Insider Quote: Replacing the Culture of Equity

The organizational structure, incentives, cultures, and cadres which characterized State 25 years ago are little changed and must be modernized. Operational modes and standards need to reflect the realities of twenty-first century global competition. For that to occur, an across the board “culture of excellence” will need to replace the “culture of equity” that has, among other things, allowed functional illiteracy and poor performance to become too broadly accepted as a norm among many categories of State’s employees.

Stephanie Kinney

Needed: A Unitary Diplomatic Service of the United States of America
American Diplomacy │ January 2009

This is not pretty but I think it’s a “must-read.” Kinney is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer with extensive service at embassies in Europe and Latin America and was Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism in the State Department. Since retirement, she has worked as a consultant on change management. She holds MA degrees from the National Defense University and Harvard, and a BA from Vassar. She also authored Developing Diplomats for 2010: If Not Now, When?

Quickie: An FSO’s Dad Pitches for Diplomacy

On Friday, Joe Klein posted Diplomacy First at Swampland.

I don’t think enough has been said about the importance of Barack Obama’s appearance at the State Department yesterday–the message it sent to the world and also to our foreign service. It was wonderful to see the President at Foggy Bottom on his first full day in office: such appearances are rare, especially compared to the frequency of presidential visits to the Pentagon. The symbolic message was clear: diplomacy will take precedence over the use of force in this administration (although the judicious use of force will continue, as evidenced by the Predator strike in northwest Pakistan yesterday).


Another word about Holbrooke: I thought his personal memories of first arriving at the State Department as a junior foreign service officer in the 1960s were quite moving, as was his acknowledgment of his old Saigon roomate, the departing Deputy Secretary John Negroponte. He was also right to note the importance of the President’s presence to the oft-neglected career foreign service.

Then Joe admits to a conflict of interest:

I have something of a conflict of interest here: my son is a foreign service officer. As a father and as a citizen, it’s good to see America’s diplomats given the opportunity to take their rightful place, front and center in our foreign policy once again.

In the comment portion, somebody named hickoryduck says: “Seeing State employees basically cheering was sort of bizarre. Jeez, it’s like they’ve been locked in a basement for 8 years.”

Speaking of that State reception last week, Scott Horton of Harpers writes that “the reaction of State Department employees as Hillary Clinton arrived this morning apparently bears comparison to the liberation of Paris at the end of World War II.”

Any other historical comparison out there?

Related Item:
Can Clinton and Her Envoys Rebuild U.S. Diplomacy?

Secretary Clinton at USAID

Last week, Secretary Clinton also made a stop and gave a speech at the USAID HQ at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC. Below are a few excerpts from her remarks. So far no video of the event appears to be available online but the whole text is here. * Video is now here (updated 1/26).

And I wanted to come here today with a very simple message: I believe in development, and I believe with all my heart that it truly is an equal partner, along with defense and diplomacy, in the furtherance of America’s national security. (Applause.)


What I’m hoping to do as your Secretary of State is to work with USAID to provide the kind of leadership and support that will give you the tools you desperately need in order to fulfill the missions we are asking you to perform. We are asking you to do more and more with less, and my goal is to make sure we match the mission and the resources. It will be very difficult for us to expect you to perform at the very high level of professionalism that we will expect, without providing you the resources to do the job we ask you to do. (Applause.)

As I said yesterday in the State Department, we are going to work toward robust diplomacy. And I challenged my colleagues in the State Department to think more broadly, more deeply, outside the proverbial box, to let us know the ideas you have that will make what you do more effective for us. And I offer the same challenge to all of you here at USAID. I know that for some of you, this has been not just a career, but a labor of love, and that sometimes it hasn’t been easy, but that you have stayed with this mission because of your conviction of its importance. But I am asking you now to help us help you to be more effective.


Maybe because I have been in the public eye and in the political world for what seems like a very long time now – (laughter) – I welcome debate and I am respectful of dissent, and then I expect everybody, once we’ve made a decision, to work as hard as you can to get the job done. But I want to know from you what we need to do to make sure that USAID assumes once again the global leadership role you deserve it to have in the delivery of development assistance. (Applause.)


So this will be a lot of hard work. But you know, one of my all-time favorite movies, A League of Their Own, has this great scene where the Geena Davis character has decided, you know, her husband’s come home from the war, he was injured, they’re in the playoffs, and she just goes to Tom Hanks, the broken-down, drunken coach – that’s not an analogy, I’m just describing his role – (laughter) – and says, “You know, I’ve got to go home. I just can’t do this anymore. It is just too hard.” And Tom Hanks says, “Well, it’s supposed to be hard. If it weren’t hard, anybody could do it.”

More photos from her USAID stop here.