State Department in 2025 Working Group Report PDF version
Advisory Committee on Transformational Diplomacy:
Final report of the State Department in 2025 Working Group
Dr. Barry M. Blechman
Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering
The Honorable Newt Gingrich
Table of Contents
Executive Summary.. i
Strategic Context.. 1
|The Future Operating Environment – Emerging Characteristics.
|The Long-Term Interests of the American People.
|The Evolving Strategic Role of Diplomacy.
|Department of State 2025.
|Proactive and Preventive Shaping Capabilities.
|Decisive Country Transitioning Capabilities.
|Capabilities for Engaging Non-Traditional Actors.
|Capacity to Integrate USG Global Affairs Activities.
|Optimized Global Deployment and Presence.
|Streamlined Organizational Design.
|New Skills, Experience, and Incentives.
|21st Century Diplomatic Technology.
|Strengthened Legislative Interface and Financial Flexibility.
|Integrated Institutional Engagement.
Appendix I: List of Acronyms. 46
Appendix II: Bibliography. 47
The State 2025 Working Group anticipates that the long-term future operating environment will be radically different. It will demand that the United States rely increasingly on the overseas presence, skilled personnel, knowledge assets, and policy insights of the Department of State to secure the interests of the American people. The scale and complexity of anticipated global challenges and opportunities will demand a Department that is significantly more robust, better resourced, and more strategically focused. Specifically, the Working Group concludes that the Department should:
- Significantly strengthen its ability to anticipate and shape global operating conditions proactively;
- Build the operational capabilities necessary to respond to contingencies and support transitions to more stable governments;
- Institutionalize its ability to integrate US Government (USG) global affairs activities; and,
- Refine its organizational structures and processes to improve planning, decision-making, resource allocation, and results-oriented performance.
These conclusions stem from two insights that emerged from the efforts of the Working Group. First, globalization and the growing strategic importance of preventing conflicts will increasingly demand that the United States be able to integrate and project its power and influence through effective diplomatic channels. Second, a wide range of factors will continue to challenge the Department’s influence internationally and within the interagency system. The result is that notwithstanding the continued preeminence of American power, the nation’s effective diplomatic power – its ability to influence events short of war – is at risk of becoming dangerously diluted.
To address these findings, we offer the following high-level recommendations:
- Proactive and Preventive Shaping Capabilities: Strengthen the Department’s ability to create conditions favorable to U.S. interests on an anticipatory and results-oriented basis. Specifically:
- Create within the Department a semi-autonomous agency for global public engagement.
- Strengthen the Department’s presence in multilateral institutions and develop longer-term, more proactive strategies for influencing their agendas.
- Deepen its institutional ability to develop and effectively manage anticipatory coalitions.
- Strengthen its institutional capacity to monitor and drive the development of international law and practice – particularly in new domains.
- Increase its focus on economic diplomacy and strengthen its institutional role in coordinating the development and execution of the nation’s global economic policy.
- Expand its investment, expertise, presence, and global engagement in science, engineering, and technology (SET).
- Decisive Country Transitioning Capabilities: Enlarge the Department’s operational capacity to secure the transition of fragile and failed states in close coordination with other USG departments and agencies, and – significantly – in partnership with other nations and multilateral organizations. Specifically:
- Integrate the strategic planning offices and technology infrastructures of the Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), merge overlapping bureaus and functions, and co-locate related offices and personnel in Washington with the goal of bringing true strategic and operational alignment to the efforts of the two organizations.
- Establish senior-level responsibility and interagency authority for the reconstruction and stabilization function, and develop fully the Department’s planning and execution capacities in this area.
- Capabilities for Engaging Non-Traditional Actors: Strengthen the Department’s ability to engage non-state actors and leverage the growing resources and capabilities at their disposal. Specifically:
- Develop a globally integrated approach to capture, aggregate, and analyze the Department’s unique knowledge of influential individuals, their interests, and their networked relationships.
- Create a strengthened institutional means to understand, engage, and partner creatively with private sector and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) actors.
- Capacity to Integrate USG Global Affairs Activities: Institutionalize the Department’s ability to integrate USG instruments of power in support of the National Security Council (NSC) and to serve as the lead foreign affairs agency within the interagency structure. Specifically:
- Take the lead, working closely with the NSC and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in coordinating the periodic development of a Global Affairs Strategic Plan and presenting a related and integrated annual Global Affairs Budget.
- Enhance the Department’s regional interagency coordination role and presence by leading the development of government-wide regional strategic plans and expanding its senior-level diplomatic visibility.
- Analyze and strengthen ambassadors’ formal authority over all executive branch resources allocated to each country.
- Optimized Global Deployment and Presence: Extend and broaden the Department’s and USAID’s global presence, provide the flexibility necessary for critical training and rotations, improve capacity to deploy integrated teams on short notice for time-limited assignments, and assess and adjust the U.S. physical footprint overseas on a more dynamic basis. Specifically:
- Increase the number of Foreign Service and Civil Service staff by 100 percent over ten years to ensure a diplomatic presence sufficient to meet rapidly expanding future challenges and opportunities.
- Increase USAID’s deployable staff resources by 100 percent over the next three years to ensure its capacity to manage its existing workload and meet future requirements.
- Build a portfolio of physical and virtual presence models including several constructs currently under development and new models for rapid and time-limited deployment.
- Strengthen and expand the scale of the Department’s Locally Engaged Staff (LES), while further leveraging their knowledge base to advance American interests overseas in a cost-effective manner.
- Streamlined Organizational Design: Improve the secretary’s span-of-control; strengthen accountability; unify and elevate policy, strategy and resource planning; strengthen the role of the ambassador; and improve the distribution of decision-making authority. Specifically:
- Rationalize the Department’s organizational structure by reducing to three or four decision layers and consolidating bureaus and offices to reduce the number of officials reporting directly to the secretary.
- Create a new planning office under the deputy secretary that integrates policy, strategy and resource planning across the Department, USAID, and the proposed new global public engagement organization.
- Update the process to identify and vet all ambassadorial candidates to ensure that they have the necessary skills, experience, and expertise to meet the growing challenges of the position.
- Clarify the existing legal and bureaucratic structures and incentives governing the activities of personnel deployed overseas to enable greater autonomy of action while strengthening accountability through more precise definition of individual goals.
- Create an institution-wide method for systematically assessing, responding to, and monitoring risk on an integrated basis in accordance with private sector best practices.
- Renewed Skills, Experience, and Incentives: Strengthen the Department's ability to recruit, train, and retain staff and leverage external expertise in support of its critical missions. Specifically:
- Expand training and education in emerging areas of necessary professional expertise for staff at all levels.
- Refine the Department’s human resources models to reflect the future employment environment.
- 21st Century Diplomatic Technology: Realize the full value of the Department’s unique knowledge of the world by utilizing state-of-the-art information tools for acquiring, analyzing, sharing, and responding to information. Specifically:
- Build a unified 21st century, real-time knowledge management and presentation capability comparable to the ‘knowledge walls’ implemented elsewhere in government.
- Create a small staff to drive the Department’s Research & Development (R&D) prioritization efforts and to coordinate with and draw upon other USG R&D entities and the private sector.
- Provide all personnel deployed overseas with robust, secure IT systems to maximize their ability to communicate and access knowledge.
- Strengthen the Department’s capacity to monitor, analyze, and respond in real-time to events in the global media.
- Fully empower and make accountable the Chief Information Officer (CIO) position to ensure that technology, information, and knowledge management are managed on an integrated basis.
- Strengthened Legislative Interface and Financial Flexibility: Improve the ability to secure the larger, longer-term, and more flexible resource streams and Congressional support that are required to carry out global missions and the recommendations of this Working Group. Specifically:
- Significantly strengthen the Department’s ability to engage and communicate with Congress.
- Work with Congress to secure increased levels of flexible, discretionary funding for the field and Washington.
- Integrated Institutional Engagement: Develop an Integrated Institutional Engagement Model for selected high-priority countries that leverages all potential levels of activity and influence, including state-to-state, private sector, and civil society engagement.
The Future Operating Environment – Emerging Characteristics
Our analysis of the future environment in which U.S. diplomacy will have to operate was based on the Department’s Project Horizon initiative and the rigorously constructed scenarios that emerged from it. Central to that effort was the premise that it is not possible to know the most likely long-term future; strategic planning must therefore consider a range of possible futures. Based on the five Project Horizon scenarios, our review of a wide-range of additional studies, a series of scenario-based working sessions, interviews with public and private sector experts, and discussions with the diplomats of selected nations, four key common themes emerged regarding the likely characteristics of the future environment.
1. Shifting Dynamics of Competition and Conflict
Many factors will converge to change fundamentally the ways in which nation states and other strategic actors compete for power and influence. These factors include both the anticipated intensifying and ‘flattening’ of global economic competition and its growing significance relative to traditional military competition. Science, engineering, and technology advances will become the preeminent drivers of comparative advantage in both domains. At the same time, the global competition for energy and other resources will continue to grow in strategic significance. The landscape is likely to be altered fundamentally by the rise of China and India as global powers, the emergence of a potentially stronger, more unified European Union, a growing Japan, and an unpredictable Russia. It also will feature ever more agile and adaptive adversaries, including global terror and criminal networks. Conflict is increasingly likely to be internal to, rather than between, states and the risks and threats from failing and failed states and ungoverned spaces are likely to grow. Finally, even as weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferate in kind and among nations, constraints on the use of conventional military power and therefore limits on its strategic value may grow.
2. Pervasive Challenges to Nation State Power and Influence
While the primacy of the Westphalian system of nations will endure, challenges to it will become increasingly significant. These are likely to include more widespread fragmentation of nation states and the growing power and influence of non-state actors, including private sector actors, NGOs, religious organizations, ‘super-empowered’ individuals whose resources can exceed those of states, and a wide range of transnational networks – both licit and illicit. As new centers of authority emerge and evolve rapidly, the institutions of civil society continue to grow, and the participation of ‘publics’ in international relations expands, the effectiveness of traditional levers of nation-state power, including conventional military might and traditional state-to-state diplomacy, is likely to decline in relative terms.
3. Large-Scale Revolutions in Science, Engineering, and Technology
Developments in science, engineering, and technology over the next quarter century will introduce an unprecedented degree of change in all areas of human life. Some experts suggest that there will be four-to-seven times as much new science in the next 25 years as there has been over the last 25 years. Technology will be an increasingly disruptive source of competitive advantage. The continuing revolutions in information and communications will be particularly significant and pervasive. The flattening of information hierarchies, the ubiquitous presence and availability of real-time information, and the proliferation of new and highly customizable media channels will complicate further the ability of states to communicate coherent, credible messages in the media. Speed of knowledge delivery and decision-making will become decisive in all areas of competition. In addition, revolutions in bioengineering, nanotechnology, and intelligent machines will have transformative effects on society. These developments will be complicated by widening divisions between generations and classes with regard to comfort with and access to technology. Advances in science and technology will penetrate all foreign policy domains and increasingly generate new ones.
4. Overwhelming Complexity, Operational Tempo, and Interdependence
In the emerging environment, challenges and opportunities are likely to emerge with unprecedented complexities. The greater interlocking of issues will diminish the likelihood of finding solutions in any single discipline. In the context of still accelerating global information spread, communications, commerce and travel, as well as a diffusion of global media outlets, the consequences of events will spread globally with stunning speed and impact. Tactical decisions in one venue will have unexpected strategic implications in others. Global actors will operate at the speed of the network that supports them. Organizations that are inhibited by internal obstacles and bureaucratic structures will struggle to keep pace with the action around them, let alone be able to shape, direct, or restrain that action. There will be an increased blurring of the line separating domestic and foreign policy. Accelerating revolutions in globalized business and finance will make the flow of capital a more critical and potentially disruptive variable in national security calculations. All of these factors will emerge in the context of destabilizing demographic shifts, particularly the aging of the wealthiest countries and continuing population growth and urbanization in some of the poorest countries.
The Long-Term Interests of the American People
Despite these fundamental changes in the international environment, the core interests of the American people will endure and remain centered on security, global peace and stability, and economic prosperity. The desired future is well described in the Department of State/USAID Joint Mission Statement: “A more democratic, secure, and prosperous world composed of well-governed states that respond to the needs of their people, reduce widespread poverty, and act responsibly within the international system.” Our study of the future suggests the American people’s interests will also include an open, connected, and vibrant world in which the United States continues to play a leading role in global political, economic, and cultural affairs; a world that increasingly operates according to transparent rules of good governance and conduct; and, a world in which states, multilateral organizations, and private sector individuals and organizations work together productively to address the highest-priority global issues, such as weapons proliferation, climate change, energy security, and global health.
The Evolving Strategic Role of Diplomacy
We anticipate that diplomacy will be a growing, decisive source of competitive advantage in the future. The strategic challenges and opportunities just described will require that the USG be able to join the various forms of power available to it into coherent, integrated strategies. There will be a much larger premium on the ability to partner with and leverage the resources of other nations and actors – notably wealthy individuals and corporations, NGOs, and multinational organizations. At the same time, international law and practice will become a highly attractive source of asymmetrical, normative power for both adversaries and competitors. In short, the USG must become more effective globally, integrated internally, and capable of partnering widely. These emerging requirements clarify the central role that the Department should play in securing America’s interests.
Our work also confirmed that in the future, military strength will be necessary but not sufficient to secure American interests. The work of the American diplomat has always been complemented by the strength of the armed forces; it is in the combination of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ power – ‘smart power’ – that the nation’s interests are most effectively secured. We anticipate that this will continue to be true, although the balance between the strategic value of diplomatic capability and military strength is likely to shift toward the former. As armed conflict becomes increasingly asymmetrical, the use of force becomes more challenging operationally and dramatically more complex politically. In a highly interconnected environment in which tactical decisions in one venue may have near real-time, unintended, strategic consequences in another, the effects created by the use of force are much more difficult to predict and calibrate. More important, the continuing proliferation of WMD, particularly to non-state actors, implies that virtually any conflict will have an increased potential to cause millions of casualties and substantial physical and economic damage that will last for long periods of time. It will therefore be imperative to prevent wars and terrorist attacks, not just to be able to prevail in conflicts or recover from them.
The USG must seek to use all instruments of American power in an integrated fashion to shape conditions in the world with the goal of reducing to a minimum the number of occasions when the U.S. must use force. In addition, American military superiority will drive adversaries to non-military venues of competition. Nations will compete in new ways in demanding non-traditional, asymmetrical contexts. This development, and the proliferation of actors and new centers of authority, will demand that the USG have effective means of delivering maximum influence in any domain, symmetrical or asymmetrical, from a multilateral meeting to a single bilateral conversation, from a refugee camp to a corporate boardroom. The most effective, widely applicable, and least costly means of delivering power in this diversity of venues is through properly trained, experienced, and empowered diplomats supported by an anticipatory, strategically focused, well-managed organization.
