Page 11 - Foreign Service Journal - February 2013

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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
|
FEBRUARY 2013
11
our money, peanuts or not, ought to be
spent? Maybe you could take a page from
Governor Romney’s book and reward the
chief of mission who cuts the deepest.
“A real ‘right-sizing’ exercise needs to
take place at every mission worldwide.
By real, I mean that the starting point is
an X-percent cut in U.S. direct-hire staf
and ofces across the board. But at the
same time, we need to move toward a
functional training foat, ensuring that
people get the training they need, pri-
marily between assignments.
“In order to do this, adequate staf-
ing needs to be available so folks aren’t
forced to go straight from one mission
to the next. And in making this happen,
please do not exempt the Bureau of Dip-
lomatic Security. Embassies that used to
have one security ofcer, if that, typically
have three or more today.
“You can imagine that in the wake of
Benghazi, there’s not a single ambassa-
dor out there who will cut security unless
you tell them that it’s OK. And it
is
OK.
It’s a dangerous world, and stuf’s gonna
happen. Having more security ofcers
won’t stop that. In fact, the single most
efective way to expose fewer people to
security risks is to put fewer people in
harm’s way.
“Te other topic I’d like to raise is less
weighty, but could result in substantial
savings across the government. We need
to change the way we handle ofcial
travel.
“Te complex and obtuse rules we’ve
crafted make the costs of administering
travel exceedingly high, and give us very
little in return. Monetizing travel would
save us gobs of money.
“By that, I mean that a trip’s cost is
estimated in advance and a payment is
made to the traveler. Ten it’s done—
over. Maybe the amount you’re given
for a taxi from the airport doesn’t match
up with what you spent. Who cares?
Tat’s how per diem generally works
now. So you stay in a cheap hotel or at
your auntie’s place instead of a fve-star
hotel—what’s the big deal? Tere is no
additional cost to the taxpayer.
“Aside from the occasional risk-averse
functionary who will say that the internal
controls provided by following all the
nutty rules are somehow critical, the big-
gest obstacle is that the Internal Revenue
Service might view these payments as
income. Well, the IRS is part of the Trea-
sury Department that writes these rules,
and they work for you.
“Besides, the tax issue doesn’t seem
like a showstopper—particularly if we’re
interested in saving money vice being
bureaucratic. For those who would argue
that our current processes ensure that
folks don’t cheat, etc., it would not be dif-
fcult to set up audit protocols.
“Tanks (staf member) for taking the
time to read this. Best wishes for a suc-
cessful second term.”
Tom Schmitz
FSO, retired
Deadwood, S.D
.
n
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