“Present at the Destruction”: The Deconstruction of the U.S. Department of State?

via Emily G, Berlin (@EmilyGorcenski)

Last March it appears that even though the “State Department was in disarray” it was still functioning at a moderate clip. Even so, it appeared that the pace had changed, with some calling it “lonely,” with “quiet hallways” and a lot of “sitting around and going home earlier than usual.”

Now, if Max Bergmann is right, what we see at Foggy Bottom, explored earlier this year by ProPublica as “deconstruction of the administrative state,” signals a massive loss of intellectual and social capital for U.S. diplomacy, and may confirm earlier concerns.

What is motivating Tillerson’s demolition effort is anyone’s guess. He may have been a worldly CEO at ExxonMobil, but he had precious little experience in how American diplomacy works. Perhaps Tillerson, as a D.C. and foreign policy novice, is simply being a good soldier, following through on edicts from White House ideologues like Steve Bannon. Perhaps he thinks he is running State like a business. But the problem with running the State Department like a business is that most businesses fail—and American diplomacy is too big to fail.

What is clear, however, is that there is no pressing reason for any of these cuts. America is not a country in decline. Its economy is experiencing an unprecedented period of continuous economic growth, its technology sector is the envy of the world and the American military remains unmatched. Even now, under Trump, America’s allies and enduring values amplify its power and constrain its adversaries. America is not in decline—it is choosing to decline. And Tillerson is making that choice. He is quickly becoming one of the worst and most destructive secretaries of state in the history of our country.

Source: Present at the Destruction: How Rex Tillerson Is Wrecking the State Department – POLITICO Magazine

Perhaps this is what Colum Lynch sees as “Trump’s Doctrine of Diplomatic Chaos,” where unpredictability is explained by UN Ambassador Nikki Haley as a strategic imperative–useful to negotiation efforts.


Hitting Bottom in Foggy Bottom | Foreign Policy

If you love the State Department you must kill it?  Provocative stuff from FP.com and one you should ask every FSO you meet, starting tomorrow at 2pm:

There is growing evidence that the internal machinations of the State Department have corrupted its “core missions” of traditional diplomacy and public diplomacy. This year, for example, the Government Accountability Office (gao) found that the department completely failed in its now four-year-old attempt to reorganize its nonproliferation bureau (a bureau that remains leaderless). Besides failing to address mission overlap, low morale, and lack of career opportunities, the failed reorganization caused a significant drop in expertise in offices focused on proliferation issues — including “today’s threats posted by Iran, North Korea, and Syria,” the gao’s report said — and coordination with bodies like the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Another report by the State Department’s inspector general this year described severe and broad dysfunction within the Africa bureau, while ignoring — perhaps considering it a given — the lack of departmentwide integration and leadership in operations. Examples of the dysfunction range from not providing public diplomacy personnel with computers capable of reading interoffice memos to a failure to effectively work with the new Africa Command.

By necessity, the Defense Department has stepped in where State Department has tuned out: Foggy Bottom relies on Pentagon funding and even personnel for basic operations central to its mission. For example, the Defense Department now performs much strategic communications work traditionally the purview of the State Department. In Somalia, for example, the State Department’s budget for public diplomacy is $30,000. The Pentagon’s is $600,000. And, in the State Department’s bureaucratic wisdom, the $30,000 does not even belong to its undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs.

Further, rivalries between the different “cones” — or career tracks, referred to by one insider as the “conal caste system” — at the State Department severely impact morale, career growth, and even operations. The report on the Africa bureau noted that in 2002, public affairs and public diplomacy was a “failed office” — and that the situation is worse in 2009. Public outreach workers said the bureau’s leadership “does not understand public diplomacy.” The sentiment is widespread. A 2008 report by a congressional ombudsman, the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, described a systemic failure to support and train public diplomacy officers in the field, as well as professional discrimination against those in the career track.

via Hitting Bottom in Foggy Bottom | Foreign Policy.

US/UN Diplomat breaks rank?

A NYT report on some intriguing interdepartmental chatter:

Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to the United Nations, is facing angry questions from other senior Bush administration officials over what they describe as unauthorized contacts with Asif Ali Zardari, a contender to succeed Pervez Musharraf as president of Pakistan.

Richard C. Holbrooke, a former ambassador to the United Nations under President Clinton, said the administration was sending conflicting signals. “It is not possible to conduct coherent foreign policy if senior officials are freelancing,” he said.