Department of State 2025
To be effective in securing the long-term interests of the American people, the Department must become significantly more robust in scale, better resourced, directed by long-term strategy, and increasingly capable in several broad areas. Specifically, the Department should:
- Strengthen its ability to shape proactively the global agenda and the operating environment in ways favorable to the United States’ enduring interests and objectives. This requires not just the ability to anticipate and address challenges, but also to seize opportunities. This, in turn, requires strategic foresight, clarity, and unity across all instruments of American power. Shaping circumstances also requires the ability to engage and influence the decisions of a wide array of actors through compelling, credible and timely information, unified ‘packages’ of incentives and disincentives, strong relationships with key individuals and networks, and knowledge of who and what influences them. This demands cultivating, analyzing, and leveraging relationships and networks of key influencers on a globally integrated basis. It also requires coherent and persuasive public diplomacy backed by sufficient resources and shaped by a long-term vision of the nation’s strategic interest, as well as the ability to communicate with publics and monitor and influence attitudes, messages, and behavior in a range of new media venues.
- Build and institutionalize an integrated operational capability to respond rapidly and effectively to contingencies, support country transitions, and create tangible results on the ground. It is critical to be able to act swiftly in these circumstances, either before an issue has devolved into a crisis or conflict that is much more costly and difficult to manage, or following a conflict to minimize the negative potential consequences of the aftermath. The ability to influence the transitions of states at various stages of development demands a more integrated relationship between the Department and USAID, pre-staged planning arrangements with other elements of the USG and partner nations, and familiarity with the full resources of the U.S. private sector and NGO community. It also demands a specific set of skilled human resources, rapid-response operational capacities, and flexible financial and human resources on the ground.
- Institutionalize its ability to support the integration of the global affairs activities of all USG departments and agencies. The Department should become better able to integrate and align all of the instruments of USG power and expertise to support the long-term objectives of American foreign policy. Creating this concentrated diplomatic capacity will require new planning processes and coordination arrangements in both Washington and the field.
- Refine its organizational structures and processes to improve the secretary’s span of control; institutionalize key processes including strategic planning, decision-making, and results-oriented performance management; and create an ability to adapt rapidly to changing circumstances. The Department should reduce to three or four the number of decision-making layers and shift more decision-making authority down into the organization. It should be more capable of anticipatory, long-term planning, investment, and execution that more closely links the policy priorities of the president and the secretary to the actions and resources of the entire Department. In addition, it should be staffed with personnel having a broader range of skills and a diverse set of experiences. It should also become significantly better at securing its needed resources and utilizing them flexibly. Finally, this diverse set of enhanced capabilities clearly requires that the Department have a larger global presence and deeper and more dynamically deployable human resources.
To realize this vision of the Department of State, the State 2025 Working Group offers recommendations in the following areas:
- Proactive and Preventive Shaping Capabilities
- Decisive Country Transitioning Capabilities
- Capabilities for Engaging Non-Traditional Actors
- Capacity to Integrate USG Global Affairs Activities
- Optimized Global Deployment and Presence
- Streamlined Organizational Design
- Renewed Skills, Experience, and Incentives
- 21st Century Diplomatic Technology
- Strengthened Legislative Interface and Financial Flexibility
- Integrated Institutional Engagement
Proactive and Preventive Shaping Capabilities
Shaping the global operating environment is one of the Department’s most central, enduring, and unique responsibilities, and the driving intent of Transformational Diplomacy. Our study of the future suggests that the strategic importance for the nation of the Department’s capabilities in this area will increase dramatically in the 21st century as the complexity and cost of conflict rises and the scope of global challenges widens. Our research also makes clear that the growing fragmentation and intensity of competition for influence will demand both greatly strengthened and wholly new diplomatic capabilities.
Creating favorable operating conditions will involve attracting others to a uniquely compelling and credible vision of the future. Doing so will require deep, sustained engagement on many levels based on enduring, transcultural values and a focus on areas of common interest. In a future environment characterized by higher degrees of complexity and the growing influence of non-state actors, the ability to influence emerging areas of international law, standards, and practices will be one of the core disciplines of this shaping capacity. It will require the ability to set in motion self-sustaining patterns of activity that will generate increasingly favorable conditions over time. Doing so will involve first understanding and then leveraging the interests and actions of a wide range of actors – from traditional nation states and multilateral organizations to non-state actors and activist ‘publics.’ As a result, the shaping capabilities of the future will center on highly engaged and collaborative diplomacy and demand true integration of the diverse instruments of national power.
Our interviews suggested that the Department’s ability to focus on and deliver meaningful results in these long-term, strategic areas of engagement has declined significantly over time. Many factors, including organizational and resource issues addressed later in this report, have contributed to making the Department increasingly reactive, with its shaping efforts diluted across a span of insufficiently prioritized goals. For the Department to be effective in shaping the global operating environment over the next 20 years, it should re-invest in its capabilities in this area and increase the strategic focus it places on achieving these longer-term results. To this end, the State 2025 Working Group offers the following recommendations:
Agency for Global Public Engagement
Create within the Department a semi-autonomous agency for global public engagement. The purpose of this new organization would be to establish an integrated USG strategic focus, a critical mass of resources, clear accountability, and an institutional home for the full-range of Department, USAID, and – as appropriate – other USG public diplomacy assets and initiatives under a director reporting directly to the secretary of state. The strategic planning function for this organization would reside within the Office of Policy, Strategy, and Resource Planning proposed in this report. The organization would utilize the proposed common Department and USAID technology platform. It would have direct line authority over all Department public diplomacy personnel and provide leadership and coordination of USG-wide public diplomacy efforts to minimize duplication and ensure consistency of efforts. By concentrating public diplomacy expertise and strategic direction within one organization and emphasizing the capabilities of project management and program leadership, this organization would be operationally capable of delivering tangible results on a more consistent basis.
Public diplomacy efforts will not be successful if they are diluted across a myriad of objectives. They also will fail if they do not include focus on all three levels of engagement: deep, sustained investment in cultural exchanges and programs focused on common values and mutual understanding; medium-term programs focused on ‘high-touch’ engagements in emerging areas of need (e.g., preventive health programs); and shorter-term programming related to media engagement and messaging. The intensity and complexity of the competition for influence will require that efforts be integrated and effective across these levels. This will be essential to ensuring that U.S. engagements with targeted global publics are credible and mutually reinforcing and that their effects are enduring. Doing so requires that the Department improve its ability to: integrate its message and programs across the organization to ensure consistency; tailor that message and programs to meet the unique operational requirements of the field; and ensure the concentration, strategic coherence, and accountability for results that only a self-standing organization can provide.
Key Potential Components
- A New, Semi-Autonomous Organization: The organization would have centralized authority over all Department public diplomacy personnel, including employee evaluation reports (EERs) and assignments; responsibility for ensuring effective training in key related disciplines across the global affairs agencies in partnership with the Foreign Service Institute (FSI); and unified visibility into all Department and interagency resources. The organization would be responsible for providing leadership and coordination of USG public diplomacy and – as appropriate – strategic communications efforts to ensure that they are aligned in support of a common set of objectives. It would have a robust capability for evaluating how foreign publics get and share information as well as the factors that most influence and shape their opinions. It would emphasize proactive, forward-leaning policies to establish guidelines for media engagement and alternate media mechanisms and have a strong balance between long and short-term goals.
- Integrated Strategic Planning and Evaluation: This organization’s strategic planning function would reside within the Office of Policy, Strategy and Resource Planning proposed later in this report. The purpose of this integration is to maximize the alignment of diplomatic, development, and public engagement efforts. For example, this strategic integration should ensure that public diplomacy efforts benefit to the maximum extent possible from U.S. development efforts in each country and region. The new organization also would be charged with coordinating and ensuring consistency in planning by public diplomacy organizations in other Departments with the support of the Department and the NSC. A key purpose of this recommendation is to ensure that the United States’ messages are coherent regardless of the departmental affiliation of the speaker.
- Common Technology Platform: The organization also would share a common, consolidated technology platform with the Department and USAID to maximize information sharing, rotational flexibility, and ease of communication.
Proactive Multilateral Leadership
Strengthen the U.S. presence in multilateral institutions and develop longer-term, more proactive strategies for influencing their agendas. The Department should increase the presence of its personnel in multilateral organizations, expand their breadth of expertise and experience in how these organizations function, and develop longer-term strategies for influencing outcomes in these arenas. It should enhance U.S. representation in the African Union, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and other key, emerging organizations based on a comprehensive global analysis. Essential to the Department’s success will be a substantial rotational program that supports secondment of Department personnel to the staffs of these institutions for extended tours of duty. Similarly, the Department should articulate – and communicate to its staff – clear strategic priorities for U.S. engagement in these fora.
The bipartisan Task Force on the United Nations noted in its 2005 report, American Interests and UN Reform, “Three generations of Americans have demonstrated not only a strong preference for sharing the costs, risks, and burdens of global leadership, but also an acute recognition that action in coordination and cooperation with others is often the only way to get the job done.” The State 2025 Working Group endorses this viewpoint. Pressing global challenges must necessarily be addressed in multilateral settings. Securing the interests of the American people in those settings will require long-term strategic focus and sustained effort and investment.
Key Potential Components
- Multilateral Organization Engagement Strategic Plan: The Department should develop a rolling five-year strategic and resource plan for increased multilateral engagement. This plan should not only detail overarching strategic objectives, but also clearly articulate the human and financial resources necessary to achieve these objectives. This strategy should include consideration of options for leading the development of wholly new multilateral organizations that reflect greater alignment of values and interests.
- Financial Obligations: The Department should work closely with Congress and OMB to review the United States’ financial treaty obligations to international organizations and jointly develop a budgetary timeline for meeting them.
- Expanded Presence: In executing the ‘Multilateral Organization Engagement Strategic Plan’ proposed above the Department should place more Foreign Service and Civil Service staff at existing multilateral institutions. This should include an increase in the number of personnel detailed to the U.S. missions to these organizations. The Department should also expand significantly the number of exchange programs and secondments of Department and other USG personnel to the staffs of these organizations. In addition to the immediate benefits of increased presence, these steps will deepen the Department’s access to influential networks in these organizations and their distributed communities.
- Specialized Training: The Department should invest in additional multilateral tradecraft courses. Success in multilateral organizations requires not only specialized knowledge of their substantive issues, but also professional multilateral engagement skills that differ from those of FSOs accustomed to bilateral missions. Such tradecraft courses could also incorporate exercises with real-world scenarios that address consensus building, multilateral negotiations, crisis response activities, and related skills.
Anticipatory Coalition-Building Capacity
Deepen the Department’s institutional ability to develop and effectively manage anticipatory coalitions, in particular by building an organizational capacity for conducting coalition planning exercises in key political and diplomatic areas, much as the Department of Defense (DOD) does in military domains. These efforts would facilitate joint-planning and joint-response strategies with both state and non-state actors. Potential areas for these exercises would include environmental or financial crisis response, stabilization and reconstruction efforts, and regional contingencies. In the future, the United States increasingly will be confronted with challenges and opportunities for which coordinated, multi-national/multi-actor responses will be essential for political, economic, resource, logistical, or public affairs reasons. As a result, it will be important not only to find areas of alignment with key partners, but also to have integrated strategies and plans in place to address these circumstances. In addition, these types of activities serve as invaluable confidence-building measures and seed important professional and personal relationships and networks at the working levels with key partners around the world.
Key Potential Component
- Coalition Exercises Center of Excellence: The Department should create a Coalition Exercises Center of Excellence in the Office of Policy, Strategy and Resource Planning proposed later in this report. This Center would establish a process for targeting functional and geographic issues that would benefit from joint planning with coalition partners. The Center also would: assemble and maintain best practices related to coalition planning, leveraging DOD lessons learned; employ FSI and external expertise as needed to conduct modeling, simulation, and ‘war-gaming’ exercises with participation from coalition partners, both state and non-state; and support the regional and functional bureaus in conducting these exercises in Washington and at missions overseas. It would also be responsible for developing the ability of Department personnel to make use of this type of activity.
Proactive Development of International Law and Practices
Create a new office within the Office of the Legal Advisor to strengthen the Department’s institutional capacity to monitor and lead the development of international law and practice – particularly in emerging domains. Our study of the future suggests that the processes by which international law, standards, and practices are formed will represent a growing, critical domain of competition for power and influence among nation states and other actors. This includes both the evolution of ‘rule-sets’ in existing areas and – increasingly – in new, emerging domains (e.g., climate, genetics, and nanotechnology). The United States is well positioned to play a leadership role in these processes, and by doing so can gain significant, enduring strategic leverage for shaping the future operating environment. One interviewee made this point very cogently, saying, “The United States must be on the offense in forming international law.” Our work suggests that doing so will require that the Department build new capacities in this area, given the sheer scope of the global rule-forming processes that are now in motion. Many legal domains that were once primarily defined within national boundaries have become increasingly transnational (e.g., health, the environment, and labor). At the same time, many USG agencies that are predominantly oriented towards domestic issues are now active globally. Thus, the need for an integrated approach to managing these processes and supporting them with expertise in international negotiation is increasingly urgent. Therefore, we consider investment in this capability a high-priority for the Department.
Key Potential Components
- Office of International Law: The Department should establish a new unit within the Office of the Legal Advisor focused on identifying key areas in which the Department should take the lead in negotiating international law and developing and executing strategies for achieving U.S. objectives in those areas. Essential to this recommendation is that these individuals not have additional responsibilities in managing the day-to-day legal activities of the Department. This unit would set priorities among the issues and domains to monitor, as well as the international fora in which to engage. It would bring together experts to develop draft proposals and manage negotiations. The unit would monitor global developments through U.S. resources overseas to ensure early awareness of emerging issues.
- Clear Interagency Leadership Role: Central to the responsibilities of this unit would be coordinating with the international legal activities of other USG agencies to ensure strategic coherence, operational consistency, and proper diplomatic execution. To be effective in this role, the office should be supported unambiguously by senior Department leaders, as well as by the White House.
Strengthened and Integrated Tools of Economic Diplomacy
Increase the focus on economic diplomacy and strengthen the Department’s institutional role in coordinating the development and execution of the nation’s global economic policy. This recommendation includes bolstering the Department’s core economic diplomacy capabilities, integrating selected USG instruments of economic influence, and institutionalizing the Department’s role in bringing forward-looking, strategic unity to global USG economic policy. In the future operating environment, the lines separating economic and financial issues from geopolitical and diplomatic concerns will become increasingly blurred. It will be imperative for the United States to bring the full weight of its economic and financial power to the development and execution of its foreign policy. Further, it will be important for the USG to understand fully the global political consequences of its international economic and financial decisions. Doing so will require that the Department play a central role in coordinating the nation’s international economic and financial policy.
Key Potential Components
- Strengthening the Department’s Economic Orientation: The Department should strengthen its institutional focus on economic issues. To do this, it should require that the Under Secretary for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs be a prominent economist or have extensive economic experience. Further, each regional bureau should have one deputy assistant secretary focused on economic issues who is a trained economist. The Department should increase its focus on recruiting and retaining officers with specific economic and business expertise and experience. Finally, training in applied economics should be given greater emphasis at FSI and business courses should be included in the options for university study.
