US Secretary of State embarks on major changes to Foreign Service
By Peter Tase
On August 28th, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson notified the U. S. Congress on the major reforms and drastic cuts that will take place under his watch at the U. S. State Department. Over the years the number of Ambassadors at Large and Special Envoys has risen exponentially, while their performance and activities have not accomplished any concrete results in the implementation of U. S. Foreign Policy nor have they justified the tax payers’ money.
According to Chicago Tribune, “there are currently 66 special envoys, Ambassadors at Large or representatives, only 30 of them will continue with their duties and the rest will be abolished. The functions of twenty-one envoys will be integrated into other offices and bureaus, nine positions will be immediately eliminated including the special envoy for the six-party talks in North Korea, Afghanistan-Pakistan, disability rights and the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.” However the Government of President Donald Trump will continue to maintain the current positions for fighting anti-Semitism, religious freedom and LGBT rights. Meanwhile, some of the other positions will be merged with the U. S. Agency for International Development; the staffs and budgets of abolished offices will be taken over by the offices that will take over these functions. At the same time the U. S. Peace Corps is expected to experience major cuts on its upcoming annual budget, its number of volunteers serving abroad will be heavily reduced; this move could affect the soft power of U. S. Foreign Service and considerably limit the potential, set aside the priorities of U. S. Public Diplomacy and Cultural Diplomacy.
The significant cut back in human resources and trimming of the State Department’s budget is necessary and the right course of action in order to put the expenditures of U. S. Government in order and increase efficacy, accountability and transparency in the U. S. Foreign Service. There is expected a major trimming of public funds that will reach almost 30 percent of budget cuts in the upcoming fiscal year, and eliminate thousands of Foreign Service jobs.
Moreover, the U. S. Government is planning to eliminate the special envoys for the Arctic, Myanmar, Syria, Haiti, Libya, Sudan and South Sudan; however the special envoys for hostages, Israeli-Palestine negotiations, human trafficking, Holocaust Issues and HIV/AIDS, will continue with their missions in U. S. Diplomacy.
For the U. S. Government, it is strategically important to bolster the Defense Department; ensure the necessary funds, support the moral and service of members of the U. S. Army, United States Navy, U. S. Air Force and all branches of the Armed Forces. Over the last ten years, the U. S. Department of State has exponentially grown in size, staff, while their responsibilities have been overlapping; on the other hand the results of U. S. Diplomacy have been minuscule, insignificant and irrelevant on many scenarios. A true example of such a weak performance and poor work ethics is the leadership provided by former diplomats in the OSCE Minsk Group, the duties of various ambassadors at large as well as diplomats who participated in the negotiations of multilateral agreements that have fallen short and betrayed the expectations of the public at large. The U. S. Foreign Service and its agile diplomats should defend the U. S. interest abroad and help implement the priorities set forth by the White House, U. S. Congress and the Pentagon. Secretary Tillerson’s major reforms are admirable actions; demonstrate a pragmatic statecraft, defend national morality and uphold prudence in the execution of Foreign Policy. Such noble actions ought to be supported by all political actors in Washington and the International Community.