There are certain challenges to having an effective global policy. We may often look toward the environment and other actors, usually adversaries, but what about organisational structures and culture? Recent articles and blog posts on the structural and personnel challenges in the State Department reminded me of a journal article I came across, "The Reorganization of the Department of State." Published in The American Political Science Review, Vol 38, No 2, in April 1944, it was written by Walter H. C. Laves and Francis O. Wilcox. Both were on leave from the Bureau of the Budget, the predecessor to today's Office of Management and Budget, both were diplomats, and arguably public diplomats. Laves worked in the Office of Inter-American Affairs, a Presidential office intended to counter German influence in the Western Hemisphere, later the Deputy Director at UNESCO (1947-1950), and a professor of political science. Wilcox joined the State Department in 1942 and was the first chief of staff to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (1947-1951), and later the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (1955-1961).
While the entire "The Reorganization of the Department of State" is worth reading, the opening paragraphs below is a proper setup.
"For many years there has been widespread discussion of the need for reorganizing the Department of State. Students, publicists, members of Congress, and members of the Department itself have repeatedly pointed out that the Department has not been geared up to performing the functions required of the foreign office of a great twentieth-century world power.
The chief criticisms of the Department have been four: (1) that there was lacking a basic pattern of sound administrative organization, (2) that the type of personnel found both at home and abroad was inadequate for the job required in foreign affairs today, (3) that the Department was too far removed from the public and from Congress, and (4) that it was not prepared to provide leadership for, and maintain the necessary relations with, other federal agencies."
The paper was written in 1944 after the first of two Departmental Orders of that year were issued to reorganize the State Department. The first was dated January 15 and the second December 20. Let me emphasize that this reorganization was done by the Department and did not require Congressional pressure, at least direct pressure, or legislation. After decades of legislative action and changed oversight by authorizers and appropriators, and similar autonomy is not available today.
Laves and Wilcox followed up with another journal article in April 1945, "The State Department Continues Its Reorganization." The article is also worth reading, but below are two excerpts that will be of interest to readers today.
At the outset, it should be repeated that it would be difficult to overemphasize the importance of these reorganizations for the conduct of our foreign affairs. For in spite of the importance of international organization to world order, we should never forget that the smooth functioning of the international machinery we set up and the success of the peace we establish will depend in large measure upon how effectively the various states organize their national governments to carry on the complicated relations of the international community.
Continuing attention will need to be given the complex problem of inter-agency relations resulting from the fact that domestic and international affairs are now so completely interdependent that the resources of all agencies of the government must be mobilized for the conduct of our foreign relations. This problem is clearly recognized in the functions given the Joint Secretariat, as well as in other specific arrangements for liaison relations under the latest reorganization.
It is interesting, and sometimes a bit distressing, that some passages from reports and articles that are 50-60 years old, when we were preparing for or engaged in an enduring "struggle for minds and wills," could have been written today. The arc of U.S. public diplomacy might be more aptly described as a spiral: always in motion and nearly making a full circle as it goes up or down and covering an always changing surface area.