Restructure State to Save It

by Joshua Foust on 4/30/2008 · 1 comment

Thirteen months ago, I noted the problems caused by the U.S. State Department having dramatically different divisions than the military COCOMs.

The DoD considers Pakistan part of the Central Command, or CENTCOM (which includes the Middle East and Central Asia), but places India in the Pacific Command, PACOM. Meanwhile, the State Department places all of Central Asia in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, while neighboring areas like the Middle East are a part of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. How Africa policy is divided up is even more chaotic.

The end result is a confusing, bureaucratic mess, in which multiple and otherwise fairly independent military commands have to coordinate with multiple State Department bureaus to execute the President’s foreign policy goals, whatever they may be. (There is a side issue to this, which is that nearly 93% of the U.S.’s foreign policy budget is military and only 7% is diplomatic and aid, but that’s a larger post not entirely appropriate to this space.)

In that post I was lamenting the problem of considering Pakistan outside of its relationship with India, since Pakistan filters almost all of its foreign policy through the formulation of India as its primary threat.

It seems I’m not alone: Mountain Runner, an excellent blog about public diplomacy, linked to this paper on the ways the DOS needs to change to better adapt to the modern operating environment.

In order to increase American diplomatic power and improve interagency coordination, it is critical to create a diplomatic post on par with the military’s theater combatant commander, providing leadership and oversight, and coordination of regional diplomatic efforts with emphasis on crisis response, stability operations, and “soft power” projection. Placing some diplomatic expertise in the combatant commands, as is being done with USAFRICOM, appears to further the notion that the regional military commander is the “most influential USG representative” and in a “position of preeminence.” DOS must make bold moves to reorganize and revitalize its ability to project diplomatic power and lead the U.S. government’s interagency efforts overseas.

And so on. It’s a damned fine idea. Meanwhile, the State Department is gently reminding us that al Qaeda remains a threat to world security. Pity they can’t field any useful teams of agents to the region most likely to harbor future al Qaeda operatives.


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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 1 comment }

Andrew May 5, 2008 at 10:27 am

Joshua: Sorry, haven’t been by in a while, but this caught my attention. Thanks to for the Mountain Runner link — another interestingly looking resource.

It seems to me that one of the major challenges facing DOS is a problem of relative scale — both in terms of human and fiscal resources. Yes, there are questions of alignment, but it does also seem as though the DOD has a) easier access to larger amounts of $$$ for reconstruction, and b) whether by design or practicality has also been taking over reconstruction roles that DOS should have been engaged in. And sadly, one of the reasons, ‘interagency’ work appears to be being done in a one-sided fashion is because of the current administration’s notion of foreign policy.

My sources would be Thomas Johnson’s ‘Speaking Out’ in the FSJ, (June 2007) and Sarah Sewall’s ‘Crafting a New Conterinsurgency Doctrine’ in the FSJ, (Sept 2007).

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