Thursday, August 1, 2013

lukewarm relations between Congress and the State Department

There's new evidence that members of Congress and their staff have a better appreciation of what the State Department and Foreign Service Officers do, but they aren't enthusiastic enough to spend much effort improving America's diplomatic instruments.

I've made my own comments on this subject in an article in the Foreign Service Journal,  where I offer some suggestions for bridging the divide between Capitol Hill and Foggy Bottom.

Now I see that the American Foreign Service Association has released a survey of Hill opinion on State and the the Foreign Service. Among the findings:
Most of the respondents said that their perceptions of the Foreign Service before they
ever dealt with it were inaccurate. Even though almost all (93%) said they now consider
themselves knowledgeable about the Foreign Service lifestyle and main duties, the author
found that to be not always the case. While only half of the participants in the study
consider diplomacy a profession, almost all associate it with national security, which
many said is not the case with all members of Congress.

Half of the respondents also think that the resources the Foreign Service and Department
of State have are insufficient, but no one expects a bigger budget anytime soon. As much
as members and staff on Capitol Hill value diplomacy, especially since 9/11 and after two
long wars, the Foreign Service will probably never truly have a strong constituency in
Congress, because its activities are not tied to votes -- as is the case with the U.S.
military, which operates in many states.
I guess we should be happy that the glass is half full.

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