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    William P. Kiehl is the founder President and CEO of PD Worldwide, consultants in international public affairs, higher education management and cross-cultural understanding. He is also the Editor of the on-line journal American Diplomacy. Full bio available on: Facebook me!

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    Friday, September 14, 2012

    Seeing Through the Fog

    There has been an ocean of ink and a vast number of electrons expended on the recent events in Benghazi, Cairo and in a dozen other cities in the Islamic world. It is likely that we are closer to the beginning than the end of the current crisis.
    Much of the media coverage of these events both the crisis itself and the domestic political reaction to those events have created more heat than light. An unfortunate impression that remains is that the US was unprepared for terrorism on the 11th anniversary of 9-11, misunderstood what was actually happening on the ground and did not react clearly and strongly enough at the beginning of these events. What is the truth of the matter?
    First let us clear away some of the fog. The tragic death of four brave Americans in Benghazi was not caused by an anti-Islamic video. This was a planned, coordinated attack by a terrorist organization which would have happened whether this video existed or not. Clearly the consulate and the "safe house" we're targeted. The real question here is why the security, especially on this 9-11 anniversary was not better.
    The demonstrations, allegedly based on the video, would have occurred or could occur on some perceived slight to Islam in any case. The root causes of this unrest and violence go well beyond the video. Indeed, focusing on the video is merely a distraction from a bigger issue. Explaining our free speech society can do some good with people of good will but the sort of people who delight in chanting "death to America" are unmoved by such rhetoric. Indeed for them, America's free speech society IS the problem. Public diplomacy has a leading role in explaining our society and values to the world but we should be prepared for the fact that for some people our society and values are repugnant.
    Cairo's demonstration may well have been another cover operation for the exercise of some terrorist act or simply a coincident uprising on the anniversary of 9-11. No matter what may be determined, it is clear that the new Egyptian government utterly failed in its duty to protect an foreign diplomatic establishment even though they knew of the demonstration in advance. Now two or three days later they may have "gotten the message" that this is unacceptable. This message should have been delivered earlier and stronger perhaps but it has been finally delivered.
    The overriding issue is America's relationship with and within the region.
    This is most certainly a subject of debate within the foreign policy elite but also a legitimate point of debate in this election year in the US. To claim that it should not be debated as some pundits and much of media insist because "politics stops at the waters edge" misses the point. That refers to criticism of an administration's foreign policy by opponents while abroad--not criticism of foreign policy period! Certainly in all previous presidential election campaigns candidates have not been reticent about criticizing the foreign policy of the administration in power. In a free society foreign policy as well as domestic policy must be subject to debate.
    America's relations with counties in the region are complex; and in the post-Arab Spring era the relationship with "the Arab street" is even more complex and important. The dysfunctional relationship between the US and Israel in recent days and the increasing threat of a nuclear Iran only exacerbates an already volatile situation. President Obama's Cairo Speech early in his term of office, no matter what one might think of its wisdom, had the effect of raising expectations of a new American approach to the Islamic worlds. Sadly, these expectations simply were not followed up. The frustration and anger caused by dashed expectations combined with a series of mixed messages to the peoples of the region (the green revolution in Iran, "leading from behind" in Libya, the failure to stop the massacres in Syria, red lines and red lights regarding a nuclear Iran and Israeli concerns) and a general uncertainty as to American leadership has produced a toxic situation.

    The Arab Spring had great potential and may still have that potential but the US has missed several critical opportunities so far and may need to rethink a number of current assumptions. Unless we are willing to recast some of the policies of the United States held by all administrations since the end of WWII, we may expect to find more angry mobs who don't like us or our values. That just may be the price we must pay for pursuing our core values and national interests in this dangerous neighborhood. Two things are for certain, however: (1) American foreign policy must be clear, resolute and clearly understood (that is public diplomacy's role) by both allies and adversaries. (2) When America creates expectations, America must follow through on those expectations--that is the essence of leadership. 

    This Blogpost first appeared on the Public Diplomacy Council's website.

    Monday, May 30, 2011

    The Revolving Door Continues...

    Judith McHale

    I was recently asked for my comments on the resignation of Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith McHale. While I am sure that Ms. McHale tried her best to reinvigorate PD and took some steps in the right direction to attempt to reassert some "command and control" of this function within the State Department, her tenure was only marginally successful.

    As long as political appointees continue to stay in office for an average of two years or less, our foreign policy and particularly our public diplomacy efforts will be less than successful. Each new appointee is determined to "reinvent the wheel." By the time they figure out what the problems are and have some sense of what to do they are out the revolving door back to wherever they prefer to be and the next incumbent will start the process all over again.

    Multiply this by 1500 senior administration positions and another 1500 staff aides etc. and you have a prescription for inefficiency which plagues every administration. Isn't it time we cut back on the number of non-professionals in diplomacy just as we have in the military? In the 19th century, most officers--including generals--were appointees or simply bought their commissions and the nation paid a high price for such amatuerism. We professionalized the military officer corps in the early 20th century and it is now the most efficient force in the world. Will we ever professionalize the diplomatic service and the senior ranks of the bureaucracy? The president is entitled to have a cabinet that is loyal and politically committed but below the cabinet level and at the ambassadorial level abroad, most advanced countries rely on career professionals to perform these roles.

    Sunday, February 13, 2011

    Cairo 2011. Is It Berlin 1989 or Tashkent 1991.

