Monday, November 05, 2007

Austin Bay on Changing Organizational Culture at State

Austin Bay notes that while there are individual reasons for the difficulties the State Department is experiencing in deploying diplomats to hardship posts there are also organizational challenges. An example of the individual was a foreign service officer who refused to go to Baghdad as one of those types who practices

"selective job dedication" –he'll go where he wants to go, not where his department sends him. At best his is a tourist's approach to diplomacy. At worst — well, it doesn't get much worse, at least in terms of shameful behavior by a supposedly responsible government official.

But on the other hand he recognizes the vast differences in the resources available to the Department of Defense and State --  a difference on the order of 12:1 and the gap in their organizational cultures. Both will take time to change, if change is considered desirable. The width of the gap was illustrated by absence of terminology to deal with involuntary diplomatic deployments. Words such as the "draft" or "volunteering", which have historical meanings in the military have no history in diplomacy. Just how do you compel a diplomat to go where he would rather not be posted? Austin Bay writes:

The State Department certainly isn't conducting a draft. Its diplomats and departmental specialists all accepted government jobs without coercion. "Call-up," however, doesn't really describe the situation, not with adequate precision. "Call-up" implies the use of reserves, of part-timers. Our diplomats aren't reserve "weekend warriors" leaving jobs and businesses to pick up rifles. They are full-time professionals who know –when they sign on—that they have duty stations world-wide.

What is it? A deployment. I don't see this as quibbling over words. Professional diplomats deploy. They aren't draftees and they aren't reservists.

That might seem self-evident to Austin Bay, but some diplomats may well have a different concept of their jobs. Whether or not the State Department changes under the crucible of circumstances remains to be seen. Nothing follows.


Blogger NahnCee said...

Since State has been leaking secrets like a sieve for years now, and seems bound and determined to run their own foreign policy regardless of what administration is in office and who's trying to flow us up, would anyone besides the loony left really care if Condoleeza fired the bunch of them and then quit herself since SHE is not doing such a bang-up job either?

Reagan managed to fire all the air traffic controllers back in the 1960's and they actually did something worthwhile and important.

And then when we get rid of and shut down the State Department, someone should use that experience to do the same thing with the CIA.

11/05/2007 01:04:00 PM  
Blogger John J. Coupal said...

Going back to the 1930s, communist spies like Alger Hiss and Whittaker Chambers held positions of influence working in the Department of State.

Diplomats who are now choosy about their assignments after signing on to be a diplomat is par for the course at State.

Too bad Porter Goss didn't stay longer and root out the deadwood.

11/05/2007 01:29:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

1980's, but yes he DID!
...meanwhile, Sandy Bergler steals and destroys national security docs and gets a slap on the wrist.
Nothing will ever improve until people are held accountable, and that will not happen, ever, with this administration.
An administration that lies about the fence, enforcement, and now has decimated the real ID act cannot be taken seriously.

Hopefully, we'll see some heads roll under Rudy!

11/05/2007 01:33:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Porter was relieved for just that reason, after being assured that would not happen.

11/05/2007 01:35:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Uncle Sam on the Line Op-Ed: John Ashcroft
Sure do miss John!

11/05/2007 01:36:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Soccer stadium chants, posters showing Israel's president in an Arab headdress, celebrations of the birth of a son to Rabin's jailed killer and a torchlight rally during a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice triggered comment in some newspapers about a resurgence of right-wing radicalism. (sic)

"We will fight these phenomena that incite violence and will eradicate them," said Olmert, who denounced jeering right-wing fans of his own hometown soccer team as "brutish and violent".

"Peace is achieved through concessions. We all know that," said Olmert...

Several hundred marchers in Jerusalem on Sunday said they opposed any handover of parts of the city to a Palestinian state. Many also oppose the creation of any such Arab state on land they believe was given to the Jews by God.

"Contrary to all that those provocateurs are saying, the state of Israel will be ready to make numerous and painful concessions to change reality in the region," Olmert said.

