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46
F OR E I GN S E R V I C E J OU R N A L / MA Y 2 0 1 2
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FSA welcomed Deputy Secretary
of State for Management and
Resources Thomas R. Nides to its
headquarters for a discussionwithmem-
bers onMarch 15. This was his first offi-
cial visit to AFSA and Nides made the
most of the opportunity to address
AFSA members, discussing issues rang-
ing fromhis appreciation for the Foreign
Service to the recently submitted Fiscal
Year 2013 budget proposal for interna-
tional affairs spending.
Deputy Secretary Nides began by
expressing his admiration for the work
performed each day by Foreign Service
members around the world. He then
shared the primary factor in his decision
to work at the department: a persuasive
phone call fromSecretary of State Hillary
Rodham Clinton.
Recalling his initial surprise at being
offered the position, he asked the Secretary
what he would be doing. To knowing
laughter from the audience, he recount-
ed her answer: well, he would be mostly
working on Iraq, Afghanistan and
Pakistan. Oh, and also the budget.
Budget Candor
The latter of those portfolios took up
most of his presentation. Nides offered
a candid viewof the budget process, which
he called “screwy.” The federal govern-
ment is always spending last year’s
money, while seeking approval for the
current year’s budget and preparing the
next request. Referencing his background
in business, Nides reflected that this
process would never go very far outside
government.
Nides presented what he refers to as
the “four truths” of the budget process:
• The lack of a natural constituency for
diplomacy and development. Though
sympathetic tomembers of Congress who
have to defend foreign affairs spending to
their home constituents, he lamented the
misperception that foreign affairs spend-
ing amounts to 22 to 25 percent of the
federal budget, when it is actually less than
1 percent.
• Contrary to popular perception, there
are a number of smart, focused support-
ers of foreign affairs spending inCongress,
in both houses and on both sides of the
aisle.
• Without the credibility and advoca-
cy of Secretary Clinton, the foreign
affairs agencies would have a much
harder time on the Hill.
• State, USAIDand other foreign affairs
agencies have not done a good job when
it comes to advocating for themselves and
telling their story. Such outreach is cru-
cial for continued resources and the cre-
ation of a constituency.
A Look at the Numbers
Nides continued his discussion of the
budget by pointing to the numbers: the
FY 2012 approved budget for the inter-
national affairs account contains about
$50 billion. The fighting it took to get to
that amount promptedNides to candid-
ly call the current budget year “hellacious.”
He pointed out that the FY 2013 bud-
get request is about 1 percent higher than
last year’s. However, given the realities
of the economic situation—and the fact
that this is a presidential election year—
Nides believes that the overall federal
budget will ultimately
not
be approved,
so a continuing resolution will be
required to keep spending at the current
level.
Before wrapping up, Nides took ques-
tions from the audience on economic
statecraft, advocacy and the perception
that government employees, particular-
ly in the State Department, lack sensitiv-
ity about the economic climate.
Pushing back hard on the latter issue,
he praised the Foreign Service and Civil
Service for their work. He singled out the
“beyond heroic” staff at Embassy
Baghdad, who no longer have the mili-
tary for protection and are involved in the
largest transition since theMarshall Plan.
Following the Deputy Secretary’s
departure, Deputy Assistant Secretary of
State for State Programs, Operations and
Budget Barbara Retzlaff fielded additional
questions on subjects ranging from con-
tract employees in Iraq to overseas con-
tingency operations.
AFSA Hosts Deputy Secretary Nides
BY ÁSGEIR SIGFÚSSON, AFSA MARKETING AND OUTREACH MANAGER
On March 15, Ian Houston (left), AFSA’s executive director, and AFSA President Susan Johnson, wel-
come Deputy Secretary of State Thomas R. Nides to the association’s headquarters for a discussion with
members.