Helluva job, Condi. On January 23, 2008 in Congressional testimony, John Naland president of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) which represents State’s 11,500 career diplomats noted that a September 2007 Center for Strategic and International Studies’ report indicated that the US Foreign Service was staffed at only 85% of its needs. It was short 1,015 personnel for domestic and foreign assignments and 1,079 for training, transit, and temporary requirements. An August 2006 GAO study found that 29% of positions abroad requiring language proficiency were filled by staff who lacked such proficiency. Many senior Foreign Service members went to their posts without being properly briefed about them. Only 15% of Foreign Service members had received training in a diplomat’s bread and butter: negotiation. And while the demand to administer and run programs has increased, few Foreign Service employees have received training in program management. Incredibly, Foreign Service officers take a 21% cut in their base pay to serve abroad and end up being paid less than they would be in the US at 183 of 268 overseas posts (i.e. those with a 20% hardship differential or less).
I don’t think anyone has accused Condi Rice of being a hands on administrator and it shows. At the same time that Iraq and Afghanistan have put increased demands on the State Department, it has fewer and less well trained personnel to meet them. Given this Administration’s contempt for diplomacy and its general incompetence at managing anything, the disarray at State should come as a surprise to no one, but, as has happened so frequently in this Administration, it represents a hollowing out of yet another of our basic institutions of government.