Personnel Shortfall Slows State Department

Though the Pentagon plays an ever-increasing role in diplomacy, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates favors stronger State Department funding.
Though the Pentagon plays an ever-increasing role in diplomacy, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates favors stronger State Department funding. (Virginia Mayo - AP)
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By Joe Davidson
Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Staffing shortages at the State Department are so serious that much of its work is not getting done.

The situation is so bad that State needs to increase its hiring by 46 percent -- adding more than 4,700 jobs -- between 2010 and 2014.

That's the conclusion of retired ambassadors and other foreign policy experts, who produced a report on the shortfall for the American Academy of Diplomacy.

The study, "A Foreign Affairs Budget for the Future," which the academy will release Thursday, is blunt:

"Our foreign affairs capacity is hobbled . . . "

"Significant portions of the nation's foreign affairs business simply are not accomplished."

"The diplomatic capacity of the United States has been hollowed out."

There have been some personnel increases in recent years, but they were absorbed by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. State would need to boost its budget by 21 percent to get where the academy thinks the department needs to be. That would be money well spent, said Thomas Boyatt, project chairman for the report and a former ambassador to Colombia.

"If just one war per generation is avoided because of effective diplomacy, think of the savings it brings to the nation," he said yesterday. He cited North Korea as an example. It is dismantling its nuclear weapons program and allowing in United Nations inspectors. The Bush administration has removed the country from its list of terrorist nations.

It's a diplomatic victory -- and not a military victory that could only be gained by the spilling of much blood.

Yet, at the same time, the Department of Defense has played an ever-increasing role in diplomacy, much to the dismay of diplomats.

"The 'militarization of diplomacy' is noticeably expanding as DOD personnel assume public diplomacy and assistance responsibilities that the civilian agencies do not have the trained staff to fill," the report says.


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