    I am not an expert on the Middle East but I could not help wondering why so many commentators have likened the events in Cairo 2011 to those in Berlin 1989. The notion that somehow the revolution that is sweeping parts of the Middle East is similar to the events of the late 1980s and early 1990s in Central and Eastern Europe has gained some traction in much of the media. This is a serious mistake based on superficial knowledge of both the Mideast and Eastern and Central Europe. Any serious study of history will point out the shortcomings in this theory. The underpinnings of democracy in Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary for example were far more robust than those in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen. The former three nations had previous experience with democracy, elections that actually meant something, and rule of law before communism was imposed on them by a foreign power--the USSR. The countries of North Africa and the Middle East had no such experience. A much better analogy might be the new independent states of the former USSR since they too have a history absent any significant prior democratic experience. And with only one or two exceptions, these countries today have largely non-democratic governments, led mainly by their former communist rulers but under another political label--whether Russia, Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan--the communist authoritarian government has merely given way to rule by the same corrupt oligarchy but without the Communist Party ideology. This pattern does not auger well for the future of the new "social revolutionary" states of the Middle East. I hope I am wrong in this analysis and that the social revolutions in places like Cairo will eventually lead to more democratic, representative government. Only time will tell.

    IIP Bureau Changes

    IIP Bureau Announces Changes

    IIP Bureau Changes--A Comment (originally posted on the PDC Blog)

    I recently had an opportunity to talk with IPP Coordinator Dawn McCall about the changes instituted by IIP in response to their recent study or "business review " of the Bureau. Among the many discoveries uncovered by the study was the fact that only six percent of Bureau time was devoted to dialogue with the field. The changes detailed in the IIP Media Release below are an attempt in part to bring field operations back front and center in the IIP Bureau's thinking.

    For my part I welcome the changes but must admit that they are woefully late and should have been undertaken a decade or more ago. The looming question of course is, with a freeze on discretionary spending ordered by the President and a Congress more inclined to reduce budgets rather than freeze them, what will happen to the Department of State's budget in 2011 and beyond? And since IIP has not been a particularly high priority for State in the past, will IIP be able to undertake even the most important of these changes? It is more important than ever for public diplomacy to make the case that global engagement, strategic communication or whatever one wishes to call it, is a national security priority and as such should be exempted from the general freeze or recision in budgets that is surely coming.

    January 28, 2011

    IIP Bureau Announces Changes

    To Strengthen Its International Information Programs and Products

    The Department of State’s Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) today announced a series of changes to strengthen its ability to support American foreign policy goals and national security interests through information products and engagement activities.

    “There has been a breathtaking revolution in the global communications environment, and we must keep pace with it,” explained IIP Coordinator Dawn McCall. “These changes will enable the Bureau of International Information Programs to quickly and effectively reach out to people around the globe in support of American foreign policy priorities.”

    The Bureau of International Information Programs produces programs and products that inform and engage foreign audiences, including print publications, videos, web-based materials, and speaker programs. It employs 280 government personnel in Washington, D.C. and overseas.

    “Our bureau is filled with dedicated and innovative women and men,” McCall said, “and we need a contemporary approach that makes the best possible use of their talents. As President Obama said in the State of the Union address, ‘We can’t win the future with a government of the past.’”

    McCall explained that the changes were based on a thorough three-month business review that examined every aspect of IIP’s operations, programs, and products. The review included focus groups, site visits to American embassies and consulates abroad, and working groups within IIP. It also encompassed significant changes in how citizens around the world access information and engage with others.

    McCall noted that recent trends and new communication channels demand a change in approach. These trends include:

    • The rapid growth of mobile phone technologies;
    • The use of multiple devices, and multi-tasking, by youth around the world;
    • The explosion of social media;
    • The continued importance of traditional media – television, radio, and print;
    • English no longer dominates the Web – more than fifty percent of web users speak a native language other than English, and site “stickiness” doubles when a web offering is in the language of the user.

    “In today’s crowded communications environment, we cannot expect audiences to come to us,” concluded McCall. “Instead, we must go to where they prefer to be, and think of new ways to engage with them.” She outlined the following changes to achieve IIP’s new objectives:

    • Re-tool the way that IIP uses the web to more effectively engage with audiences. IIP will transition America.Gov to directly distribute content to the full range of social networks and existing 3rd party sites where audiences actually spend their time, while continuing to create foreign policy-focused content for use at embassy and consulate sites.

    “It makes economic and strategic sense to take full advantage of existing web sites and social media platforms where our target audiences already spend their time,” said McCall. “Our focus must shift to proactive tactics instead of passively putting our content on a shelf and expecting them to find it.”

    • Expanded use of mobile technologies, including SMS programs and Smartphone apps, while ensuring the continued provision of products for such traditional media as print and radio, and for American centers and corners.
    • More products in foreign languages, supported by a central translation team.
    • Consolidation of content producers into a content development group to create content in written, digital, video and audio formats.
    • Creation of a talent management unit to identify and recruit expert Americans as writers, bloggers, and speakers for IIP and American missions;
    • A new audience research unit, to provide research and analysis on audiences, channels, and use of IIP products.

    McCall noted that the changes will be accomplished with IIP’s current budget and number of government employees.

    “The Department of State’s 2010 Strategic Framework for Public Diplomacy established a clear mission, set of priorities, and guidelines for American public diplomacy,” said Judith A. McHale, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. “These changes to the Bureau of International Information Programs will significantly strengthen IIP’s ability to carry out this critical mission.”


    Thursday, January 21, 2010

    Foreign Affairs for the 21st Century

    Foreign Affairs for the 21st Century

    Layalina Perspectives, Vol. II Issue 1, January 2010

    By William P. Kiehl, Ed. D.

