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A Conversation With America's Snr Career Diplomats

R. Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
Robert Kimmitt, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury and Former Under Secretaries of State for Political Affairs: Ambassador David Newsom, Ambassador Thomas Pickering, Ambassador Marc Grossman, Dr. Arnold Kanter
Washington, DC
October 29, 2007
(Released on November 20, 2007)

A Conversation With America's Senior Career Diplomats

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome and thanks to all of you who have come to this session. We're delighted to see a full house here in this great auditorium in the Marshall Wing.

My name is Nick Burns. I'm the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and I'm surrounded by Under Secretaries of State for Political Affairs. It's a great pleasure for me and a great honor to welcome back five of my predecessors. We've just had lunch together. After we see you and have this conversation, we'll be off to see Secretary Rice for a conversation and we're also doing a public event at Georgetown University at the Center for Diplomacy this evening to talk about our modern American diplomacy, statecraft, and also issues.

So it's a great pleasure to see this full house and to see so many colleagues from the Foreign Service. I know we have many members of our newest A-100 class. I believe that last Friday was your flag day, right? Congratulations to all of you and you'll be sworn in very soon, so it's a particular pleasure to have the members of the A-100 class here with us.

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I just wanted to take a minute to introduce each of these gentlemen to you, to say a word about each of them, then I'm going to ask each of them to say a word to you and they're free to say whatever they would like. They're all private citizens with the exception of the Acting Secretary of the Treasury, who is sitting -- so he and I will be especially careful today.

But I wanted to first introduce Ambassador David Newsom, who is seated to my right. Ambassador Newsom joined the Foreign Service in 1947 and he left the Foreign Service just as I was joining it 25 years ago, so it's a particular pleasure to have him back here at the State Department. He served as Ambassador to Libya, Ambassador to Indonesia, Ambassador to the Philippines, as well as our Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. He also served in Norway and Iraq at a very different time and in Pakistan. He was appointed by President Carter to be Under Secretary for Political Affairs and he served in that position between 1978 and 1981, when President Reagan's administration came in.

When he was Under Secretary for Political Affairs, his -- he and his colleagues had to deal with the fall of the Shah in Iran, with the abduction of our hostages in November 1979 and the fact that they were imprisoned for 444 days with that crisis. He dealt with the collapse of the Somoza regime in Nicaragua, with Poland, of course, and with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Since leaving the Foreign Service, he's been the author of numerous books and he's living in Charlottesville, Virginia. And AFSA, our professional organization, gave him its Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy award in the year 2000, so it's a great pleasure, Ambassador, to have you with us.


Seated to my left is the Acting Secretary of the Treasury Bob Kimmitt, Robert Kimmitt, who served as Under Secretary between 1989 and 1991. I was a younger officer in this building at that time working for Bob's colleague, Bob Zoellick, and I had a firsthand view of the extraordinary job that Bob Kimmitt did as Under Secretary and that was an extraordinary period in our history with the fall of the Berlin Wall, with the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, and then the peaceful collapse on Christmas Day, 1991, of the Soviet Union itself and its disintegration into 15 constituent pieces, newly independent republics.

Bob had to deal with all of that, manage that, as well as the crisis in Panama in 1989, as well as coordinating -- I remember him doing this very specifically -- all the assistance we received in mounting that great coalition invasion of Iraq back in 1991. And the work that Bob did to unite the international community, both politically and financially, to pay for that effort was really quite an extraordinary performance.

Bob went on to serve as our Ambassador to Germany with great distinction. He then went into the private sector and of course, is back as our Deputy Secretary of the Treasury. He's a graduate of West Point and he's a veteran of the Vietnam War and is one of our great professional diplomats in Washington. Bob?


Bob was succeeded in office by Arnie Kanter. Arnie is this fellow right here, two down from me, and I remember Arnie very well as a Special Assistant to President George H.W. Bush, Bush 41, at the White House. He was the principal figure in the NSC at that time on all issues concerning arms and strategic arms. He was a principal person in leading the way towards the START II agreement and he served in that position in the White House staff with incredible energy and commitment and distinction.

As Under Secretary, he, of course, had to deal with the great effort we made in 1991 and then in 1992 to engage with 15 new countries in the former Soviet Union, especially with a democratic Russian Federation, to establish all those new embassies and to adjust too at the end of one era in our foreign policy and the beginning of another. So it's a great pleasure, Arnie, for us to welcome you back today.


And finally, let me introduce two people who I'm sure are strangers to all of you. (Laughter.) The first is a guy named Tom Pickering. Who has heard of Ambassador Tom? Just a show of hands. Ambassador Tom Pickering was Under Secretary of State for Secretary Madeleine Albright and he was appointed in 1997.

And during his tenure, he dealt with, of course, all the major diplomatic crises of that period, but including the crises concerning Iraq and also China. He was very much involved in the Kosovo effort of 1998 and 1999, the successful effort to prevent the ethnic cleansing of a million Albanian -- Kosovar-Albanians. He also, of course, having been our Ambassador to Russia, was a principal figure in the Clinton Administration's very successful policy to engage President Yeltsin and his colleagues in what produced a very successful relationship, an effective relationship with that particular country.

Ambassador Pickering is kind of a legend in our Foreign Service. The Pickering Fellow Program is named after him. He has been, seven times, Ambassador: Ambassador to Russia, Ambassador to India, to Israel, to El Salvador, to Nigeria, to Jordan, and to the United Nations. And he served as Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International, Environmental and Scientific Affairs, Executive Secretary of the Department. And Tom, I think for all of us, has been a role model in his commitment, in his energy, in his professionalism, in his extraordinary breadth of service for the Foreign Service and is still a leader in our Foreign Service today. Tom, welcome.


Finally, my good friend and predecessor, Marc Grossman. Marc is now Vice Chairman of the Cohen Group here in Washington, D.C., but he is still active and committed in our Foreign Service. He's just led, with two other ambassadors, a study to think about the embassy of the future; how we represent ourselves overseas, how we're structured, the buildings in which we work, how we can be successful overseas. And I want to thank Marc for that effort, which was just published and I'm sure he'll be happy to talk to you about it.

