|Ambassador L. Craig Johnstone
Director of Resources, Plans and Policy
"Strategic Planning and International Affairs in the 21st Century"
Remarks at opening session of the Conference Series on International Affairs in the 21st Century
State Department's Dean Acheson Auditorium, Washington, DC,
November 18, 1997
Mark, thank you very much for your kind introduction and thank you for Open Forum's willingness to host this event. I want to thank Todd Greentree and Bill Duffy for the extraordinary work they have done on the Strategic Plan and Alan Lang and others for all that they have done on this conference series. And finally, at the risk of turning this into an Oscar acceptance speech, many thanks to all of you for having come here today for the opening round of our Conference Series on International Affairs in the 21st Century.
At one time or another I have spoken to the majority, if not all of you, on the International Affairs Budget. Today, I am here to talk with you about a related but different subject; I want to address the profound changes we see in the international environment and their implications for us.
It has been six years since the official collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. For six years we have talked about little else, celebrating the end of the Cold War without, I would submit, yet clearly setting forth our vision of what comes next. For six years we have given lip service to the changes we all see around us, but for the most part we have continued to do business in the same old way.
We are here today as part of a process to change that, to put the past to rest and take the measure of our future. We are here today to initiate a revolution, a revolution in how we think and act about American foreign policy.
A "revolution?" Does the end of the Cold War require that we have revolutionary change in the way we conduct foreign policy? Actually, I don't think so. If the end of the Cold War were the only change we were facing, revolutionary change would not required. But in fact, the end of the Cold War is only one facet of what is happening to us, and important though it may be, it is not the most important of the many changes we face today. Let me suggest two other areas of probably greater importance.
First, we have experienced -- are experiencing -- an information revolution. Today all of humankind is linked by almost instantaneous communications. There is no corner of the globe that is not accessible to us, or us to them. Marshall McLuhan's global village is upon us with, as we shall see, profound consequences.
I woke up to this reality when I served as Ambassador to Algeria. I did not have access to global news so I bought and installed a satellite dish so that I could pick up CNN. The first week I had it running was the week of the Arab League summit in Algiers and, for whatever reason, the Department was interested in finding out whether Yasser Arafat would attend the summit. No one knew, and the day of the summit Washington was getting more frantic. We in the Embassy were banned from the summit site so there was no way we could find out whether or not Yasser Arafat would show. Finally, at about noon, I was home for lunch and watching CNN when the office of the Secretary of State called. The staffer on the other end asked if there was anything at all he could tell the Secretary about Arafat's participation. And just then, on CNN I saw a live picture of Yasser Arafat arriving at the conference. "He is definitely at the conference," I reported. The staffer was ecstatic and went off to tell the Secretary. The next day I received a congratulatory phone call from the NEA bureau for pulling the rabbit out of the hat. How did you find out, they asked? The secret was mine. But I knew then and there that the business of diplomacy had changed, that the role of Embassies, how we do business in the world, also had to change.
There is another profound change. Just as the information revolution has brought the world into our lives, we, humankind, have begun to see ourselves and where we are headed in a different light. The first pictures of earth beamed back to us from space showed us an exquisite but very finite world. And, as we contemplated Spaceship Earth, we began to understand the consequences of exponential population growth and the irresponsible use of limited resources. We could see that that the essential elements of international relations in the 21st century would likely relate less to the relationships between states than to the relationship between humankind and its finite environment.
Take these three events, the end of Cold War, the information revolution, and our belated awareness of humankind's role in the world, and you have a paradigm shift so profound that it forces us to reconsider the very essence of foreign policy. In fact, I would argue with you today that foreign policy, as we have known it, is dead.
Foreign policy is dead, first and foremost because it is no longer foreign. Think back to the "good" old days of the Cold War. Our global mission was clear, we engaged in containment, taking on the Soviet Union anywhere it challenged our interests. Our domestic policy focused on the economy, on race relations and other purely domestic issues. The Congress even built budgetary firewalls between domestic and foreign policies.
How different things are today. The world has invaded us, and we have invaded it. Almost every major international issue today has a domestic consequence, more visible and direct than ever before. Almost every major domestic issue has an international component. The distinctions between domestic and foreign are gone. Look at the issues.