    The Past is Prologue

    A little more than 60 years ago foresighted American leaders devised a national security structure for the post-World War II 20th Century. In the 1980s, another group of foresighted American leaders devised a way to create a more efficient and effective defense structure for our national security. Additional changes to create a Department of Homeland Security and to coordinate the intelligence community came after 9-11. Now the time has come for the current generation of foresighted American leaders to match these efforts in the realm of foreign affairs.

    With the passage of the National Security Act in 1947, the United States positioned itself for the post-WWII world on a new and innovative structure(1). That structure created many of the institutions that still serve us today: The Department of Defense (DoD) merging the War and Navy Departments, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Council (NSC) and the NSC process of inter-agency consultation and cooperation. By the 1980s it was clear that the service rivalries and bureaucratic infighting in the Defense Department was reducing military effectiveness and wasting enormous sums of money through redundancies and inefficiencies. The solution--the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Defense Reorganization Act--was a masterstroke that over time created "joint-ness", a "purple" or integrated military without destroying the individual services that have served the nation so well over two centuries(2). While no one would deny that there remain huge inefficiencies and waste in this enormous bureaucracy, it is generally considered that DoD is infinitely better positioned for the 21st century than the civilian side of the United States Government.

    In the aftermath of the tragedy of 9-11, American leaders searched for the cause of the failure to stop a terrorist attack on American soil and found it in the turf-wars and bureaucratic ossification among our intelligence and law enforcement agencies and many of those entities became today’s Department of Homeland Security (3). The intelligence community too was reorganized and the Director of Central Intelligence function was split from the CIA Directorship(4) with the creation of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It is too soon to tell if these were masterstrokes or merely stages in the evolution of these functions.

    A Growing Problem

    The only significant part of the national security structure of the U.S. Government that has not changed in any serious way is that of foreign affairs. With the ill-served consolidation of the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency into the Department of State and the weakening of the Agency for International Development (USAID) as a viable voice in foreign policy debate, the Department of State emerged from the 20th century a weaker, less relevant and more ambiguous partner of the Department of Defense and other agencies of national security. This led to the gradual but inexorable accumulation of civilian duties to the military--public diplomacy, foreign assistance and nation building in particular.

    While the Departments of State and Defense were able to keep within their lanes with a relatively clear demarcation of responsibilities during the period of the Cold War, in the post-Cold War era this delineation has become blurred. Even more problematic has been the large and growing imbalance in funding dedicated to military vs. civilian international responsibilities and national security. In large measure the drift of public diplomacy (strategic communication), foreign assistance (civil-military affairs) from the civilian world of the State Department and USAID to the military world of the uniformed services and various DoD contractors is the result of this funding imbalance.

    This situation has become untenable and thus it is time for a reappraisal and reassessment of the whole structure of foreign affairs just as Goldwater-Nichols served for the whole structure of national defense.

    The Department of Foreign Affairs

    Currently composed of the Department of State, the Agency for International Development, the Foreign and Commercial Service (FCS) of the Department of Commerce, The Department of the Treasury’s Office of International Affairs and Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) of the U. S. Department of Agriculture and numerous other bureaus, commissions, agencies and offices scattered through a dozen cabinet departments, America’s foreign affairs lacks cohesion and cohesiveness. The State Department which considers itself the coordinator and premier inter pares in foreign affairs is often only a junior partner or an after-thought in the process. Indeed with so many actors in foreign affairs today, it is likely that on any given issue another agency from Treasury to the EPA to Transportation will consider itself as having the lead. Traditional diplomacy, the hallmark of State is only one of many instruments of national power and sometimes the one least appropriate or least considered.

    To re-right the balance in America’s national security structure, the Department of State must be broadened into a true Department of Foreign Affairs (the original name by the way) and like the Department of Defense should be restructured to accommodate the many roles it must play. Within the Department of Foreign Affairs there could be semi-independent sub-departments, similar to the departments of the individual services in the Defense Department, to deal with traditional diplomacy (i.e. state-to-state relations), public diplomacy (similar to the former USIA), foreign assistance (USAID), foreign trade (USTR, FCS, FAS etc.), stabilization and reconstruction (in league with DoD). These Departments within the Department of Foreign Affairs could function as the Department of Diplomacy, the Department of Public Diplomacy, the Department of International Development, the Department of International Trade, etc.

    This Goldwater-Nichols scale reform for the civilian side of national security is long overdue. And while the parallels between the original Defense Department reorganization and the new design for a Department of Foreign Affairs can be overdrawn, the effect could be even more significant and beneficial for the future of United States foreign relations. Although State is now charged with coordinating all civilian activity abroad, it cannot manage this responsibility with current budgeting and authorities. It is recognized widely that State needs a broader mandate and authority beyond the traditional diplomatic and consular functions to encompass wide-ranging end-to-end coordination and management of foreign affairs from public diplomacy to development to trade. Already elements of this design can be seen in the September 2009 Project on National Security Reform’s Report to the President Turning Ideas Into Action (see Chapter 11, pp. 105-107 entitled "Next Generation State Department").

    Further Reforms

    The time is right for a new National Security Act to update the 1947 version, to re-define the roles and responsibilities and realign mission and the budget priorities assigned to each of the partners in national security. The Congress too should take a close look at how the national security functions are budgeted and funded through the relevant House and Senate committees for the Departments of Defense and a newly expanded role for a Department of Foreign Affairs. Realignment of agency missions and the committee structure and funding mechanisms are woefully in need of reform and the large-scale restructuring of the foreign affairs component of national security would provide a most convenient vehicle for this realignment.

