Advancing a Free Society

A Robust State Department

Friday, September 2, 2011

In the past five years, the conventional wisdom in Washington has been that the U.S. State Department is dramatically undernourished for the work required of American civilian power abroad. Since 2000, there have been a staggering number of think tank reports advocating a more robust diplomatic corps. The last three Secretaries of State and the last two Directors of the U.S. Agency for International Development have not only had ambitious goals for improving their departments, they have actually received the money to make improvements. Congress has increased funding to the Department of State and the U.S. AID by 155 percent since 2003, and the size of the diplomatic corps has grown by 50 percent since that time.

Yet practically no one believes that the U.S. Department of State is currently performing at an adequate level. There are no voices arguing that it is the diplomatic equivalent to the dominant American military. Even sympathetic observers like the Stimson Center—a think tank devoted to global security—conclude, "today’s Foreign Service does not have to a sufficient degree the knowledge, skills, abilities, and outlooks needed to equip career diplomats to conduct twenty-first-century diplomacy." Despite the substantial increase in the department’s workforce, it continues to contract out work that is mission-critical or the function of which is inherently governmental.

Continue reading Kori Schake…