When Marc was Under Secretary, of course, he was Under Secretary for Secretary of State Colin Powell in the first term of President Bush's presidency and what a momentous period that was, from 9/11 and how we had to, in the wake of 9/11, think about our national security in an entirely different way, to our successful invasion of Afghanistan and then on to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Marc -- I always admired Marc and I still do. And when I was going from job to job in the Foreign Service, I always felt that Marc was the kind of officer that I wanted to be because he has incredible integrity, he's a real professional, he has served in all the important jobs that make him a protean officer. He's been the Executive Secretary of the State Department, he was Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, he was Ambassador to Turkey, he was also Director of Personnel and ran our Personnel system, as well as having been Under Secretary. And I'm just -- I'm personally grateful for all the advice he gave me and all the help he gave to me when I was his ambassador in the field in Greece and at NATO.

And I think you see, in Marc's career and what he's done since he's left and the career of everybody here, all of these people, all of these former Under Secretaries seated with me in the dias have stayed involved, not just in foreign policy and thinking about the issues that affect us, but also in the life of the Foreign Service and Civil Service and in trying to make our institution as effective as it can be for our country.

So I wanted to thank all of the people here on the panel. I wanted to ask each of them, starting with Ambassador Newsom, just to say a few words. And I've told them they can be free to say whatever they'd like about policy, current or past, about the way that we train officers -- and I'm so happy that Ambassador Ruth Whiteside is here, the Director of the Foreign Service Institute -- the way that we want to think about the Foreign Service of the future. All of them have ideas. And then after they each speak briefly, we're going to open it up to you and ask you to speak frankly and ask questions, give us your own advice, give us a piece of your mind if you'd like to do that, but I'm sure they'd all like to engage with you. And thank you again for coming.

Mr. Ambassador?

AMBASSADOR NEWSOM: Well, Ambassador Burns, Nick, thank you so much for bringing us all together. It's a nostalgic pleasure to come back into these halls when -- every once in a while. I figured out that it was over a quarter of a century when I turned in my pass and left as an official. I was, at that time, an asterisk in history. I was the interim Secretary of State. Secretary Muskie left on January the 19th and Alexander Haig was delayed a bit in confirmation. He was confirmed on January the 22nd and I was in this building watching the new Republicans come in with their boxes of files and the only person on the seventh floor authorized to sign papers for four days. (Laughter.)

As I contemplated this reunion and went back over the issues that I dealt with in my time, I was struck by the similarity of the list to the issues that my predecessor, my successors are dealing with now: Middle East peace, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Horn of Africa, Cuba, developments in the two Koreas and human rights. Nick has mentioned some of the specifics in this. I won't go into that to give my other colleagues a chance to comment, but out of this experience, I have identified four basic dilemmas in American foreign policy that were not totally resolved in my time and I don't think have been totally resolved yet.

The first is balancing the need for public statements by U.S. officials largely directed to a domestic audience against the risk that they will be misunderstood abroad. Secondly, balancing the domestic pressures for action, whether that action be political or humanitarian, with the sensitivities and realities in the regions where the crises are arising. Third, what to do about adversarial regimes, whether they be state or non-state actors; each available option, whether it's open-end conversations, sanctions, isolation or force has serious drawbacks. And finally, the limitations to resources, both military and diplomatic; I'm struck in the discussions that go on about future actions by the United States in this region of the world or any other by how little attention is paid to the resources necessary for such actions.

I won't go into the several special crises, but just to say that at the -- as I look back at this complex region, from the Mediterranean shores to the Pakistan-Indian border, and that doesn't mean that we weren't conscious of other parts of the world as well, but that was the center of attention in the late 1970s and in some ways, remains so now. We face a region complicated by tribalism, questions of religious identity, historic rivalries, access to resources, overlapping claims to sovereignty, histories of past imperialism, and ambitions which are not always easy to understand.

And those who do understand these regions often have problems in communicating the realities that exist in other politics and cultures to Americans who are steeped in our own experience and traditions. In my teaching, I've always emphasized the communications problem of American diplomats with their own government. Finally, it's a region where questionable assumptions can lead to unexpected consequences and yet, one in which our national interests and our traditional ties would probably forever require our involvement. Thank you.

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Thank you very much.


DEPUTY SECRETARY KIMMITT: Nick, thanks for putting this together and I understand the format is to leave some time for Q&As and I think we'll let the substantive discussion move in the direction that you want during that period, so I'll just make maybe a couple of professional development points if I could. This will be addressed primarily at the A-100 class, but should apply to everybody in the audience.

First, you've joined not just the State Department, but you've joined the national security community. It's hard any longer to think of any issue that is solely the province of any one department or agency. In fact, if we went around the room, we could probably get as many definitions of national security as there are people sitting in the room. I just return to my West Point roots; think of it in equational terms, it is the summation of our foreign, defense, and international economic policies all resting on a strong intelligence base.

And I think you need to think about that as you both embark upon and carry out your important career responsibilities, because I think to be successful, you've got to be successful both in depth as well as in breadth. Yes, you have to have subject matter expertise, yes, you've got to get your job done, but you have to recognize that you're part of a bigger process, one that has considerable breadth. And being able to operate at that intersection of breadth as well as depth, I think is going to be what marks successful professionals in the future.

But that's going to take some effort on your part. You're going to have to both press to have career opportunities that give you opportunities to work broadly intra-agency, that is, inside the State Department, and broadly interagency with other departments and agencies. And there are more and more of them coming into the national security process with each passing day.

So the first of the three Is I will leave you with is interagency. The second is implementation. Policy formulation is a lot of fun. Policy implementation is not as much fun, but it is at least as important as policy formulation. We've been complimented a lot for what we did during the first Gulf War. One of the things that we focused on during that period, '90 through '91, is to make sure that we spent as much time after the President had made a decision on how we would convey those decisions out to the field, whether it be to ambassadors, military commanders, to the public at large, picking up on David's point about communication.

