Clinton to Offer Blueprint for More Staff, Conflict Prevention

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will soon release a blueprint for the State Department’s future that envisions expanding its staff and putting a new emphasis on preventing conflicts.

The agency’s first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review lays out how a department still oriented to a 1945 world order will cope with rising powers such as India and the end of ideological blocs like the Warsaw Pact of communist countries.

The review is a high priority for Clinton, who wants more funding so that development and diplomacy are on a par with defense in U.S. foreign policy. She points to Afghanistan, where she has tripled the number of State Department staff as the U.S. military prepares to withdraw, and Iraq as examples of why her agency needs to change. Clinton considers the increased resources crucial even in a time of budget constraints.

In Iraq, “civilians are going to be picking up a lot of the work that used to be done by the military,” she said in Oct. 6 remarks. “So I am trying to put our diplomacy and development on an equal level” to make the case to Congress for greater resources.

“Until we can really embed the ideas that I am putting forward, we’re not going to have the kind of robust diplomatic and development systems that we need,” Clinton said. “I am determined to do all I can during my secretariat to accomplish that.”

More Hiring

A draft copy of the report says the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development will increase hiring and will work to draw on expertise in other government offices before using contractors. Embassy chiefs of mission will get more decision-making power, and the agencies will develop frameworks to better respond to disasters.

Conflict prevention will become a core mission, the draft report said. The State Department will also build “a new global architecture of cooperation” and engage more intensely with regional blocs.

Clinton has already invested time in that goal, most recently on a two-week trip to Asia this month in which she represented the U.S. as it joins the East Asia Summit, a 16-nation forum.

The draft report says the administration will institutionalize strategic dialogues with emerging powers -- an effort already under way with India, with meetings in November 2009 and in June.

Multilateral Partnerships

Building ties to multilateral institutions is another priority, in part to deal with such new transnational tensions as the competing energy claims in the South China Sea.

In a Nov. 8 discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations, Eric Schwartz, assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, said such multilateral partnerships would help to ease the burden on the U.S. when disasters strike, such as the earthquake in Haiti in January and the recent floods in Pakistan.

“The response needs to be, generally speaking, an international response,” he said.

The State Department recognizes that most humanitarian crises “don’t have humanitarian solutions,” Schwartz said. The agency also has to increase its capacity to address political and security issues in countries at risk of conflict, he said.

“That has been one of the major objectives” of the about-to-be-completed review process, Schwartz said. “We have to do both, to deal with prevention and conflict response, and also continue to enhance our capacity to respond when those tools just don’t do the trick,” he said.

The draft report says some changes are already under way, many will be launched in the next year and others will require “a longer period.”

A release date for the report hasn’t been set.

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