Trimming The Bureaucracy

State department seal AP / CBS

CBS News State Department Reporter Charles Wolfson's latest Diplomatic Dispatch:
Administrations come and go but the bureaucracy remains forever. That's still true in the Nation's Capital for the most part, but at Colin Powell's Department of State there is actually a move underway to trim the sails on the bureaucratic structure of foreign policymaking.

Even as the Secretary of State appears before the House International Relations Committee to ask for full funding of President Bush's FY 2002 budget -- $23.9 billion for the department and other international relations accounts -- Powell will be able to tell legislators that he already has been at work to reduce the number of special envoys which he and Mr. Bush inherited from the Clinton Administration.

Twenty-three so-called "special envoy" positions have already been eliminated by Powell.

Gone are the Special Advisor on the Community of Democracies, the Senior Negotiator for Base Access and Burdensharing Issues and the Special Envoy for the Americas.

Then there is the Senior Coordinator for the Rule of Law, the Special Envoy for Conventional Forces in Europe and the Special Representative for the Southeast Europe Initiative. All gone.

Of course all the substantive work done by these offices will be carried on in one existing bureau or another, in keeping with Secretary Powell's stated objective of moving away from designating a special envoy for almost every problem area around the world.

Perhaps the best example of letting the core bureaucratic structure handle problems in its area is what has taken place regarding the Middle East Peace Process. Whatever negotiations there will be in this region while the Bush administration is in power will be handled by the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, or at least that's the plan. Gone is the Office of the Special Middle East Coordinator, headed by Ambassador Dennis Ross.

Ross -- known in diplomatic circles as the SMEC -- and members of his team spent the eight years of the Clinton administration shuttling back and forth between Israelis, Palestinians, Syrians and almost everyone else in the Middle East. They prepared for negotiations large and small, from the Wye River talks in 1998 to the Camp David Summit in 2000 to Mr. Clinton's meetings with the late Syrian president Hafez al-Asad in Geneva.

While Ross is now out of government service, he remains active in Middle East issues and is planning to write two books, one on the peace negotiations he has participated in and the other simply on the strategy of negotiating.

Some of the special envoys who had their temporary fiefdoms wiped off the organization chart were politically well connected to the past administration. The Rev. Jesse Jackson had the rather unwieldy title of Special Envoy of the President and the Secretary of State for the Promotion of Democracy and Human Rights in Africa. He's gonand so is that office. The same for former Democratic Congressman Howard Wolpe as the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes (the ones in central Africa, not the central United States).

The former NSC Advisor to Mr. Clinton, Anthony Lake, helped broker a peace accord between Ethiopia and Eritrea, thus there's no longer a need for a special representation to Ethiopia/Eritrea.

Before anyone gets the idea that the Secretary of State has done all he can in this area, however, it should be noted he has decided to retain no fewer than twenty-five other special envoy positions.

There is still a Special Coordinator for Tibetan Affairs and a Special Representative for Nagorno-Karabakh, not to mention an Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues and a Coordinator for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation.

Some positions are retained because of ongoing talks, like the Special Envoy for Korean Peace Talks. Others are kept because they have powerful patrons on Capital Hill who believe one issue or another deserves such special attention it must have its own specially designated envoy -- such as the Special Envoy for the Sudan, who is former Democratic Rep. Harry Johnston.

A few positions have been retained in areas of continuing interest. Still on the charts are the Special Negotiator for Fissile Material and the Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues.

The lists of positions slashed and retained seem to go on and on, just like any Washington bureaucracy. Powell may get a handle on a few areas where he can trim the federal work force, but he's far too experienced a Washington insider to think he can bring everything under control all at once.

The retired four-star army general and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will pick and choose his battles. But long after Secretary Powell is finished with his diplomatic duties, the foreign policy bureaucracy will be exerting its influence on the Department of State's organization chart.


By Charles Wolfson
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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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