American Diplomacy in a New Era

By Stephen D. Kertesz | Go to book overview

16: THE ROLE OF SPECIALISTS IN THE POLICY-MAKING PROCESS

Robert E. Elder


THE CHALLENGE OF OUR TIME

The generalist is dead! Long live the specialist! Through the years, emphasis has been on the role of the generalist in the policy-making process.1 True, some Foreign Service officers or civil servants have successfully hurdled a variety of assignments, acquired a broader background of experience than others, and are sometimes called generalists. Even so, at a given time, working in any position, these "old hands" are really serving as specialists. At the highest level in the Department of State, even the secretary on occasion defers judgment, refers to the undersecretary or undersecretary for economic affairs questions within their fields of specialization and responsibility. The deputy undersecretary for political affairs spends most of his time on politico-military matters. The deputy undersecretary for administration, as his title implies, rules over a broad yet limited domain. The assistant secretaries are regional or functional specialists. The lower one goes on the policy totem pole, the greater the specialization. One finds country desk officers, intelligence analysts, policy planners, legislative liaison specialists, public information officers, and public opinion analysts, plus economic, legal, mutual security, international organization, communication, training, personnel, budget, and finance specialists--and a host of subspecialists too numerous to mention. All of these specialists perform functions necessary to the operation of the policy-making machine. For better or worse, the secretary of state may be the one remaining generalist in the Depart-

____________________
1
For a more thorough discussion of the role of the Department of State in the government policy-making structure, see Robert E. Elder, The Policy Machine: The Department of State and American Foreign Policy ( Syracuse, 1960). Alternative means of establishing a proper balance to meet "generalist" and "specialist" requirements of the Foreign Service are explored at some length in Chapter 9, "Personnel Management: Matching People and Jobs," of The Policy Machine.

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