    Wednesday, October 7, 2009

    Kindle Edition of Global Intentions is Doing Well

    I was delighted to learn that the Kindle edition of my recent book Global Intention Local Results: How Colleges Can Create International Communities is selling nearly as many copies as the paperback edition. You can check out the Kindle edition here:
    At $11.95 and "voice enabled" it is a real bargain. I predict that it won't be too long before the Kindle edition outsells the paper version.

    Saturday, October 3, 2009

    Addressing the Public Diplomacy Challenge

    In an earlier blog entitled "Analogy" on September 15th (,
    I mentioned that I had some solutions to two big problems.
    Here is one of the solutions as presented in my recent article in
    the Foreign Service Journal (October 2009):

    Monday, September 28, 2009

    Mark Lynch may be onto something!

    Earlier today in his Blog, Mark Lynch bemoaned the lack of progress in public diplomacy on the part of the Obama Administration. After such great starts and clever symbolic moves and inspiring rhetoric-- nothing. He wonders why. As Mark stated:

    "I don't know why it has proven so difficult for the U.S. government to mount public diplomacy and strategic communications campaigns in support of key administration policy goals. Is it something about the organization of the government, leadership, or the allocation of the resources? Is it that deeds have not kept up with words, harming the credibility of such communications campaigns? Is it the cultural clash between traditional public diplomacy and the demands of goal-oriented strategic communications?"

    The answer is obvious, at least to those of us who have practiced public diplomacy for decades in Washington and overseas. It is in part an organizational problem and we know how to fix that--by moving public diplomacy out of the State Department or at least by giving it unity of organization and some degree of autonomy within State. Leadership must come from the President on down. Unless the White House is solidly behind PD, no one will really pay any attention. And the resource issue is another obvious point for improvement. I and many others have called for a tripling of resources for PD (not in new money I hasten to point out but rather in re-programming of DoD funds which attempt to do strategic communication through the use of highly paid, unreliable and ultimately incompetent contractors.) Maybe we can't solve our PD problem by re-creating USIA but we can improve our PD posture enormously by unifying public diplomacy, making it more distinct from traditional diplomacy in State, adequately funding it and putting some of the power of the White House behind it. For more details check out my article in the upcoming October issue of The Foreign Service Journal.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009

    An Analogy

    The other evening I had the pleasure of listening to "the standard conversation" about public diplomacy organized around the launch of a new book (A New Public Diplomacy) on the subject, edited by Phil Seib of USC's well endowed Center for Public Diplomacy. By the use of "standard conversation" I am not meaning to put anyone down--rather to point out how unremarkable it is for several hundred public diplomacy "enthusiasts" to gather and have almost exactly the same conversation every time.

    If ever there was a subject that was "all talk and no action" it is public diplomacy. And this gathering of the faithful at the Newseum's First Amendment space really brought that home to me. The only question I had and I was happy to hold my piece was: "So what are we going to do about
    it?" I did not bother to ask because I knew that there would be no consensus reply. The conversation had gone on long enough. And besides, the canopies and white wine beckoned. I am not the only one to notice that despite some high hopes, the Obama Administration has not exactly moved mountains on public diplomacy!

    And that brings me to the "analogy" in the title of this essay. It struck me that the issues of public diplomacy and health care in America have a number of similarities.

    For starters, everyone realizes that American Public Diplomacy (PD) and the US health care system are broken and there must be a solution or the situation will just get more and more serious. Yes, everyone realizes that we have a PD problem/health care problem. That's the easy part!

    Second, but in each case there is absolutely no consensus as to how best to address this problem. In the case of PD there have been about four dozen reports or sets of recommendations over the past 10 years and for health care well I don't need to tell anyone reading this blog that there are a lot of ideas our there--most of which are mutually exclusive and many of which are counterproductive. There are thousands of pages of draft legislation. The devil truly is in the details.

    Third, there is that awkward problem of money. The financial crisis and the exploding federal deficit has pretty well messed up the tried and true solution so beloved by Congress--that is, throw money at it. So we now have that wonderful phrase "deficit neutral."

    Fourth, there is not even a consensus that this is an issue that the federal government has the lead on. For PD there are those who want the private sector to take over the job while for health care there are those who insist on a significant government role.

    Fifth, there is a remarkable absence of leadership from the White House on the issue of public diplomacy just has there was (until recently) on the health care issue. Will this just be another case of too little too late?

    And finally, in both debates, the solution is disarmingly simple. I suppose you expect me to tell you what it is? Maybe I will in the next posting. In the meantime, why don't you tell me what you think on one or both of these issues?

    Saturday, August 22, 2009

    Unfinished Business

    I have been asked to post this article that I wrote in 2001 on State Department reform and reorganization. It will be obvious to everyone that while a couple of the ideas in the paper found favor on the 7th floor of State, most of the ideas were rejected as in the "too hard to do" box. In some ways, the time when this paper was written seems a 100 years ago; in other ways just yesterday.

    Unfinished Business:

    Foreign Affairs Consolidation was

    only the Beginning

    William P. Kiehl

    © National Security Studies Quarterly Volume VII, Issue 1 (Winter 2001).


    formerly independent United States Information Agency (USIA),

    concluding a consolidation of the foreign affairs agencies agreed upon

    by both the Clinton administration and Congress. The consolidation also

    brought the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) into the De-

    partment of State and brought the Agency for International Development

    (AID) under closer State Department control.1 Unfortunately for the Depart-

    ment of State and for the foreign policy interests of the United States, the

    consolidation missed a unique opportunity to reform the “host” agency itself.