- Strengthen the Department’s Leadership Role in Development Institutions: The World Bank and international development banks are critical components of the broad development effort led by the Department and USAID. Therefore, to maximize USG strategic unity and effectiveness in the development domain, it is important that the Department increase its influence within these institutions. We recommend that the United States Executive Director at each development bank receive foreign policy direction, including voting guidance on development loans and grants, from the Department and direction on the financial operations of the institution from the Secretary of the Treasury. In addition, the presence of Department and USAID officers in the Offices of the Executive Director at each of the banks and the International Monetary Fund should be expanded.
- Integrating USG Global Economic Policy: The Department should serve as the lead USG agency responsible for coordinating the development and execution of U.S. global economic policy in support of the NSC and the National Economic Council (NEC). While the technical financial dimensions of policy in this area are critically important, they are secondary to the strategic importance of ensuring alignment of the nation’s overall foreign policy – at both the global and country-specific levels. The Department is uniquely positioned to understand the relationship between American international economic policy decisions and the totality of U.S. national interests around the world, and therefore should play this coordinating role. Under the current NEC model, we propose that the deputy for international economic issues be a seconded representative of the Department. This individual would be responsible for coordinating the development of an integrated, government-wide, global economic strategy linked to the broader Global Affairs Strategic Plan described in a subsequent section of this report. The plan would define how the economic, financial, and monetary activities of the Departments of State, Treasury, Commerce, Agriculture, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative will reinforce one another in the achievement of national strategic objectives. This deputy would also be responsible for monitoring the execution of strategy at global, regional, and country levels.
Science, Engineering, and Technology Engagement
Expand the Department’s investment in Science, Engineering, and Technology (SET) expertise, presence, and global engagement. This recommendation includes ensuring a baseline of SET literacy among all appropriate Department personnel, increasing the presence overseas of personnel with significant SET expertise, and expanding the Department’s engagement within global SET networks through exchanges, assistance, and joint research activities addressing key global issues. The State 2025 Working Group also suggests that the roles of the Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International Environment and Scientific Affairs (OES) and the Science and Technology Advisor be brought more closely together. For example, if the Assistant Secretary for OES is a scientist, that person could serve simultaneously as the Science and Technology Advisor. Otherwise, the Science and Technology Advisor could become the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State (PDAS) in OES. It is essential that this role be empowered to bring senior attention to the full range of SET challenges and opportunities facing the Department – including both ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ power issues.
There is broad consensus that revolutions in science, engineering, and technology will transform virtually all areas of human life, including the full range of foreign policy issues. For the Department, a lack of expertise and presence in these domains represents a significant strategic blind spot. From the perspectives of economic competitiveness and national security, distributed awareness of these issues will be essential to effective, relevant diplomacy. In addition, as the Internet collapses the importance of time and geography as barriers to the sharing of information, SET advances will emerge from global collaborative efforts. The networks driving these advances will be important sources of influence and will spread core values of transparency, meritocracy, and rationality. Engagement and development of these SET networks already is becoming an increasingly competitive domain. For example, by one internal estimate, there are approximately 600 African students in SET domains pursuing advanced studies in the United States. By comparison, in China there are 10,000 African students in these disciplines and the Chinese government intends to increase that number by 4,000 each year. For all of these reasons, we believe that SET is a critically important domain for engagement by the Department.
Key Potential Components
- Strengthening SET Literacy: The Department should require that all diplomatic personnel complete a short survey course in the foundations of SET institutions, processes, and foreign policy implications. All personnel with direct responsibility for SET portfolios in Washington and abroad should be required to complete a more comprehensive two to three week SET course of study, including region- and country-specific material as appropriate.
- Growing SET Expertise in the Missions and Regions: The Department should increase its recruitment of personnel with significant training, education, and/or experience in SET fields with a goal of having a minimum of ten percent of U.S. diplomatic personnel with some meaningful SET expertise by 2025. To ensure retention of this talent by creating a meaningful career path for them, the Department should consider creating a SET cone or sub-cone focused on high-priority global issues with significant SET components. In addition, the Department should expand and fund its partnerships with the National Science Foundation and other government SET organizations and laboratories to bring SET professionals into U.S. embassies for targeted two-year assignments. These individuals would then continue to be available for consultation by the Department for a fixed period thereafter. The OES Bureau should expand its coverage of SET issues to match the density of its coverage of environmental issues. The Department also should review its assignments of science and environmental attachés to ensure that all large and/or SET-intensive regions, sub-regions, and missions have such personnel.
- Engaging and Cultivating Global SET Networks: Working with and integrating the efforts of other USG agencies, the Department should cultivate SET research and development partnerships with other nations and non-state actors more aggressively, targeting key global issues such as climate change, global health, energy security, and weapons proliferation. These partnerships would serve as a means to develop joint solutions to pressing challenges, leverage global SET expertise and capacity, and foster goodwill with key actors around the world. These partnerships should also include joint, long-term SET foreign assistance investments to enable developing countries to establish their own capacity. Finally, the Department should intensify its efforts to bring foreign students to the United States for advanced SET study. This is an invaluable long-term means of building deep linkages to what will be increasingly influential global networks in the future.
- Advisory Council on Science, Engineering, and Technology: The Department should establish a small advisory council of six to eight preeminent scientists, engineers, and technologists in diverse and relevant fields to provide the secretary with external advice and perspective on these issues. The members of this council could be nominated by the National Academies (science, engineering and medicine). The council would report to the secretary, and be managed by the Science Advisor/PDAS for Science, Engineering, and Technology.
Decisive Country Transitioning Capabilities
The State 2025 Working Group anticipates that demographic and other societal tensions are likely to continue to increase the pressures that result in the fracturing and failure of nation states. Developments of this kind will have growing strategic importance for the United States as increasing degrees of global interconnectedness make the consequences of instability both more dangerous and difficult to contain. It will be critical for the USG not only to have the ability to identify these destabilizing trends, but also the operational capacity to prevent or mitigate nation-state failures and internal conflicts. At the same time, likely constraints on available U.S. resources – and the importance of managing the perceptions of American engagement – will require that U.S. efforts in these areas be multilateral to the greatest possible extent. Burden-sharing with partners, both traditional and non-traditional, and capacity building will be key determinants of American success.
Our interviews suggested that effective development assistance could become the most efficient means of achieving national objectives in this area. They also indicated that for development efforts to be truly effective, they should be tightly integrated with the nation’s foreign policy and country-specific diplomacy. The potential influence of development assistance in supporting the transition of countries towards stability and good governance can only be fully realized as part of an overarching, unified strategic framework. The fragmentation of foreign assistance across nearly twenty government agencies and entities leads to confusion in roles and responsibilities, a lack of prioritization, and conflicting or contradictory objectives – with a net result that is sometimes adverse for recipient countries. The creation of the Office of the Director of Foreign Assistance is an important development in increasing USG-wide coherence in this area. Many interviews also reflected the broad concern that the Department still does not have sufficient stabilization and reconstruction capacities. It was recommended that the Department build and integrate the operational capability to respond rapidly to contingencies, support country transitions effectively, solve complex development problems, and create tangible results. The Department should be able to act swiftly in these circumstances, either pre-conflict to avert more costly or difficult circumstances, or post-conflict to maximize the benefits. The ability to influence decisively the transitions of states at various stages of development also demands a specific set of skilled and available human resources, rapid-response operational capacity, and flexible financial and human resources on the ground.
The recommendations in this category are intended to strengthen the Department’s operational capacity to support the transition of fragile and failed states in close coordination with other USG departments and agencies, and – significantly – in partnership with other nations and multilateral organizations.
Alignment of Diplomacy and Assistance
Integrate the strategic planning offices and technology infrastructures of the Department and USAID, merge overlapping bureaus and functions, and co-locate related offices and personnel with the goal of bringing true strategic and operational alignment to the efforts of the Department and USAID. The intent of this recommendation is to preserve the important differences in perspective and operational flexibility resulting from autonomous development and diplomatic organizations, while maximizing the nation’s ability to advance broad strategic objectives and achieve tangible results on the ground.
Key Potential Components
- Strategic Planning Integration: The Department should closely integrate strategic planning for diplomacy and assistance in the Office of Policy, Strategy and Resource Planning (D/PSR), as proposed later in this report. Integration of the planning function would ensure that the efforts of the Department, USAID, and the new global public engagement organization are mutually reinforcing. We recommend that the role of USAID administrator include responsibility and authority for directing all foreign assistance across the USG and that the planning elements of the current Office of the Director of Foreign Assistance be integrated within D/PSR. In developing integrated strategic goals and the means of measuring actual performance, it will be imperative for this office to delineate between the longer-term timeframes associated with development and public diplomacy and the nearer term concerns of traditional diplomacy. Such integration will not only force policy-makers to articulate clear strategic objectives, implementation steps, and timeframes, but also will aid in the resolution of policy differences, guide decisions, and ensure that sufficient human and capital resources are in place to meet objectives and that adjustments are made to accommodate resource realities. Integrated annual reviews of progress and outcomes will enable senior leaders to determine the effectiveness of their policies and their implementation programs.
- Common Technology Platform: The technology platforms, investment processes, and management structures of the two organizations should be fully consolidated to maximize information sharing, rotational flexibility, and ease of communication, and to minimize wasteful redundancy.
- Increased Personnel Rotations: The Department and USAID (and the new global public engagement organization) should create strong incentives for rotations of experienced personnel between the organizations. This will have multiple benefits, including providing an opportunity for Department personnel to strengthen their project and program management skills and for USAID personnel to understand better how policy is developed and diplomatic instruments support development objectives.
- Co-location in Washington and the Field: The Department should co-locate assistance and other Department staff covering similar issues, regions, and countries to the maximum extent possible, both in Washington and overseas, to reinforce the shared planning and execution capacity. In Cairo, for example, the distance between the Embassy and the USAID facility fosters a perception of two distinct organizations and inhibits interaction. While there may be close coordination between the USAID Mission Director and the Chief of Mission (COM), it is insufficient to build bonds of collaboration and a sense of common mission at the working levels, limiting the ability of both sides to see the interconnectedness of their daily work.
- Merge Overlapping Functions: Based on a careful review its own organizational structure and that of USAID, the Department should merge overlapping bureaus, offices, and functions to minimize duplication. Overseas, this effort should include ending separate housing pools, warehouses, furniture and motor pools, and many General Service Officer duties – as well as differences in reciprocity arrangements with host governments.
Integrated Reconstruction and Stabilization Planning and Execution Capacity
Establish clear senior-level responsibility and interagency authority for the reconstruction and stabilization function and develop fully the Department’s planning and execution capacities in this area. This recommendation includes the requirement that the Department build the capacity to develop anticipatory response plans that integrate the resources of the agencies and departments of the USG, other nations, international organizations, and other non-state actors. In addition, the Department should develop both a standing and reserve cadre of reconstruction and stabilization professionals that can be deployed worldwide to prevent, mitigate, or respond to disasters and various forms of political, economic, and social instability. Our work suggests that these planning and operational capabilities should reside within the Department because of its specific state-building expertise, understanding of regional and national context, central interagency coordination role, and civilian status. The intention of this recommendation is to build upon the concepts and capabilities the Department has already articulated in creating the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (CRS).
Key Potential Components
- Leadership and Integration: The Department should establish clear senior-level responsibility for the reconstruction and stabilization function to ensure that it receives the resources and support that it requires to be effective. Therefore, we recommend that the coordinator for reconstruction and stabilization report directly to the deputy secretary. The CRS planning function should be integrated with the Office of Policy, Strategy and Resource Planning proposed later in this report. In addition, we recommend that the deputy secretary, in this role, be given unambiguous authority to coordinate planning and execution for this function across all USG agencies, including DOD, on behalf of the president and the NSC.
- Stabilization and Reconstruction Planning:
- Inter-Agency Exercises: Increase the ability to develop and lead tabletop and full-scale exercises and simulations. These should focus not only on security-related issues, but also test the full range of USG response capabilities.
- External Engagement: Work closely with other nations and non-state actors to develop comprehensive, joint contingency plans and execution strategies including specific human and financial resource commitments. Burden-sharing with partner nations and others will not only be critical to meet demands on the ground and share costs, but also to ensure that the U.S. presence is not perceived as self-interested in sensitive contexts. The best way to ensure that this burden-sharing is effective is through the development of pre-staged, integrated plans.
- Lessons Learned Capacity: Institutionalize the practice of reviewing the results of interventions and developing or revising standard operating practices for future actions. This will require extensive interagency coordination and will help improve future exercises and simulations.
- Measures to Predict Instability: Understand existing research related to the monitoring of political instability, sponsor more such research (both with academia and the intelligence community), and develop country-specific indicators to help anticipate problems.
- Stabilization and Reconstruction Cadre: Fund and expand the staffing models proposed by CRS, including both an Active and Reserve Corps. The successful incorporation of such a cadre into the Department will provide an essential operational capability not currently available. Our interviews suggested that it will not be possible for the Department to be effective and credible in this area if its roles are limited to planning and coordination. It requires a decisive set of operational capabilities that it can contribute to an integrated response. Only then can the Department play the leadership role demanded of it.
- Active Response Corps (ARC): Support and expand the ARC, comprised of Department and other USG personnel who serve as rapid responders and deploy in support of embassies and consulates, work with host countries, coordinate with partner countries, and conduct field assessments. In addition to one year of active service and availability for worldwide deployment, these staff would remain ‘on call’ to respond to contingencies. The Department should ensure that a critical mass of its personnel serve in the ARC to be able to exert credible leadership in this area. The Department also should develop a comprehensive database of staff with related skills and capabilities, both within the Department and other partner agencies, and basic and refresher training capacity.
- Civilian Reserve Corps: We support existing proposals to create a Civilian Reserve Corps and recognize the value in recruiting resources from outside of the USG, including retirees, and emphasizing needed skills and availability. Our work confirmed that the potential future scale of stabilization and reconstruction situations may quickly overwhelm even increased levels of standing personnel capacity. It is therefore essential that there be a second level of individuals trained and available to work in potentially non-permissive environments.
- Budgetary Support: The Department’s expanded responsibilities in this area require a commensurate increase in flexible financial resources to match the proposed increase in personnel. The Department should work with Congress and OMB to establish a $200 million permanent fund – to be replenished as needed – specifically to support the transitions of fragile or failed states in all aspects of that task.
Capabilities for Engaging Non-Traditional Actors
We anticipate that in 2025, non-state actors – both traditional and non-traditional – will become more influential in international affairs relative to traditional state institutions. These actors will include multi-national corporations, transnational networks, NGOs, terrorist organizations, religious groups, and highly empowered individuals. Our interviews and working sessions with diplomats of selected nations yielded a clear consensus: for diplomatic institutions to be effective in creating tangible results on the ground in the future, they will require a strengthened institutional ability to engage non-traditional interlocutors. To do so, diplomats must understand these actors’ motivations and interests, how they engage and influence others, their strengths and weaknesses, and how, when appropriate, to partner with them effectively. In some cases, interaction with these non-state actors can be achieved directly by state diplomatic institutions; in other cases, such as when dealing with illegal or terrorist organizations, it may be necessary to obtain such insight through third parties.
