The Foreign Service Journal - March 2018

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MARCH 2018 9 the total D&CP budget, while the share for core diplomacy was squeezed to 59 percent. The proposed budget for 2018 con- tinues this trend, with WSP growing to 45 percent of total D&CP spending while core diplomacy declines further, to 55 percent. Given that State provides the operating platform for all executive-branch person- nel posted to embassies and consulates, this growth in Diplomatic Security is not surprising. But we should not mistake increased spending to support the executive-branch platformwith spending on core diplomatic capability. The fact is that spending on core diplomatic capability has declined. I’ve seen this reflected in what I have heard in structured conversations and in leader- ship classes. Political, economic and public diplomacy sections in embassies are generally so thinly staffed—many have not been restored after the “Iraq tax” a decade ago—that not only does mentor- ing suffer, but so does the high-impact diplomacy that underpins our global leadership role. By the time required reports are writ- ten, required demarches delivered and visits handled, depleted sections have little capacity for the crucial diplomatic work of building up the bank account of relationships and trust. As a career diplomat, I have long lamented this as a penny-wise, pound- foolish approach to maintaining Amer- ica’s global leadership. How reassuring, then, that the new National Security Strategy makes such a clear case for diplomacy. The president’s cover letter states: “The United States faces an extraordinarily dangerous world, filled with a wide range of threats that have intensified in recent years.” The NSS is unequivocal on the “indispensable” role of diplomacy: “America’s diplomats are our forward- deployed political capability, advancing and defending America’s interests abroad.” “Our diplomats must be able to build and sustain relationships. … Relation- ships, developed over time, create trust and shared understanding that the United States calls upon when confronting security threats, responding to crises, and encouraging others to share the burden for tackling the world’s challenges.” “We must upgrade our diplomatic capabilities to compete in the current environment.” The NSS makes clear that America faces many threats and needs upgraded diplomatic capabilities. Yet the proposed budget would cut diplomatic capac- ity even further, compounding the loss sustained over recent years of scarce resources. The last time America reduced its diplomatic capacity sharply (though not as sharply as today) was in the mid-1990s. The Berlin Wall had come down, America had “won” the Cold War, and the logic was that we could afford to scale back on diplomacy. There was a national conver- sation, and Congress cut funding for State. History has shown how short-sighted those 1990s cuts were. They ultimately pro- duced the dire staffing shortages we faced a decade ago when we needed a deep bench of seasoned Foreign Service leaders to staff the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Where is the national conversation now? That is precisely what Senator Lindsey Graham, chairman of the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee of the Senate Appro- priations Committee, is calling for in his Message from the Hill in this issue of the Journal (see p. 18). I remind you that the report from that subcommittee (approved by a 31-0 vote in the full Appropriations Com- mittee) rejected the proposed cuts to State funding as a “doctrine of retreat” and instructed that appropriated funds “shall” be used to maintain State staffing at Sept. 30, 2016, levels and to resume entry-level hiring. Yet even in the face of this clear expres- sion of congressional intent, this explicit rejection of deep cuts to State’s budget, the depletion of the Foreign Service continues. The Foreign Service officer corps at State was down to 7,940 at the end of December, from 8,176 inMarch 2017, a drop of 236. The loss is heavily concentrated at the top. With Career Ambassador Tom Shan- non’s departure, State’s four-star ranks will be down to just one, from six at the end of 2016. The number of Career Ministers (three- stars) has fallen from 33 in December 2016 to 18 today. And Minister Counselors (two-stars) are down from 470 to 373 dur- ing the same period. The answer to the question of whether America spends too much on diplomacy is No. And so the question “Why make such cuts?” remains as pressing today as it was in November when I first asked. We urgently need a national conversa- tion about the dismantling underway of a vital instrument of national security. The American people deserve one. n Spending on core diplomatic capability actually declined over the last decade.