Lord help us!
ht-Desert Rat

11/05/2007 01:45:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Tooth Fairy Diplomacy

11/05/2007 01:46:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

The U.S. military gives uniformed members of the services the option to turn down an assignment - and that means you are quitting the organization - and even then only if you have not committed to serve a remaining period of time.

Civilian employees of the U.S. military have a somewhat different deal. If one is told his job is being transferred to another installation, he could refuse to go - and then possibly get another job, probably at a lower paygrade by bumping someone else out of that job.

Either of these principles should apply to DoS. And either way, those who refuse to go should be eitehr sent packing or be advised that their services are no longer required in their former capacity -so here is a nice, safe job that does not pay much and involves use of mops and pails.

11/05/2007 02:55:00 PM  
Blogger Nomenklatura said...

Every government bureaucracy is eventually captured by a casual conspiracy of leftists, unless it involves serving in harm's way.

This is because there are always lots of leftists looking for a secure government shelter from the private sector, they like hiring their friends, and they manage to persuade themselves they are doing society a favor by keeping anyone who doesn't agree with them out of 'their' departments.

This is a fundamental characteristic of institutions run by government, just like the way publicly run transportation industries are inherently exposed to strikes by small numbers of people holding the rest of us to ransom. It's also a characteristic academics are careful never to notice.

11/05/2007 04:14:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...


Very true.

Capitalism is what you get when you leave people alone to do as they wish.

Communism is what you get when you leave government agencies alone to do as they wish.

11/05/2007 04:35:00 PM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

Austin Bay claims "Professional diplomats deploy. They aren't draftees and they aren't reservists."

Well I'm going to quibble. Professional diplomats don't deploy, they are posted. The measure of a good diplomat is one who will prepare to meet the challenges of the post his country needs filled. In the posts that need filling there is less a need for a pretty face and more a need to engage, improvise and overcome to our advantage.

Seems most grunts have a better grasp of the requirements of these diplomatic posts than the professional dandy's. It is perhaps a pool of professionalism that might be worthy of look, for training or being trained. Green Berets already have much in common with the diplomatic requirements of many of these posts.

An honorable dedication to duty and country seems to be missing in the foreign service, reflecting a problem of turf opposed to dedication to a mission. Reorienting thinking about what a job at DOS entails may require more than a cultural awakening.

11/05/2007 04:43:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Nomenklatura nailed it. I'll go farther and say that most of our elites are Nomenklatura, unwilling to risk the private sector for gains, instead preferring the sinecure of government or academy or Hollywood (which is a closed, Nomenklatur shop) or the Media (the same).

The military is fundamentally different in that it repels rather than attracts Nomenklatura with it's tradition, discipline, and overt nationalism.

Nomenklatura like the State Dept. (not the wise commenter haha) are "Can Not" people. The military are "can do" and that is the difference between the elites and the ordinary folk who make up the bulk of the military.

This will never change, so America simply needs to downsize State to where it does what it wants to do well -- roll out ceremonies for "important people" on the White House South Lawn or important dinner parties in Paris. Leaving the real work to the ordinary people who make this country productive.

11/05/2007 05:07:00 PM  
Blogger Dymphna said...

Ah, the despicable State Department, preparing to divide Jerusalem between Israel and Palestine.

I say we divvy up Mecca first, and have the Baptists rent spece in Vatican City.

Surely there is a 10th circle in Hell, being arranged just for those people...

Hey, I Know! Let's Divide Jerusalem. Yeah, That's Fair!

It's hard to say which is worse: a State dept employee on active duty or one that's retired.

John Kerry's father was with State. It shows...

11/05/2007 06:04:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Ted Kennedy's father, old Joe Kennedy, was ambassador to Great Britain and is listed in his bio as a "diplomat". Does that mean he was with State, too?

11/05/2007 06:30:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

And it was not always such. A guy I worked with at Vandenberg AFB was proudly showing a copy of a letter his son had received praising his dedication and courage in choppering in to represent DoS while the shooting was still going on in Grenada.

When I got to DC in the late 80's it was popular to say that our problems were related to all these amateurs running around. Professional government civilians could handle complex tasks such as diplomacy and weapons acquisition far better than the uniformed military and the political appointees. I think the results are now in on that approach.

11/05/2007 06:52:00 PM  
Blogger Fat Man said...

The problem with State is deep seated and long standing. There must be a comprehensive change in the way people are hired and promoted at state.

First, the current recruitment policy is structured to hire upper class white kids from ivy league colleges. This has got to be changed. The foreign service test should be scrapped. Language competence for European Languages should not be a huge factor, although Asian Language should be a plus. Most importantly demonstrated commitment to the welfare of the United States, such as by military service, should be the most important factor.

Once hired FSOs should be rewarded for service in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Hardship posts should be required for advancement. Paris should be reserved for guys with health problems who have paid their dues.

11/05/2007 08:10:00 PM  
Blogger Consul-At-Arms said...

@ fat man,

Do you pretend to actually know how FSOs are hired or are you going on what your grandfather told you about how it was in the old days?

This is not your grandfather's, nor even your father's, Foreign Service.

For the facts, start here:

Ivy Leaguers are definitely in the minority in today's foreign service. We look a lot more "like America" than you know.

A good ten percent of my entering FS class were, like me, either veterans or serving guardsmen/reservists. We outnumbered the ex-Peace Corps Volunteers by a couple of percent.

If you don't know this already, ten percent is much higher than the percentage of veterans in the overall U.S. population.

Foreign languages aren't part of the written or oral exams, although there's some extra credit given, once you've actually made the hiring registry, for those with language fluency. Harder or critically-short languages get you more points, popular European ones fewer points. Aside from Veteran's Preference points, it's the only way to better your placement on the hiring registry.

Hiring is done from the top (highest scores from the oral assessment, plus language and/or veterans points) of the register.

You don't even have to have completed your university degree to become an FSO, although about 99 percent have, and the majority do have masters degrees.

11/05/2007 10:32:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Good. It would apper that some FSO's are embarrassed enough about their behavior to post snarky little pseudo-factoids.

Whether or not you have a master's degree has nothing whatsoever to do with things like initiative, valor, and courage. Or even intelligence.

11/06/2007 06:21:00 AM  
Blogger Tamquam Leo Rugiens said...

For an enlightening and informed discussion of Foggy Bottom by John Bolton being interviewed by Hugh Hewitt, go here:

Part 1:

Part 2:


11/06/2007 07:50:00 AM  
Blogger Consul-At-Arms said...

@ nahncee,

Please be more specific as to what part(s) of my comment were either less than factual or false.

I don't have a masters degree myself. I was however noting that despite there being no specific requirement for a particular level of academic credential, that's about the average.

Snarky I'll give you: I get that way when I read uninformed commentary based upon someone's Hollywood-based impression of the State Dept.

Those idiots fail to accurately portray the military despite millions of dollars worth of support and technical "experts." Do you imagine they get our diplomats right either?

Embarrassed? I'm embarrassed by the quoted comments of one particular senior foreign service officer. I'm not at all embarrassed by the comments of the officer who'd already served in Basra.

Exactly how many months have you served in Iraq yourself?

11/06/2007 08:58:00 AM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

We must assume that a person of low degree (such as former ambassador Wilson) must have gotten into the foreign service on some basis OTHER than intellect, training, demonstrated skills, academic discipline, or conspicuous patriotism. It is good to hear from someone that current FSO hiring imposes somewhat stricter standards.

Sadly, it's difficult to predict who will in the fullness of time be the swine willing to spread lies for the benefit of his political party and patrons; willing to use his past service as a cover for later partisan work to undermine his own government in its dealings with vicious adversaries; eager to exploit his notoriety for quick personal gain by signing an exclusive representation contract with an entertainment booking agency, so that all media interviews and appearances are for hire to the highest bidder...

11/06/2007 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Exactly how many months have you served in Iraq yourself?

What an expert diplomat, having to fall back on a KosKids chickenhawk argument. Pffft.

11/06/2007 11:54:00 AM  
Blogger 1389 said...

We don't need no stinkin' diplomats!

We've already alienated and/or destroyed all of our would-be friends, because we've spent so many years appeasing our enemies.