We would start with a meeting at the State Department at 8 o'clock in the morning, we'd progress through a series of interagency meetings that would lead to a meeting with the President at 2 o'clock and then those same people who had met between 8:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. would meet on the backside between 2:00 p.m. and we'd have our wrap-up meeting every night at 8 o'clock, because we wanted to make sure that those cables and instructions that were going out were clear. And if they weren't clear to those of us who had helped in the formulation, it wasn't going to get unraveled in the field in a way that was productive to carrying that out.

So interagency, implementation, and the last is initiative; both initiative to come up with creative thoughts in the issues in your area of responsibility, initiative also to make sure that you're given the career opportunities and that you look to your superiors to provide those opportunities for you. Not all good ideas come from the top. Certainly, not all good ideas come from the political appointees who move in and out. Ultimately, there has to be initiative also from the fine career professionals, whether it be at the State Department, Treasury or elsewhere.

I would just say when I think of the new class coming in, I really envy you. It's a tougher world than we entered. The Cold War was a very difficult period, particularly for those people at the wrong side of the Iron Curtain. But when we look back at it, it had a certain element of black and white or staticness to it that doesn't exist today. The only constant in the world that you're going to face in the future is change; dynamic change, accelerating change. What a great time to be in the Foreign Service.


MR. KANTER: If David Newsom was an asterisk in history, in a way, I guess I was a double asterisk. I not only found myself in the same position as he did in the last couple of days of the first Bush Administration as Acting Secretary, but upon -- immediately upon being sworn in, I was informed that since Secretary Baker would -- had -- was out of the country and Secretary Eagleburger had departed, I was the Acting Secretary of State.

In the intervening two years between those asterisks, I -- we were, as Nick said, trying to sort out what it meant to be in a post-Cold War world. And in retrospect, we -- I don't know if we had an easier time of it, but if you will, people cut us a lot of slack because no one knew what the post-Cold War world was going to be, how we should comport ourselves and so forth. And in many respects, the Clinton Administration -- the burden fell on the Clinton Administration because they didn't have the excuse of being kind of new at the game or the world being new.

What strikes me is how much has changed in what, by historical standards, is a very brief period of time. And for the A-100 class, this is all -- this isn't new. This is the way it is. This is how you've grown up. For people who have been in the Foreign Service 10, 15, 20 years or more, I think the changes are, in some respects, overwhelming. And I think that as a government, the way in which we're organized, the way in which we behave, to some extent, the way in which the Department is organized and behave is lagging behind the changes in the world.

We went through a -- kind of a Halcyon period in the 1990s when it looked like the U.S. really didn't face any meaningful security threats anymore. Sure, there were problems, there were lots of issues, but the kinds of threats that people who grew up in the Cold War obsessed about had disappeared all but overnight. And I think we struggled with redefining not only what we meant by national security, but also what we meant by foreign policy. Because during the Cold War, foreign policy and national security were virtually coterminous and during the Cold War, national security was -- first and foremost relied upon the military instruments of policy with foreign policy, in many respects, supporting those military instruments.

All of that was thrown out the window with the end of the Cold War and defining what people meant by the post-Cold War world and what it would look like and how we ought to behave, what the opportunities were, what the threats were was very much a work in progress. It still is. I find it striking that 15-plus years after the end of the Cold War, after the fall of the Soviet Union, we still don't have a name for the period in which we're living. We still refer to it as the post-Cold War world. We know what it's not; we still haven't figured out what it is.

Security threats, of course, reemerged in the late 1990s and certainly after 2001, but the way in which we think about security is fundamentally different and it changes the way I think -- in which we think about foreign policy. It changes the tasks and the challenges of the State Department and the Foreign Service.

First, this huge military component to national security now competes with definitions of security that embrace the environment, climate, health, economy, things we all talked about in the Cold War, but frankly, were always in a distant second place. Now they're kind of tied for first. And even the way in which we think about threats to the -- military threats, security threats to the United States has changed when you'd only think about the rise of Homeland Security, the concept of Homeland Security as a companion or, in some respects, as a substitute or a successor to old concepts of national security.

The very structure of the international system has changed. There have been the rise of new nation states that were on the map, certainly, for the last 50 or 60 years, but matter a lot more to us now than they did until recently. At the same time, the role of nation states, the role of governments, the ability of governments to affect the behavior in the international system has diminished. Just think about the flow of populations, flow of capital, investment, pollution, water and the ability of governments to completely dominate things of critical concern to their people and indeed, to the international system has relatively diminished. And indeed, the rise of non-state actors, sub-national actors, super-national actors all challenge the nation state as the organizing principle of the international system.

And if there's one message about homeland security, it's at the boundary between foreign policy and domestic policy, is increasingly permeable and those two nice compartments along which the entire federal government not only has been, but continues to be organized really is obsolete. As I indicated, I think organizationally we've lagged these changes. The State Department has certainly undergone big changes recently, but at its heart, it still gives emphasis to formal bilateral relationships between governments. That's how the State Department works to a first order.

The NSC system lags much more. The NSC itself continues to be organized not only along these bilateral relationships predominantly, but frankly along mostly a Cold War model. When you look at how the NSC is staffed, what kinds of people are seconded from what departments, they're overwhelmingly State and Defense. Still hasn't changed much in 15 or more years. How do we deal with the rise of economics, a major security and foreign policy issue? We grafted the National Economic Council onto the NSC. We didn't overhaul the NSC. How do we deal with the homeland security problem? We grafted the Homeland Security Council alongside the NSC. We didn't overhaul the NSC. Where I think this bears most directly on the State Department on the Foreign Service is that both the skill sets that diplomats require today and their expectations are really quite different than they were not so many years ago.

In a way, to echo what Bob Kimmitt said, it's hard not to be excited for and, indeed, envy the A-100 Class. It's an extraordinarily exciting, challenging job you're going into. But in a way, you have it easier than those who've gone before you because a lot of people signed up in the Foreign Service, 5, 10, 15 years ago for a quite different job than you're being asked to do now. You're being asked to serve in places. You're being asked to develop skills, you're being asked to adjust your career expectations in ways that were in no one's mind when you were in the A-100 Class. So you face a lot of challenges, too, but you got to unlearn a lot of stuff that the new folks don't. But I'm sure you will all do quite well and I envy you all. Thank you. (Applause.)