American diplomats have always interacted with non-state actors. Our study suggests that the importance of this interaction will increase significantly in the future. More specifically, we found that to be effective in engaging and influencing these actors, the Department will need to become much more systematic and innovative in its approaches. Thus, the recommendations in this area are intended to strengthen the Department’s ability to engage non-state actors strategically, influence the emerging patterns of activity through which they operate, and leverage the growing resources and capabilities at their disposal.
Social Network Engagement Capability
Develop a globally integrated solution for capturing, aggregating, analyzing, and using the Department’s unique knowledge of influential individuals, their interests, and their networked relationships. This solution would consist of both a new business process for capturing and reporting contact information and the application of advances in social network theory and technology to create analytically useful visual representations of this critical knowledge. Under this solution, diplomatic personnel would enter pre-set categories of information regarding the individuals with whom they interact in addition to their current narrative reports. This information would be aggregated on a global basis and made available for analysis in both Washington and the field. Analyzing this information using the principles of social network science will enable the Department to identify the global network of influencers for a given issue and understand where the best potential sources of leverage are within that network. The insight provided by this solution would support diplomacy, development, and public engagement by helping to prioritize among the many potential areas of action to target those likely to have the greatest effect.
This recommendation builds on what our interviews suggested is one of the most valuable and long-standing knowledge assets of the Department: its insight into the specific people and groups that most influence developments in a given country. Knowledge of these networks and relationships is an intrinsic part of the work of the Department and its diplomats, but historically this information and insight has, at best, been imperfectly captured and shared. To be effective in the 21st century, the Department should not only do a better job of capturing these data, but also of managing and analyzing them. The proposed solution is intended to update a core strength of the Department to maximize its strategic value in the 21st century. Currently, biographical information is captured, but nowhere is it being integrated and made available for unified analysis. In addition, the invaluable relationship information accumulated by FSOs during a given tour rarely is transmitted comprehensively to their successors. In a world where influence itself is increasingly scarce and in which knowledge of networks is essential, the pervasive loss of vitally important information is something that the Department can no longer afford. In addition to its analytic applications, the proposed solution would provide a highly practical means for improving the transmission of this knowledge from one officer to the next, expanding the Department’s representational outreach, and enhancing our ability to identify promising future leaders.
Key Potential Components
- Revised Contact Information Reporting Process: The Department should revise this process to allow officers to collect and, following a meeting with an individual, to enter and submit key information into an integrated database. To do so efficiently, from disparate locations and in a form suitable for aggregation and analysis, diplomatic personnel will require secure, mobile tools that automate the process. Our interviews suggested that effective ambassadors and deputy chiefs of mission (DCM) have always pushed their teams to capture and use information of this kind. This proposed process would allow these efforts – and the accountability of individual officers for them – to be measured and managed. Obviously, any such system and the information resident in it, particularly sources, need to be protected. The Department also should undertake efforts to develop additional sources of information that could feed into this system (e.g., external research funded by the Department through academia and think tanks on social networks).
- Global Social Network Analysis Tool: The Department requires a robust, secure, and compartmentalized technology solution to support this process. This would include secure mobility tools for submitting information to and accessing the system from any place and at any time, and should be expandable for interface with other USG agencies. The tool would include both a global contact management database and a social network analysis software layer to translate the data into analytically useful representations of network structure and patterns of social capital and influence. The tool should be available in Washington and in the field. Particularly sensitive information can be protected using role-based privileges. The intelligence community has already made important progress in developing tools of this type that can be leveraged for the Department’s purposes.
- Social Network Analytic Support and Training: The Department should expand the analysis function to include a small “Office of Social Network Analysis” within the Bureau for Intelligence and Research (INR). This group – in partnership with the Department’s technology function – would be responsible for the design and management of this system, developing analytic reports for senior leadership, and providing training to officers in Washington and the field in how to utilize the system.
Public-Private Partnership and NGO Engagement Capability
The Department and USAID should create a greatly strengthened institutional means to understand, engage, and partner creatively with private sector and NGO actors. Among the diverse range of emerging non-state actors, those most likely to grow in influence and to have increasing degrees of strategic alignment with the long-term objectives of the Department and USAID are private companies and individuals and the NGO community. Our interviews suggested that unofficial resources increasingly will dwarf official government resources in the future; the growing number of corporations among the wealthiest entities in the world is one indication of this trend. Another example is the Gates Foundation, which currently boasts an annual global health budget greater than that of the World Health Organization.
Our working sessions made clear that it will be critical for the Department to improve its ability to channel the energy and resources of the private sector in support of its objectives in the many areas where there is clear alignment of interests. We also found that NGOs will be increasingly effective actors in countries and issue areas where political realities might inhibit the efficacy of formal USG programs and activities. Foreign affairs agencies, particularly the Department and USAID, will need to maintain close relationships with NGOs and leverage their programs and activities to advance common goals and objectives. In addition, new organizational hybrids will emerge in which government entities at various levels will join with NGOs, academia, and industry to share burdens, bridge domains, and connect constituencies. At the same time, there may well be a broad challenge to the USG as mounting resource constraints intersect with ever-rising mission demands and citizen expectations. The operational burden that these dynamics create will require that the Department find ‘force-multipliers’ across the spectrum of its activities. We therefore see a significant strategic opportunity to create new institutional means for aligning the actions of non-state actors in support of shared goals.
Key Potential Components
- Strategic Partnerships Office: Consistent with the proposals of the Private Sector Working Group, we recommend that the Department establish a Strategic Partnerships Office focused on creating results-oriented partnerships with non-state actors. This office, building on USAID’s Global Development Alliance, will include an analytic capacity for identifying opportunities to tap the energy and resources of the private sector, NGO, foundation, and academic communities in support of desired outcomes. It will develop and maintain a range of potential models and best-practice templates guiding how the Department and USAID can form strategic partnerships with these entities. The office will also develop compelling incentives for the Department’s and USAID’s bureaus, offices, and missions to form such partnerships, and for maintaining clear reporting requirements to ensure the fairness of these arrangements and their transparency. It would consist of two primary units:
- Private Sector Partnerships Unit: This unit would be charged with building and strengthening strategic relationships with the private sector and the many associations in which they are organized. It would analyze the inconsistent and complex legal frameworks governing USG relationships with private sector entities and propose administrative or legislative remedies. It would also monitor existing partnerships to capture lessons learned and assess the return on investment. The Department should coordinate with both the NSC and OMB to explore expanding this capability to all global affairs agencies.
- NGO and Foundation Partnership Unit: This unit would focus on strengthening the Department’s ability to plan and execute partnerships with the full range of NGOs, foundations, and academic institutions. Building on USAID’s existing infrastructure in this area, the unit would maintain organizational-level strategic coordination with the NGO community. This office would provide dynamic interface between the Department and USAID and the entire NGO world. It also would drive the development of doctrine, legal templates, and necessary legislation to facilitate the expansion of such alliances.
Capacity to Integrate USG Global Affairs Activities
Based on our study of the future, we anticipate an operating environment in which the complex, multi-disciplinary challenges and opportunities facing the USG will proliferate while the resources available to respond to these events may be significantly constrained. The nation’s adversaries and competitors will take advantage of the high operational tempo and relative instantaneous movement of information to exploit any seams among USG organizations. These circumstances will demand a high degree of strategic integration across the government at the global, regional, and country levels. They also will require the ability to prioritize among multiple pressing issues. Thus, the USG requires a means for establishing prioritized strategic goals across agencies and for having visibility into the interagency resources being spent to address these goals.
The NSC is the entity responsible for interagency policy coordination. Our research suggests that while the NSC plays this role effectively for the most urgent issues of the day, it is less able to guide both long-term strategic coordination and the unity of effort required for less immediately pressing areas. The pace and complexity of world affairs and the USG’s role in them simply have outgrown the NSC’s capabilities, particularly as the NSC is necessarily dominated by the president’s priorities, goals, and calendar. Therefore, we believe that the Department should play a much greater role in integrating the USG’s strategy in global affairs. The Department is uniquely responsible for the broad range of U.S. national interests globally and is already accountable to the president for ensuring that all USG efforts overseas support American foreign policy objectives. At the country level, the Department, working through the U.S. ambassador and the country team, has long been responsible for creating strategic unity among the many agencies present in its missions. As the number and activities of these agencies has grown, creating this unity has become both more difficult and more important. Our interviews also suggested that, at the regional level, there is a growing need for greater strategic integration, and that this role has fallen by default to DOD and its combatant commanders (COCOM). The recommendations in this category are intended to institutionalize the Department’s ability to integrate all the USG’s instruments of power in support of the NSC and to serve effectively as the lead foreign affairs agency.
Global Affairs Strategic Plan and Budget
Take the lead, working closely with the NSC and OMB, in coordinating the periodic development of a Global Affairs Strategic Plan and presenting a related and integrated annual Global Affairs Budget. The development of such a plan would allow the NSC to move beyond simply using the National Security Strategy (NSS) as general guidance to monitoring the performance of the executive branch against its strategic and performance goals. Over time, the development, updating, and monitoring of this longer-term plan would contribute significantly to the strategic coherence of USG efforts and investments globally. It would create close collaboration on key strategic issues, highlight vulnerable gaps and seams, and foster a culture of unity across the government. The Integrated Global Affairs Budget would fill a significant gap identified by many interviewees: the lack of a unified view of what the USG is spending to accomplish its objectives globally is a major obstacle to meaningful strategic integration. First, this absence makes it extremely difficult to identify and eliminate areas of overlap, redundancy, and cases where efforts are at cross-purposes. Second, it limits the ability of the government to ensure the application of sufficiently concentrated resources against highest priority objectives. The NSC, by requiring the Department to present this budget, would immediately increase significantly the orientation toward meaningful integration of effort among executive branch agencies.
Key Potential Components
- Department Designation as Coordinator of Global Affairs Strategic Plan: The Department should coordinate, in support of the NSC, the periodic development of a Global Affairs Strategic Plan that translates the tasks of the NSS into a set of specific strategic and performance goals and includes designation of lead and supporting agencies. This recommendation is consistent with the core component of the Quadrennial Strategic Review proposed in Project Horizon. This high-level planning document would be developed every four years, but would assess requirements ten or more years into the future to inform current priorities. It would include a single, operationally-oriented framework of strategic goals and plans. The agencies associated with each strategic goal, led by the identified lead agency, would draft an interagency plan for accomplishing the strategic goals and associated performance objectives. Performance against the plan would be reviewed formally every two years, and any desirable re-allocations of resources would be proposed through OMB and the congressional appropriations process. The review process also would identify levels of risk and recommend any strategic goal revisions.
- Integrated Global Affairs Budget: The Department should be required to present an integrated annual Global Affairs Budget in close partnership with OMB that clearly links resource requests to the strategic and performance goals of the Global Affairs Strategic Plan. This budget, which is equivalent in concept to a National Security Budget, would tie directly to the Global Affairs Strategic Plan and would be essential to ensuring that the plan does not become another abstract layer of guidance disconnected from actual resources and effort on the ground.
Regional Planning, Presence, and Execution
Strengthen the Department’s regional interagency coordination role and presence by leading the development of government-wide regional strategic plans and expanding its senior-level diplomatic visibility. This will require increasing the planning capacity of the regional bureaus both in Washington and the field and creating a new senior level position at each regional Combatant Command that would serve as the COCOM’s senior civilian deputy and be responsible for diplomatic interaction and for leading interagency planning for the Department at the regional level.
Our interviews yielded two opposing insights regarding regions. First, some argued that regions are fundamentally arbitrary constructs that reflect neither clear lines of sovereignty nor culture or civilization. At the same time, regions have become a centrally important and – most argue – necessary organizing constructs, not just for government, but also for most global private sector organizations. Notwithstanding their organizational utility, regional constructs create fundamental strategic challenges – particularly for national security organizations – in the form of the seams between regions that are susceptible to exploitation by adversaries, who understand very well where the USG’s ability to coordinate effectively is most limited.
Within the Department, the regional bureaus have evolved to be the clearly preeminent centers of power. However, many interviewees argued that this preeminence in Washington is not matched in the field, where DOD’s regional combatant commanders have come to be perceived by states and other actors as the most influential USG regional representative. It is argued that the resources that COCOM’s control, their presence and frequent travel throughout the region, and even the symbolic impact of their aircraft and accompanying contingent of uniformed service members, all combine to place them in a perceived position of preeminence. It also has been suggested that the strategic unity at the regional level created by the combatant commanders across the military services is not matched by a corresponding degree of unity among the civilian agencies active in the regions. In fact, some suggested that the combatant commanders not only find themselves having to coordinate among civilian agencies in the region, but also among the U.S. ambassadors in a given region. These findings, and our expectation of a future environment in which interagency strategic unity at all levels and clear civilian leadership of U.S. diplomatic activities will be critical to American success, clearly suggest the need for strengthened civilian interagency leadership and presence at the regional level. The Department is the only USG entity that can play this indispensable role.
Key Potential Components
- Senior Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Regional Planning and Engagement: Each regional bureau should establish a senior deputy assistant secretary position with responsibility for ensuring appropriate senior diplomatic presence and travel in the region, providing an ongoing interface to the DOD Combatant Commander, and leading regional interagency strategic planning efforts. It is essential that this person be a senior career diplomat with prior ambassadorial experience. They ideally would serve in the role for a minimum of four years to ensure strategic continuity within the bureau and to deepen bilateral relationships in the region and with key interagency counterparts. This person, supported by a small Department planning staff as proposed later in this report, would serve as the senior civilian deputy and foreign policy advisor to Combatant Commander. In this role, they would replace the existing “Political Advisor” (or POLAD) construct and report directly to the Department of State regional assistant secretary, serving as the assistant secretary’s personal representative in the region. They would accompany the combatant commander on all regional travel and, as appropriate, would ensure, with the U.S. ambassador, the participation at key meetings of the appropriate under secretary, assistant secretary, or other senior officials. The planning role of this person would be to coordinate, on behalf of the assistant secretary, the periodic interagency regional strategic planning process described below. This role would include serving on behalf of the assistant secretary as the key planning interface with interagency partners.
- Integrated Regional Planning: Each of the Department’s regional assistant secretaries, supported by their senior DAS, should lead a periodic, long-term interagency planning process for all USG activity in each region, with DOD centrally involved in this process. This process would be directly linked to the Global Affairs Strategic Plan described above and would provide the long-term regional focus needed to guide the development of annual mission plans and performance reports. These unified engagement plans would be developed with country teams and include insights gained from other allies, international organizations, and relevant NGOs and private sector actors as appropriate. These plans would identify priority goals, agency-specific strategies/tactics, performance measures, and integrated resource requests.
- Expanded Regional Planning Staff: To strengthen the working level interface planning between the Department, DOD, and other interagency partners, we recommend that the Department expand the planning cadre in each regional bureau to a small team and establish the appropriate levels of seniority and experience. This would include several additional planners in Washington to support planning and performance management and serve as the working-level interagency interface. It would also include the assignment of several planners to the staff of the combatant commander to ensure effective regional coordination with DOD from the appropriate regional bureaus. The Department also should consider a reciprocal DOD planning presence in the regional bureaus.
