Embassy Row

Article excerpt


Harold C. Pachios is appealing to the winner of tomorrow's presidential election to make reinventing the State Department one of his top foreign policy goals.

Mr. Pachios, the Democratic chairman of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, certainly hopes Al Gore is victorious but would be comfortable with Colin Powell as secretary of state under a Bush administration.

He said the retired general and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has the necessary management skills to handle a department with some 28,000 Foreign Service officers and a "mountain" of bureaucratic regulations.

"This is a huge department that needs to change, to be decentralized, to empower people at the midlevel to make things happen," he told Embassy Row last week.

Mr. Pachios reviewed the findings of the commission's new report on the consolidation of the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) into the State Department.

A year after the October 1999 merger, the employees of the formerly independent agency find themselves frustrated by the bureaucracy of the State Department. USIA had about 4,000 employees at the time of consolidation.

They are also disappointed that the Foreign Service hierarchy appears to have little appreciation for public diplomacy, the public relations arm of American foreign policy.

"Public diplomacy is too important to be dismissed by State Department officials stuck in the old ways of thinking," the commission said.

The old USIA handled press relations at many U.S. embassies and maintained contacts with foreign media, opposition groups and nongovernmental organizations. They also staffed embassy libraries and provided outreach services to foreign citizens.

The commission conducted many interviews with employees of the old USIA and found "not one . . . neglected to complain about the difficulty of working through the State Department's rules and procedures."

"The bureaucratic way State operates with its mountain of required clearances, paperwork and regulations is not geared for public diplomacy programs," the commission said.

"From procurement to personnel to grant-making to travel, the Department of State bureaucracy is more cumbersome and slower to work through than was the much smaller and more flexible USIA," it said. …