State Department officials say the Obama
administration is planning a major increase in the size of the overseas
U.S. diplomatic corps as part of its commitment to international
engagement. The expansion of U.S. diplomacy is a key element of the
nearly $54 billion international affairs budget sent to Congress
The Obama administration has promised the exercise of
what it terms smart power in international affairs that puts diplomacy
and foreign aid on an equal footing with military action.
new budget makes at least a down-payment on that doctrine by financing
a major build-up in the U.S. diplomatic presence abroad.
briefing for reporters, senior officials said the $54 billion budget
for the next fiscal year - a nine per cent increase over current
spending levels - sets in motion a 25 per cent increase in the size of
the 6,600 member State Department foreign service corps over three
The number of overseas employees of the U.S. Agency for
International Development, which administers U.S. aid programs, would
be doubled from the current level of 1,000 employees -- in keeping with
a plan to double U.S. foreign aid by 2015.
Deputy Secretary of
State for Management and Resources Jacob Lew says the goal cannot be
achieved without the requisite number of people abroad to manage the
programs. "If you think about the objective of doubling the foreign
assistance program, that can't happen without having this expanded,
well-trained foreign service corps to be out there implementing it. And
they really go hand-in-glove. And that's very much a new direction that
we're on," he said.
The officials say the Obama administration
plans to cut back on the use of private contractors in U.S. overseas
programs, a practice that has been controversial - especially in Iraq
where American security contractors were involved in shooting incidents
that led to civilian deaths.
The new foreign affairs budget
would, among other things, fully fund U.S. financial commitments to
international organizations and development banks including the
elimination of long-standing U.S. arrears to the United Nations.
United States has in the past withheld dues from some U.N. activities
like controversial family-planning programs, and disputed some
assessments for peace-keeping. Deputy Secretary Lew says further
arrears are incompatible with the new administration's commitment to
"I think the President and the Secretary have
been very clear that the United States is going to be engaging very
actively in the international arena and the international community.
And one of the things we have to do as the largest participant in many
of these efforts is that if we have commitments to pay our bills - we
need to pay our bills," he said.
The new budget further enhances
training for U.S. diplomats in languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Hindi
and Urdu - reflecting a shift in emphasis begun by the Bush
administration in overseas deployments. It also provides funds for
security upgrades or entirely new U.S. embassies and missions in
critical posts, among them Kabul, Islamabad, Peshawar, Sanaa and Dakar.