The Best Lines From “10 Ways to Fix America’s Ailing State Department”

Posted: 1:56 am EDT
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Joseph Cassidy served 25 years in the Foreign Service. He joined the Service in 1989 and previously served in Georgetown, Nairobi, Windhoek, OSCE, USUN and Baghdad. He also served at IO, DRL, the WH, and as Special Assistant to P, INR and the Executive Secretariat. His most immediate assignment prior to retirement this past spring is Director of Policy and Regional and Functional Organizations at the Bureau of International Organizations.  He pens 10 fixes for America’s ailing State Department in Foreign Policy’s Argument column.

Here are the best lines, in no particular order, from his FP piece; in technicolor font, of course, because, why not?

1. “[I]t’s not clear what authority remains for State, other than delivering the diplomatic mail.”

2. “The regional bureau assistant secretaries occupy sixth floor offices beneath the secretary, and the functional bureau assistant secretaries fight like cats in a bag for the next best real estate.”

Image from xlestatx72.tumblr.com via buzzfeed

Image from xlestatx72.tumblr.com via buzzfeed

3. “There are certain exceptions to the rule that upper floors are closer to God (including some temporarily semi-powerful special envoys slumming it on the lower floors), but employees below the sixth floor can’t help but feel like passengers berthed in steerage on the Titanic.”

4. “This centralization of diplomatic interactions by senior officials who are not subject matter experts is a particular temptation at State because high-level diplomacy is, well, fun.”

5. “It is no wonder that senior officials are reticent, even if unconsciously, to devolve responsibility down, or that too many “kiss-up, kick-down” style mid-level managers covet that high-level life and manage as if their subordinates exist only to make them look good.”

6. “Limiting their numbers, and cutting the large number of semi-independent special envoys, can help restore a more sustainable hierarchy, instead of what we have now, which is like fielding a soccer team with nine strikers clustered around the opponent’s goal, and a goalie and single defender lonely in the backfield.”

7. “If the intent is to simultaneously demonstrate haughty disdain and weaselly incompetence, the midday press briefing ritual — badgering reporters cornering a backpedaling, defensive State spokesperson — is the perfect vehicle.”

YouTube is littered with fine examples

8. “[D]ecisions by the sorting hat don’t always match an officer’s interests and experience. And, like trying to move from Hufflepuff to Ravenclaw, changing one’s cone can be as unpleasant as the semiofficial department term for it: “conal rectification.”

9. “The department does have senior leaders with broad talents. But we also have too many who write beautifully but couldn’t organize a grade school lunch line. Others can speak authoritatively, but lack reporting experience beyond writing an annual holiday card, or can balance a budget but possess diplomatic skills more likely to produce enemies than allies for the United States.”

10. “Gryffindor’s quidditch team didn’t operate on the principle of “One Team, Multiple Systems” and neither should State.”

11. “Like the pack dogs in the movie Up constantly distracted by squirrels, too many senior officials spend too much time preoccupied with the urgent rather than the important.”

12. “State’s organizational culture is antiquate and inefficient, concentrating decisionmaking in the hands of a few extremely overburdened top officials.”

via Canadian FS Problems

via Canadian FS Problems

13.  “Every large organization should be on guard against groupthink among key leaders and morale problems stemming from their isolation from average employees.”

14. “We need to unlearn the harmful axiom that only senior State officials with broad mandates can and should think strategically.”

Read the full article at FP here (registration maybe required).

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Burn Bag: On OIG Embassy Reports, Any Good Ones?

Via Burn Bag:

We read a lot about negative OIG embassy reports — are there any positive ones?

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Photo of the Day: Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Conducts Embassy Reinforcement Training

Posted: 12:27 am EDT
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via Marines.mil

A U.S. Marine with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa emplaces a machine gun on the roof of a notional American Embassy during a training exercise in the urban training facility in Baumholder, Germany, July 6, 2015. More than 78 Marines and sailors conducted the full-mission rehearsal, which demonstrated the unit’s ability to rapidly deploy and conduct embassy reinforcement. (Photo from marines.mil)

U.S. Marines and sailors with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa (SPMAGTF) from Sigonella, Italy, conducted a training exercise at an Army training facility in Baumholder, Germany serving as a simulated American Embassy on July 6-9, 2015.

According to marines.mil, the full-mission rehearsal demonstrated the unit’s ability to deploy to conduct embassy reinforcement and validate the communications capability of the platoon. More than 78 members of the SPMAGTF patrolled the urban training facility, and set up communication and defenses to protect the notional American personnel and assets.

“This is the type of mission is what we’ve been training to since before we deployed to Sigonella,said Staff Sgt. Edward Erdmann, the platoon sergeant. “The training was a good test for the Marines because they didn’t know what to expect, and the unexpected is what we need to train to.” A team of Army Green Berets provided the opposing force for the Marines securing the embassy.

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