The principal preoccupation of Americans is on drugs and crime. And the fight against drugs and crime has major international components. Our stolen cars end up in El Salvador or Guatemala, or Poland. Our drugs come from Peru or Pakistan or Burma or elsewhere and transit almost anywhere. Crime cartels spread tentacles from Nigeria or Russia or Columbia. Today it is inconceivable to consider a coordinated attack on crime without working a part of the strategy in the international arena.
This past week we have been reminded of the World Trade Center bombing, of the attack on the CIA employees right here in Washington. International terrorism has reached our shores.
If it isn't crime that concerns Americans, it's the economy. Gone are the days when the economy could be dealt with as a part of domestic policy. One-third of new jobs are being created by exports. Exports drive our economic growth. Our well being is intimately tied to our global relationships, to our ability to open markets. We have interlinked investments -- a market crash in Hong Kong is felt immediately by pensioners in Dubuque.
And today we recognize that we cannot deal with the threats to our environment, to assaults on biodiversity, with domestic policy. Ozone layer depletion and global warming cannot be addressed by domestic environmental regulations alone. When Americans begin to understand that the future of their children and their grandchildren depends on addressing these problems they will insist that our government play its appropriate role and that role will be played our in the international arena.
Over and over again we find issues that are domestic in consequence but international in scope. These are the consuming issues of the 21st century and it is only through international activities that they can be addressed. The work in which we in the business of diplomacy must engage is no longer foreign. Foreign policy is dead because it isn't foreign any longer.
But that is not the only sense in which foreign policy has changed. Foreign policy is not foreign, but it is also no longer only policy. This shift is less apparent but for those of us in the business of diplomacy it is every bit as profound. Think back to containment, to the lines drawn on the map between East and West Europe, North and South Korea, between Taiwan and mainland China. The Cold War was a giant game of chess played between powerful adversaries. Every move calculated and considered. The possible moves of opponents anticipated and plotted. The emphasis was on knowing what was going on, on analysis, on making the right move, on articulating it, and advocating our position with others. Analysis, decisions, articulation and advocacy were the necessary, and sufficient, tools of the trade of 20th-century diplomacy. They will be no less necessary in the 21st century, but they will now be insufficient.
The new issues of international affairs, narcotics, law enforcement, the environment, population, export promotion -- all require some level of analysis, decision making, articulation and advocacy, but they also require the tools of program management: goal definition, program development, variance analysis and the effective deployment of resources. Fundamental management skills, of the kind necessary to actually deploy resources and programs on behalf of objectives, are the key to success in dealing with the new global issues.
I am reminded of my own experiences working as a career Foreign Service Officer during the Reagan Administration. We were faced with the prospect of Soviet missiles in Nicaragua and Secretary Haig, who was planning a visit to Moscow, wanted to make the leaders of the Soviet Union understand how seriously we took the prospect of Soviet missiles so close to our shores. The debate arose between our Bureaus of European Affairs and our Political Military Bureau on the language Secretary Haig should use in a forthcoming meeting with the Soviet leadership. The European Bureau thought we should tell the Soviets that missiles in Nicaragua would be "unacceptable", whereas the Political Military Bureau thought that a tougher formulation would be to describe the missile deployment as "inadmissible". The debate raged inconclusively until the day arrived for Haig to meet with the Soviet leaders. And in the meeting Haig turned to his Soviet interlocutor and said Mr. Chairman, I must tell you that if you put missiles into Nicaragua, "Poof". The right message was sent with just enough ambiguity to cause the Soviets to ask later for a more precise definition of "poof".
My point here is simple. The work that went into this small corner of Cold War policy went into development of the policy, not its implementation. Implementation took a nanosecond. Contrast this with the challenge of stemming the flow of international narcotics, or restoring the ozone layer. Policy formulation, in this case, is relatively straightforward, it is getting the job done that is difficult -- setting up the alternative development programs, the police training, the anti-corruption campaigns that work against narcotics production. Closing down the factories that produce ozone depleting substances. Almost every aspect of the new international issues with which we deal requires on-the-ground program development and management skills.
There is another difference. When Haig went to Moscow it was he who was implementing policy. Geopolitics often is implemented at the top of the organization. The Secretary of State is deployed here or there to meet with this or that party to spell out policy, and in the spelling out, to implement it. But program-intensive policies of the type needed to deal with a growing number of international issues cannot be implemented at the top of the organization, they must be implemented at the bottom. It is the bottom of the organization that will carry out the family planning activity in the field, that will work to clean smokestack emissions, or train police to fight drugs or find stolen cars. It is the bottom of the organization that will engage in the myriad of other activities we are called upon to carry out in pursuit of our international objectives. In this sense, international affairs today more closely approximates the activities of a traditional private sector company. The organization is not there to support its leaders, who do all the work; the leaders are there to support and guide the organization, as it does the work.
