The Foreign Service Journal - May 2014 - page 18

MAY 2014
one area where State’s leadership role has
long been acknowledged throughout the
Filling the Leadership
Part of the problem is also insufficient
leadership at the top of the department.
To be blunt, several Secretaries of State
in the past two decades never under-
stood that their real influence derived
from their ability to bring ideas to the
table, not just success at implementing
policy or sitting at the president’s right
hand in the Cabinet or situation rooms.
They compounded that mistake by
defining success in terms of the narrow
instrumentality summarized as “diplo-
macy”—even when expertly carried
out—without reference to strategic
thinking, analysis, planning and presen-
tation of policy alternatives.
There has also been weakness at the
top at the State Department in terms of
fighting for money, including failure to
enlist presidents in that cause. The first
Quadrennial Diplomacy and Develop-
ment Review four years ago was a noble
venture in essaying a counterpart to
the Defense Department’s Quadrennial
Defense Review, thus opening the door
to challenging DoD’s 13-to-1 share of the
national security budget pie.
But aside from some increase in the
number of Foreign Service positions,
what did the QDDR accomplish? The
creation of three new bureaus just added
to bureaucracy without enhancing
State’s “clout”—whether in diplomacy
and development or, more importantly,
in strategy.
Cast a Wide Net
What is to be done? Addressing the
problems and possibilities of the Foreign
Service and of the State Department
requires taking a broad look at the role of
State in an age when more factors than
ever before must be integrated to enable
the United States to be effective in the
It means placing added emphasis
on developing people with the capac-
ity for strategic thinking; and it means
reforming the selection, promotion,
organization and management processes
within State, especially to emphasize and
reward the skills and perspectives that
produce ideas that can truly add value
not just to the “interagency process” but
also to securing U.S. interests and values
Each Secretary of State needs to
make building an effective, top-class,
“strategically-oriented” team his or her
first order of business before plunging
into diplomacy. Otherwise, State’s role
will continue to be depreciated, and the
Foreign Service will increasingly be seen
not as a policy development instrument
but as a team of negotiators—however
It follows, too, that strengthening
State’s role in foreign policy and national
security must include not just Foreign
Service officers and others whose experi-
ence is largely limited to the department,
but their colleagues from other agencies,
the private sector, NGOs and non-FSO
“policymakers”—where strategic think-
ing and integration of different perspec-
tives and instruments of policy and
action will also be in critical demand.
Of course, all of this must be directed
from the top, by U.S. presidents who
understand the need for a first-class
team in foreign policy and national secu-
rity, structure and organization to enable
them to be effective and his or her com-
mitment to lead. This, too, is needed for
State and the Foreign Service to get back
in the game.
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