- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 30, 2001

'Serious disrepair'

The State Department is in a "state of serious disrepair," suffering from "long-term mismanagement, antiquated equipment and dilapidated and insecure facilities," according to a new report by a blue-ribbon commission.

The report by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Center for Strategic and International Studies urges President Bush to treat the crisis at the State Department as a threat to national security.

The State Department yesterday said it welcomed the report and does not consider it "accusatory," said spokesman Richard Boucher.

"We have been talking about the need for funding and resources, especially for security, for technology, for adequate personnel, so that we can have time for training. And we've recognized the need for reform of many things in this building itself and started to look at issues of hiring, of retention," he said.

The commission, chaired by former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci, called on Mr. Bush to issue a presidential directive to set forth an action plan for reform. The directive should make clear that Secretary of State Colin Powell is in charge of reforming the department.

A "presidential mandate" is necessary to "force change upon resistant bureaucracies," the report said.

It called for Mr. Bush to form a partnership with Congress in order to get a larger budget to make the costly repairs identified in the report.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright has warned that the $15 billion foreign-operations bill is too little to cover personnel costs and construction repairs that were identified during the Clinton administration.

The Carlucci report urges Mr. Bush to propose a "resources-for-reform" plan to lawmakers.

"Congress could expect from you the fundamental changes that it has tried to promote, particularly: improved and sustained consultations with the executive branch on all matters of foreign policy; a tighter integration of the policies and budgets that constitute U.S. foreign policy; and a centralization of management and budgetary authority within the Department of State," the report states.

Currently, the department has "dysfunctional human-resource policies" that are causing problems in recruiting career diplomats. The department needs to attract about 700 foreign-service officers to meet its global diplomatic requirements.

Overseas posts are in a shambles, the report said. Ninety-two percent of U.S. embassies, consulates and other diplomatic missions have "obsolete classified [communications] networks."

State Department facilities are "shabby and insecure" and "frequently" fail to meet federal workplace safety standards, the report said.

"If this deterioration continues, our ability to use statecraft to avoid, manage and resolve crises and to deter aggression will decline, increasing the likelihood that America will have to use military force to protect our interests abroad," the report said.

The commission told Mr. Bush, "The dilapidated state of America's foreign-policy apparatus is a national-security crisis that warrants your personal attention."

Mexico, South Korea

Secretary of State Colin Powell will meet today with the foreign minister of Mexico and next week hold talks with his counterpart from South Korea, as he continues a busy schedule of getting to know foreign leaders.

His meeting with Jorge Castaneda is part of the planning for President Bush's trip to Mexico on Feb. 16 to meet President Vicente Fox.

"The [two foreign] secretaries will be going over the agenda for the trip and review many of the issues that make up this extremely deep and complex relationship," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

On Feb. 7, Mr. Powell will meet Yi Chong-pin, South Korea's minister for foreign affairs and trade.

"They'll discuss a range of important issues, including the unprecedented opportunities for reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula," Mr. Boucher said.

"We look forward to building a close and productive working relationship with Foreign Minister Yi and to further deepening our vital security and economic partnership.

"This partnership has worked to promote peace, prosperity and democracy in North Asia for over five decades."

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