The Last Time @StateDept Had a 27% Budget Cut, Congress Killed ACDA and USIA

Posted: 4:39 am ET
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Reporting for the Washington Post in 1996, Thomas Lippman wrote that “The total budget for civilian international programs, the so-called 150 account, started to decline in the mid-1980s. It leveled off during the Bush administration, then resumed a downward slide in President Clinton’s first year.” He noted that “the relentless budget pressure that began in the mid-1980s accelerated with the Clinton administration’s deficit-reduction plan, forcing the closing of consulates, aid missions, libraries, cultural centers and even a few entire embassies, from Italy to Indonesia, from Antigua to Thailand” (see U.S. Diplomacy’s Presence Shrinking).

Bill Clinton was elected President of the United States defeating incumbent George H. W. Bush in 1992Warren M. Christopher was nominated Secretary of State by then President-elect Clinton in December 1992.  Christopher was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on January 20, 1993, and sworn in the next day. Two months into the new administration, Secretary Christopher made his first official congressional appearance as Secretary of State before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State, and Judiciary House Appropriations Committee to talk about redirecting American foreign policy, refocusing the aid budgets, and reforming institutions.

Secretary Christopher at that time said that “American foreign policy in the years ahead will be grounded in what President Clinton has called the three “pillars” of our national interest:  first, revitalizing our economy; second, updating our  security forces for a new era; and, third, protecting democracy as the  best means to protect our own national security while expanding the  reach of freedom, human rights, prosperity, and peace.”  He talked about Saddam Hussein, “If the lawlessness of [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein has taught us any single lesson, it is that weapons of mass destruction, especially when combined  with missile technology, can transform a petty tyrant into a threat to world peace and stability.” Secretary Christopher talked about the State Department budget, “It will be a tough budget for tough times.  It will be a flexible budget that seeks austerity, not as a hardship to be endured but as a challenge to innovate and do our job  better.  Above all, we hope that this budget will mark a transitional step to a truly focused budget that sets priorities and puts resources behind them.”

Oh, brother where are ya?

In February 1993, Secretary Christopher also sent a  message to State Department employees on the Implementation Directive on Reorganization.  Two months into the Trump Administration, and days after the OMB released Trump’s “skinny budget” we have yet to hear from Secretary Tillerson on where the State Department go from here.  We know that he supports the budget cuts for his department, and he has made no public effort of defending the funding and programs for his agency but the top diplomat of the United States still has not articulated the foreign policy priorities of this administration. If Secretary Tillerson has sent a message to his troops in Foggy Bottom, we have yet to hear about it or its contents.

The proposed FY18 budget slashes the international affairs budget by 28% or 36% with Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) funding factored in.  If passed by Congress, what happens to That Three-Legged Stool of American Foreign Policy?  As diplomacy and development will be hobbled by cuts, are we going to see an exponential growth in private contractors in support of DOD, diplomacy and development? Or are we going to just see staffing gaps and reduced diplomatic footprints from Algeria to Zimbabwe?

In Tillerson’s recent interview with IJR, he said about the State Department budget that “One can say it’s not going to happen in one year, and it’s not.”

He’s right.  The cuts may happen this year, and next year, and every fiscal year thereafter.  It sounds to us like an “American First” foreign policy does not see much use for diplomacy.  So we expect that the State Department budget will continue to be targeted during the entire Trump term. But if history is any indication, the decisions made today will have repercussions for our country down the road. Back in 1993, Secretary Christopher said, “when the time eventually comes to restore diplomatic relations with Iran, Iraq, Somalia and Libya, the money and personnel for those posts probably will have to come out of existing resources, officials said, thus increasing the pressure to close marginal posts elsewhere.” In 1996, the then Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) director John D. Holum warned that the agency “no longer has a U.S. technical expert assigned to the U.N. weapons inspection team in Iraq.”  

With the exception of Iran, we are back in Iraq, and Somalia, and we know what happened in Libya.  We don’t grow diplomats overnight. Expertise and diplomatic muscle grow with time, with every assignment, with every challenge. What happens when the next crisis erupts in Asia? Can we just pluck diplomats and development experts from the OPM growth chamber?  Or are we going to have a civilian surge once more with diplomats lacking experience and language skills thrown into a pit and then expected to do an effective job?

Remember, do you remember?

