The State Department and USAID are often conflated as parts of America’s “soft power” apparatus. And it’s true that in the broadest sense they seek to, as a joint mission statement puts it, “shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world, and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere.” But beyond that they are dissimilar in every important way: The tasks they perform, what they value, their operating principles and how they carry out their work are profoundly different.
Rex Tillerson is clamping down further on hiring as part of his push to overhaul the U.S. State Department, in a move likely to exacerbate concerns that a large number of unfilled jobs is diminishing his agency’s role in shaping foreign policy. In a memo sent June 26 and obtained by Bloomberg News, bureaus are ordered to temporarily stop all transfers and reassignments and are barred from appointing new envoys. Any other request to “increase, expand or proliferate organization structures in the Department” must also be stopped.
The United States State Department’s Premier Leadership Programme is designed to expose international leaders in their field to the work done by their American counterparts. The theme of the exchange was centered on the sustainable use and management of ocean resources and numerous meetings and information exchanges were held with various governmental, non-governmental and industry partners.
This month, I resigned from the State Department’s Foreign Service, stepping down as the senior U.S. diplomat in China and ending a 27-year career. [...] When the administration decided to withdraw from the Paris agreement on climate change, however, I concluded that, as a parent, patriot and Christian, I could not in good conscience be involved in any way, no matter how small, with the implementation of that decision.
Dozens of young minority and female State Department recruits received startling and unwelcome news last week: They would not be able to soon join the Foreign Service despite having been promised that opportunity. Their saga is just the latest sign that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s rush to slash the size of the State Department without a plan is harming diplomacy and having negative unintended effects.
The use of sport as an instrument of foreign policy is nothing new for the U.S. government. [...] The Sports Diplomacy Division of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs employs only five staffers and spends only .0001 percent of the Department budget. And yet, it has still managed to recruit some of the country's most celebrated athletes to the cause, and its programs have reached thousands of people in more than 100 countries over the past 15 years.
I believe that a final, negotiated FY 2018 budget request for the State Department should include continued funding – if not a gradual increase – of what has been a relatively small amount of money allocated every year to the soft power of “cultural diplomacy.” Roughly defined as the use of an exchange of ideas, traditions, and values to strengthen relations and encourage engagement, cultural diplomacy is perhaps most easily seen in the use of music, arts, and sports to build cross-cultural understanding.