The end of the Cold War, the information revolution, the recognition of global issues require of us new policies, new programs, new ways of doing business to deal with the challenges to modern society.
How can we, as a nation, deal with these changes to ensure that our interests are served?
First, we need to understand our mission, our goals and our capabilities.
Almost four years ago, when I came to the Department of State from the private sector, I was charged with pulling together the Function 150 -- the International Affairs -- Budget. We weren't given much time so we built the budget largely on what had been done previously, with an eye to what was possible given the funding constraints with which we all live. We did break new ground by arraying the budget by objective but still we all knew that ours was a singularly unsatisfactory process. We could describe the problems we faced in the world, and we could show that our programs were doing good things for humanity, and at least indirectly for Americans. But we could not draw the logical line between funds, programs and the achievement of concrete goals. When I asked our collective leadership if we were providing enough or insufficient funding to get done what we needed to get done, I got back a collective shrug. No one knew. They did not know because there were no specific objectives and hence no standards by which to measure success. They did not know because there were no processes or tools in place by which they could know.
This is not surprising; our Cold War strategy dictated that funds be deployed on behalf of our Cold War objectives. They were assets in a global competition for allegiance. They served their purpose when they were given, and how they were used was important but a strictly secondary concern as long as the funds helped people and scandals were avoided. Our post-Cold War environment is radically different. We do not need to spend funds to buy allegiances, nor can we afford to. Rather, we have a wide variety of urgent national interests to serve. Today funds must be deployed prudently and efficiently on behalf of those interests.
Our first task then has been to develop a mission statement, a clear articulation of what we want to get done in the years ahead. We have done this. Cross-functional teams with interagency input have developed an International Affairs Mission Statement carried in the International Affairs Strategic Plan. (Many of you have copies of this plan. For those who do not, you can pull it down from the State Department Home Page at www.state.gov.) This mission statement describes seven national interests that define the totality of our nation's international affairs objectives.
From this mission statement we have derived sixteen strategic goals. We have distributed them according to the seven national interests with which they are most closely identified, but recognize that any one of the strategic goals could serve any or several of the national interests. The strategic goals are elaborated in the rest of the International Affairs Plan. For each goal there is a brief description of the goal, the reason for its inclusion, the essential elements of the strategy to be used in achieving the goal, a list of underlying assumptions, and a preliminary list of performance indicators, the kind of information we will be seeking to measure progress toward achievement of the goals.
At the global level, these interests and goals are at a high level of generality. But we have taken them beyond the global level. This year's International Affairs Budget is being compiled on the basis of regional-level plans tied to these global goals. And we have now begun the process of taking the strategic plan to the country level working with Ambassadors in some preliminary pilot Embassies. At the Embassy level the goals become much more specific and the tie to programs and resources much clearer.
When this process is complete we will have in place a comprehensive but flexible strategic plan covering all of America's international activities. The global plan will be tied to country and regional plans and will be the principal means by which we measure long-term program and policy effectiveness. It will form the basis for our annual budget submissions to the Congress. In fact, the close link between these plans and our operating and programs budgets is the principal way in which this plan differs from a long list of past failed State Department planning efforts.
There will be many of you, particularly those from the private sector, who will see nothing revolutionary in approaching foreign policy this way -- you will be thinking that this is nothing more than common sense; how else could you do it? There undoubtedly will be others among you who will cling to the notion that foreign policy is the stuff of intellectual repartee and should remain unfettered by planning and resource management considerations.
Within the international affairs agencies themselves there will be resistance to change. There will be those concerned over the transparency of foreign policy that is implicit in such a planning process. There will those who will be concerned over the accountability to which they will be subject when goals are spelled out more clearly. And most of all there will be those who will point to past failed efforts and not believe that effective planning and resource management can be achieved in the realm of international affairs.
But I hope there will also be those of you who will see in this process a way by which our leaders can lead on more than just current events, a way in which we can ensure that we have the right people and right resources in place to serve our national interests, a way to enable American leadership on the critical issues of our time, indeed, a way for America to lead on behalf Americans and the rest of humanity in the 21st century.
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