Modernizing the State Department

Not long ago, I wrote about the ways in which 9/11 affected U.S. foreign policy, and in particular, how our approach has “gone micro, with engagement conceived of lessin terms of actors (i.e., a country’s government and military), andmore in terms of fields (i.e., its society).” The following day, I came across a report by Matt Armstrong (via Small Wars Journal) on how to redesign the State Department to better meet contemporary foreign policy challenges. It’s a very smart argument for going macro, and reworking the department’s bureaucratic hierarchy to prioritize regional approaches. Essentially, that would mean aligning State’s regional bureaus to better correspond with the Defense Department’s regional commands, as well as putting an under secretary, as opposed to an assistant secretary, in charge of them.

Of course, so long as State’s capacity remains underdeveloped and underfunded, all the bureaucratic modernization in the world won’t help much. But it’s a compelling vision nonetheless.