View Full Version : Is the U.S. Diplomatic Corps Big Enough?

Rob Thornton
11-09-2008, 06:26 PM
Like many, I've been following and participating in our SWC discussion asking the question "Is the U.S. Fighting Force Big Enough" (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=6178). Recently some of our partners from S/CRS (http://www.state.gov/s/crs/) which under NSPD-44 is designated the USG lead in stability and reconstruction policy, briefed a number of DoS and USAID initiatives. These initiatives included the IMS (Inter-Agency Management System), the ICAF (Inter-Agency Conflict Assessment Framework), and the CRC (Civilian Response Corps) (http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2008/07/107083.htm).

CRC was a topic of discussion as some raised the question if it was a duplication of CA (Civil Affairs) capabilities. I took away three things from the discussion. First, no matter if the capabilities were the same on paper or not, they would be different by the nature of one being a uniformed capability, and the other a civilian one (assuming you did not double dip in terms of human resources). The second was that I'm always interested in having more capability, particularly if it brings a different, and useful perspective. Third and perhaps most important is that as I understood it, they are looking for what I might qualify as high end capability. That is people with a combination of education, experience, subject matter expertise & training and maturity who can be further trained to operate in a broader range of challenging environments.

I thought this would be a very useful capability, that could be employed in a number of ways within whatever parameters they establish. It does not absolve DoD from fulfilling its obligations under NSPD-44 and DoD Dir 3000.05 (or its successor), but it may provide the type of people that only the combination of education and experience can. Some of the capability you get is determined by the material you start with, and the idea of being able to draw on people through a civilian reserve like system (with a core of active duty like folks) who already have advanced degrees, subject matter expertise and experience gained through working in their profession over time, and who the USG can then provide those common skills required to operate abroad fill a critical gap. A gap I'll add that I don't think we can fill from the uniformed side under the way we do business now. The closest thing may be a contract system, but that has several drawbacks to include a heavy price tag and only tangential benefit to the institution.

S/CRS's initial goal I think is about 4500. There are challenges getting there, and S/CRS is very upfront about both their current capacity, and the challenges with getting to 4500. They have identified both the need for plans and operations type functions to plan and manage operations, as well as the many high end stability and reconstruction skills required to build/rebuild partner institutions and social systems. I heard a comment recently that placed such a USG capability in terms of its value to DoD, the commenter was thinking out loud about what they would trade for such a capability, and how it would reduce risk to U.S. policy objectives in a number of ways.

There may be 2 questions here then. The first is the genesis of the thread, the second is what does it say about the nature of diplomacy required by our policy objectives? I know we have some SWC members who have seen, lived or researched the USG's efforts and experiences in fielding similar capabilities in the past to achieve policy objectives, so this should be a good discussion. I also think we have some DoS, AID and NGO folks in the SWC who will chime in with what they are hearing and seeing. For the S/CRS folks, a good description (because I probably missed quite a bit) may even draw in some good talent from the SWC CoI - who knows maybe John T will bring it up in one of the classes he teaches:D

What I'm not sure will be beneficial are tangents which either don't identify problems and solutions, or ones that focus only on the current lack of capacity as an indicator for success. I think the S/CRS folks have made some real progress in a relatively short period of time, and in many ways the cultural resistance and bureaucracy they are up against is more entrenched, and with longer roots (in some interesting places) than what we face in DoD. Not to mention that although the people I've met there are very good, very intelligent and very energetic, their bench is not too big. A large part of that bench is engaging to meet the needs of OIF and OEF, as well as participate in DoD experimentation and exercises because of the need to communicate, and because of the credibility built by doing so. Having pointed that out, that does not mean that posts can't have some tension in them, that is one ingredient which brings out some of the best ideas, and questions the value of bad ideas.

Best, Rob

11-19-2008, 05:08 PM
Though I must acknowledge I have little relevent experience to add to the discussion.

Rob - I'm interested in seeing how the CRC works out. Though I have likewise heard some state that it was a duplication of CA capabilities, for the reasons you previously stated I think it would be an advantageous capability to build up and retain.

Furthermore, even if it is duplicative, does it not still seem a necessary capability if we are serious about DoS retaking control of foreign policy from DoD? Much talk has been made about the post-Rumsfeldian re-emergence of soft power. Secretary of Defense Gates seems hip to the idea, as does President Elect Obama.

As I understand the situation, the CRC is far from the only component of DoS which could use additional manpower. Perhaps others could shed some more light on that side of the situation.

Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that unless some drastic changes are made to the nature of the DoS hiring process, the time to build up additional numbers in the Diplomatic corp will take years. Not to say it will take the Army or Marines any short amount of time to expand their own numbers, but it takes far more education, experience, and training to make a diplomat than a private.

John T. Fishel
11-19-2008, 05:23 PM
with CA duplication. General Marshall's notion at the end of WWII was that the MilGov/CA capability would be transferred to DOS, lock, stock, and barrel. Never happened, partly because there was a need for the capability within the military. (Not the primary reason but still significant.) As far as the current RC CA capabilities are concerned there are several considerations for a CRC. First, RC folk retire at the same (+/-) age that active folk retire but they still don't draw pay. Gray area retirees may provide a good source for CRC folk with some military experience. Second, some CA folk may find a civilian reserve is more congenial to them personally. If so, their pursuit of a CRC "career" should be welcomed on all sides. The more we understand each others organizational cultures the better...



Old Eagle
11-19-2008, 09:22 PM
STATE is too small, but its challenges go beyond the numbers.

Many argue that the distribution of the workforce is wrong, with bloated embassies remaining in areas where the mission has long since diminished. That was one of the arguements for the Helms cuts.

Secondly, both the assessions process and professional development need refinement. State needs a robust TTHS account to allow for better PD of its career officers.

State also probably needs to retreat from its "world view" assignments policies that send FSOs all over hell and creation rather than become real experts in a smaller region.

All that said, the military is the only federal organization that I know of that spends most of its time NOT performing its primary mission. Instead we get ready to perform it, we practice performing it, we plan to perform it, etc. I don't see any other agency growing to the point where they have designated bench-sitters. Don't think the Great American Public will stand for it. Therefore, the CRC is probably the best of several bad solutions. It does have potential, but my read is that State will implement it in a minimalist manner that will undermine its potential.

Back to you.

11-19-2008, 09:45 PM
I don't think a lot of civilians will sign up for this. If you have a full-time job, can you really just leave it for up to 4 years? If you don't have a full-time job, can you wait around to be called up? It will only work for those with flexible schedules and the right timing.

the other issue is leaving family behind. Personally, I wouldn't take a post that required me to leave my family, especially if I have other options to bring them with me.

If I go out on an overseas contract with my company, like I just did, I can bring my family and I come back to a job (and a house if I left one, etc.). It works.

I don't see how CRC works in this way.

11-19-2008, 09:59 PM
Any word on where to find what specialties the CRC needs and how to apply or volunteer for it?

11-19-2008, 10:34 PM
You can find info at: