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.”