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Diplomacy in a Time of Scarcity

The Foreign Service Officers of the Department of State and the Agency for International Development (USAID) are the foot soldiers of smart power. These men and women lead and staff our 195 Embassies, 55 Consulates, and 85 USAID Missions around the world. They are our nation’s first line of defense.

America’s Foreign Service is permanently deployed. Its officers report on local developments, represent American views and values, and negotiate on our behalf. They oversee development projects, conduct public diplomacy, protect American citizens, issue passports and visas, and promote US exports. They implement Washington decisions and recommend changes in foreign policy, as well as further courses of action. And they execute these and many other missions, including supporting our military colleagues in stability operations, often under dangerous and difficult circumstances, as tragically demonstrated by the recent assassinations of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and his colleagues in Benghazi, Libya.

In conducting foreign policy, diplomatic and development personnel are—in Walter Lippmann’s apt metaphor—the “Shield of the Republic”. This Shield is the outer layer of our multi-layered national defense. The Shield is employed daily to absorb international shocks, provide early warning, and manage developing crises to avoid the use of the Sword which inevitably costs the United States dearly in lives and resources. As US military leaders frequently acknowledge, Shield bearers are as important as Sword wielders. The Shield must be maintained.

It should be axiomatic, therefore, that our Presidents and Congress see the wisdom of lending equal support to the key elements of military and civilian power. That has not been the reality. Following the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991, the foreign affairs agencies—like their military and intelligence colleagues—were reduced by 30 percent in personnel and resources. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011, our military and intelligence capabilities were rapidly reconstituted; our diplomatic and development capabilities were not in spite of the best efforts of successive Secretaries of State. This neglect came in spite of the fact that the diplomatic Shield was the first and the most consistently used tool of our nation for five decades during the Cold War.

By 2008, the Department of State and USAID were seriously hobbled by a human capital crisis: a 15 percent vacancy rate in existing positions, the total lack of training positions, and an even more difficult situation in USAID. In response, The American Academy of Diplomacy, supported by Stimson and funded by the Una Chapman Cox Foundation, published “A Foreign Affairs Budget for the Future” (FAB) that analyzed the crisis and provided several recommendations. Our FAB report was well received by both the Bush and Obama administrations and Congress. In the last four years, Secretary Clinton has made important, if uneven, progress in dealing with the human resource problems. State staffing has grown approximately 17 percent and USAID staffing over 30 percent.

Project Organizers

This project was ably lead by Project Chairman Ambassador (ret.) Thomas D. Boyatt, Chairman of the Advisory Group Ambassador (ret.) Thomas R. Pickering, President of the American Academy of Diplomacy Ambassador (ret.) Ronald Neumann, President and CEO of Stimson Center Ellen Laipson, Red Team Chairman Ambassador (ret.) Edward Rowell, Project Director at Stimson Russell Rumbaugh.

Advisory Group

The Advisory Group of the “Diplomacy in a Time of Scarcity” Project was created to provide conceptual guidance to the drafting of the report, to set the tone and objectives of the study and draw from the considerable experience the group’s members to guide the project and research team at the Stimson Center.

Dr. Gordon Adams, Ambassador (ret.) Avis Bohlen, Ambassador (ret.) Thomas Boyatt, Ambassador (ret.) Aurelia Brazil, Ambassador (ret.) Kenneth Brill, Ambassador (ret.) Timothy Carney Steve Chaplin, Ambassador (ret.) Henrietta Fore, Alonzo Fulgham, Ambassador (ret.) James Gadsden, Grant Green, Ambassador (ret.) Lino Gutierrez, Ambassador (ret.) William Harrop, Susan Johnson, Ambassador (ret.) James Jones, Timothy Keating, Ellen Laipson, Ambassador (ret.) Thomas E. McNamara, Ambassador (ret.) Ronald Neumann, Ambassador (ret.) W. Robert Pearson, Ambassador (ret.) Thomas Pickering, Ambassador (ret.) Edward Rowell, Dr. Kori Schake, Ambassador (ret.) Abelardo Valdez, Michael Van Dusen, The Honorable Molly Williamson.

Red Team

The Red Team of the “Diplomacy in a Time of Scarcity” Project was created to critique the assumptions underlying the methodology of the report, and thereby strengthen the study through a rigorous process of evaluation and feedback.

Ambassador (ret.) Adrian Basora, Ambassador (ret.) Robert M. Beecroft

Ambassador (ret.) Kenneth Brill, The Honorable R. William Farrand , John Hamre, Ambassador (ret.) L. Craig Johnstone, Ambassador (ret.) Thomas Miller, Ambassador (ret.) Tibor Nagy Russell Orban, Ambassador (ret.) Charles Ries, Ambassador (ret.) Edward Rowell, Ambassador (ret.) Howard Schaffer, The Honorable Ike Skelton, Ambassador (ret.) Nicholas Veliotes, Ambassador (ret.) Alexander F. Watson, Ambassador (ret.) John Wolf.


This report was made possible by the generous support of the Una Chapman Cox Foundation. The project thanks Kerri West and Elizabeth Russell for all of their support, Eric Lief for his counsel, John Cappell and Nicholas Espinoza for their research help and April Umminger, Crystal Chiu, and Rebecca Rand for designing and producing the report.

Specific report findings and recommendations do not necessarily reflect the views of or endorsements by all members of the American Academy of Diplomacy, Advisory Group, Red Team, Una Chapman Cox Foundation, or Stimson.

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