So now all we have left are our enemies. With genuine and implacable enemies who have declared a war of extermination upon us, there's nothing to negotiate and nothing to say to them but GOODBYE. Let our weapons do the talking!

11/07/2007 09:04:00 PM  
Blogger Consul-At-Arms said...


When you chose to criticize the "initiative, valor, and courage" of an entire profession, don't be surprised if a member of that profession wants to know if you've put your money where your mouth is.

Can you give me a nice round figure other than "zero"?

BTW, I'm not a DailyKos person myself: both my parents were married.

11/07/2007 11:37:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

I'm not sure what both of your parents being married (presumably to each other) has to do with anything. Maybe you're insinuating that everyone who posts on Daily Kos is literally a son of a bitch.

As to your pathetic chickenhawk argument, I give you the following. And might I point out, too, that as a tax payer, if you are part of the State Department, I am your boss. And if the arguments you have posted are the best you can do, you REALLY need some help, supervision and mentoring:


I don’t often do this, but I have to highlight this as the comment of the day. Tom W, responding to the inevitable “chickenhawk” ad hominem non-argument in the Code Pink thread, responded thusly:

Unfortunately I don’t have time to join the military. I support the police, so to be consistent I had to join the LAPD. I also support the fire department, so I became a firefighter, too.

Since I drive a car, I had to become a roughneck on an offshore drilling platform, because I can’t expect someone to do that dangerous work for me. I also support the building of skyscrapers, incredibly dangerous work, so I had to become an iron worker.

Well, I have to go now. Since I eat vegetables, I have to go out and become a crop duster.

Yes, but you eat meat, which causes the death of animals. Why aren’t you working in the barn, too, you chickenfarmer?

11/08/2007 09:22:00 AM  
Blogger Consul-At-Arms said...

@ NahnCee,

"I'm not sure what both of your parents being married (presumably to each other) has to do with anything. Maybe you're insinuating that everyone who posts on Daily Kos is literally a son of a bitch."

I appreciate your taking my word as to my legitimacy.

"Bastard." Not 'son-of-a-bitch.' If one's parents aren't married then one is a bastard.

In any case, from my few viewings of DailyKos commentary, they can reasonably be described as "right bastards." Although you could also, like former Cuban president Batista was, describe them as being "our son(s) of a bitch."

The "both my parents were married" expression comes from an old joke, what a sergeant will sometimes respond when mistakenly addressed as "sir" (which is a proper form of address for a commissioned or warrant officer, rather than a non-commissioned one). Another variant is:

"Don't call me 'sir,' I work for a living."

While I appreciate that you pay federal taxes (which pays for the military, police services, &tc., including much of the the State Dept.'s budget), you're still evading the question. I'll assume you vote as well, and even willing to serve on a jury at need. A good citizen, in other words.

Some 2,000 FSOs have served in Iraq. That doesn't include those, like myself, whose Iraq service was as a military member rather than a diplomat. They outnumber with a more-than-comfortable margin the sole "senior foreign service officer" whose quoted Town Hall meeting remarks have turned into a club with which to beat the entire Foreign Service, mocking our "initiative, valor, and courage."

Aren't they good citizens too?

That's a fifth of the Foreign Service, as opposed to the much-quoted senior FSO who is one out of 6,500 FSOs.

Aren't those 6,499 FSOs still deserving of a little more respect? Would you besmirch every soldier in an Army brigade over the poorly chosen words of one over-annuated officer?

Most of the rest of us, over two-thirds of the Foreign Service, are serving overseas at all times, more than half of those at hardship posts.

"as a tax payer, if you are part of the State Department, I am your boss."

Actually, the SecState and the President are my bosses by statute and based on my oath of office. You do, along with 300 million others, pay my salary, which is but one reason I'm happy to come and try and help you when you get arrested or otherwise in a jam within my consular district.

BTW, most of the people whom I normally hear make the claim "I pay your salary" are in fact expatriat Americans who pay no federal taxes at all.

Lastly, I've read the "chickenfarmer" remarks before. They make a lot of sense, but only up to a point. There's still that old one about "living in glass houses" to bear in mind.

11/08/2007 11:51:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Powered by Blogger