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Thank you, Nick, very much for inviting us and thank you all for coming. I hope somebody is minding the store. (Laughter.) This far down the line you run the difficulty of falling into the trap, which I call the curse of the Congress. Everything's been said, but not everybody has said it yet. (Laughter.) I'll try to avoid that -- (laughter) -- and I'll try to be reasonably brief. I've had the pleasure of serving on the advisory group, which the Secretary had set up to advise her on transitional diplomacy and there are a number of important ideas that will come out of that report.

Since the report hasn't been released, I'll talk only about some of my personal ideas, if I may. I think that it's significantly and seriously important that while we are as preoccupied as we must be with the Middle East and the various problems that are there, the three I's: Iran, Iraq, Israel-Arab. There are three other major countries in the world that also should receive our time and attention: Russia, China and India.

And looking ahead at this century, they certainly are, at least at this stage, going to be both potentially major cooperating partners with the United States and perhaps major challenging partners. And indeed for all of you and particularly those who -- leaving A-100 now, you will have the enormous opportunity and indeed the challenge to make them into cooperating partners and not challenging partners and our role with them will be very important. I think increasingly you're seeing our relationships with those countries and other very important states in their relationship with the United States becoming what I would call institutionalized. We have seen Secretary Paulson is playing an increasing role in our economic relations with China, accompanied by John Negroponte.

Over the years, we have seen the Russian relationship institutionalized and things seem to work well. Nick has moved our relationship forward with India where those kinds of new relationships, cabinet level visits, where particular projects can be taken on, become the watchword of the strength of the relationship. And over time I expect to see this just as we are treating our close neighbors, Mexico and Canada, the same way.

Over the years, too, we have seen the evolution of a set of arrangements and Nick and Mark and I have been directly and deeply involved in Colombia. In Colombia, we had an opportunity to develop an interagency task force under the lead of the Department of State to meet the challenges and indeed to continue to meet the challenges that we face in that very important country. It seems to me this has been a rather successful experiment.

We face now the problem of getting the Congress to understand how important Colombia is in the passage of the free trade agreement coming up. But this has been an important experiment in this instance. It shows that there are ways the interagency process can work and bring together the strength and the skills across the government happily, in this case, under the lead of the State Department so that in a sense the policy judgments and indeed the policy approaches and implementation, I believe, have been gotten right.

Further afield, but even more important to me has been the knowledge that we are in a revolutionary world in many ways, including in technology and that information technology is now offering us great opportunities. There is no question that if you look at this table today, I'm the only one who has his Blackberry hidden. But most of you -- (laughter) -- within a very short period of time, I hope, will have a Blackberry in which you can securely communicate with your embassy and the State Department from the field on a regular basis and enjoy the opportunity as well, if the verbiage gets reduced of understanding how the State Department believes and thinks about any known issue. This kind of instant communication -- officer to the top -- is a rare and new opportunity for becoming more effective, if we manage it well. And it is one of the many ideas that I think you will find interesting in the transitional diplomacy report. There are many others.

The question of the private sector which Arnie has just discussed, why shouldn't we in fact have a bureau in the State Department that should be dealing across the board with the private sector, with the foundation world, with the academic world -- much of whose relationships are now independently handled by various bureaus regional and functional. But the time has come when I think we need that kind of marshaled approach and indeed ability to put the full weight of the State Department behind the relationship. And I suspect we will see that coming forward.

For a long time, and I participated in the integration of USIS with the State Department, I have seen the demise of our public diplomacy, in part, through a failure to understand that you need an integrated effort at public diplomacy and my hope is that we will see once again a fully integrated effort in public diplomacy. I think, without doubt, within the ambit of this Department and its work just as I support the Secretary's effort to bring closer together and unify the work of AID and the State Department.

My hope is that things like unified IT support for all three bodies could emerge, as well as even more importantly, a unified effort at strategy planning and resourcing of all three agencies. So across the board, the value of synergy and indeed the value of size in working with the Congress in this newest member, but oldest participant in the national security process, the State Department can indeed see a way forward in the future. With respect to these kinds of issues, which mean that it will be resourced in accordance with its need and indeed with its contribution to national security. I could say much more. The time should be open to you to talk. And so I will pass the baton over to mark. (Applause.)

AMBASSADOR GROSSMAN: Well, thank you very much. You can see I've sort of fallen off the edge here, both literally and in terms of time. I do want to get -- have you be able to say whatever it is you want, so I'll be very brief, because I've had the benefit like you have, of having listened to all of the people who've spoken before me. But Nick, I thank you very much for this opportunity. And I just want to take a minute to thank all of you for your service and Foreign Service, Civil Service, all of you who work at the State Department, we thank you very much. You do a very important job. And really the -- our thanks go to you. So thank you. Give yourselves a hand, because I think it'd be worthwhile. (Applause.)

One of the themes that's come through all of the conversation here today, first of all, is how much we envy the fact that you all are still in this business of diplomacy and I think that's a very important point because diplomacy is changing in front of our very eyes and you all have the opportunity, not just to participate in that change, but also to lead that change and I think that's a very exciting prospect.

One of the things that struck me in the conversations that have gone on before is, kind of, is people have at the State Department an emphasis on countries that are a challenge, regions that are a challenge, but also think it's very important to think about the larger issues that we face out there and the time that I have been out of government, you're struck by how issues of the environment, how issues about the benefits and those who have yet to benefit from globalization have a big impact on our foreign policy. And I think very importantly as well, nonproliferation.

I'll make one point and I'm in the enviable position, as opposed to Tom. The report that I worked on with the help of so many of you here at the State Department for CSIS was called the Embassy of the Future. And we had the opportunity actually a week ago on Monday to put that report out. And our object was really twofold. First, was to put a report out that people here could see was of trying to be of benefit and of help to the State Department. And secondly, to try to choose recommendations all throughout the report that people could do, if they had the will, that it wasn't a matter, you know, moving charts around on organization charts, but what could be done if people in the Department wish to do those things.

And our recommendations fell into three or four categories -- many of them you've heard today. But first and foremost is we started thinking that we were trying to design an Embassy of the Future. But what we really recognized was how much -- how many more people the State Department needed and that you couldn't proceed down the path of all of the points that my predecessors have made without more people in the Department. And if that was true, people also needed a new kind of technology. And Tom said he hoped everybody would get a Blackberry someday and I hope that's true. And the recommendation in our report is that every single person who joins an A-100 class ought to get one in the A-100 class and then use it then throughout the career, obviously, update it after that. And then training as well, that training -- (laughter) -- so we don't end up with Wang -- (laughter) -- and that training as well be in there so that people have the opportunity not just with the technology, but with the training, to go forward. And if those two things were true, then you have the opportunity to talk about what platform. And we recommended a diverse platform so that the public opinion could be taken care of.

The jobs that Arnie Kanter talked about, getting out and talking to people and changing the way people think about the United States, could be accomplished. But very importantly as well, if all of those things are true and you have a diverse platform, it also brings back to us the questions of risk and how we protect our people abroad. What level of risk are we prepared to give to our Foreign Service and Civil Service and Foreign Service national colleagues.

And so we hope that this report, the Embassy of the Future will form the baseline of a debate here in the Department, that it will be a call for more people and for more technology and for more training and for a diverse platform that will really much better represent the United States in all of the ways that my predecessors have talked about and I thank you very much. (Applause.)

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Okay. Listen, we have one more round of applause that's necessary. I have the events of last evening in mind. How many of you are members of Red Sox Nation? (Applause.) Okay. It's your turn. I invite you -- we have microphones here, either side. I invite you to stand at the microphone and just let us know your name and where you're currently serving and fire away at any or all of us and we'll be glad to respond.

QUESTION: I'm John Naland. I'm the president of the American Foreign Service Association. Ambassador Grossman, you mentioned the CSIS report on the Embassy of the Future. Ambassador Pickering, you mentioned the (inaudible) and talked about the (inaudible). Both of them make (inaudible). There's been a tendency to (inaudible) recent decades for militarization of (inaudible) with money being given to (inaudible) military whereas diplomats, you know, from time to time (inaudible). Both of those reports and (inaudible) for more resources. But it's like (inaudible) reports, highlighting them (inaudible). How do you go about to get them?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: If I could just -- maybe just say one word and then turn it over to Mark and Tom because I want to speak on behalf of Secretary Rice here. She has followed with great interest the two reports that Marc Grossman and Tom Pickering have been authoring about the future of our service. Marc's the future of how we worked -- how do we work overseas and how can be successful. Tom's thinking through what we need to have in the way of resources to be successful in diplomacy. We're about 6,500 people in the Diplomatic Corps in the United States and 3,000 support for personnel and thousands of Foreign Service Nationals and they're the heart of what we do overseas. And there's no question that we're not large enough. We're not substantial enough a number to do the work that the President and Congress and future presidents in Congress want us to do.

So we are very much interested in reading these two reports and then in talking to members of Congress about it because we know that given the burden that the Foreign Service has been shouldering for the United States, we simply need to be bigger, as well as stronger, as well as effective in the field, but bigger in number.

AMBASSADOR GROSSMAN: Well, I'd say, John, first of all, thank you very much and we thank you for your support for the report. If I could make three points. First of all, when you say that there has been this issue of can-do, I think that's right. But what I say is that the issue of can-do and get more people can be done. And in the first part of this Administration, there was an effort to hire more people in the neighborhood of 1,200, if the number serves me right at about $98 million a year. And the report says that this was a fantastic thing and many of you who are in A-100 courses are really beneficiaries of that. But that what happened to those people, what happened to those people is they went to Afghanistan, they want to Iraq, they dealt with all the crises after 9/11. And so the objective of that time to bring a 15 percent float for training and transit didn't get met because all of those people were needed to do operational things. So I believe this can be done. This argument can be made. One of the things that Secretary Powell, and I know Secretary Rice, has talked about is is to kind of adopt a little bit of the military, at least the language to talk about the needs for readiness. People understand questions of readiness. And the Foreign Service and the Civil Service and the State Department need to be ready to do their jobs. So I think this can be done.

We did not write a report that said we need hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. We wrote a report that said for $98 million a year you can go back on one of these programs. You can hire in the neighborhood of 1,079 people which seemed to us a very justifiable number, over three years and really help yourself here. And to your second point, both -- there were three of us who co-chaired this report: Ambassador Rohatyn, Ambassador Argyros and myself and we have all committed to various kinds of congressional testimony and talking on the Hill to see if we can make this happen. But as Nick said, this will require a real effort on your part and also on the Secretary's part.

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Thank you very much, John, for your service in AFSA and for AFSA's support. The transitional diplomacy report has already become engaged with the State Department's staff in looking at how to brief the Congress on this, which is absolutely critical. And that I think will be a very important part of where we go ahead.

My second point is that there are a number of reports coming together. There's something called Smart Power being done at CSIS and there are others. Indeed, this is the season for reports. This may be a reflection on the need for change and the need to face up to change. In any event, another group is giving very serious thought to looking at these reports in total and then trying to work out what are the full budget implications of the most significant recommendations made here. Whether that will prosper or not remains open in the future. But it is a very, very important way to proceed ahead. And many people who have heard of this idea have welcomed it. And I hope that it will move ahead.

Thirdly, given the anointment of the State Department as a member of the national security community, which I spoke about a while ago, one thought that a number of us have expressed -- whether it will see the light of day or not, I don't know -- is that we should, working very closely with Congress encourage the budget committee in both the House and the Senate to create a national security subcommittee, the major purpose of which would be to take a look at the corpus of funding available to the national security community and decide how and in what way it can be most effectively parsed among the various agencies from Homeland Security and Defense and intelligence, obviously to diplomacy, public diplomacy and development.

This would be a remarkable change. There are not many people who give it high hopes. But to get any idea suggested in the Congress, you have to -- to get any idea accepted in the Congress, you have to suggest it and then work it. And my hope is that this idea will emerge and the give the Congress the challenge of taking a look at what is an equitable balance. It is, in my view, not equitable that the funding costs for this Department alone represent a rounding error in the Defense budget in terms of the interrelationships and indeed the concern that many uniformed members have expressed to me that if only our diplomacy were more active they would have to become less involved and less early involved. And to me, that's an extremely important testimony to the need for a greater balance in favor of diplomacy.

We've also recommended fairly large increases in the size and functioning of the State Department, and that, too, is to respond to this need to have diplomacy be the front line, if I could put it this way, of defense, fully backed up, obviously, with a serious, committed and well-funded Defense Department. And the idea is not to go beggar our neighbor, but to use an enlightened view about the strategy to put the Department's needs as clearly as we can before the congressional community.

MR. KANTER: I have a very modest variant of Tom's big idea on the Hill. Currently, the State Department is funded in what's called the 150 Account and the Pentagon as well as some Energy programs are funded in what's called the 050 Account. The State Department ought to be funded in the same account as the Pentagon, 050 or whatever you want to call it, the national security account.

First, that would mean that the State Department is shielded, would be shielded better, from various congressional budget cuts than it is now because Congress is loathe to cut Defense. Secondly, precisely because the State Department is rounding error in the Defense Department budget, rather significant increases in the State Department budget would be little noticed in the Defense Department top line. (Laughter.)

It sounds like a technical detail, but I think it could have big effects. I understand why the Pentagon is opposed to this idea, but I've read in the newspaper that the State Department is also opposed, and that puzzles me.

QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Laura de Otalvaro. I work for the International Organizations Bureau here in Washington. I'm in the Foreign Service and I'm bidding right now, which I know puts me in an exceptionally difficult position this week.

Many of you have talked about the new emerging paradigm of national security and that it includes things like the environment and health and climate change and things which sort of broaden our definition. Some of us also here in Washington can see, you know, colleagues of ours who've left to go work on humanitarian operations, principally in countries like Iraq or Afghanistan, that a lot of what we're going to be doing in the future has to do with reconstruction and things which require, you know, increasing private investment flows, things which perhaps are also fundamentally economic, which might also attract more attention from within Congress.

My question is if any of you have a comment on how it is that regular Foreign Service officers in our daily work, because most of us don't speak to the press very often or speak to Congress, how can we raise the profile and the reputation of the State Department overseas so that we're not portrayed negatively in the films or, you know, we don't get automatic contempt from Congress when public hearings come up. We know that we do good. You know we do good work. We all work really, really hard and in very dangerous and difficult conditions. But what can we publicly do in order to help with that impression?

Thank you.


AMBASSADOR GROSSMAN: I'd be very glad to take a shot at that question because I think it's really important -- all the points you make.

First, I think we are going to be doing these reconstruction and humanitarian issues again and again and again. And one of the very good things that's happened in the Department has been a restructuring so there's now, you know, our offices who focus on this. But it's going to have to get much, much, much, much bigger because these are things we're going to do again and again.

The second thing is in terms of what is it that -- why is it that we have this image, part of it is that we have a leadership in the United States sometimes that tends to kind of talk about -- not just this -- not political issue -- we tend to think about diplomacy as diplomacy is for the weak, diplomacy is about concessions, diplomacy is somehow giving things away. And we need to rethink that and talk about that in a different way.

The other thing, though, is fundamentals. And that is to say when you go abroad as Foreign Service officers -- and here I speak perhaps first to the A100 course -- especially those of you who are going to do consular work, well, what is that? What is that? That is every single day trying to make one after another after another American citizen who you deal with, for example, a happy constituent. And so those people are your customers. And so when somebody loses a passport in Istanbul or someone loses a passport in Jakarta and they have a good experience in getting it back, what do you know? They become friends of the Department. And when somebody's -- you know, someone's child is found by a Foreign Service officer, they become friends of the Department.

And so American citizen services, the visa services, the USIA services -- all of those things that we tend often in this Department to say, well, that's in this silo and this is in this silo and this is in this silo, actually, those are the things that every single day people are saying, well, gosh, you know, I had a pretty good experience at that embassy. So when I was the Ambassador to Turkey, one of the things that I said was I want to make sure that I get every single letter that I get from a congressman is in praise of some section of mine. Additionally, is helping, as you pointed out, to American business. If you can help American business people, what do they do? What do they do? They come back and they say, gosh, you know, I really got a lot of help from that embassy in the investment I wanted to make or the dispute that I had.

And then finally, I guess I can now, as a private citizen, say this to you, which I couldn't before. But you know, when you're back on home leave, I hope you might go and visit a member of Congress or you might go visit a senior staffer on that member of Congress from your home state or from your home town. And you can make that case and you can put a face, it seems to me, not just on the State Department but what it is that the Foreign Service does to be ready to defend the interests of the United States.

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: In addition to that, I think Marc's point about calling on your congressman or at least their staff is extremely important, particularly when you have an assignment overseas. Why not also talk to your hometown newspapers? They're very much interested in what you're doing, particularly if you come from smaller towns. It's a good way to get the message out that you're being assigned overseas, and you're going to tell them what you've done if you come back. I think that those are tried and true ways at least to begin to crack the barrier that Marc and you have so eloquently described.

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: We actually do have a program called Hometown Diplomats that was instituted about a decade ago in Public Affairs. And when you go home on home leave or visit your folks or your loved ones, you can -- you should be going back to your old high school or local newspaper to talk about your experience. I do think that the retail basis that Marc describes, the retail attitude, is very important.

AMBASSADOR NEWSOM: One attitude in the Foreign Service that I encountered in my generation, which I'm sure has disappeared now, was a dread of a co-del. (Laughter.) And I frequently, particularly when I was an ambassador, had to stress to members of my embassy this is your great opportunity to connect with a member of Congress, and don't start out by telling the member of Congress more than he or she may want to know about the country you are in, start by asking them about their own constituency, what their concerns are. Get them on your side that way, and then tell them about the Foreign Service.

