An Atlantic Council Roadmap for State Department Reform.

Author:Ansley, Rachel
Position:Commentary & Analysis - Reprint

October 2017

A new Atlantic Council report ( publications/reports/ state-department-reform-report) seeks to enhance the US State Department's effectiveness recommends, among other things, a more results-oriented budget and streamlined foreign aid.

A key recommendation is to use the US Agency for International Development (USAID) as "the platform to build a more robust, effective civilian assistance capacity, empowering it with an expanded mission set and greater control over US foreign assistance efforts."

The report's authors--ten foreign policy experts--also agreed that in order to make the State Department more effective, its structure must be refined, its personnel properly prepared for their jobs, and its relationship with the US Congress improved.

This analysis is "more important than ever," US Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) said at the Atlantic Council on September 6. Royce delivered the keynote address at the report's launch.

"Defeating [the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham] ISIS and other threats requires a strong State Department and foreign service," according to Royce, who is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Therefore, he said, the report "at its core, is really about how to improve America's national security and how to promote our interests around the globe."

In introductory remarks, David C. Miller, Jr., a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council's Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, and one of the authors of the report, described the motivation and structure of the recommendations to reform the State Department. In recent years, said Miller, "we have failed to achieve a number of goals we ought to have achieved because the objectives were fine, but the execution was poor." The report, he said, aims to identify areas that can be improved upon to enhance the function of the department.

"It is clear that the State Department is our most important foreign policy institution," said Royce. While undermining the department's authority and limiting the funding of foreign aid will not help its mission, he said, the institution must confront difficult questions regarding its efficacy.

The report is divided into five sections that focus on the State Department's structure and processes, personnel, budget, congressional relations, and the role of USAID.

Since US President Donald J. Trump took office, senior positions have remained empty at the State Department, and a budget...

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