Everyone wants a larger State Dept

My thoughts on Obama's national security team:

Assuming things work out between Obama and Clinton at State and Bill Clinton wherever he is, then this looks to be a very good cabinet. And I think things will work out.

But what is even better news is that Clinton, Gen. Jones (the national security adviser), and Gates at the Pentagon all signed on to Obama's core idea of shifting resources away from the Pentagon and towards the State Dept. This is a great idea and people have been screaming about it for years. In one of the first workshops I did in grad school, the professor pointed at someone and said "imagine you are the State Dept. rep and you have to argue against all of the rest of us from DoD. OK, now in real life it'd be you against the rest of the entire graduate program." While the Pentagon's budget is over $500 billion and including the wars and future medical costs may rise over $1 trillion (and some idiots want to pin it to 4% of GDP), the State Dept had a measly $10 billion for FY 2008.

Despite almost universal agreement that the State Department is under-resourced, Pentagon budgets have continued to outpace State budgets in growth because of lots of Congressional pork.  Probably the largest pork item is the United States Air Force.  OK, that was an exaggeration, but stuff like the F-22 which is projected to cost at least $62 billion is equal to the State Dept budget for six years, and this is for an aircraft with no actual mission other than to defeat imaginary Chinese planes.  Unfortunately for the State Department, it's budget doesn't create jobs in Congressional districts because they invest in people rather than buying stuff, so Congress doesn't throw $5 billion (half the State Dept's budget) at the State Dept in unwanted pork projects like they do the Pentagon.

Because Obama hasn't appointed any intelligence people yet, the intelligence community hasn't really been a part of this "national security team" rollout.  However the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community will be the happiest of all due to the proposed enlarging of the State Deptartment.  When the State Department shrinks, CIA officers overseas have to pick up the slack from there being fewer Foreign Service Officers.  FSOs usually report back to Washington intelligence that is easier to collect (intelligence collecting isn't their main function), and that allows CIA officers to concentrate on targeting their collection on harder targets.  But that basic embassy/elite chatter that FSOs report on is still important, and when FSO positions are cut because the State Dept budget is cut, that means CIA officers have less time to spend on harder (and more interesting) targets and have to report gossip instead.

Bottom line: Obama's national security team looks good, and the intelligence community should be very happy.

1 comment:

Digger said...

Good piece. I have quoted and linked to you here: http://lifeafterjerusalem.blogspot.com/2008/12/worldview-focus-is-on-soft-power.html