To Rethink the State Department, Look to Business

To Rethink the State Department, Look to Business

Demands on the State Department may be growing but, if last week’s congressional hearings are any indication, the State Department’s coffers will not be. Even longtime champions of robust international affairs funding like Sen. Patrick Leahy have warned the secretary of state that the $54.7 billion diplomatic and development budget requested by the Obama administration -- a modest increase over last year -- is unlikely to win full funding. Though increased funding for foreign affairs may well make sense, its chances are remote at best.

Merely doing more with less may seem like the best approach under conditions of fiscal austerity. It is not. Instead, as Congress looks to save dollars, the State Department should seize the opportunity to rethink how it operates, getting nimbler and more effective in addition to getting leaner. Rather than just stretch an already strained and aging bureaucracy that much further, it should seek ways to execute its strategies differently.

Yet, if the president’s budget submission is any indication, the State Department is not planning to rise to this challenge. Though the submission includes a pledge for the State Department to improve the “efficiency of foreign affairs operations” by reducing administrative costs and enhancing overall efficiency, the proposed measures are a meal of small potatoes: reducing travel and printing supplies, increasing the use of phone and digital conferencing, and publishing reports online rather than printing them. Though such steps may save a few pennies or even nickels, they promise more of the same -- not the kind of visionary reform spelled out in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s own Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR).

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review