Bush Aims To Hire More Diplomats

By Matthew Lee
Associated Press
Monday, February 4, 2008

President Bush wants to hire nearly 1,100 new diplomats to address severe staffing shortages and put the State Department on track to meet an ambitious call to double its size over the next decade, according to administration officials.

The additional positions are part of Bush's budget for fiscal 2009, which he will submit to Congress today, according to documents described by officials. The spending request is subject to congressional approval.

Bush's proposal envisions adding 1,076 jobs at the State Department and diplomatic missions overseas in what officials believe would be one of the largest one-year boosts to the ranks of the foreign service.

The department is facing a critical shortage of diplomats, and many embassies are operating at 70 percent of their desired staffing levels. Last fall, the department said 10 percent of vacant positions would have to remain unfilled this year because of a lack of personnel.

The plan includes 450 jobs to free up current diplomats for intensive language and national security training; 350 posts for a new Civilian Stabilization Program, which would work to improve conditions in post-conflict zones; 200 diplomatic security agents; and 50 political advisers for military commands.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has lobbied hard for the new hires, making several appearances before a White House budget appeals committee to fight efforts to trim the proposal, officials said.

The additions mirror a recommendation made last week by an advisory committee she appointed in 2006 to study how to proceed with the project.

The department's last major hiring drive occurred between 2001 and 2004, when then-Secretary of State Colin Powell launched the Diplomatic Readiness Initiative, which boosted staffing by 1,158 positions over those three years.

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