent on one Employee Evaluation Report (EER) is 15 hours. Multiply that with 12,000 members of the Foreign Service who are rated each year, and you get 180,000 hours; an equivalent of 22,500 workdays, 61 calendar years or 90 working years.
The FSO writes that “The entire process derails so much of our work, and results in such a poor product, that it would surely shame our institution if its excesses were truly known by the general public.”
If your staff spends the equivalent of ninety years of work just to complete their own performance reviews, then Houston, you got a real problem. And that brings us to the one other office that we fell feel definitely needs to be filled asap in Obama 2.0, that of the Office of the Inspector General. This is, of course, not a Kerry call but President Obama’s call. The State Department has not had an Inspector General since January 16, 2008. The last time we looked, the Project on Government Oversight’s Watchdog Tracker still ranks the State Department #1 in number of days the position has been vacant — 1,817 days and counting.
His political campaign may have imploded post-Greek isle cruise, donors may have deserted him and Callista, but Newt Gingrich promises to “endure the challenges” and slog on with his presidential campaign.
Over the weekend, he gave an address to a Jewish group, promising no less that he’d move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem on his first day in office, resurrecting USIA to fight the battle of ideas once more, and oh yeah, restructuring the U.S. Department of State, too.
#1. As a demonstration of this new resolve, the United States should move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Israel has every right as a sovereign free nation to choose its own capitol and we should respect that choice. As President, on my first day in office, I would issue an executive order directing the U.S. embassy in Israel to be moved to Jerusalem as provided for in the legislation I introduced in Congress in 1995.
#5. We must also re-establish the United States Information Agency as a robustly funded worldwide anti-terrorism and pro-freedom communications and advocacy system. The USIA fought for our side in the war of ideas during the Cold War and helped us win.
In 1999, this agency was dismantled because we thought the war of ideas was over. We discovered on 9/11 that it was not.
The USIA helped America win the Cold War and it can help us win the war against evil terrorist organizations and dictatorships. But to do this we must ensure that the USIA once again has independent board of governors reporting to the President and coordinating with the State Department but not controlled by the diplomats.
8. All of this will require a restructured State Department, a new level of training and management for Ambassadors, a new promotion system, and a profound shift in the culture of the Foreign Service. The quickest way to change the culture at the State Department is to inject new blood into the system. We must engage in fundamental reform of the overly slow and bureaucratic security clearance system to raise the level of applicants to the Foreign Service.
Change on this scale will be bitterly fought by the old guard at State and their media allies. It will require a strong, experienced, and knowledgeable Secretary of State and a deeply committed team around him.
My campaign website newt.org contains a detailed document outlining the other changes that will be necessary to transform the State Department’s historic aversion to moral clarity about the difference between terrorism and civilization, which have weakened both the United States and Israel.
I am, of course, a sucker for detailed documents that seek to transform the State Department. So I followed the link and here is what I found:
That’s an article by former UN Ambassador John Bolton in the WSJ dated June 3, 2011. Oh, maaaan!
The second link in the Newtster’s website is to the “Hart-Rudman Commission recommendations on State Department reform.” The link takes you to a 10 years old document of the Commission titled –“Volume V – Department of State”, a 229 page long addendum on “structure and process analysis” which contains outdated org charts, stats and backgrounders dating back to the late 1990s. A quick scan does not indicate that this volume even contains the suggested reforms from 10 years ago, only “observations” of selected bureaus. Which by the way, does not have a separate section for “M” as in management.
Oh dear! Did anyone from the campaign actually read Volume V before they linked to it?
This strikes me as rather odd for someone of Gingrich’s stature: The Newster calls for reforms in the State Department but has not bothered to look under the rocks?
Seriously. A 392-word “detailed document” which includes this:
The quickest way to change this culture is to inject new blood into the system. The overly slow and bureaucratic security clearance system must be fixed to raise the level of applicants to the Foreign Service. The promotion system of the State Department, which like in many bureaucracies, is known to favor mediocrity and discourage creative thinking, also requires fundamental reform.
Change on this scale will be bitterly fought by the old guard at State and their media allies. It will require a knowledgeable and strong Secretary of State and a deeply committed team around him.
The Newtster says, “security clearance system must be fixed to raise the level of applicants to the Foreign Service.”
Holy mother of goat — what the heck is he talking about?
Wait, wait, that preceding paragraph sounds a lot like his speech at the Jewish Coalition, too.
If that’s not cut and paste, he must just really, really like that section. Or perhaps his speech writer quit, too?
Anyway, a strong Secretary of State? Sounds like SoS John Bolton under a Gingrich Administration, you betcha!
Unless, of course, Mr. Bolton also runs for president. And he might yet do that, and then Mr. Gingrich would have to find another strong SoS. Or they could agree ahead of time that whoever loses the presidential run gets to restructure the State Department. Sounds only fair.
I have no objection to restructuring this agency or that, even the State Department, if it makes the organization works more effectively. But I’d like to know that the Newtster actually knows what he is talking about and not just engaging in political panhandling.
As I was putting this up, I see that the EU ministers have condemned the bloody crackdown on protesters. Via ABC news:
We condemn the repression against peaceful demonstrators and deplore the violence and the death of civilians,” said a statement issued after a meeting of European foreign ministers.
“The EU urges the authorities to exercise restraint and calm and to immediately refrain from further use of violence against peaceful demonstrators,” the ministers said, adding that “the legitimate aspirations and demands of the people for reform” must be addressed through dialogue.
Note that these words of condemnation (not even actions) did not sit well with the Libyan regime who has warned the EU against lending vocal support to the protesters. AlertNet Reuters reports that “The Hungarian ambassador was called in in Libya on Thursday and was given the message that Libya is going to suspend cooperation with the EU on immigration issues if the EU keeps making statements in support of Libyan pro-democracy protests,” a spokesman for Hungary, which holds the EU’s rotating six-month presidency, said.
Apparently, Libya has frequently threatened to cancel cooperation with the EU on illegal migration in the past. In December, a minister said Libya would scale back efforts to stem the flow of migrants unless the EU paid 5 billion euros ($6.8 billion) a year.
The International Organization for Migration estimates that migrants from across Africa account for about 10 percent of Libya’s six million population, although only a minority of those attempt to travel on to Europe to find work.Tens of thousands of illegal migrants try to make the journey from the northern coasts of Tunisia and Libya to islands off Italy every year, with hundreds having to be rescued by Italy’s coastguard and housed in migration centres.The European Commission said in October it would spend 50 million euros to help Libya tackle illegal migration and protect migrants’ rights.
Just after midnight in WDC on Sunday, Reuters is reporting that the US has issued its strongest condemnation yet of Libya’s violent crackdown on protesters, citing what it called credible reports of hundreds of deaths and injuries and threatening to take “all appropriate actions” in response. Libya will surely have a come back for that. I suspect that the ordered departure for US personnel in Tripoli can happen quickly.
This is horrifying to watch, a government that turned against the peaceful assembly of its people. Yesterday, Bahrain’s government was reported as saying it used proportional force against the demonstrators. I hate to imagine what its disproportional force looks like.
Today, the BDF was ordered to leave the Pearl Roundabout and the crowd has surged back. Here is an update via NYT:
The government had ceded the square before, on Wednesday, only to return with a deadly assault on Thursday. On Friday, the army opened fire on a group of about 1,000 peaceful demonstrators trying to walk into the square.
The varying responses appeared to reflect an inner turmoil within the government to grapple with a response to the uprising. The confrontation on Friday, with the Bahrain Defense Forces firing on Bahraini citizens in plain light, seemed to be the shock that forced a change in the government’s approach.