We should note that the Democrats had control of the House and the Senate after the 1992 elections but the midterm elections in 1994 resulted in a net gain of 54 seats in the House of Representatives for the GOP, and a pickup of eight seats in the Senate. That was the Gingrich Revolution.  By the way, R.C. Hammond who previously served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich (a vocal Trump ally) is now a communications adviser for Secretary Tillerson.

WaPo reported that between 1993-1996 “the State Department has cut more than 2,000 employees and shuttered consulates in 26 foreign cities. The Agency for International Development (AID), which runs foreign aid programs, has been hit especially hard by the Republican-controlled Congress and has closed 23 missions overseas.”

In 1995, according to NYT: The U.S. ambassadors to Italy, France, Britain, Spain, the E.U., Germany, Russia and NATO reportedly got together and sent a secret cable to Secretary Christopher, signed by all of them, telling him that the “delivery system” of U.S. foreign policy was being destroyed by budget cuts. They pleaded with him to mobilize those constituencies in the U.S. that value the work of embassies, and volunteered to come to Washington to testify before Congress in their defense. The ambassadors got a polite note back from Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott, telling them he understood their concerns but that there was a new mood in Congress. There was no invitation to testify.

The State Department at that time reportedly also promoted the concept of “diplomatic readiness,” similar to military readiness, “in hopes of persuading Congress to divert some money from the defense budget into diplomacy and foreign aid — activities that, in the diplomats’ view, save money over time by reducing the need for military actions.”

More than 100 businesses, trade associations, law firms and volunteer groups did organize a “Campaign to Preserve U.S. Global Leadership” without much success.

And this despite the fact that a 1994 GAO study indicates that only 38 percent of the U.S. government personnel in embassies work for the State Department, while 36 percent work for the Pentagon, 5 percent for Justice and 3 percent for Transportation. The other 18 percent includes representatives of the Treasury, Agriculture and Commerce departments.  We don’t know what is the current breakdown of federal agencies operating overseas under the State Department umbrella but if the Trump Administration starts turning off the lights in Africa, or Asia for instance, that could also prove problematic for the Pentagon.

What a 27% budget cut looked like for the international affairs budget?

By Fall 1995, the State Department released a Q&A on the International Affairs Budget–A Sound Investment in Global Leadership.  It includes the following:

Q. Since most Americans favor reducing government spending to balance the federal budget, have the State Department and other foreign affairs  agencies done anything to cut costs?

A. Yes, the Administration has done a great deal to cut costs. We have already:

— Cut the foreign assistance budget request by 20%;

–Trimmed more than 1,100 jobs at the State Department and 600 jobs at  the U.S. Information Agency (USIA);

–Identified, for elimination by 1997, about 2,000 jobs at the U.S.  Agency for International Development (USAID);

–Decreased administrative and overhead costs by $100 million; and

–Closed, or scheduled for closing, 36 diplomatic or consular posts, 10 USIA posts, and 28 USAID missions abroad.

OVERSEAS POSTS CLOSED, 1993-96 Consulates, consulates general and State Department branch offices: Algeria Austria Australia Brazil Colombia Egypt France Germany Indonesia Italy (2) Kenya Martinique Mexico Nigeria Philippines Poland Somalia Spain Switzerland (2) Turkey Thailand (2) Venezuela Zaire Embassies Antigua and Barbuda Comoros Equatorial Guinea Seychelles Solomon Islands. AID missions Afghanistan Argentina Belize Botswana Burkina Faso Cameroon Cape Verde Caribbean region Chad Chile Costa Rica Estonia Ivory Coast Lesotho Oman Pakistan South Pacific Switzerland Thailand Togo Tunisia Uruguay Zaire (via)

According to WaPo in 1996, USAID’s overall work force “has been reduced from 11,500 to 8,700 and is heading down to 8,000. The number of full “sustainable development missions” — on-site teams promoting long-term diversified economic development — declined from 70 at the start of the administration to 30.”

That’s what a 27% budget cut inflected on the international affairs budget did in the 90’s.

By 1999, with the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998, the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) and the United States Information Agency (USIA) were both abolished and folded into the State Department.

Who ya gonna call?

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell was recently quoted saying, “America being a force is a lot more than building up the Defense Department. Diplomacy is important, extremely important, and I don’t think these reductions at the State Department are appropriate.”

