New Secretary Faces Fixing Under-Resourced State Department

On news that president-elect Barack Obama is considering Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of state, Fox News brought out Democratic strategist Bob Bechel this morning who asked, “What does Hillary really want to do?  Get more post offices for the finger lakes region of New York or, as Secretary of state, visit European capitols and China?” In my opinion, this is one of the key problems with the State Department.  The Secretary of State often enjoys being “diplomat and traveler in chief” but often ignores his or her role as a key department head of the U.S. government charged with actually managing the Department of State.  During Condoleezza Rice’s time this came to a head when several of State’s diplomats refused to go to assignments in “hot spots” like Iraq.  These “public servants” were mostly coddled and cajoled while U.S. military volunteers, who take the same oath of service as State’s employees, face discipline when they refuse orders or assignments.  The point is that the next Secretary of State will have to deal with Russia, Iran, Iraq, China, Pakistan the Middle East and a host of other ‘hot spots.”  He or she will have to also get and keep the State Department at Foggy Bottom in line, on track, and in order — or it will become foggier still….

 
Seal of the United States Department of State

 

By Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 15, 2008; Page A04

The next secretary of state not only will face the challenge of repairing the nation’s tattered image and grappling with an array of global crises and hot spots, but also must solve a problem closer to home: reforming an under-resourced State Department to handle its growing duties, such as rebuilding war-torn societies, coping with worldwide pandemics and working with other countries to curb global warming.

“In the last eight years, we have significantly reinvented and transformed every national security agency except the Department of State,” said Philip D. Zelikow, who served as counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. “Our core Foreign Service officers and aid officers are not large enough to play the role that’s been cast for them, nor do we have the training establishment to prepare them for their roles.”

Speculation swirled yesterday that President-elect Barack Obama might be ready to offer the secretary of state post to an instantly recognizable star, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). But other contenders apparently remain in the mix, including Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee; New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson; and retiring GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel (Neb.). And after watching a administration whose tenure was marked by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the world appears ready for the nation’s new top diplomat — whomever it may be — to lead the reinvigorated diplomacy Obama has pledged to deliver.

“The next president and the next secretary come into office at a time when our economy is in recession, our military is tied down and our reputation is tarnished,” said Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Diplomatic tools are arguably the one set of instruments that are available. It’s a natural moment for American diplomacy.”

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/14/AR2008111403505.html

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