Ambassadorial Authorities and Planning Responsibilities
Analyze and strengthen ambassadors’ formal authority over all executive branch human and financial resources expended in each country. This recommendation includes clarifying the ambassador’s responsibility for leading the professional evaluation of all USG personnel under his/her authority, and requiring and training ambassadors to lead the development of truly unified interagency engagement plans for their missions.
The complex and intensely competitive future operating environment will demand the strategic integration of USG resources at the global, regional, and country levels. It will be increasingly critical that the USG maximize prioritized concentration of time and resources, reduce duplication of effort, and minimize vulnerabilities in the seams between agencies. Historically, this integration has been most successfully achieved by the ambassador at the country level. However, our interviews suggested that the degree of actual strategic integration varies widely among missions. As the number of USG agencies active overseas and the extent of their activities grow, the challenge of creating country-level unity of effort will increase. Depending on the orientation, management skills, and stature of each individual ambassador, meeting this challenge will be more or less difficult. The following proposals are intended to foster greater integration of USG investments in all countries. The goal is to increase the ability of the president and the secretary to create specific desired outcomes in each country through their ambassadors.
Key Potential Components
- Revised Ambassadorial Authorities: The Department should analyze COM authorities, detailing where they are insufficient to give ambassadors clear oversight over all USG resource expenditures in country. It should then propose administrative or legislative changes to enhance those authorities as necessary. In particular, we recommend that the Department request that the White House issue an Executive Order (E.O.) that codifies the authorities of U.S. ambassadors currently carried in the traditional Presidential Letter. This E.O. would be consistent with current legislative guidance, leave sufficient authority to each president to set forth specific preferences, and ensure continuity by removing as an obstacle the delayed issuance of Presidential Letters. The Department also should train COMs to make full use of the authorities that already exist. We also recommend institutionalizing the ambassador’s role as the overseeing “rating officer” for other agency heads at post. The value of these revised authorities will only be realized if accompanied by the development of deeper managerial skills among ambassadors, as we address later in this report.
- Ambassadorial Planning Responsibilities: Building on the current Mission Strategic Planning process, the Department should require ambassadors to lead the development of longer-term, government-wide country engagement plans at three-year intervals for large posts and five-year intervals for smaller posts (following by a year the Global Affairs Strategic Plan described earlier). Management of this process should rest with the DCM, supported by a designated planning officer at missions of more than 100 direct-hire staff as proposed later in this report. These integrated plans would identify priority goals, agency-specific strategies/tactics, performance measures, and unified resource requests. They would be aligned with the overarching strategic and regional plans proposed earlier in this report and incorporate insights gained from interested private sector and NGO stakeholders as appropriate.
Optimized Global Deployment and Presence
There was clear consensus across our expert interviews and scenario working sessions that the physical presence of U.S. diplomats around the globe will be a growing, valuable asset in securing the interests of the American people. Being present at the right time, in the right place, and with the right personnel will continue to be the prerequisite for wielding meaningful influence in the world. Significant and valuable efforts are already underway to retool the Department’s presence for the demands of the future, including both the global repositioning initiative and the ambitious program to build new embassies. Nonetheless, in considering the potential characteristics of the longer-term future operating environment, there are several additional requirements.
Our work suggests that the global competition for influence will be increasingly intense, involve a much wider range of relevant actors, and occur in a much greater diversity of venues. Among nation states, national capitals are likely to be of less importance as competing economic centers become more central to American interests. All of this will occur in the context of a world in which the massive proliferation of media and communication channels – and the flood of transitory virtual interactions – paradoxically will increase the value of direct contacts and personal relationships. In addition, the likely growth in the number of extremely challenging diplomatic environments, more closely resembling that of Nigeria than Germany, will require wholly new security and recruitment models. Taken together, these developments indicate that in the future there is likely to be significantly more diplomatic ground for the Department to cover. Also, the sheer pace of change and the growing uncertainty and complexity of the environment will demand that the Department be able to modify very rapidly both the location and composition of its presence.
The recommendations in this area are intended to move the Department to a size and competence adequate to meet the new global challenges, provide the flexibility necessary for critical training and rotations, improve the Department’s capacity to deploy integrated teams on short notice for time-limited assignments, and assess and adjust its physical footprint overseas on a more dynamic and flexible basis.
Baseline Critical Mass
Increase the number of Foreign Service and Civil Service staff by 100 percent over the next ten years in order to ensure a diplomatic presence sufficient to meet the rapidly expanding global challenges and opportunities of the future operating environment. Increase USAID’s deployable staff resources by 100 percent over the next three years.
Key Potential Components
- Growing the Foreign and Civil Services: The Department should make a sustained, aggressive effort to increase the number of its deployable staff resources by 100 percent over the next ten years. This recommendation represents an estimate of the aggregate increase implied by the various personnel-related proposals in this report. It reflects a remarkably broad consensus among our interviewees, virtually all of whom believed that the Department will need to be between 50 percent and 200 percent larger to play its proper role in advancing the interests of the American people. To be a decisive source of competitive advantage for the United States, the Department’s overseas presence should be expanded significantly to meet the incremental demands of engaging a wider range of influential actors and to be present in a more distributed and diverse range of arenas. The Department should increase the number of dedicated training positions to between 10 and 15 percent of all diplomatic personnel. This ‘float’ will support training, interagency rotations, and experiential and excursion opportunities without negatively affecting the Department’s ability to meet core mission requirements. Absent a sufficient float, the Department risks worsening retention rates and diminished readiness as the gap between areas of expertise and situational requirements continues to widen. In addition, our recommended increase would include the following two proposals, discussed in greater detail elsewhere in this report:
- Active Response Corps: A standing corps of personnel recruited and trained for rapid deployment to crisis situations and to failing and failed states to prevent catastrophic collapse and advance American interests. (Please see the discussion of the “Stabilization and Reconstruction Cadre” on page 18 of this report for additional information.)
- Planning Officers: For the Department to play its necessary role in integrating USG interagency activities in global affairs and to improve its planning capacity generally, it requires dedicated and specialized planning staff in both Washington and the field. (Please also see the discussion of “Expanded Regional Planning Staff” on page 24 and of “Planning Officers” on page 32.)
- Growing USAID: USAID’s deployable staff resources should be increased by 100 percent over the next three years. As presently structured, staffed and resourced, USAID has insufficient capacity to manage its existing workload. It has no surge capacity to address crises or democratic openings and limited ability to leverage other donor funds. This severe shortage of resources will become more problematic in the future given the anticipated challenges of the emerging operating environment. In the near term, we recommend increasing USAID’s Foreign Service Officer Corps by 350 positions.
New Models of Physical Presence and Rapid Adaptability
Build a portfolio of physical and virtual presence models that would include both several constructs currently under development and new models for rapid and time-limited deployment. Our recommendations in this area have been largely informed by the more detailed analysis of these models being conducted in the CSIS “Embassy of the Future” project. In particular, we agree that the Department should enhance the ability of diplomats to operate outside the embassy and institutionalize an analytical process for continually refining the U.S. presence globally and within each country individually, based on emerging requirements. The future operating environment will demand that the Department be capable of engaging traditional, emerging, and wholly new actors regardless of their location and in varying security environments. The great breadth of circumstances and locations requiring diplomatic presence and the pace of change among them suggest that even a significantly larger Department will not be able to cover the necessary ground effectively without an innovative and flexible set of deployment options. The development of techniques and strategies to manage risk also will be important.
Key Potential Components
- Embassies: The Department’s legacy presence will continue to have significant value in the future, despite changing global dynamics, and the role of the embassy is not expected to change considerably over the course of the next 20 years. Embassies will continue to be the critical center of gravity for widely dispersed staff, an invaluable venue for convening events, and the secure site from which a small staff could operate under difficult circumstances. We also believe that embassies increasingly should serve as convening centers to identify and draw together disparate host-country actors, explore and conduct innovative policy discussions, and facilitate international public-private partnerships. The Swedish Embassy’s new “House of Sweden” facility in Washington represents an emerging best-practice in this area that is worth analyzing closely.
- American Presence Posts (APPs): The Department should continue to develop these very small, dispersed, permanently staffed posts in locations where a few Americans will be able to exert influence and monitor issues of strategic importance. These outposts will add geographic diversity to the Department’s pattern of influence in a country and can be the precursor to a more robust, follow-on presence, if required. Our scenario testing of the APP construct suggested that its unique value could be maximized by ensuring a significant focus on ‘social network engagement’ activities, as described earlier in this report. The testing also suggested that APPs should become ‘expandable’ by developing pre-staged arrangements to accommodate surge staff or rapid reaction teams required by special circumstances.
- Virtual Presence Posts: These websites, through which the Department is extending its accessibility to cities and communities where it lacks a physical presence, represent an important first step in building a world-class virtual engagement capability. Our scenario working sessions made clear the extent to which high-threat operating environments may demand that the Department be able to interact with, and provide information and services to, locations where it is simply too dangerous or costly to operate physically. For the same reason, we propose that the Department should explore greater use of virtual worlds as a means of convening disparate actors.
- Rapid Deployment Teams: Our scenario working sessions suggested that the higher operational tempo and potentially chaotic uncertainty of the future will result in increasing numbers of circumstances in which the Department will need to be able to deploy rapidly a team of diplomats for a limited period of time to accomplish a very specific mission. These circumstances, which would be largely defined by their time-sensitivity and occurrence far from a standing Department facility, could include a crisis in a remote border region or a sudden, extremely valuable partnership opportunity requiring technical negotiation with a local corporation. Forming, deploying, and supporting such project-based teams will require a host of new institutional capabilities including the ability to maintain precise, real-time awareness of the skills and availability of its people worldwide. It also will require that diplomatic personnel be equipped with highly mobile, secure, and interoperable communication tools.
- Analysis and Development of Appropriate Form, Scale, and Degree of Distribution of the USG Overseas Presence: The Department should create a process for systematically determining and coordinating the central and distributed U.S. presence in each country. We believe that such an analysis would have wide-ranging implications (from FSO recruitment targets to training courses to infrastructure lifecycle replacement) and could inform policy decisions on how to engage potential opportunities and threats in a given country in an efficient, cost-effective manner with the greatest anticipated return on investment.
Further Leverage Locally Engaged Staff
Strengthen and expand the scale of the Department’s Locally Engaged Staff (LES), while further leveraging the LES’ knowledge base in order to advance American interests overseas in a cost-effective manner. This recommendation is intended to improve the Department’s ability in the future to understand and engage host country networks by enhancing an already invaluable organizational asset. It includes expanding the use of LES in engagement-related and analytic roles, optimizing their diversity in each country, offering them greater training opportunities, and refining the models by which they are funded. Given that the LES structure is highly country-specific with different missions exhibiting vastly different characteristics and requirements, the following recommendations should be applied on a highly customized basis.
In every environment – from traditionally friendly to openly hostile – maximizing the Department’s knowledge of and access to host-country social networks will be increasingly critical in determining the effectiveness of its diplomatic efforts. In cases where LES are nationals of the host country, they potentially are uniquely positioned to support the Department’s efforts in this regard. In less permissive environments overseas, utilization of LES could serve to lessen the Department’s exposure to risk. Moreover, amid resource constraints, hiring LES may prove to be a cost-effective approach to building a critical mass of presence in some countries.
Key Potential Components
- Enhanced Cadre of Locally Engaged Staff: The Department should continue to invest in high-quality LES resources in order to increase its knowledge of and access to influential individuals in the host country. LES play invaluable roles in assisting American personnel to build, manage, and interpret wider networks of relationships by virtue of their own in-depth social networks and access to local centers of authority.
- Optimizing the Social Diversity of the LES: The unique value of a cadre of LES in providing linkages to and awareness of key social networks in a country is limited to the extent that the cadre is homogeneous. To the extent possible, each mission should calibrate the diversity of its LES cadre in all dimensions, including professional associations, age, and cultural background, to reflect the mission’s priority networks and communities in a country.
- LES Training: In addition to job-specific training opportunities already provided by FSI, the Department also should ensure that LES receive training (either through FSI courses, distance-learning programs, or Mission-based programs) in engaging and analyzing social networks to maximize their unique value for the Department in helping to engage local communities of influence.
- Refined LES Funding Models: In the current Department funding matrix, FSO salaries and benefits mostly are funded centrally, whereas LES are paid from post funds. Thus, posts frequently prefer to add an American FSO to an embassy section rather than an LES, even in cases where the latter could serve equally effectively, due to the impact on the post’s budget. The Department should rationalize this anomaly to encourage LES cadre upgrades. In addition, the Department should ensure that LES compensation includes danger pay in locations where Americans receive it, as well as pension arrangements.
Streamlined Organizational Design
In the future environment, challenges and opportunities are likely to emerge with unprecedented, inherent complexity and speed. Global organizations that are hindered by internal obstacles and outdated bureaucratic structures will struggle to keep up with the pace of the action around them, let alone be able to shape that action in the U.S. interest. Many of the capabilities that we recommend the Department develop will only be effective if supported by an agile, adaptive, streamlined organization.
In both interviews and working sessions, the Department’s organizational structure and culture frequently were criticized for a number of enduring weaknesses: a fragmented and inefficient bureaucratic structure that contributes to a culture of process over results-based management, a persistent difficulty in linking policy objectives to resource requirements, an institutional aversion to performance measures and management, and an excessively reactive orientation at the expense of sufficient focus on longer-term planning.
The recommendations in this section are intended to accelerate decision-making; strengthen accountability in the Department; unify and elevate policy, strategy and resource planning; strengthen the role of the ambassador; and improve the distribution of decision-making authority.
Rationalized Organizational Structure
Rationalize the Department’s organizational structure to accelerate decision-making by improving the secretary’s span of control, reducing decision-making layers, and giving greater power to senior officials. This includes steps to flatten the organization and drive more decision-making authority downwards. We also recommend consolidating selected bureaus and offices to reduce the number of people reporting directly to the secretary.
This recommendation is determined by the extremely high operational tempo expected of the future environment and the wide range of highly agile competitors and adversaries. In this environment, large organizations burdened with legacy structures will simply not be effective. In particular, the growing flood of complex information requires that organizational structures be designed to allow senior officials to focus meaningfully on key external and internal issues. Over the years, the piecemeal add-ons of bureaus, offices, and other functions to the Department have had the effect of shrinking the responsibility and diluting the authority of senior officials. Specific recommendations regarding which bureaus should be consolidated go beyond this Working Group’s mandate. Instead, we offer targets for the degree of consolidation and propose that the Department initiate a thorough analysis led by the deputy secretary.
Key Potential Components
- Rationalizing Decision Layers: The Department should be reorganized with the goal of rationalizing the primary decision-making layers.
- The first layer includes the secretary and the deputy secretary, whose office, we propose, be expanded to include a new integrated office of Policy, Strategy and Resource Planning (D/PSR). In conformity with our previous recommendations, we suggest that this layer also include senior leadership of USAID, the new global public engagement organization, and an operations entity centered on the reconstruction and stabilization function reporting to the deputy secretary. This layer also would include the under secretaries and the chief financial officer. For this approach to be effective, the under secretaries should play the critical role in reducing the number of issues that are raised to the secretary and deputy secretary for decision. They also would act as a corporate board, providing guidance to D/PSR for setting strategic plans and budget goals. Finally, they should work cooperatively to resolve bureaucratic conflicts that hinder the efforts of the assistant secretaries. To play these roles effectively, the under secretaries should stay focused on the big picture and not become an additional layer between the secretary and the assistant secretaries.
- The second layer includes the assistant secretaries and deputy assistant secretaries. We conclude that placing greater responsibility on these key officials is essential to improving the Department’s effectiveness in the interagency context and in the world. Doing so will involve reducing their number as discussed below.
- The third layer consists of office and country directors.
- A fourth layer would include desk and action officers.
The span of control within embassies can also be improved by clarifying the decision-making layers. In the embassies, the first layer includes the ambassador and the DCM. The second layer includes the section chiefs and department/agency leaders, and the third layer includes the action officers.
Improving the Span of Control: The Department should seize this opportunity to reduce the number of decision-makers and unclog the policy pipeline. We estimate that currently more than 45 senior officials formally report to the secretary. Although in practical terms not all of these officials interact with the secretary frequently, the effect on the organization of this large number of officials with direct access, and their associated support infrastructures, is to fragment decision-making and dilute authority. We therefore recommend conducting a careful analysis of the regional and functional bureaus to identify the logical points of consolidation. This analysis should include USAID’s bureaus as recommended earlier. In the case of the Department’s functional bureaus, we suggest a goal of reducing their number to between six and eight roughly matching the current number of regional bureaus. We also recommend consolidating the administrative and support bureaus with the goal of having no more than five of each. Taken together, these changes would improve significantly the secretary’s span of control. This consolidation also would ensure that the assistant secretaries have significant policy and management responsibility and thus should strengthen their roles inside and outside of the Department.
Unified Policy, Strategy, and Resource Planning
Create a new planning office directly under the deputy secretary that integrates policy, strategy and resource planning across the Department, USAID, and the proposed new global public engagement organization. The intent of this recommendation is to improve the coherence of planning and performance management within the Department, better enable the Department to integrate interagency planning and execution, and to create capacity for more forward looking and innovative strategy development.
Our study of the future made clear the need for the Department to strengthen its ability to shape the future operating environment. Our interviews and working sessions clearly indicated that in order to do so, the Department should become much better able to link strategic foresight to policy development and align long-term investments accordingly. Doing so requires not just integrating the planning function, but also elevating it to a senior level in the Department. This is essential for ensuring that accountability for resources and results is taken seriously throughout the organization. To be effective on this longer-term basis, the Department also should improve its ability to measure performance over time and adjust its efforts accordingly. Finally, for the Department to lead an integrated USG global affairs enterprise effectively, it should establish strong planning linkages to its interagency partners. All of these requirements clearly point to the need for an integrated, senior-level office of policy, strategy, and resource planning.
Key Potential Components
Core Functions: The Office of Policy, Strategy and Resources (D/PSR) would bring together the Policy Planning Staff (S/P) and the Office of Strategic and Performance Planning (RM/SPP) within the Office of the Deputy Secretary and include liaisons to the key financial and human resource planning functions. It also would include the co-located presence of the planning functions of USAID and the proposed new global public engagement organization. D/PSR would be responsible for ensuring the integration of policy, strategic, and resource plans across the three organizations. In that role, it would lead all annual planning and evaluation processes.
Long-Term Policy Planning and Strategic Foresight: Within this new office, S/P would retain its role as a source of independent medium and longer-term policy analysis and advice for the secretary. S/P’s mission to take a strategic view of global trends and frame recommendations for the secretary would be strengthened by its closer linkage to the strategy and resource functions of the Department. It would also have a more central role in ensuring that strategic and resource plans are tightly aligned with the secretary’s policy priorities. S/P would be supported by the integrated presence of an INR unit focused on strategic foresight and futures analysis. This unit would design and conduct scenario and contingency planning, ‘war-gaming,’ and modeling and simulation efforts. INR specialists would serve as its core, but this unit also would maintain strong partnerships with think tanks and academic institutions to ensure a highly competitive marketplace of ideas within the D/PSR. In addition, we recommend that the speech writing function in support of senior officials be made part of the Executive Secretariat.
Distributed Planning Officers: For D/PSR to be effective in driving strategic alignment throughout all levels of the organization, it requires a strong distributed presence. Currently, there are very few full-time planning officers in the regional bureaus and missions and they are increasingly overburdened with planning and reporting requirements. Therefore, the Department should strengthen the planning presence in each of the regional bureaus, as described earlier, and in selected functional bureaus, as appropriate. It also should assign a planning officer at each mission of more than 100 direct-hire Americans to assist the DCM with the interagency mission planning process described earlier and with performance management and reporting as required by D/PSR.
Reciprocal Interagency Planning: D/PSR would lead the Department’s interagency integration efforts and would be responsible for coordinating the development of the USG Global Affairs Strategic Plan and associated budget proposed earlier in this document. To maximize the value of that process in creating true alignment across the interagency community and to create strong, institutional linkages between the organizations, D/PSR would include – on a part-time basis – liaisons from each of the Department’s key agency partners and reciprocally assign one its staff to their strategic planning offices. This interagency network of planners would develop deep awareness of the respective capabilities of the various organizations and the primary obstacles to their effective collaboration. Over time, it would become an invaluable resource in creating true strategic integration across the USG.
Program Assessment and Evaluation (PA&E): Within D/PSR, the Department should establish a PA&E function responsible for ensuring that bureaus and missions have developed comprehensive program plans to meet articulated strategy objectives. The PA&E would provide independent analytic advice to the secretary and deputy secretary on all aspects of the Department’s, USAID’s, and the global public engagement organization’s programs and investments. This unit would serve in an internal advisory and assessment capacity, without decision authority or line responsibility over those it reviews and with no vested interest in any one sector of the Department. It would assist in assessing resource implications of proposed programs and/or policies, conduct analyses and formulate alternatives for Department-wide assessments, and help components develop detailed plans with measurable results.
Experimentation and Exercises: The Department should establish within D/PSR a unit that leads experiments and exercises for both internal and external (interagency, multinational, and other) participants. This unit would test new concepts and prepare for possible contingencies in accordance with established DOD best practices.
New Ambassadorial Requirements and Training
Update the process through which the Department identifies and vets ambassadorial candidates to ensure that they have the necessary skills, experience, and expertise to meet the growing challenges of the position. This recommendation includes updating the ambassadorial skills/experience model to reflect the increasingly multi-disciplinary managerial complexity of the role; specifying and enforcing new skill and experience requirements and selection criteria; improving training; and making more limited use of non-career ambassadors, with a target of no more than 10 percent non-professionals in ambassadorial posts.
The increasing complexity of effectively managing an American embassy in the future will require ambassadors who are seasoned managers possessing deep experience interacting with a diverse range of organizations and individuals. They will require literacy in a remarkable diversity of policy, business, and technical domains. They will need to be highly capable leaders of complex country teams and able to serve as effective interlocutors with a wide range of state and non-state actors. They should be effective communicators and adept at ensuring effective coordination and communication between the mission and Washington. Finally, the ambassadors of the future should be trained, empowered, and willing to take the necessary risks to ensure that U.S. strategic objectives are met. In short, the role of an ambassador in 2025 will be extremely demanding professionally and of fundamental importance to the effectiveness of the Department in all of its activities.
Key Potential Components
- New Selection Criteria: The Department should identify and vet ambassadorial candidates based on professional experience and meaningful training or expertise in a range of areas including the following:
- Interagency process awareness and coordination experience
- Engaging and working effectively with a range of non-state actors, including private corporations, NGOs, and civil society organizations
- Public affairs and media communications
- Foreign assistance policy and program management
- Multilateral diplomacy
- Military affairs
- Large team leadership and management skills
- Professionalization and Training: The challenges of the 2025 operating environment will place a premium on professional ambassadors who are able to manage their teams and their relationships effectively. The Department should train ambassadors – both career FSOs and political appointees – in they key areas described above and to lead the development of truly unified engagement plans for their country of accreditation
- Revised Selection Board: The Department should review the existing guidance to the “D Committee” responsible for vetting and assigning ambassadors and DCMs to ensure compliance with the selection criteria and training requirements described in this section. In addition, the Department should seek to expand the mandate of the D Committee to include the review and vetting of non-career ambassadorial candidates.
Clarify the existing legal and bureaucratic structures and incentives governing the activities of deployed personnel to enable greater autonomy of action while strengthening accountability through more precise definition of individual goals. For the Department to be effective in the future operating environment, it must maximize the ability and inclination of its deployed personnel to make independent decisions that are consistent with the strategic objectives of the mission and the Department. This ability is essential to creating the degree of organizational agility that will be necessary in the future. In addition, the Department increasingly will seek to field experienced professionals, not necessarily brought up through the career ranks, who will expect to be empowered with a high degree of autonomy within clear rules of engagement and strategic priorities. To retain these people, the Department must find ways to grant the highest possible degree of decision-making authority without sacrificing necessary degrees of control. This issue is also extremely important from the perspective of those with whom Department personnel must interact. Our interviews suggested that for diplomats to establish and retain credibility with their interlocutors, they must be perceived as being ‘able to deliver’ – that is, able to make certain levels of decisions independently that will be reliably supported by their organization. If Department staff lack this credibility, their interlocutors will either seek to engage ‘further up the chain’ or with other actors.
Key Potential Components
- Clear Goals: Essential to distributing decision-making without sacrificing unity of effort is the clear linkage of organizational and individual goals. The Department should ensure clarity of its strategic goals and priorities on the global, regional, and mission levels. Country teams should then translate these broader goals into specific quarterly and annual goals for each person in the mission. This degree of goal clarity will empower staff to make decisions. It also provides the fundamental basis for measuring and evaluating performance.
- Explicit Doctrine: The Department should develop clear doctrine for its staff, clarifying decision rights and constraints with the intent of giving staff the widest possible latitude in decision-making. This doctrine would include guidance on whom staff ought to engage and a significant training/mentoring component described later in this report.
- Tasking Authority: The Department should rationalize tasking authorities, granting missions greater discretion in determining the relative priority of the requests they receive. The proliferation of Department offices and bureaus, as well as the multiple USG agencies with a global agenda, has meant a massive increase in the number of taskings sent to the field.
- Skills and Training: The Department should emphasize project/program management skills as part of its core training curriculum to ensure that its personnel understand how to set personal and team goals and measures, how to develop plans of action for approval, and how to execute and measure performance. Effective distribution of decision-making is not merely a matter of devolving authority from the top down, but also of ensuring that deployed staff has the necessary skills and capabilities to use that authority correctly and effectively.
Enterprise Risk Management (ERM)
Create an institution-wide method for systematically identifying, assessing, responding to, and monitoring risks on an integrated basis in accordance with private sector best practices. Given the breadth of likely challenges, the high operational tempo, and the sheer dynamic uncertainty of the future operating environment, the ability to manage effectively the full range of risks will be essential to the long-term effectiveness of the Department. This ability involves developing an integrated comprehensive risk management system to ensure that finite resources are allocated properly, critical risks are identified and responded to, and that a consistent approach to risk is uniformly applied across the organization. At present, the Department manages risk on a highly fragmented basis and lacks a common approach to doing so across the organization. The development of an enterprise-wide program will help minimize the occurrence of, and damage from, internal and external threats to the Department, improving the institution’s resilience and enabling better allocation of resources. An effective ERM program would include identifying, assessing, and prioritizing risks; addressing and mitigating those risks that are most important; and monitoring and reporting risk on a consistent basis.
Key Potential Components
- Risk Identification, Assessment, and Prioritization: The Department should articulate an enterprise-wide process for risk identification and develop a common tool for risk reporting. Relevant categories of risk include: external factors representing risks to meeting mission objectives; financial risks; risks related to the safety of personnel and their skill sets relative to new requirements; risks to how foreign assistance funds are granted, managed, and used; risks to physical facilities, IT infrastructure, and command, control, and communications functions; and risks to the Department’s ability to comply with relevant legislation.
- Risk Mitigation: The Department should develop clear plans and lines of accountability for managing the risks identified through the processes described above. The Department should be able to calibrate the severity of the consequences of different risks and their cascading effects through the organization. The Department should develop both human and technical intelligence to sense emerging patterns of risk and prepare rapid responses.
- Risk Reporting and Monitoring: The Department should have a process to ensure regular review of its risk posture by senior officials and a system to monitor risk continuously, providing a clear basis for prioritizing among risks to enable effective resource allocation. This function would include a fundamental understanding of risk interactions and efforts to develop proactive risk intelligence.
New Skills, Experience, and Incentives
The first and primary strength of the Department mentioned by nearly all interviewees was the remarkable talent of its people. The insight of American diplomats and their ability to translate that insight into practical policy solutions and successful diplomatic outcomes will be even more relevant in 2025 than currently. While these traditional skills and capabilities will remain important, there will be new areas of expertise and capacity that will be essential and should be cultivated continuously through both targeted recruitment and training. Our interviews also suggested strongly that the Department needs to become more action- and outcome-oriented and better able to respond quickly to diverse issues. Diplomats’ flexibility and agility of thought will be critical, as will their ability to frame the work of diplomacy in outcome-based and measurable terms. The recommendations in this category are intended to strengthen the Department's ability to recruit, train, and retain staff and leverage external expertise in support of its critical missions in ways that are consistent with and support the recommendations of the Department’s Diplomat-of-the-Future project.
Expanded Areas of Expertise
Prioritize training to expand areas of professional expertise for staff at all levels. This recommendation includes increased training in emerging high-priority skill and knowledge areas, growing the institutionalized capacity for engagement with external actors in both public and private sectors, and a concerted focus on mentoring and coaching skills for staff at the mid-levels.
Given the range of actors with whom Department personnel will have to interact, the breadth of issues on which they should be conversant, the high operational tempo, and the need to demonstrate the Department’s value-added through outcome achievement, the Department will require an expanded capacity to both recruit and train staff and leverage external expertise in support of its critical missions. The Department cannot – and should not – become the master of all domains. It therefore should improve its ability to identify where expertise lies both inside and outside of the USG so that it can access that knowledge and fuse it into real solutions on the ground. The Department should be not only sufficiently open and transparent to encourage engagement from external actors, but also ensure that diplomats actively seek, develop, and exploit these opportunities and view them as critical to professional success.
Key Potential Components
- Training and Education in Emerging High-Priority Areas of Skill and Knowledge: Building on and deepening the fundamental requirement for significant training in language, area, and culture skills, the Department should invest in training and education in key emerging areas and increase the number of staff who take advantage of this training. There are persistent competing demands on staffs’ time that makes training a low priority; therefore, we support the clear linkage of training requirements to promotion and advancement. Specific areas requiring increased training that emerged from our interviews and research include:
- Project/Program Management: This will enable deployed personnel to execute specific programs and projects more effectively and in a range of challenging settings; it also will support the shift to a more outcome-oriented culture.
