The Foreign Service Journal - March 2018

8 MARCH 2018 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL ended my last column, a holiday message written with special thoughts of our colleagues deployed far from home, with a wish for a strategy to guide our work on behalf of the Ameri- can people. That has arrived by way of the new National Security Strategy. While the NSS may not define clearly America’s role in the world, it neverthe- less makes a powerful case for the indis- pensable role of American diplomacy and development. This column will explore the National Security Strategy and the related question of whether America spends too much on diplomacy. Even though budgets are complicated beasts, I ask that you stay with me so that you, stewards of this great institution, are able to speak authorita- tively about this vitally important issue. Here’s the bottom line: The annual Congressional Budget Justifications for the State Department show clearly that spending on core diplomatic capability actually declined over the last decade (see chart and sidebar). If we compare 2008, the last full year of the Bush 43 administration, to 2016, the last year for which actual spending figures are available, the decline in spending on core diplomatic capability is dramatic—from one dollar in 2008 to just 76 cents in 2016, in nominal, non-inflation adjusted terms. The 2018 budget proposal would take spending on core diplomatic capabil- ity down further, to 69 cents of the 2008 dollar. Even when we account for shifts in how the CBJ reports costs, spending on core diplomatic capability in 2016 was still below 2008 spending in nominal terms. If we then factor in inflation, 2016 spending on core diplomatic capability was only about 77 percent of 2008 spending. So much for the narrative of runaway growth in spending on diplomacy. When we look at the numbers, the picture that emerges is one of a capability that has been starved of resources for years. Yes, the overall budget has increased, with the growth in security costs a major factor. Spending on Worldwide Security Protection was 17 percent of the total “Diplomatic and Consular Programs” budget in 2008. As the 2018 CBJ shows, by 2016 WSP had grown to 41 percent of Ambassador Barbara Stephenson is the president of the American Foreign Service Association. Does America Spend Too Much on Diplomacy? BY BARBARA STEPHENSON I PRESIDENT’S VIEWS State Department Congres- sional Budget Justifications (CBJs) contain a consistent budget category named Ongoing Operations. This budget category represents what the department describes as its “core” diplomatic functions, defined as “in-depth knowledge and under- standing of political and economic events in many nations [as a] basic requirement of diplomacy,” through “reporting, analysis and personal contact work,” as well as through public diplomacy activities “intended to understand, inform and influence foreign publics and broaden dialogue between American citizens institu- tions and [our] counterparts abroad” (FY2002 CBJ Submission for the Department of State, p. 16). Core Diplomatic Functions Defined