DEPUTY SECRETARY KIMMITT: Yeah, I would just add to that when I was Ambassador in Bonn, it was a little tough to get co-dels to come to Bonn. (Laughter.) They enjoy going to London and Paris, down to Rome. Bonn was a little bit more difficult. We worked them pretty hard when they came. You had to sort of think of creative ways to get them to come; first of all, send the message that David mentioned, you know, to the country team that it is important, it's a great way to tell the story of the Foreign Service.

But secondly, look at it from their perspective that there is a political risk dimension of overseas travel for legislators that has developed over the past 15 to 20 years. So what you have to do is to find a way that makes it politically palatable and acceptable for them to travel, and certainly if you're in a developed country, having them visit the subsidiary in that country of a business headquartered in their state or to visit the headquarters of a company in your country of assignment that is looking to invest in the United States is always a politically acceptable way. You then meet their need, but then you have a chance to sit down and talk to them about what you're doing.

I think, too, when you get to difficult places like Iraq and elsewhere, it is important for them to see the Foreign Service out on the front line. They should get out to see the PRTs in Anbar Province. They should sit down and talk with Ambassador Charlie Ries about what he is doing with a big interagency team so that we don't let them, whether it be the press or the Congress, put us in the silos that we're trying very hard to break down.

QUESTION: Hi, my name is Connie Arvis. I'm a Deputy in the Oceans Affairs Office. I come here as 12 years of Foreign Service followed by five years of Civil Service. And I wanted to get back to the question of resources. The Department essentially has two personnel systems. Movement between them by individuals is relatively difficult. I wondered if you might comment, does that make sense in this era of tight resources when we get to the question of breadth.

And if it does, why? And if not, what could we do to change that? Thank you.

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: I'm looking at a former Director General to my right and a committee report writer to my left. I don't know if either of you have ideas on that.

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: I yield to Marc. (Laughter.)

AMBASSADOR GROSSMAN: Actually, I'm glad to have that coming, that question yielded to me, because I think you're exactly right. I think the idea that we have the two systems here that it's hard to move back and forth is just, as Arnie Kantor said, still one of these leftovers from the past.

I'm sure that there's some big, gigantic way to fix this problem. I always thought that there was a simple way to fix this problem, which was that if it would be possible for the Department to carve out for Civil Service people here, for Civil Service people to carry their rank in person, like a Foreign Service officer does, rather than a rank in job, then a lot of things would open up. You'd be able -- Civil Service people would be able to move more quickly among jobs. They'd be able to compete more effectively for jobs.

And I don't say that that -- maybe you could make the argument, if the Administration wished to, that you don't have to apply that all across the government. But certainly in this opportunity and in this Department, if Civil Service people could carry their rank in person, it would go a long way.

Second, I think that if you could accomplish that task, or maybe even if you can't accomplish that task, there ought to be a real career path for Civil Service people going forward so that Civil Service people can see that, as you say, 12 years in one system, five years in another, well, what's my expectation for the next seven years that I'm in the Civil Service? Well, it ought to be a career path and it ought to be including, as the system does now, to open opportunities overseas, for some small number of people but an increasing number of people ambassadorships as well, service in the Under Secretary's office, for example. And I know Nick does this.

So I think there are a lot of opportunities, but we've got to break through this issue of where you carry your rank. And a lot of good things, bad things about the Foreign Service. One of the really good things about the Foreign Service is rank in person.

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Other questions? We haven't heard from A100 yet. We'll start calling on you if you don't get up and ask a question. (Laughter.)

We're going to go about ten more minutes. Is that agreeable to everyone? We're a little bit over time, but I want to give you a chance to talk to my predecessors.


QUESTION: Good afternoon, gentlemen. My name is Andrea Tomaszewicz. I'm a Foreign Service officer and I'm in the Office of Iraq Economic Affairs here. I took my Foreign Service written exam on September 22nd, 2001, so 11 days after 9/11. And I had registered sometime back in July and August.

And my question is, for the majority of us that have now entered the Foreign Service in the past five years, we don't know the Foreign Service of the Cold War. We don't know the State Department or public diplomacy or foreign diplomacy of the Cold War, as you described earlier, Ambassador Kantor.

So how do I communicate with the leadership here in the Department of my experience as a Foreign Service officer as my awareness of the world in the light of what has happened, in the wake of the reports that are coming out? How do I create the conversation with my leadership to discuss those reports and have a conversation and a dialogue as colleagues and member of an organization that I love and want to succeed going forward? Thank you.

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Thank you very much. I'll just swing at it first and say thank you for asking the question the way you did. When I was speaking to the A100 class last week, we talked about the fact that to be successful as a Department, we have to create an environment where people feel free to speak up. And what we expect of all of you, particularly the younger officers coming in, is to speak up. We're hierarchical, so once the President or the Secretary of State or the ambassador or consular chief makes a decision, we have to salute and we support that policy, publicly and privately. But until that decision is made, it ought to be a competition of ideas. And I do think the Department can operate like that. Country teams operate like that.

I can tell you, as an ambassador, you want people to come in, to walk in that door and say I've got two ideas for how we can do Project X better, or have you thought about doing something differently? Or that speech you gave last week, I really wouldn't have put it quite that way, the way you made that major point. People want that kind of feedback. People aren't going to be challenged by it, but they'll expect it.

And I think too often in the Foreign Service we are -- we are quite deferential by nature to authority. And I think the authority figures -- your ambassadors and your first boss in the Foreign Service -- are you going to want you to come in and tell them what's on your mind and tell them how to improve the job that you're doing, that the embassy's doing or the Department is doing. So I think we have that kind of environment. You're right, we are facing a transitional era in the Foreign Service -- (end of Side A) -- comes in, as the Grossman report has just come in.

We now need to begin to think through how to structure ourselves differently here in this building -- and Arnie has given us some ideas about that today -- but also overseas. So it's a time to make your voice heard, and I think there will be channels to do that as the Secretary reviews both of these reports.