According to the Washington Examiner, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn  apparently signaled that President Trump’s initial proposed budget “won’t dictate how the State Department gets funded.” “The president’s budget goes in the waste basket as soon as it gets here,” he said.

We should note that in the 1990s, both houses of Congress (GOP) and a White House under a Democrat worked together to slashed the State Department budget. It was not a question of how much to cut, but where to cut.  This time around, we have a Republican Congress and a Republican White House, but while the WH is gunning for these cuts, the Senate particularly, appears not to be quite on board with the slash and burn cuts.  Still, we are reminded what former Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament Stephen J. Ledogar (1990-1997) noted in his oral history (PDF) — that “Not very many people will admit this, but the administration bowing to Congress on those consolidations was part of the price that was paid by the Clinton administration to Jesse Helms in exchange for him agreeing to let the Chemical Weapons Convention go through the Senate.” 

So … while there are differences in the circumstances during the budget cuts in the 1990’s and the proposed budget cuts in the current and FY18 fiscal years, we are mindful how things can change with the right carrots.

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A Shared Love For Jazz: Kyrgyz Republic’s Jazz Band ‘Salt Peanuts’ Performs at the Kennedy Center

Posted: 12:06 am ET
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The Republic of Kyrgyzstan declared its independence from the Soviet Union on August 31, 1991. The United States recognized Kyrgyzstan’s independence on December 25, 1991. Diplomatic relations were also established on December 25, 1991, when President George H.W. Bush announced the decision in an address to the nation regarding the dissolution of the Soviet Union.  The American Embassy in Bishkek was established on February 1, 1992, with Edmund McWilliams as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.

This year, the Kyrgyz Republic celebrates its 25th Independence Day and 25 year of diplomatic relations with the United States. Below is Kyrgyz’s Salt Peanuts performing at the Kennedy Center on September 10. A shared love for jazz, have a listen — they’re awesome!

 

 

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Ambassador Stephen Bosworth, 76, Dies; Our Man in Manila During the People Power Revolution

Posted: 4:20 am EDT
Updated: 10:30 pm PDT with SecState statement
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Ambassador Bosworth had an extensive career in the United States Foreign Service, including service as Ambassador to Tunisia from 1979-1981 and Ambassador to the Philippines from 1984-1987. He also served in a number of senior positions in the Department of State, including Director of Policy Planning, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Affairs.   Ambassador Bosworth served as the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Korea from November 1997 to February 2001. Most recently, from March 2009 through October 2011, he served as U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy for the Obama Administration.

Ambassador Bosworth entered the Foreign Service in 1961.  He served at S/P from 1983-1984. During the time he was at policy planning, most of that time, according to this ADST oral history, he was no longer in the Foreign Service. He said he retired and came back as a Schedule C employee of the Department of State.

Ambassador Bosworth received his A.B. in 1961 from Dartmouth College. He attended George Washington University from 1965 to 1967. He was born December 4, 1939, in Grand Rapids, MI.

Ambassador Bosworth was interviewed for ADST’s oral history project in 2003. Below is an excerpt of him talking about the late Philippine dictator, Ferdinand Marcos:

Washington was more or less backing us on that. Shultz was backing us very heavily. He saw very clearly that the long term relationship with Marcos had been changed here. Marcos had to change or our relationship had to change, otherwise we were placing our longer term interests in the Philippines at risk because it was not in our interest as having propped Marcos up beyond the time which his own national constituency didn’t any longer want him.
[…]
For the next two days my role consisted primarily of 1) keeping Washington fully informed and 2) warning Marcos directly on the phone that he should not move by force against Enrile and Ramos in a military camp. He should not do anything that would jeopardize the safety of hundreds of thousands of Filipino civilians who were out in the streets supporting Mrs. Aquino and demanding Marcos’ resignation. Finally, over the next couple of days the situation played out so that we issued a statement, the U.S. from Washington, which then transmitted, to Marcos and others saying in effect the time has come you should leave.

[…]
His first words to me were I’m terribly disappointed. You don’t understand. Your government doesn’t understand. This is a military coup and I have to resist it. I said, well, we don’t agree that it’s a military coup any longer. We think that it is something bigger than that. Anyway, these are my instructions. I then got back to him the next day. He was in the palace with his family and his grandchildren. We offered him three alternative routes out. Basically by land and by sea and by air. He opted for the air route and he sent some of his minions and his baggage out by boat. We took him out by helicopter. We took him to Clark where he spent a few hours and then we put him on a plane and he went out first to Guam and then to Hawaii. Of course, he died in exile.
[…]
It was very important to us and to President Reagan in particular that we not allow him to be harassed, that we would give him safe haven basically in the United States, but we wouldn’t let him go back to the Philippines.