    There is no one close to the foreign policy process who can fail to recog-

    nize the Department of State is a troubled cabinet agency. Indeed the depart-

    ment that often talks about “failed “ or “failing” states is a failed—or at least

    failing—cabinet department. Starved for resources for a generation and an-

    nually expected to “do more with less,” the department’s failings are all too

    evident. Problems include an antiquated and over-centralized financial ac-

    counting system; three incompatible e-mail systems and serious weaknesses

    across the cyberspace spectrum; little serious training or emphasis on man-

    agement and planning; very serious morale, retention, and recruitment prob-

    lems; appalling security lapses; decreased relevance in the interagency pro-

    cess, especially in economic and political-military matters; a culture fixated

    on process rather than product; and a reputation for both arrogance and du-

    plicity on Capitol Hill which belies the reality that the Department of State

    loses on nearly every issue—and without much of a fight. Is it as bad

    as all that? Ask any Foreign Service officer.2

    With a new administration there is another, perhaps ephemeral,

    chance for a real reorganization of these vital foreign affairs functions.

    The Department of State did not fail in one year, nor in one administra-

    tion, and it will require at least one four year term to make the Depart-

    ment of State relevant again to U.S. interests and goals. There needs to

    be a “quick fix” and a longer-term structural change. First, some imme-

    diate readjustments to the previous consolidation are necessary.


    The consolidation of foreign policy bureaucracies in the Clinton admin-

    istration suffered a range of short-comings due to a variety of reasons,

    ranging from bureaucratic politics to the vagaries of personalities. These

    problems, embodied specifically in the incorporation of ACDA and USIA

    into the department and the conduct of U.S. diplomacy in the former So-

    viet Union, require immediate attention.

    When ACDA and USIA were folded into the Department of State,

    the institutional legacy of each agency took wildly different paths.

    In an effort to mollify critics in the arms control community and in Con-

    gress, ACDA’s successor within the Department of State became in-

    stantly over-staffed and bureaucratically bloated. To remedy this ineffi-

    ciency, Congress should eliminate one or two bureaus—and their as-

    sociated assistant secretaries—of the four currently under the aegis of the

    under secretary of state for arms control.

    In contrast to ACDA’s fate, the relics of USIA were scattered about the

    Department of State in an effort to diminish the former agency’s clout

    while swallowing its resource base. Thanks to congressional interven-

    tion, the department could not complete a full-scale raid on public di-

    plomacy resources. Still, the damage was done. Public diplomacy strate-

    gies, and especially international information programs, in the Depart-

    ment of State suffer from a lack of institutional clout and influence. To

    resolve these problems, Congress should ease the organizational chal-

    lenges presented by a department spokesman, nominally an assistant

    secretary, who works directly for the secretary of state. The Bureau of

    Public Affairs rarely has been “managed” at all by its assistant secretary

    due to the more compelling duties of department spokesman.

    The quick fix here is to separate the functions of department spokes-

    man and assistant secretary of state for public affairs. The spokesman,

    equivalent to an under secretary, should work directly for the secre-

    tary of state but coordinate the department’s public statements

    closely with the under secretary for public diplomacy and public affairs.

    There should be an assistant secretary for public affairs who would

    actually oversee the Bureau of Public Affairs and report to the under

    secretary. The Bureau of Public Affairs, after some legislative fixes to

    strike archaic provisions of the Smith-Mundt Act3 barring use of

    foreign targeted material in the United States, would be enriched

    immeasurably by joining with the overseas public information effort in

    a single bureau producing information material for use domestically

    and internationally.4

    With the departure from office of a deputy secretary whose overriding

    interest was the former Soviet Union, the bureaucratic anomaly of

    an Office of the Newly Independent States reporting directly to the

    deputy secretary, with the status of a bureau, should cease. The logical

    outcome should be the assignment of the European and Caucasian

    states of the former-Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to the Bureau of

    European Affairs and the Central Asian states to the Bureau of South

    Asian Affairs—renamed the Bureau of Central and Southern Asian Af-


    Realistically, these remedies may be all that could be accomplished in

    the course of a year or two by any new administration. Even these rela-

    tively minor adjustments, in some cases, would require formal congres-

    sional approval; in all cases, they should have congressional input and

    cooperation. These measures are just the beginning, however. The next

    two stages of the process will be far more difficult and more challenging

    to both the new administration and the entrenched bureaucracy of the

    Department of State. The Congress too must re-think some basic as-



    The next two steps in the process of transforming the Department of

    State from a failing cabinet department into one which serves effec-

    tively the foreign affairs interests of the United States will require a dra-

    matic change in thinking by the foreign policy establishment, the Con-

    gress, and the rank-and-file foreign service and civil service employees

    of the department. The two steps are essential and must be linked to make

    the transformation work.5

    Step one requires the Congress and other stakeholders to recognize

    the Department of State is just as much a national security instrument

    as is the U.S. military and the U.S. intelligence community.6 This means

    that to increase national security there must be an increase in foreign

    affairs funding along with defense funding and intelligence funding. The

    three components are interlinked like three horses in a troika. Imagine a

    Russian troika with two thoroughbreds and a mule hitched to a sleigh

    and you will have some idea of the rough ride by funding two compo-

    nents of national security adequately while starving the third—the foreign

    affairs budget. Whether this new thinking results in the foreign affairs

    account being moved into a national security appropriation or remaining

    as the existing State, Justice, Commerce appropriation is a congres-

    sional decision. What must occur, however, is an agreement between

    the White House and the Congress to bring foreign affairs into alignment

    with defense and intelligence. Without a robust foreign affairs budget,

    the diplomatic resources simply are not there to use. This results, as evi-

    denced all too frequently in recent years, in looking to the military to

    solve nearly every problem. The common phrase in military circles is

    “if your only tool is a hammer, then every problem becomes a nail.” Con-

    gress and the administration must work together to provide policy

    makers with other tools so that diplomacy can defuse issues before the

    military hammer becomes the only option available to the United States.

