WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday unveiled a reorganization plan for the State Department that aims to restore civilian diplomacy and development to its former role as the leading edge of American foreign policy.
Clinton presented the results of a wide-ranging review of the operations of the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development, conducted with the aim of better responding to global threats and emergencies. The proposed changes will "give our military the partner it needs and deserves," she told a town hall meeting at the State Department.
The plan calls for hiring 5,500 new personnel at the two agencies, creating new positions and the consolidating others under a revamped and streamlined leadership structure.
The plan also outlines a strategy to reduce the government's reliance on outside contractors, which has rapidly expanded over the past decade, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, because, Clinton said, "there are core governmental functions that should always be performed by public servants, not private companies."
No price tag is associated with the changes, which are being presented as a new Congress prepares to be seated next month. Many Republicans, who are now the majority in the House, have called for deep spending cuts in the State Department and foreign operations budgets. Moreover, one of Clinton's most powerful allies in efforts to boost civilian operations – Defense Secretary Robert Gates – plans to leave his post sometime in the coming year.
"Leading through civilian power saves lives and money," Clinton said. "With the right tools, training, and leadership, our diplomats and development experts can defuse crises before they explode and create new opportunities for economic growth. We can find new partners to share burdens and find new solutions to problems that might otherwise require military action."
In an introduction to the review, Clinton said the goal is to ensure that the taxpayer dollar is spent wisely. "It's an important exercise even in the best economic times. In tough times, it's critical," she wrote.
The plan would set up bureaus for international energy affairs and crisis and conflict operations at State, as well as offices for policy planning and science and technology at USAID. It would also add a special State Department cyber security coordinator to "protect ourselves, our networks and our confidential correspondence," Clinton said in a reference to the recent release of secret diplomatic cables by the WikiLeaks website. And, it would expand the department's counterterrorism office.
More broadly, the review calls for giving greater authority to ambassadors and other senior diplomats abroad, making them the top managers for implementing policy across all U.S. government agencies that have offices in their respective embassies or consulates.
"We will work to break down walls between agencies," Clinton wrote. "We will eliminate overlap, set priorities, and fund only the work that supports those priorities. We will empower our people to make decisions and hold them accountable for the results. . It sounds basic, but it's the kind of change that will help us tap the full potential of our civilian power."
The proposals grow out of the findings of a Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review that Clinton ordered when she became secretary of state, and reflects the Obama administration's "smart power" approach to foreign policy stressing civilian over military operations.
The review is dedicated to the late Richard Holbrooke, the veteran diplomat who died Monday.
"He represented the best of our nation's civilian power," it says. "He understood that we cannot project our leadership unless we also promote our values."
The plan proposes expanding the existing undersecretary of state for democracy and global affairs position to include civilian security and human rights. The new crisis and conflict operations bureau would report to this official and coordinate civilian responses to humanitarian emergencies with USAID.
At USAID, the proposal calls for tripling the hiring of midlevel workers from 30 to 95 per year to reduce reliance on outside contractors. This aims to reverse the 38 percent decline in the agency's work force between 1990 and 2007.