More investment needed in U.S. diplomatic ranks

Monday - 3/14/2011, 10:41am EDT

Robert M. Beecroft, Ambassador (ret.), project manager, American Academy of Diplomacy

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

Smart power, a signature phrase of the Obama administration, wants to find the right balance between military and diplomatic efforts to project U.S. influence. A new report from the American Academy of Diplomacy says a lot more investment is needed in the country's diplomatic ranks.

Retired Ambassador Robert M. Beecroft, project manager for the report titled "Forging a 21st-Century Diplomatic Service for the United States through Professional Education and Training" told Federal News Radio defense and diplomacy are two legs of a three legged stool, with "the third being development."

With 8,000 Foreign Service Officers serving overseas in all functions, said Beecroft, making just a few changes can have a huge impact. "Contrast that," said Beecroft, "with the crew of the USS Ronald Reagan which has about 6,500, so we're not talking about a whole lot of bodies but we are talking about functions which can help take the pressure off the military."

The top three recommendations of the eight in the report, said Beecroft, are:

    Personnel: "We need what the military calls a float, a reserve of about 15 percent."

    Education and Training: "You might think that the words 'mandatory' and 'required' are synonyms, but not in the State Department when it comes to training." Instead, said Beecroft, required "means you should do it, but because we need you elsewhere, you can get a waiver and skip it."

    Assignment Decisions: Said Beecroft, are "too often limited to the immediate needs of the service and the personal preferences of the officers."

Over the next four or five years, said the ambassador, the goal for the State Department should be to integrate resources and authorities so that, in most cases, "officers take the training and education they need before they get to the relevant jobs. Too often now, that's not the case."

Beecroft said he hopes his team will be briefing Secretary of State Clinton's staff "very soon and enlisting their support so that we can all be together in what we consider to be a very important effort if we are to relieve our military forces of some of the extraordinary burden they've been carrying."

For more from the American Academy of Diplomacy and the Stimson Center, see "Forging a 21st-Century Diplomatic Service for the United States through Professional Education and Training".