    This is not only more humane, it is also much more cost effective.

    Exercising a real capability for preventive diplomatic solutions,

    even while linking dispute resolution to sizeable economic assistance,

    costs but a small fraction of the traditional multilateral military peace-

    keeping solution. If the Department of State had been able to assemble a

    more impressive diplomatic arsenal coupled with the promise of substan-

    tial economic aid, even a recalcitrant Yugoslavia might have been eased

    into a more benign role in both Bosnia and Kosovo. That is not to

    argue that the military option would not have been used. It might have

    come to that. But because U.S. diplomatic options were so weak they

    were given neither the time nor the principal focus of the administration.

    There was, from the outset of U.S involvement in each crisis, a sense

    of the inevitability of the military option.

    If the Congress and the new administration can agree on the premise

    that foreign affairs is integral to national security, then a realistic bud-

    get to refurbish the infrastructure, reward employees, and modernize the

    means to conduct foreign policy can be put into place over the course of

    two to four years. Too often, the major stakeholders in foreign

    policy—members of Congress and their staffs, as well as members of

    the public and the press—have been drawn to believe in an old-fashioned

    and never accurate stereotype of diplomats and diplomatic life. Ask the

    vice consul in Mumbai, or the cultural affairs officer in Lagos, or the

    economic officer in Tashkent how many black tie dinners and garden

    parties they attend and how often they or their families have been ill

    because of bad water, bad air, or unsanitary conditions—the answer

    will not encourage young Americans to join the Foreign Service. The

    stakeholders, with a realistic picture of what diplomacy is all about, will

    be less reluctant to make the investment in diplomacy as a lower cost,

    longer-term tool so that the military tool may be used less frequently and

    only when other means have not been successful. A military solution

    should never be the substitute for an under-funded or non-existent diplo-

    matic solution.

    In practical terms this will mean restoring the foreign affairs appro-

    priation to roughly the same level within the federal budget that it had

    in 1961, that is 4% of the federal budget or a nearly four-fold increase

    from the present level of 1% of the budget.7 The increased funding ini-

    tially should be sufficient to provide the security enhancements and re-

    store infrastructure for overseas operations so sorely needed. A rela-

    tively small portion of these funds also should go to eliminate U.S. ar-

    rears in payments to the United Nations (UN) and for UN operations,

    like peacekeeping, which have prior U.S. commitments. There is also a

    need to increase targeted assistance to friends and potential friends

    abroad to enhance U.S. interests. Without a safe, secure diplomatic

    work environment, restoration of America’s reputation as a reliable

    member of the international community, and sufficient funds to reward

    friends and assist potential friends in the developing world, the task of cre-

    ating a peaceful world environment for the development of civil societ-

    ies and market economies will be made more difficult and, in the end,

    more expensive in both blood and fortune. A small investment in diplo-

    macy now can prevent the kinds of future world crises that can cost the

    United States and its citizens dearly down the road.

    Most of the increase in funding should go where it will have the most

    immediate, as well as the most long-lasting, positive impact. It should go

    to preserve and enhance the Department of State’s most precious re-

    source—its people. One small glimmer of light in the current department

    has been the renaming of the Bureau of Personnel to the Bureau of Hu-

    man Resources. That is precisely what the people constitute—the

    most important resource of the department. The private sector long

    ago realized people are the key to success. Most of government has

    more recently come to this realization. Perhaps the Department of

    Defense is the best role model in this regard. The Department of Defense

    not only talks about “the Quality of our Forces”—it backs up these

    words with actions.8 Quality has been achieved only at great expense

    and effort. It has required the creation of institutions and procedures

    honed over more than two decades to develop a high level of effective-

    ness and efficiency in the U.S. armed forces.

    Key Defense Department priorities have been to attract highly mo-

    tivated and skilled people, to retain highly skilled people in sufficient

    numbers, to develop leadership skills and other institutional, on-the-job

    and self-study types of training at each level of leadership, and to pro-

    vide these motivated, skilled, and well trained people with technologi-

    cally superior equipment and facilities. This unquestionably has worked

    for the U.S. military and it has been vital to operational success. The

    Department of State should have a similar set of priorities for its people

    to ensure it own operational success in diplomacy.

