By Patricia H Kushlis
Yes, Matilda, there is a clear relationship between the
administration of the State Department and America’s ability to conduct its foreign
I don’t know how many times it needs to be repeated before
it registers on the Hill, at the NSC and on the hustings but US national
security – the conduct of US foreign relations with friend and foe – does not
simply equate to sending in the troops or bombing the offending opponent to
smithereens. There are far less
expensive and usually more effective options that the US has underutilized,
ignored or just plain forgotten.
One important reason
for the latter is that in State’s rush to apply the “up or out” principle to
the Foreign Service which, since the law’s adoption in 1980, has not only shorted the
US government of considerable foreign policy expertise but is more applicable
to combat troops in war zones paid to engage in hand-to-hand
combat as a part of their jobs rather than in the more cerebral conduct of diplomacy on the world’s
complex multi-dimensional chessboard.
When diplomats need to go to work in combat gear, my
friends, that’s not diplomacy.
Yet, for diplomacy and other non-lethal forms in the US
foreign policy tool kit to succeed, the lead agency – namely the State
Department – also needs to function administratively like a well-oiled machine – not one that is
full of grit, grime, worn out parts and riddled with corruption as is the case
That’s why it’s even more ironic that the one section of the
department immediately furloughed in the government shutdown on October 1 was State’s
inspector general’s office established to root out waste, fraud and corruption.
According to Diplopundit, 396 of its 400 member staff were
likely turned out on the pavement yesterday. The true numbers are hard to come by but DP provides an updated guestimate that 88-90% of the total OIG staff are on furlough. They will remain there until, that is,
the Republicans in Congress get certain members off their soap boxes and the party functioning again.
The good news is that
the Senate recently approved the administration’s appointment of Steve Linick as State’s
new Inspector General. The bad news, of
course, is that he will have little staff or budget to initiate investigations until the current political impasse is resolved.
Meanwhile, D.B. Grady
has written two excellent articles on administrative problems at State. These articles
have recently appeared in Clearance Jobs: Defense News & Career Advice. I highly recommend them – especially to those in
the IG’s office suddenly without staff or alternatively, a place to hang tennis
shoes or track suits during the work week. Grady who has previously written about State’s
administrative quagmire for The Atlantic should be commended for his thorough
reporting, ability to connect the dots and willingness to offer practical solutions.
Here are the links:
Government Oversight and the Critical Role of Inspectors
General, September 11, 2013
Reliable Foreign Policy Hampered by Administrative Failures,
September 18, 2013