- Performance Measurement: This will strengthen the ability of Department personnel to set performance goals and metrics and manage toward those goals.
- Planning: Broader training in this area will enable personnel to make planning an integrated part of how they approach their jobs. In addition to designating formal planning officers within Bureaus and Missions, the Department should ensure that all staff understand the planning process and its value-added in creating results.
- Brokering and Negotiation: Our scenario working sessions suggested that these core diplomatic skills will continue to evolve, include a wider range of actors, and be of growing importance.
- Multilateral Diplomacy: These skills are distinct from those of traditional bilateral diplomacy; we anticipate that the ability to operate effectively in a multilateral environment and shape negotiations and outcomes will be an ever more critical competency for American diplomats in the future.
- Business Analysis/Private Sector Investment Modeling: We anticipate that these skills will continue to grow rapidly in importance. They not only will assist staff in their work with private sector actors (in much the same way that foreign languages are valuable), but also enable staff to apply this thinking to the diplomatic context, making them more adept at assessing the value of a project or program and identifying opportunities for partnership with the private sector.
- Science, Engineering, and Technology (SET) Literacy: As described earlier, these skills will become increasingly critical as SET issues permeate all areas foreign policy.
- NGO Engagement: These skills include understanding how NGOs are structured and operate, what their mandates are, how diplomats can work with them most effectively, how to best structure partnership agreements, etc. Our work suggests that NGOs will be an increasingly valuable multiplier of government influence.
- Public-Private Partnerships: These skills include how to identify opportunities for partnership, assess the associated legal considerations, and determine what strategic areas are best suited to partnerships with corporations. As the influence of the private grows, these skills will become essential to effective diplomacy.
- Interagency Training, Rotations, and Expertise: Within the core competencies of the Foreign and Civil Services, the Department should prioritize an awareness of USG expertise and capacity outside the Department as well as an understanding of the interagency process in Washington and the field. It should create compelling incentives for staff to develop professional networks across agency boundaries in order to enable them to access and leverage the expertise, knowledge assets, and operational capabilities of interagency partners more consistently. This should include requirements for interagency assignments by Department personnel and expanded reciprocal arrangements with agency partners. Given the growing role of non-state actors in global affairs, the Department should create a wider range of opportunities and incentives for staff to work with or in these organizations. For example, the Department should create robust exchange and secondment programs, along the lines that currently exist, but significantly expanded and given greater weight in staff evaluations and promotion. Potential areas for consideration include secondments to private sector corporations, NGOs, multilateral institutions, and industry associations.
- Retaining Talent: In the future operating environment, for the Department to continue to be successful in retaining critical expertise, it will need to adapt its approaches to developing personnel throughout their careers. The fast growth at the entry-level through new hires, the gap of approximately 250 positions at the mid-levels, the resulting rapid promotion, and the continued thinness at the FSO-01 and FSO-02 ranks will combine to place an added premium on on-the-job training and mentoring systems. As the Department explores efforts to expand hiring and develop new hiring models, the distribution of experience is likely to undergo additional interim strain. The Department requires a strong and robust training mechanism for mid-level officers to ensure that they provide appropriate support and guidance to newer and more junior staff. In addition, we anticipate a highly competitive market for human resources in the future, where the rising power of non-state and corporate actors may expand the employment options for people who wish to engage in foreign affairs-related activities. It is likely that in this environment, and in part due to a desire to stay current with emerging issues and opportunities, mid-level staff will have strong incentives to leave the Department and leverage their skills in diverse professional fora.
- Capacity to Operate in Challenging Environment: While the Department has always trained people for service in difficult hardship posts, the challenges of the future demand a qualitatively different approach that will produce new kinds of diplomats able to meet radically different work requirements, for example service with Provincial Reconstruction Teams as currently exist in Iraq and Afghanistan. The proliferation of hardship tours and unaccompanied assignments may not be compatible with the skills and competencies of many of the Department’s current personnel. The Active Response Corps, discussed elsewhere in this report, would be a key element in developing this capacity. In addition, the Department should establish a more rigorous basic training requirement for all personnel deployed overseas to ensure their preparedness for dealing effectively with security threats. This training would include counter-surveillance, escape and evasion, and related techniques. Officers assigned to special hardship posts should be required to complete an advanced course in these same areas.
Updated Models of Incentives, Accountability, Fluidity, and Access
Refine the Department’s human resources models in order to reflect better the employment environment of the future. For it to continue to have the world-class personnel that it will require to be effective in the future, the Department requires more resilient and flexible systems for hiring and accessing staff resources. To the extent that the Department maintains unrealistic obstacles to entry and is seen as an insular organization, it risks losing potential staff with the skills, experience, and expertise that will be essential to its effectiveness. Therefore, this recommendation includes creating a system with strengthened accountability and rewards for performance, more accessible to individuals with diverse experience and expertise, supportive of flexible career patterns and excursion tours, and better able to access the skills and capabilities of a wide range of potential staff at various levels of experience.
Key Potential Components
- Evaluation and Promotion: The Department should ensure that evaluations and promotions focus on progress in developing emerging high-priority skills and create clear and compelling incentives in support of these skills. Work requirement statements and the performance evaluations based on those requirements should emphasize the linkage between the goals and objectives of the organization, the actual work the individual employee does, and the skills that she/he should develop on the job.
- Measurement/Accountability: As discussed earlier, the Department should ensure that its strategic and performance goals are translated into specific quarterly and annual objectives for each employee. The Department also should make clear the accountability of each employee for the achievement of these goals and objectives by strengthening the linkage between their achievement and the evaluation and promotion process.
- Human Resource Models: The Department should create a more proactive system to recruit and retain mid-level staff with the desired skills and capabilities, and develop processes to address the challenges of integrating these individuals into the Department’s culture. The Department should be more creative in terms of how these staff members are brought in to the institution, how they are trained, and how they are measured for promotion. In addition, the Department should enable greater fluidity and incentives for staff to leave and then return to the Department after gaining useful skills and expertise in other employment.
21st Century Diplomatic Technology
Nothing emerged with more clarity from our study of the future than the stunning extent to which advances in technology will continue to transform the global competition for influence. For knowledge-based organizations, such as the Department, these transformations will be of central strategic importance. Among the fundamental determinants of the success of the Department in the future will be the speed and effectiveness with which it can acquire, analyze, and respond to the global flow of information. There was a consensus that given the nature of its mission and the evolving environment, the Department in 2025 should be at the cutting edge in all its core technology domains. Doing so will demand not just investment in technology, but also ensuring that those investments are focused on supporting specific strategic priorities.
Our work suggests several primary dimensions in which the Department should dramatically improve its technology capacity. First, the Department should improve its ability to capture information from, and deliver information to, the field in real-time and on a highly distributed, secure basis. Second, the Department should become much more capable of translating its remarkable knowledge assets – and those of its interagency partners – into synthesized, prioritized, highly usable forms to support senior decision-makers who are increasingly inundated by an information overload. The third broad area in which the Department should ensure its technological capacity is in the intense global battle of information, perceptions, and ideas. Lastly, the Department should bring operational unity to its management of technology. Without integrated, enterprise-wide technology platforms and a unified, forward-looking approach to technology investment, the Department will not be able to keep up with the accelerating technological pace of the world. Our recommendations in this area are intended to strengthen the Department’s capabilities in all of these dimensions as well as in its core technology management capacity. In this last regard, we endorse the more detailed recommendations of the Information Technology Working Group.
Build a unified 21st century real-time knowledge management and presentation capability comparable to the ‘knowledge wall’ construct implemented by DOD at one of its major commands. The intent of this solution is to support improved decision-making by senior officials in Washington and the field through the aggregation of prioritized information in highly usable forms by leveraging advances in data fusion and visualization.
The exclusive access to and control of knowledge on the part of large institutions is on the wane. As a result, knowledge no longer equals power in the same ways that it once did. Every day, knowledge and information become both harder to control and increasingly available to individuals and organizations everywhere. We anticipate that this process will continue into the longer-term future. In this environment, the speed of insight – which involves synthesizing information on a real-time, strategically prioritized basis – is the decisive factor. One of the most universally acknowledged strengths of the Department is the ability of its people to provide critical insight into foreign policy issues, political and economic developments, and strategic context. Yet, the knowledge that informs this insight is only imperfectly captured in disaggregated cables and reports. If the Department is to ensure the continued relevance of this core strength in the future, it should leverage technology to improve its ability to aggregate its remarkable knowledge assets in ways that better enable insight at all levels of the organization – particularly for senior decision makers. Our interviews and working sessions made clear the extent to which senior decision-makers in the Department will be utterly inundated by information that they simply do not have the ability to sift and process effectively. As this trend is likely to increase exponentially, knowledge management represents a fundamental strategic challenge.
To meet this challenge, the Department should first identify the integrated sets or ‘packages’ of information most critical to decision-makers. For example, for the president, the daily brief is the central information package. The secretary and all other senior Department officials currently receive comparable sets of information most critical to them. The means and speed with which they receive this information and the extent to which it reflects the latest and best possible insight from the field should be enhanced significantly for the Department to be effective in the future. To ensure that its unparalleled knowledge assets support senior-level decisions more consistently and on a more timely basis, the Department should develop a means for identifying and continuously refining the integrated sets of information needed by its senior officials and then should build a unified, enterprise-wide knowledge management solution that generates highly useable views of this information in real-time.
Key Potential Components
- Strategic Knowledge Requirements Definition: The Department should conduct a detailed requirements gathering effort to determine, in specific terms, the information that each senior official most requires to make the decisions for which they are responsible. It is essential that as these requirements are gathered, senior officials not be limited to identifying currently available information. They should be asked to specify what information they would like to see and in what form, without any constraints. This will then inform the design of data capture systems in the field. The requirements gathering process also should identify the larger set of global information variables that would have greatest common value to the Department’s leaders. For example, one clear requirement for the presentation of complex knowledge that emerged from our work pertains to global social networks, and is described on page 19. These requirements would drive the technology development process that would follow.
- Unified Knowledge Visualization System: The Department should develop a technology solution that aggregates its diverse knowledge assets into customizable packages of information for senior officials in Washington and the field. This solution should include developing in Washington a ‘knowledge wall’ of key global information variable comparable to the system currently in place in DOD’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR). This tool, which would naturally reside in the Department’s Operations Center, would support both crisis management and longer-term policy and strategy development by presenting a unified, visually informative view of emerging trends. This system should include the ability to deliver these information views to the country teams securely. Ambassadors should be able to access a replicated view of the Knowledge Wall in addition to their own country-specific views in real-time. Reduced versions of the same content should also be available to personnel on a mobile basis.
- Interagency Information Sharing: The Department should work with its key agency partners to transform the current USG model of information sharing. As proposed in Project Horizon, this transformation should include minimizing the bureaucratic obstacles to information sharing, creating incentives to transition from a ‘need to know’ to a ‘need to share’ culture, and facilitating the formation of information partnerships with other nations and non-governmental actors. This capability specifically would include a government-wide knowledge management technology architecture, guidelines by which new information sharing partnerships could be formed with allied nations, NGOs, academic institutions, and private businesses, and drawing on consistent interagency classification and security clearance models.
- Continued Development of Communities of Practice: The CSIS “Embassy of the Future” Project is analyzing the need for the Department to continue to develop common access sites for collaborative problem solving from geographically-dispersed contributors with applicable knowledge, skills, or contacts. Such virtual interfaces have proven to be effective tools throughout the intelligence community, and we endorse their increased use in the Department.
Department of State Research and Development Council
Create a small staff to drive the Research & Development prioritization efforts Department-wide and to coordinate with other USG R&D entities, particularly in the defense, intelligence, and homeland security communities and the private sector. In a future environment in which technology will be central to organizational effectiveness and will evolve with stunning speed, it is essential that the Department establish an institutional means for identifying, prioritizing, and meeting its technology requirements and that it do so on a highly anticipatory basis. To the extent that the Department can pursue its own targeted R&D efforts and leverage others to develop successful technology-based platforms, it will have a decisive competitive advantage in the highly competitive future diplomatic environment. This recommendation is intended to improve the Department’s ability to leverage advances in science and technology in support of its missions on a highly anticipatory basis.
Key Potential Components
- Requirements Assessment and Prioritization: The primary responsibility of the R&D Council would be to assess and prioritize the Department’s R&D requirements in terms of its strategic objectives. This effort should include identification of opportunities to leverage advances in technology and science, including the social and behavioral sciences, in support of the Department’s diverse missions. It should be based on future-oriented analysis and conducted in close collaboration with the Office of Policy, Strategy, and Resource Planning described earlier in this report.
- Interagency Collaboration and Interface: The R&D Council should serve as the primary interface to R&D entities in the Defense Department, the intelligence community, and the Department of Homeland Security. Its purpose would be to identify platforms under development elsewhere that could be leveraged effectively to meet the Department’s requirements.
- Private Sector R&D Partnerships: The R&D Council should also collaborate with R&D entities in the private sector to ensure its awareness of key and potentially relevant R&D efforts in that domain. In this role, the Council should consider establishing regularly scheduled information-sharing sessions with leading private sector organizations in relevant industries.
Secure Mobile Information and Communication Tools
Provide all of the Department’s deployed personnel with robust, secure, and mobile information technology tools to maximize their ability to communicate and access knowledge from the field. It is clear from our study of the future that Department personnel increasingly will operate in a dispersed manner as opportunities and threats emerge far from the traditional centers of power where the Department’s fixed facilities presently exist. Given the extent to which we expect real-time knowledge capture and distribution to be a key source of diplomatic advantage, it will be essential that all of the United States’ diplomatic personnel be able to provide and receive rich information securely, regardless of their location.
Key Potential Components
- Robust, Secure Tools: The mobile information and communication tools that American diplomats will require in the future should enable the capture and submission of complex information. They will include secure hand-held and laptop systems, and will need to be configurable remotely so that Washington can, for example, distribute a complex information request to a range of individuals instantaneously. These tools also should enable deep access to the Department’s main data stores in Washington. This latter requirement is essential to enabling diplomats to bring the full knowledge of the Department with them in the field. It also is an important security feature as it reduces the amount of data that officer must carry on their devices.
- Continuous Training: The value of providing diplomats with these tools will only be fully realized if they are well-trained in how to use them. Given the complex types of information capture that will be necessary in the future and the pace with which the technical environment will evolve, this training will of great importance and must be refreshed and delivered on a consistent basis.
Communications and Media Monitoring and Response Capabilities
Strengthen the capacity to monitor, analyze, and respond in real-time to events and trends in the global media environment, building on the Rapid Response Unit in the Bureau of Public Affairs. The rise of civil society and widening participation of ‘publics’ in international relations, the proliferation of both traditional and non-traditional media outlets, and the expanding prevalence of Internet-based social networking will create an operating environment in which influencing perceptions will be extremely challenging and require high degrees of strategic and technical sophistication. For the Department, it will require both a global capacity to monitor and respond to events and trends broadly, as well as a local capacity to identify key target audiences and their primary sources of information.
