Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The United States will shift hundreds of its diplomats from Washington and Europe to emerging countries over the next few years as part of a broad reconfiguration of the Foreign Service and its mission, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday.

Miss Rice said U.S. envoys would be asked to spend less time on traditional diplomacy — monitoring political developments and talking to officials — and more time traveling outside the capitals “to help foreign citizens better their own lives.”

The State Department employs about 6,400 Foreign Service officers, about one-third of whom are stationed in Washington, one senior official said.

“We will begin this year with a down payment of moving 100 positions from Europe and, yes, from here in Washington, D.C., to countries like China and India and Nigeria and Lebanon, where additional staffing will make an essential difference,” Miss Rice said in a speech at Georgetown University.

“Over the next few years, the United States will begin to shift several hundred of our diplomatic positions to new critical posts for the 21st century,” she said.

A senior department official said he did not expect objections to U.S. diplomatic expansion from China or any other country.

Miss Rice said the current deployment of diplomatic resources no longer reflects the relative strategic importance of regions and countries.

The United States has “nearly the same number of State Department personnel in Germany — a country of 82 million people — that we have in India — a country of 1 billion people,” she said. There are “nearly 200 cities worldwide with over 1 million people in which the United States has no formal diplomatic presence.”

“This is where the action is today, and this is where we must be,” she said. “To reach citizens in bustling new population centers, we cannot always build new consulates beyond a nation’s capital.”

In her first attempt to explain “transformational diplomacy” — a phrase she introduced during her Senate confirmation hearing last year — Miss Rice cited the democratic changes the United States helped to bring about in Germany and Japan after World War II.

“We must begin to lay the diplomatic foundations to secure a future of freedom for all people,” she said.

“America has done this kind of work before,” she said. “Our diplomacy was instrumental in transforming devastated countries into thriving democratic allies — allies who joined with us for decades in the struggle to defend freedom from communism.”

The phrase “transformational diplomacy,” the secretary said, means working “to build and sustain democratic, well-governed states that will respond to the needs of their people and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system.”

“We seek to use America’s diplomatic power to help foreign citizens better their own lives and to build their own nations and to transform their own futures,” she said.

U.S. diplomats have done this type of work for decades but in the future will spend much more time on it, actively helping foreign citizens to “fight corruption, start businesses, improve health care and reform education,” the State Department said.

Officials stressed that the Foreign Service will not abandon its responsibilities of reporting and analyzing developments in foreign countries and maintaining relations with their governments.

“We are making these changes by shifting existing resources to meet our new priorities, but we are also eager to work more closely with Congress to enhance our global strategy with new resources and new positions,” Miss Rice said.

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