A Foreign Affairs Budget For the Future:  Fixing the Crisis in Diplomatic Readiness

October 01, 2008

"Our diplomatic leaders - be they in ambassadors' suites or on the State Department's seventh floor - must have the resources and political support needed to fully exercise their statutory responsibilities in leading American foreign policy."

- Defense Secretary Robert Gates, July 2008

The situation that Secretary Gates calls for does not exist today. On the contrary, our foreign affairs capacity is hobbled by a human capital crisis. We do not have enough people to meet our current responsibilities. Looking forward, requirements are expanding. Increased diplomatic needs in Iraq, Afghanistan, and "the next" crisis area, as well as global challenges in finance, the environment, terrorism and other areas have not been supported by increased staffing. Those positions that do exist have vacancy rates approaching 15% at our Embasssies and Consulates abroad and at the State Department in Washington, DC. USAID's situation is even more dire. Today, significant portions of the nation's foreign affairs business simply are not accomplished. The work migrates by default to the military that does not have the necessary people and funding but neither sufficent experience or knowledge. The "militarization" of diplomacy exists and is accelerating.

Currently the Secretary of State lacks the tools - people, competencies, authorities, programs and funding - to execute the President's foreign policies. The status quo cannot continue without serious damage to our vital interests. We must invest on an urgent  basis in our capabilities in the State Department, USAID, and related organizations to ensure we can meet our foreign policy and national security objectives. There must be enough diplomatic, public diplomacy, and foreign assistance professionals equipped and trained to be out, engaged with the populace and, where needed, working closely with the nation's military forces to advance America's interests and goals. This report provides a plan and a process to begin and carry forward the rebuilding of America's foreign affairs capability.