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F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 2 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L
eorganization proposals are
often dismissed with the com-
ment that they amount to
reshuffling the deck chairs on the
Titanic. But, what if the proposal in
question called for a structural change
that — to extend the analogy —would
keep the ship from sinking?
Although the Quadrennial Diplo-
macy and Development Review report
is primarily a strategic policy docu-
ment, it also addresses organizational
questions. These proposed changes
concern operational matters and, very
specifically, interagency cooperation.
Perhaps such changes can prevent for-
eign policy failure, the governmental
equivalent of a vessel sinking.
Although the reorganization of the
State Department proposed in the
QDDR is not massive, it would signif-
icantly improve how the Foreign Serv-
ice does business. Its recommenda-
tions are all derived from the funda-
mental concept of “smart power” as
wielded by a single team.
Some organizational changes are
envisaged to assist in achieving this ob-
ject: e.g., elevating the Office of the
Coordinator for Reconstruction and
Stabilization to the level of a bureau,
and reformulating the relationship be-
tween State and the U.S. Agency for
International Development. In addi-
tion, the study takes a fresh look at the
question of chief-of-mission authority
and program management.
The COM as CEO
Specifically, the QDDR notes the
need to “empower and hold account-
able chiefs of mission as chief executive
officers of interagency missions.” In a
sense, this is nothing new. After all,
since the days of President Harry Tru-
man chiefs of mission have always been
empowered, and instructed, to serve as
the CEOs of U.S. diplomatic missions.
In addition, presidential letters
going back to Dwight Eisenhower, as
well as federal legislation, state that
“Under the direction of the president,
the chief of mission to a foreign coun-
try shall have full responsibility for the
direction, coordination and supervision
of all government executive branch
employees in that country (except for
Voice of America correspondents on
official assignment and employees
under the command of a United States
area military commander).”
Under this authority, the ambassa-
dor is supposed to perform the role of
the chief executive officer of a multia-
gency mission. As the QDDR points
out, “the best ambassadors play that
role effectively.” However, it is no se-
cret that the executive authority of am-
bassadors as chiefs of mission has often
been challenged and restricted in the
interplay of bureaucratic competition
and policy debate.
In addition, the managerial expert-
ise of ambassadors varies widely, yet
the department has devoted little
thought or effort to offering back-
ground information and training. The
clear objective of the QDDR reforms
in this area, therefore, is to turn occa-
sional effectiveness into something
more robust and persistent.
Empowering or reinvigorating
chiefs of mission in the way called for
in the QDDR will require expanded
support from the National Security
Council and other agencies to do two
things: ensure that U.S. government
personnel understand and internalize
their accountability to the chief of mis-
sion, and clarify the reporting struc-
tures for all U.S. civilians in country.
… And Country Director
The QDDR also calls for COMs to
engage directly in high-level policy-
making back inWashington. This idea
is a bit more radical, yet it reflects what
Implementing the QDDR at Chief-of-Mission Level
The Quadrennial
Diplomacy and
Development Review
is a useful
springboard for
broader restructuring.