Posted: 3:14 am EST
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Below is an excerpt from Richard E. Thompson’s Oral History interview conducted by Raymond Ewing on April 16, 2001. He had been to every place with a US presence including the longest trip he did as a diplomatic courier to West Africa that took 59 days. Mr. Thompson joined the State Department as a diplomatic courier in 1965. He retired in 1997. We are currently in an upcycle but no doubt, the down cycle is only a few years away.
It was Vice President Gore’s Strategic Management Initiative, SMI, reinventing government. As part of his Strategic Management Initiative our assistant secretary, Tony Quainton, decided that we would cut down the frequency of courier service throughout the world. Sometimes we would cut down where we would have courier service twice a week, we would cut down to once every other week. It was an enormous, enormous slice. And so, as a consequence, we had to change everything around, all of our schedules, everything had to be changed around. So what we did, we sent individually tailored telegrams around to every post in the world, telling them what we intended to do and asking them if they had any input or any objections or any problems with it. We put in the telegram that this was from the highest level, Vice President Gore, that we were mandating this. And we got all of these telegrams back and we made up a series of hypothetical trips to accomplish this downsizing and it took several months. I was involved in meeting with very senior people. I chaired these meetings, explaining to them how this would affect them. Then, as a practical matter, I had to deal with the regional diplomatic courier officers who were afraid that they would not be able to handle such bulk because if you only go every other week instead of twice a week, you are going to have heavy loads, and you already have heavy loads to such an extent that sometimes it couldn’t even get on these airplanes. So we had to establish a series of backup flights and new schedules for the courier service throughout the whole world as a result. So we downsized. We were able to eliminate jobs. We eliminated six jobs in our organization because of this, and we pulled it off quite well, I thought. Sometimes we had to charter planes. We didn’t entirely agree with this because we could see that is was not really going to save a lot of money because we would simply have to move material other ways at more expense. But we accomplished this. Then about two years later, when they had the bombings in Nairobi, they decided to beef up the Bureau of Diplomatic Security again. These things go in cycles. So they decided they were going to increase the frequency of courier service. So, we had to start all over again and start hiring more people and increase the frequency, where before we were going once a week we would go twice a week to some places. So we had a complete switch.
This happened throughout my career in government. You would see these things going on. The interesting thing was that some of the people who took credit for that first downsizing also took credit, these same individuals, also took credit when we increased the service, because they were increasing the efficiency in both cases.
Read in full here.