Key Potential Components
- Global Media Monitoring, Analysis, and Response Center: Building on the existing Rapid Response Unit (RRU), the Department should establish within the proposed global public engagement organization a world-class media monitoring, analysis, and response center. The center should continuously improve the Department’s ability to monitor the global broadcast and Internet media environments and support more coordinated USG responses via traditional channels as the RRU currently does. It also should have the technical capacity to post targeted communications and responses in the Internet environment in ways that maximize visibility to target audiences, for example by optimizing search engine relevance rankings. In building this capability, the Department should work closely with partners in both the intelligence community and DOD to leverage their respective analytic and technical tools in this area.
- Distributed Media Awareness: The Department should ensure that this capability both supports the field and benefits from the unique awareness of the country team. In particular, missions should receive country and theme specific updates in real time from the center. In addition, a process and technical means should be established by which diplomats in the field can provide message targeting guidance to Washington based on their awareness of key influencers, networks, and local media sources in country.
Unified Policy-Level Leadership
Fully empower and make accountable the Chief Information Officer (CIO) position to ensure that technology, information, and knowledge management are managed on an enterprise-wide basis and as a significant policy issue. For the Department to be effective in a technology intensive future, it must be supported by a technology management structure that reflects best practices for large organizations. In particular, it should have common core platforms and solutions across the entire organization, including USAID, and should manage its entire portfolio of technology investments on an enterprise level. The fragmentation of platforms and solutions represents a tremendous obstacle to information sharing, interoperability of systems, and cost efficiency. This recommendation is intended to support the findings of the Information Technology Working Group project in this area.
Key Potential Components
- Chief Information Officer: The Department should create a single, accountable CIO position for itself, USAID, and all component organizations and bureaus without exception, to ensure that technology, information, and knowledge management are managed as an integrated policy issue. This individual’s scope of duties should include ensuring standardization across offices and bureaus and partner agencies throughout the USG. Moreover, the CIO should ensure that all echelons place a renewed emphasis on combating cyber-terrorism.
- Technology Advisory Council: The Department should form a Technology Advisory Council consisting of leading technologists from the private sector and government. This council could meet biannually to review and provide guidance on the Department technology strategy to the secretary and CIO. Such an ongoing council would be an excellent source of both best practice concepts and opportunities to leverage effective technology solutions from other agencies.
- Select Technology Outsourcing: The Department also should consider outsourcing selected, non-strategic technology functions in order to minimize its need to staff and maintain ‘commodity’ technology functions. The Department’s technology leadership should closely and carefully manage this outsourcing relationship. This team should retain complete responsibility for identifying the Department’s technology requirements and overseeing their design and implementation.
Strengthened Legislative Interface and Financial Flexibility
Across our interviews and working sessions, there was broad consensus that the future will place significant new demands on U.S. diplomacy as the interests of the American people become increasingly global in scope. Military power will be necessary, but not sufficient to secure these interests. Given the importance of proactive shaping capabilities to prevent conflict, the need for robust country transitioning capabilities to mitigate the impact of those conflicts and crises that do occur, and the proliferation of actors competing for influence in non-military domains, the USG will require a much larger and better resourced Department of State. Ironically, among the most universally emphasized themes from our interviews and working sessions was the Department’s persistent lack of sufficient resources and financial flexibility. Its ability to secure resources was singled out as one of its critical weaknesses. The recommendations in this category are intended to strengthen the Department’s ability to secure the greater, longer-term, and more flexible resource streams that it requires to achieve its global missions and carry out the recommendations of this Working Group.
Significantly strengthen the Department’s ability to engage and communicate with Congress. We propose the Department do so by conducting regular outreach events, expanding staff rotations on the Hill, developing a detailed long-term strategy for building constituencies on Capitol Hill based in part on established best practices in this area, and expanding the Legislative Affairs staff significantly. The intent of this recommendation is to initiate a long-term effort to build and maintain congressional support for the Department in what is likely to be an increasingly resource-constrained environment. The conceptual starting point of the recommendation is a very straightforward business case: the instruments of diplomacy and conflict prevention are dramatically less costly than the instruments and conduct of war.
Key Potential Components
- Proactive and Regular Outreach Events: Senior-level members of the Department should regularly engage Members of Congress and their staffs on the Hill through lecture series, high-level dinners, and trips to Department facilities, both in the U.S. and abroad. This outreach should be timed in accordance with congressional calendars and budget decision-cycles. These events contribute significantly to improving Congress’ understanding of the Department’s challenges and priorities. They also enable the Department to better anticipate and be more responsive to the concerns and interests of representatives.
- Staff Rotations on Capitol Hill: The DOD has had significant success in utilizing extensive staff rotations on the Hill to build relationships and provide a high degree of responsiveness to Members. The Department should expand and create incentives for its program of rotations for Foreign Service and Civil Service staff to realize more fully the benefits of this best practice. These benefits include having Department representatives on the Hill with the type of recent field experience that enables them to make compelling, tangible cases for the Department’s programs. These rotations also allow the personnel to return to the Department with a better understanding of congressional processes and an expanded social network among key Capitol Hill decision-makers.
- Building Congressional Constituencies: The Department should develop a strategy for cultivating stronger constituencies on the Hill. This should include linking FSOs to their representatives through more regular courtesy calls and the provision of regular information on promotions, assignments, and postings. It could also include ensuring awareness on the Hill of the extent to which Department and USAID foreign assistance and stabilization and reconstruction programs are executed by American companies and benefit particular congressional districts. Finally, and perhaps most important, the Department should devote greater effort to identifying and cultivating supporters on the Hill of both particular American policy objectives and the broader mission of diplomacy as the most cost-effective means of securing the United States’ long-term national security.
- Expanded Core Legislative Affairs Function: In order to manage this more active and comprehensive engagement of Congress, the Department should enlarge the staff of the Bureau of Legislative Affairs, increasing its presence both at the Department and on Capitol Hill. This additional capacity would serve to design and execute the more extensive program of outreach events described above and to increase the capacity to provide internal guidance and support to individual bureaus. In addition, the Department should improve its ability to mobilize the resources of the entire organization in support of its legislative efforts when necessary. The Bureau of Legislative Affairs should be able to call upon the full range of individuals, including senior Department leaders and other bureau’s deputy assistant secretaries, to meet special and immediate requirements on the Hill.
- National Security Sub-Committee: The Department should work with the White House and Congress to explore the creation of a new, integrated, national security sub-committee for both the House and Senate Budget Committees. The purpose of this sub-committee would be to set mid-range spending targets across all major components of the U.S. national security establishment’s budget: defense, intelligence, homeland security, and foreign affairs/development/public diplomacy. The sub-committee would be charged specifically with ensuring an appropriate balance in the allocation of funding in view of the strategic priorities of the USG as a whole. Membership on these committees would be appointed by the House and Senate leadership and include representatives from the Armed Services, Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, Homeland Security, and Appropriations committees.
Increased Discretionary Funding
Work with Congress to secure increased levels of discretionary funding for ambassadors and greater reprogramming flexibility in Washington. There was broad consensus among interviewees that the Department lacks the financial flexibility, both in Washington and in the field, to respond quickly to unforeseen challenges and opportunities. Our analysis of the future suggests an increasingly dynamic and unpredictable environment in which the types of circumstances requiring this flexibility will become more prevalent. We also found that perceptions of the ambassador’s credibility, and that of his or her team, are weakened by the current lack of such flexibility. The widely acknowledged inability of the Department to step up to any opportunity involving an unbudgeted financial commitment has the effect of preventing such opportunities from being surfaced by others or sought out by the country team. A similar logic applies in Washington, where in the interagency community the Department is widely considered relatively unable to move funds quickly to respond to unforeseen circumstances. This recommendation is intend to improve modestly the Department’s financial flexibility in both Washington and the field.
Key Potential Components
- Ambassadorial Contingency Response Program: The Department should work with Congress to develop a program by which ambassadors would be granted discretionary funding to address unforeseen challenges and opportunities as they arise in country. The amount of these funds would be scaled according to the size of the mission and the strategic importance of the specific country. The expenditure of these funds would be managed to maximize transparency to Congress, and would be required to support the mission’s defined strategic objectives for the country directly. This program is intended to mirror DOD’s Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP), which has been very successful in winning trust and promoting civil infrastructures in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Greater Reprogramming Flexibility: The Department should also work with Congress to authorize more flexible reprogramming guidelines and higher limits to enable the more flexible movement of funds between and among accounts.
Integrated Institutional Engagement
Our findings suggest that in the future it will be essential for the USG to be institutionally able to engage key countries and supranational entities on an integrated national basis. As non-state actors and global publics become increasingly influential in international affairs, the Department must be able to design comprehensive, long-term relationship models that leverage all potential levels of connectivity, including state-to-state, private sector, and civil society engagement. For example, the United States’ important relationships with the European Union, Russia, and Japan are very well-suited to this type of full-spectrum engagement. In addition, across all of the components of our work, there was a clear consensus that the manner in which the anticipated rise of China and India proceeds will affect significantly the nature of the global future operating environment. Interestingly, looking across the Project Horizon scenarios, the strategic importance of these countries persists even in scenarios where their rise has been derailed. The potential resulting regional instability and shocks to the global financial system would require different but still significant engagement on the part of the United States. For these reasons and many others, immediate, deep, institutional engagement with these countries is a clear strategic imperative. Therefore, these growing powers also would be natural potential pilot countries for the type of engagement outlined here.
The State 2025 Working Group recommends that the Department develop an Integrated Institutional Engagement model incorporating many of the capabilities described in our recommendations above and apply it as a pilot for one or two of the nations or entities mentioned above, building on the strategic dialogues that are already underway. This model would consist of three levels of activity:
- State-to-State Engagement: For each pilot relationship, the Department should lead the establishment of a set of institutional arrangements linking the USG with the governments of these nations. These arrangements should be developed with interagency partners and designed to expand regular contacts and communication on key issues. This regular state-to-state engagement would serve as a powerful means of building relationships and, with them, confidence between the two countries. The Joint Task Forces proposed below would also serve as invaluable sources of connectivity in the case of a crisis in one of the domains (e.g., an environmental or health catastrophe).
- Senior Leadership: The Department should designate a respected leader from within or outside of government to work closely with the secretary in overseeing all aspects and levels of this engagement model. This person, together with the secretary, should be able to mobilize Cabinet members and Department staff to carry forward the relationship. She/he would lead an overarching government-to-government mechanism meeting a minimum of once per year (ideally twice per year) to review the progress of the Joint Task Forces and other activities on all levels with the partner nation.
- Joint Task Forces: The Department should establish integrated USG Joint Task Forces developed with the foreign government to coordinate on key issues and, where possible, identify, design and carry out particularly important projects together. Key issue areas could include trade and economics (where such mechanisms are already being established in some cases), climate change and environmental protection, energy security, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, cyber-space governance, global health, and others, as appropriate. In each case, these cooperative projects should have a designated lead agency and responsible Cabinet officer. In addition, private sector and NGO actors from both countries should be included in select meetings as possible and appropriate. The Department should begin this aspect of the effort by convening a series of planning sessions with key USG partners in each target domain.
- Public Diplomacy and USAID Support: Specific public diplomacy and USAID support arrangements should be developed for these activities. Public diplomacy coverage of all efforts and developments should be ensured and, where appropriate, USAID funding and technical assistance fully incorporated.
The ambassador and country team should be included in all meetings with the host government. In addition, the Embassy should be staffed to follow closely the full range of activities in each sector outlined.
- Private Sector and NGO Alignment: The Department should establish a senior advisory council composed of key individuals from outside of government for the purpose of creating improved strategic alignment with respect to these countries at the national level. The intent would be to learn from corporate and NGO leaders about the challenges and opportunities of improving our national engagement with these countries. It would also enable these leaders to understand our policies towards these countries more clearly. The result would be much greater identification of opportunities for partnership between the Department, other USG agencies, and the corporate and NGO communities with respect to these relationships.
- Civil Society Engagement: Finally, the Department should develop a strategy for increasing the extent of civil society and grassroots interchange between the United States and these countries. Our study of the future highlighted the tremendous power of social networks in creating favorable conditions within, between, and across countries. The Department should leverage this potential influence by developing a targeted set of areas for potential grassroots engagement between the countries. This would include facilitating connections between associations where they exist in both countries, and encouraging reciprocal visits by professionals in specific domains (e.g., architects, dentists, or engineers) to corresponding groups or schools in these countries. In executing this critical level of engagement, the Department should turn to its retired personnel, particularly those with expertise in target countries and functional domains.
The Department of State 2025 Working Group concludes that the future operating environment will demand that the Department of State play a much larger and more effective role in America’s national security. Doing so will require both significant increases in human and financial resources and the transformation of the organization on many levels. We believe that not undertaking this needed, comprehensive strengthening of the Department would be extremely shortsighted given the range of potential future circumstances that the country is so clearly facing. Without a Department of proper scale and capacity, the ability of the USG to secure the long-term interests of the American people will be in serious jeopardy.
Our recommendations are intended to identify a number of the highest priority areas for investment and effort. Taken as a whole, their implementation would result in a major improvement in the Department’s ability to accomplish its mission. These recommendations are to a large degree mutually reinforcing and interdependent, and each will require a critical mass of staff and funding. To the extent that these recommendations are implemented in an overly piecemeal fashion, they are likely to fail. Therefore, we recommend the formation of implementation task forces led by senior Department personnel and including external subject matter experts. The State 2025 Working Group is willing to serve as an advisory board for these task forces to help ensure that the future requirements we have identified are not lost to the tyranny of the present in implementation; however, detailed definition of these proposed solutions will require the input and ownership of the Department personnel directly involved in each area.
Appendix I: List of Acronyms
||American Presence Post
||Active Response Corps
||Commander’s Emergency Response Program
||Chief of Mission
||Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization
||Center for Strategic and International Studies
||Chief Information Officer
||Deputy Assistant Secretary
||Deputy Chief of Mission
||Department of Defense
||Office of Policy, Strategic and Resource Planning
||Employee Evaluation Report
||Enterprise Risk Management
||Foreign Service Institute
||Foreign Service Officer
||Bureau of Intelligence and Research
||Locally Engaged Staff
||National Economic Council
||National Security Council
||National Security Strategy
||Bureau of Oceans and International Environment and Scientific Affairs
||Office of Management and Budget
||Program Assessment and Evaluation
||Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary
||Research and Development
||Bureau of Resource Management
||Rapid Response Unit
||Science, Engineering, and Technology
||Policy Planning Staff
||Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command
||Office of Strategic and Performance Planning
||U.S. Agency for International Development
||United States Government
||Weapons of Mass Destruction
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Barnett, Thomas P. Blueprint for Action. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2005.
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 The CSIS Embassy of the Future project is examining these issues in depth, and we have intentionally avoided duplicating their effort.