Diplomats Will Be Shifted to Hot Spots

Network News

X Profile
View More Activity
By Glenn Kessler and Bradley Graham
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, January 19, 2006

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that she will shift hundreds of Foreign Service positions from Europe and Washington to difficult assignments in the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere as part of a broad restructuring of the diplomatic corps that she has dubbed "transformational diplomacy."

The State Department's culture of deployment and ideas about career advancement must alter now that the Cold War is over and the United States is battling transnational threats of terrorism, drug smuggling and disease, Rice said in a speech at Georgetown University. "The greatest threats now emerge more within states than between them," she said. "The fundamental character of regimes now matters more than the international distribution of power."

As part of the change in priorities, Rice announced that diplomats will not be promoted into the senior ranks unless they accept assignments in dangerous posts, gain expertise in at least two regions and are fluent in two foreign languages, citing Chinese, Urdu and Arabic as a few preferred examples.

Rice noted that the United States has nearly as many State Department personnel in Germany -- which has 82 million people -- as in India, with 1 billion people. As a first step, 100 jobs in Europe and Washington will be immediately shifted to expanded embassies in countries such as India, China and Lebanon. Many of these diplomats had been scheduled to rotate into coveted posts in European capitals this summer, and the sudden change in assignment has caused some distress, State Department officials said.

Officials said that ultimately as many as one-third of the 6,400 Foreign Service positions could be affected in the coming years.

Separately, today Rice plans to unveil a restructuring of U.S. foreign assistance, including announcing the nomination of Randall L. Tobias as the new administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Officials said Rice plans to elevate the USAID post, giving Tobias -- a former Eli Lilly chief executive who now heads the administration's global AIDS relief program -- an office and a planning staff in the State Department. Rice will designate Tobias as having a rank equivalent of deputy secretary of state.

Although the move stops short of merging USAID with State, it is intended to draw the agency closer into the department's fold, the officials said. Additionally, the new director will be given broader authority over a range of foreign assistance accounts now managed by separate entities. "Effectively, this will allow a single person to have visibility into these various accounts," a State official said.

Anticipating such a change, some outside the government have warned that it could result in a greater politicization of foreign assistance. "We're concerned that the same priority won't be given to long-term development as resources are siphoned to support shorter-term diplomatic or military objectives," said Jim Bishop, a senior officer of InterAction, the largest coalition of non-governmental U.S. aid groups.

But State Department officials described the restructuring as necessary to reverse a growing fragmentation of foreign assistance programs in recent years and to ensure more effective and focused spending overseas.

The two announcements -- combined with changes announced Tuesday to streamline the movement of people and goods across U.S. borders -- are intended to fill in the details of Rice's promise to make what she calls transformational diplomacy the hallmark of her tenure as secretary of state.

"These proposals are part of the secretary's continuing strategy to dramatically increase America's engagement and dialogue with the world," said Jim Wilkinson, senior adviser to Rice.

Rice has described the notion of transformational diplomacy as a shift from merely reporting on events to influencing them to foster the growth of democratic states worldwide.

Under the plan outlined yesterday, Rice will expand the U.S. presence by encouraging the spread of new one-person diplomatic outposts, now located in a few cities such as Alexandria, Egypt, and Medan, Indonesia. "There are nearly 200 cities worldwide with over 1 million people in which the United States has no formal diplomatic presence," Rice said. "This is where the action is today."

The move is intended to bring U.S. diplomats -- now often barricaded in fortified embassies -- closer to the mood in the streets.

The State Department will also expand the use of interactive Web sites maintained by diplomats to communicate with foreign citizens, promote the creation of rapid-reaction forces to deal with regional problems and seek to work more closely with military officers to promote the stability of nations after conflicts, Rice said.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity