New Report Suggests Restructuring State Department
This week marked the release of a new report drafted by ten State Department veterans representing “decades of experience in the State Department and National Security Council—some of them going back to the Eisenhower administration.”
The report was commissioned by the House Foreign Affairs Committee and released by the Atlantic Council.
The findings of the 50-page report are broad in scope, but are distilled into nine key recommendations intended to address key problems identified in the areas of Structure and Process, Personnel, Budget, Congressional Relations, and the function of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
The authors highlight the critical role played by the State Department and suggest it is essential “to bolster the department so it can more efficiently and effectively operate in accordance with its historic mission.”
Specifically, the report suggests reducing “the number of bureaus and offices by consolidating and eliminating functions,” as well as reducing “the number of layers of clearance, review, and approval…allowing for easy implementation of a new process to track and assure the timely delivery of essential documents to key players.” In making the case for these changes, the authors point out that currently, “more than fifty to sixty major players are supposed to report to the secretary” directly, a prospect the report deems “unmanageable.”
On personnel matters, the authors propose a top-to-bottom redesign of “the intake, assignment, and promotion process,” as well as making “mid- and senior-level training mandatory, with a short-term goal of expanding leadership and management course content and a longer-term goal of making the Foreign Service Institute a degree granting institution.”
In addressing budgeting issues, the report recommends restoring “the budget as a management tool, not just an accounting activity,” and considering a “true ‘National Security Budget,’ which would integrate all government spending in support of the foreign and security objectives of the country and be jointly developed by the national security agencies, the National Security Council, and the Office of Management and Budget.”
The authors conclude by suggesting that the State Department should “rebuild a relationship of trust with Capitol Hill,” suggesting a number of steps including collaboration on an authorization bill and the inclusion of Senators in treaty negotiations, as well as recommending that USAID both maintain its status as a standalone agency and be empowered “with an expanded mission set and greater control over US foreign assistance efforts.”
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