1024px-Stephen_W._Bosworth_with_Ferdinand_&_Imelda_Marcos_in_Leyte_1984-10-20

Stephen W. Bosworth, left, US Ambassador to the Philippines, talks with President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda during the reenactment of General Douglas MacArthur’s landing at Red Beach on October 20, 1944. Ambassador Bosworth’s wife is on the right. (DOD Photo by SSGT Marvin D. Lynchard, USAF via Wikipedia)

About Corazon Aquino:

Mrs. Aquino comes to power and a great upsurge of national spirit and good feeling. The U.S. for a time at least was, we were heroes, because we had taken him out. I remember going down to call on her the day after Marcos had left. She was not yet living in the palace. She was in her office in her family’s building. As I came out having exchanged statements of good feeling with her and her principal aides, a big crowd of people on the outside all started cheering for the U.S. and me. It was really kind of an extraordinary experience since I previously used to go into my office at the embassy driving through large crowds of demonstrators all saying, Bosworth go home. Some of them had little clips underneath that Bosworth go home saying and take me with you. Filipinos had a sense of humor if nothing else.
[…]
I remember the embassy country team the morning after she had been inaugurated and sworn in as president. I said, you know, we’re all going to look back on yesterday as the end of a fairly easy era in U.S. Philippines relations because one of the positive things about dealing with a dictatorship is that if it is an effective dictatorship it can run the relationship quite effectively. You may not like what it costs, but when we have a problem we can work it out fairly efficiently. Of course, with a sprawling newborn democracy, that was not possible and the relationship was frequently quite messy.

People as more important than an org chart:

In the end foreign policy is made by people coming together and talking and making decisions. I think there is undoubtedly an influence from domestic constituencies. This is particularly visible in the area of economics and finance, but it is true in all areas. I think each administration, every administration that comes into office determined to somehow organize in making the foreign policy better, there’s always the notion that somehow you can fix problems through the organization chart. In the end I’ve become convinced that people are far more important than the organization chart. It’s how people relate to one another to the degree of which individuals have a vision of where they want to go and are willing to be relentless in their pursuit of those goals. Stamina is in many ways a more important requirement for senior policy makers than is intellectual brilliance. You just have to be prepared to wear them down. Now, I think also the ability to articulate particularly in writing, I’m sorry, orally, what it is you’re trying to do. It’s very important in our system because you’ve got to bring a lot of people along. You have to bring the executive branch along and you have to bring the congress along. You influence the congress not just directly, but through various interests groups and constituents and I think this has been a weakness of the State Department over the years that it has not been very effectively engaged with the American public and has not been seen by large elements of the American public as being in U.S. interests. I think that’s a false accusation, an incorrect accusation, but it still holds.

Training a contemporary diplomat:

I think there is still a tendency to put people in stovepipes. Either an economic officer, or political officer or a consular officer and the opportunities for doing work outside those specializations or cones as I guess they’re still called. The opportunities are relatively limited. I think one of the characteristics of my own time in the State Department has been the, I had as you indicated, the benefit of an extraordinary wide range of experiences, not just regionally, but also in terms of function and a lot of negotiating experience, multilateral as well as bilateral. That as I look back on it has been largely a product of serendipity.
[…]
I mean nobody I was never aware of anyone sitting up on the sixth floor of the State Department and say we’re going to put Bosworth here for a couple of years because that means that ten years from now he will have these capabilities. I remember when I was working for George Shultz when I was director of policy planning. He once said to me, I asked him what the differences were between running a company like Bechtel and running the State Department. He said, it’s just a question of how I spend my time. He said, at Bechtel I used to spend probably about half my time on long term strategic planning for the company. About a third of my time making sure that we had senior executives available next year and ten years from now capable of implementing these plans. That means giving them the kinds of experiences they would need over time to become senior executives with the company. The rest of my time I spent dealing with customers in day to day activities. Here in the State Department I spend 95% of my time dealing with the crisis at the moment and very little of my time worrying about personnel policy, almost none and too little worrying about long term planning.

Read his full oral history interview below:

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