    The prevailing attitude in the Department of State has long been one

    almost haughtily averse to training. The conventional wisdom is that di-

    plomacy is an art, not a science. Accordingly, it is reasoned, there is no

    formula to follow. The Foreign Service attracts the best and the bright-

    est the United States has to offer and they have all the intellectual tools

    they need. That intelligence need only be combined with experience in

    the field and in Washington and it will result in a highly professional diplo-

    matic service. Unfortunately, these assumptions are no longer valid, if

    they ever were. Diplomacy has a body of knowledge, a history of what

    works and what does not, and a code of practices and procedures that

    must be passed on generation to generation in a more formal way than is

    now the case. There is a formula to follow so long as flexibility is not

    sacrificed to formula. As for the best and the brightest, evidence suggests

    they are now choosing multinationals, banks, and dot.coms, rarely the

    Foreign Service. The Department of State cannot offer a competitive sal-

    ary and benefits package or the promise of rapid advancement for

    the highly talented and motivated. Granted, money and advancement

    are not everything. Still, the Foreign Service offers neither physical safety

    in the age of terrorism, nor status and respect in the age of bureaucracy’s

    association with incompetence. Most critically, however, the Foreign Ser-

    vice struggles to offer even relevance as modern technology offers direct

    methods of communication, the military’s regional commanders-in-

    chief (CINCs) exert tremendous influence, and the process of global-

    ization changes the international environment. The Department of

    State must re-think the way it deals with its people or, in the case of re-

    cruitment, potential people. Just as education should not end with a di-

    ploma, education and training in the Department of State must be an on-

    going effort from day one to—and through—retirement. The Depart-

    ment of State and U.S. diplomacy already have paid a high price for not

    wisely investing in people. The Department of State must follow the

    Defense Department model of loyalty down as well as loyalty up, and

    genuine investment in people, their training, and their equipment lest our

    diplomatic capacities continue to erode as an increasingly dispirited

    and cynical Foreign Service struggles to do more and more with less and


    A relatively small investment in state of the art communications to

    enable all parts of the Department of State to interact with each other

    in real time across a wide bandwidth is an investment that will pay great

    dividends. Just as with the Defense Department, high quality, well-

    trained and well motivated people need the best equipment to do the

    best job. Video conferencing, compatible e-mail systems, and full band-

    width Internet access at home and abroad are not luxuries in today’s

    global political, economic, cultural, and information societies; they are

    the price of doing business effectively. All this quality recruitment,

    motivation, training, and equipment will cost money just as it has in the

    U.S. military.

    If reform at the Department of State were just a question of money,

    however, it would be a relatively simple solution indeed. Money will

    go a long way in bringing the Department of State’s infrastructure

    and personnel policies up to standard. But that will not be enough.

    The next step, simultaneous with the infusion of additional funds, must be

    a radical restructuring of the organization of the department and its in-

    ternal policies and procedures. What is suggested here is nothing less than

    a transformation of the department’s corporate culture.9

    Step two calls for a simplification and a leveling of the organizational

    structure of the department. Without going into elaborate details, this

    step envisages: six regional divisions of the world corresponding a bit

    more closely to the Defense Department’s regional CINCs; a di-

    vision for multi-regional affairs including the United Nations and other

    international organizations and the “global” bureaus; specialized bu-

    reaus like the existing Consular Affairs, Educational and Cultural Af-

    fairs, Legal, Congressional Relations, Administration, Diplomatic

    Security, and so forth, which might remain largely intact while other

    functions could be subsumed within regional bureaus. This would pro-

    vide a long awaited opportunity to cut back on the number of bureaus

    (as well as assistant secretaries and their equivalents), rationalize the

    geographic diplomatic units with those of military commands, and re-

    balance the relative influence and resources within the regional bureaus

    and between regional and functional bureaus.

    One innovation might be the physical relocation of some regional

    deputy assistant secretaries and some key staff to co-locate with a regional

    CINC outside the Washington, DC, area. The territory assigned to the

    CINCs and the six regional bureaus of the Department of State should

    be adjusted so they more closely match. Situating a State Department

    policy cell with the CINC will provide greater interaction between the

    department and the regional CINCs than currently takes place through a

    single State Department political advisor assigned as a member of the

    CINC’s staff. It will simultaneously assist in the necessary decentraliza-

    tion of decision making within the Department of State. In the informa-

    tion age, a CINC-based State Department cell could provide real time

    value-added policy input directly to the most senior levels of the depart-

    ment, horizontally to the CINC, and through the CINC to the Joint Staff.

    This reorganization will require decentralized financial and adminis-

    trative authority and responsibility, devolving it to the various bureaus

    in Washington and especially to the overseas missions. A whole range of

    procurement, grant making, and travel processing should be shifted

    to the bureaus and overseas missions without reference to central author-

    ity. The Department of State must realize that over-centralization for

    purposes of control stifles creativity, dampens initiative, and pulls ef-

    ficiency down to the lowest common denominator. Decentralization will

    empower employees and free staff and time for training. The current

    culture builds an unnecessary and destructive “us versus them” wall

    between the “policy wonks” and the “admin types.” Recent suggestions

    to create a second deputy secretary of state for management to join the

    current deputy secretary (for policy) would only compound this mutual

    alienation. Staffing throughout the department should be consistent with

    the goal that at least 20% of each bureau’s complement should be un-

    dergoing some form of short-term or long-term training or educational

    development at any given time. Training must be mandatory and be

    tied directly to advancement. Some additional consolidation of

    foreign affairs functions remains to be done. The Foreign Commercial

    Service, now lodged in the Department of Commerce and the Foreign

    Agricultural Service now a part of the Agriculture Department would

    be better able to complement the work of the Department of State by

    being incorporated with other economic functions of the department.

    These Foreign Service officers, who now find themselves stranded in

    larger non-foreign affairs agencies in which they have little influence,

    would make an immediate contribution to new thinking at State.

    Finally, planning, especially planning on an interagency basis, must

    be required of all offices of the Department of State. Too often, bril-

    liant papers and plans are crafted by, for, and of the Department of State

    without ever being seen, much less contributed to, by any other part of

    the U.S. government. These papers are part of the endless paper chase

    within Foggy Bottom, which, in the end, means nothing, influences noth-

    ing and drains away the energies and talents of department staff. In order

    to be meaningful and influential, planning must be integrated into ev-

    ery part of the Department, planners must not be separated from policy

    and all stakeholders in the outcome must be integral to the planning pro-

    cess. If the Department of Defense and the U.S. military have been criti-

    cized for over-planning, this error is preferable to under-planning. Plan-

    ning, like training, must be made a high priority for the department.