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Could I just make an additional remark? I think the question is a very good one. I don't think it's because your supervisors grew up in the Cold War. I think the problem is the culture. And I think that if there is a problem, at least 50 percent it may be on your side, but the other 50 percent is on the supervisor's side. And I think that supervisors who have been around longer ought to be more amenable, if I could put it this way, to direction.

And over the years, we have tried to work with supervisors. It needs constant attention. I've seen it in private industry and I see it here. If supervisors aren't opening the door and bringing people in and asking for their ideas and reviewing their own ideas as supervisors with their staffs, then they're missing the bet, in my view, that no one is capable of being, in a sense, the fountainhead of every good idea. And no good idea, I think, has been produced solely from one person in this Department.

I used to think that during the Cold War this Department had a practice 85 percent of saying no and 15 percent to saying yes. If you can help with your ideas to move it back on the scale -- I don't know where it is now, it may be a lot better, I suspect it is, Nick -- but if you can use your ideas and your own thinking to move it back on the scale, I think it's extremely important. But if the Department isn't weighing in with the supervisors, then that, too, I think, is a missed opportunity.

I never -- I tried -- put it this way. I tried never to send a cable out of my own with at least -- without at least asking my DCM to give it a really solid look and sometimes more. And I think that that was not a practice of timidity; it was a practice of wondering whether, in fact, a good checker wouldn't, in fact, approve what I had to say or tell me I was totally off the wall. But I think that if your supervisors are not following that pattern, then they need to. And my view would be that don't be timid. Tell them that you've got thoughts that you want to share with them, ask them for their ideas. You may be able to use the Dave Newsom approach with the Congress: Tell me about your constituency, Mr. Supervisor, before I tell you what you need to do. (Laughter.)

DEPUTY SECRETARY KIMMITT: I would just echo what Tom said. Interesting that you're from the Iraq economic affairs teams. Our attaché, who has been in Baghdad for about a year, is back. He's actually going back to the private sector. We had a nice ceremony for him, gave him a nice award. But I got a call Friday from our econ team, said, hey, we're going to take him out to lunch before he goes, would you like to join us? And you know, this is someone four or five levels below me, but these are as hard a working group as I have at the Department. What a great opportunity. Of course, I'm going to go, both to honor this fellow's service, but I want to hear what's on their minds. What are we doing right in the Department? What are we doing right with the State Department and certainly what can we correct going forward? So you know, I think I'll probably end up paying for the lunch, but that's fine. (Laughter.)

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: All right. Talk about undue deference. Someone has an opportunity to ask the last question. Here we go.

QUESTION: I guess -- well, hopefully it doesn't fall to me, but my name is Marcel Davis. I'm with the FSI IRM Executive Potential Program. There's a -- we're the first. There's five of us that are here. And we had the pleasure of analyzing the CSIS report that recently came out. And in the report that we got out of it was the untethering of the U.S. diplomat. And basically what Ambassador Pickering was saying, it's not just about the building, it's about the U.S. diplomat themselves, embedding themselves inside of the society and amongst the communities. And that's where that transitional diplomacy is coming out.

And besides that, also it's utilizing the technology. You know, those of us in IRM, we need to reengineer ourselves to find out how are we going to give that to the A100 class. And part of that we got out was in the training -- Dave mentioned it in the book -- to have a technology center. Well, part of that would be people coming through the A100 would go through this center, learn about the virtual presence posts, learn about the APP post and all these things. And when they leave the school, they will know how to build a website, they will know how to use that Blackberry. You know, but on the other hand, though, we want to address the concerns about security. If we imbed the people, how are we going to guarantee their security? Or I mean, it's not me as IRM, but as far as the Department as a whole, you know, but I guess that's part of the Foreign Service.


AMBASSADOR GROSSMAN: Thank you very much, and I appreciate the fact that someone's read this report. That's really excellent. (Laughter.) We'll let the people who funded the report know that they can come to you. (Laughter.) But I think it's great and you've obviously got -- that's exactly the message that we were trying to convey.

If I could just make three points. One is on the technology center, I think you're right, sir, to say, well, the people from the A100 course can go through the technology center and learn something. Our suspicion as well is actually that the people who come through the A100 course, they're going to teach us something because we're dealing with a generation of people who are not, as I am, as is called -- what is it? -- a technology immigrant but, in effect, a technology native. And I think that people have a huge amount to teach us in terms of technology.

And to go to the previous question, one of the ways to start a conversation, I think in the future or even now in the State Department, will be a lot of inward-facing blogs. You know, an interesting question about how to have an outward-facing blog at the Department, given discipline and hierarchy, but what about inward-facing.

Second point is that you're exactly right as well about untethering. It was interesting that when people from CSIS came to us to see if we would do this report, they wanted kind of an architecture report. What would the buildings look like? And I said, well, I'm not really interested in doing an architecture report. What I'm interested in doing is how does the job change and then how do you take that changed job and put it on a platform. And you're exactly right; we said it's a dispersed platform, it's an untenured -- not untenured, an untethered platform. (Laughter.) And because of that, there is this deep, deep need for technology.

But you also put your point -- that last point is really important, which is there is no guarantee of security. And the farther out people are, the less guarantee there is. And as you read in the report, we talked about the need to change the President's letter to ambassadors about force protection. We talked about the need to change the ARB process. And we need -- we talked about the need -- and I did have a chance to talk to Dr. Rice about this -- about beginning a conversation in our society about the risk that diplomats have always taken, but now are going to take, I think, in increasing numbers. And what if someone is hurt and what if someone is killed? And as you say, that's part of the Foreign Service, and yet our society needs to deal with these issues, it seems to me, in a very straightforward way.

So that's why all of the pieces in the report are very much related, and I thank you for reading it.

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Before we let this wonderful audience go back to its work, are there any concluding comments -- Tom, Arnie, Bob, David -- that you'd like to make?

Thank you very, very much for being with us. It's been a pleasure to have you with us, and thanks to all of these great ambassadors for having come back to the State Department today. Thank you. (Applause.)

Released on November 20, 2007


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