On Saturday, it was Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, the son of the king and deputy commander of the military, who ordered troops to leave the square.
We don’t know what exactly President Obama said to the king in his call last night, but we do know that the White House was talking about suspending military licensing to Bahrain. This may have been a case where American pressure helped avert a tragedy and aligned us with people power in a way that in the long run will be good for Bahrain and America alike.
Americans will worry about what comes next, if people power does prevail, partly because Gulf rulers have been whispering warnings about Iranian-influence and Islamists taking over. Look, democracy is messy. But there’s no hint of anti-Americanism out there, and people treated American journalists as heroes because we reflect values of a free press that they aspire to achieve for their country. And at the end of the day, we need to stand with democracy rather than autocracy if we want to be on the right side of history.
To follow the protests sweeping the Middle East and North Africa, check out our list in Twitter:
Nicholas Kristof‘s December 25 column talks about The Big (Military) Taboo. Excerpt:
I’m a believer in a robust military, which is essential for backing up diplomacy. But the implication is that we need a balanced tool chest of diplomatic and military tools alike. Instead, we have a billionaire military and a pauper diplomacy. The U.S. military now has more people in its marching bands than the State Department has in its foreign service — and that’s preposterous.
What’s more, if you’re carrying an armload of hammers, every problem looks like a nail. The truth is that military power often isn’t very effective at solving modern problems, like a nuclear North Korea or an Iran that is on the nuclear path. Indeed, in an age of nationalism, our military force is often counterproductive.
Paradoxically, it’s often people with experience in the military who lead the way in warning against overinvestment in arms. It was President Dwight Eisenhower who gave the strongest warning: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” And in the Obama administration, it is Defense Secretary Robert Gates who has argued that military spending on things large and small can and should expect closer, harsher scrutiny; it is Secretary Gates who has argued most eloquently for more investment in diplomacy and development aid.
There are a few signs of hope in the air. The Simpson-Bowles deficit commission proposes cutting money for armaments, along with other spending. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled a signature project, the quadrennial diplomacy and development review, which calls for more emphasis on aid and diplomacy in foreign policy.
“Leading through civilian power saves lives and money,” Mrs. Clinton noted, and she’s exactly right. The review is a great document, but we’ll see if it can be implemented — especially because House Republicans are proposing cuts in the State Department budget.
Active links added above. Read the whole thing here.
Our guess — no. Even if somebody grows a pair, and change all that needs changing, it is political harakiri. You will die a very painful death where you will be called a bunch of nasty names all the way to your graveyard, and even as they shovel dirt over you. And then you die. And life as we know it, will go on as the world turns.
We’ve become a great cynic in my odd years of old. We think that diplomacy will remain a pauper and the billionaire military complex is here to stay. And we will fight these forever wars, until, well — until they take away all our checks and all our credit cards. And when nobody is willing to accept our IOUs anymore. That would make us very poor and very sad.
Not our fault we’re feeling so totally purple blue these days. It’s this awful cold weather and this Kristof talking on and on about this old taboo. The new year is just around the corner and we can’t even feel festive about the military pork set aside for our home states? Ay caramba!
Meanwhile, former UN Ambassador John Bolton, who is reportedly one of those eying the wide Republican field for 2012 has something important to say about the defense budget and the ballooning deficit: Via
“I think you’ve got to be just as much on the outlook for waste and fraud on defense spending as anywhere else, but the fact is we’re entering a very uncertain period in the world. We’ve got a lot of threats out there that we’re not prepared for. Not just nuclear proliferation, but chemical and biological weapons…. This is not the time to cut back. I understand there’s a lot of pressure to get deficits down. I’m all in favor of it. But national security comes first, pure and simple, as far as I’m concerned.”
Now that absolutely just cheer us up. Cut everything — schools, health care, medicare, etc. etc. etc. Everything. EXCEPT the untouchable pot of gold — in the name of defense.
Pray tell, who’s going to defend us from ourselves?