    Advancement in the service must be contingent on specific training re-

    quirements at every level of leadership. This training must include plan-

    ning and interagency coordination as requirements for advancement to

    mid-level and senior positions. Will this new organization and

    funding guarantee a more stable and peaceful world? Will it eliminate

    poverty and injustice, rogue states and terrorism, would-be dictators,

    and errors of judgment? Unfortunately, the answer is “no.” As long

    as there is a human equation in international relations the world will

    not always be as we would wish.

    What a reinvigorated Department of State can do, however, is to manage

    the one constant in the world—change.

    The United States of America enters the twenty-first century as the

    most dominant power of this or any earlier age. The country’s military

    and economic power is unrivaled. But because we know change is ever

    present, we must now devote a real effort to rebuild U.S. diplomatic

    readiness and to care for our complex bilateral and multilateral rela-

    tions. Every dominant world power throughout history has made the

    same mistake—it assumed that the status quo would last forever. When

    change came, and those that the great power dominated determined

    themselves to dominate, the great power was unprepared or unwilling

    to use diplomatic tools to manage change and relied on military might

    in a vain attempt to cling to power. The vision of a transformed Depart-

    ment of State presented in this article, with the diplomatic tools nec-

    essary to manage change and rebuild relationships within the world com-

    munity—a kind of Vision 2010 for diplomacy—will cost money, take

    enormous effort, and require the dedicated commitment of all in-

    volved. To continue to muddle along, however, is no longer a vi-

    able alternative.


    1. For the details of the reorganization

    plan see Reorganization Plan and

    Report (revised March 1999) Sub-

    mitted Pursuant to Section 1601 of

    the Foreign Affairs Reform and Re-

    structuring Act of 1998 as Con-

    tained in Public Law 105-277.

    2. See findings based upon interviews

    with Foreign Service officers, in

    Stephanie Smith Kinney , “Develop-

    ing Diplomats for 2010: If Not Now,

    When?,” American Diplomacy Vol.

    V, No. 3, (Summer 2000): 16. The

    author concludes there is broad

    agreement that neither the Depart-

    ment nor the Foreign Service is

    “ready to meet the challenges to

    American diplomacy.”

    3. Commonly known as the Smith-

    Mundt Act, the United States Infor-

    mation and Educational Exchange

    Act of 1948, as amended, 22 U.S.C.

    1431, prohibits the dissemination of

    informational materials produced for

    overseas use in the United States or

    to U.S. citizens and residents. Sec-

    tion 208 of the USIA Authorization

    Act, FY 1986 and 1987, U.S.C.

    1461-1a, “The Zorinsky Amend-

    ment” adds to these prohibitions.

    Some exceptions to the general pro-

    hibitions have been made by Con-

    gress over the years for films, publi-

    cations, and materials, the domestic

    distribution of which Congress de-

    termined to be in the national inter-

    est. In the age of the Internet, the 24/

    7 news cycle, and satellite television,

    these prohibitions on domestic dis-

    semination based on irrational fears

    of the creation of an American gov-

    ernment propaganda agency have

    long outlived whatever usefulness

    they may have had.

    4. Two minor fixes should be undertaken

    immediately to transfer the oversees

    American speakers’ program from

    the Office of International Informa-

    tion Programs to the Bureau of Edu-

    cational and Cultural affairs (ECA)

    given the program’s Fulbright-Hayes

    origins and to reorganize the ECA

    Bureau along geographic lines to

    enable it to interact better with the

    true power centers of the department.

    5. It is not the purpose of this article to

    lay out a detailed blueprint for all of

    the reforms needed, but rather to

    raise consciousness about some of

    the more obvious changes so-long

    overdue, and to suggest directions for

    those changes.

    6. Ambassador William C. Harrop “The

    Infrastructure of American Diplo-

    macy,” American Diplomacy, Sep-

    tember 2000. The article makes an

    excellent case for the inclusion of the

    Department of State in the national

    security realm of the federal budget

    and pointedly notes the “hollowing

    out” of U.S. diplomatic readiness.

    7. See The Budget in Brief For Fiscal

    Year 2001, Released by the U.S.

    Department of State, 7 February


    8. One need only peruse a publication

    such as Joint Vision 2020 to under-

    stand the Department of Defense’s

    commitment of resources to ensure

    quality in the armed forces. Office

    of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs

    of Staff, Director for Strategic Plans

    and Policy, J5; Strategy Division,

    Joint Vision 2020, US Government

    Printing Office, Washington DC,

    June 2000, or


    9. This is not the first call for a basic

    reform of the Department of State

    and its way of doing business.

    Among the more recent of more than

    two dozen such studies are: The

    Henry L. Stimson Center, Equipped

    for the Future, October 1998; The

    Center for Strategic and Interna-

    tional Studies, Reinventing Diplo-

    macy in the Information Age, Octo-

    ber 1998: and U.S. Department of

    State, America’s Overseas Presence

    in the 21st Century, November 1999.

    William P. Kiehl is a member of the Senior Foreign Service with the Department of State. He is

    currently Diplomat in Residence at the Center for Strategic Leadership, U. S. Army War College

    and a Senior Fellow of the Peacekeeping Institute. The writer’s views are his own and do not necessarily

    reflect those of the institutions with which he is affiliated.

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