Diplomatic Featherbedding

Hook, Janet

Diplomatic Featherbedding by Janet Hook Back in the days of World War 11, Londonís Grosvenor Square was known as Little America; with the American embassy on one side and General...

...FBISís other service-providing such reports from other foreign capitals to the London embassy-also doesnít justify maintaining such a large staff...
...The ICA also runs an information library in the embassy that far exceeds local needs...
...Information about the United States is available in abundance in Londonís own excellent libraries...
...FBIS monitors foreign radio programming...
...Diplomatic Featherbedding by Janet Hook Back in the days of World War 11, Londonís Grosvenor Square was known as Little America...
...Today, in Great Britain in particular, the ICA is an absurdity...
...London is just probably the most egregious example...
...The increase is due not to the State Department-the number of Foreign Service personnel in London has not shrunk as it should have, but it has not increased dramatically either-but to a massive influx over the last three Janet Hook was an intern at The Washington Monthly and is now doinggraduate workat the London School of Economics...
...Where, then, do the other 312 people working in the embassy come from and what are they doing there...
...Although t h e Anglo-American alliance no longer dominates world affairs, the United States embassy in London today houses a staff of almost 700 people, which is more than twice the size it was immediately after World War II...
...In addition, some four dozen other agencies, whose primary concerns are domestic, have become involved in overseas activities...
...If the idea is to have these resources centralized, the ICA collection could be donated to London Universityís already extensive United States Library, rather than kept in this superfluous and costly facility...
...The British are as well disposed to the United States as they could possibly be, and our educational and cultural ties are almost incestuously close...
...It seems unlikely that Washington as a whole will change, so reform in an embassy like Londonís is most likely to come from careful scrutiny of each agencyís activities there...
...Today, Foreign Service employees make up only slightly more than half of the London embassy staff...
...Since the war, our foreign affairs bureaucracy has expanded to include independent agencies, such as the CIA, the Agency for International Development, and the International Communications Agency, which conduct their own overseas operations side by side with the Department of State...
...But they all ought to be examined as they havenít been since 1960...
...products...
...The ICA serves as the public affairs section of the embassy, performing some routine functions like press relations and advising the ambassador on British public opinion...
...The implications of this situation should be obvious: with the addition of employees of so many different Washington agencies, the embassy has all the makings of a replica, on a small scale, of the federal government with a l l i t s intramural conflict and competition...
...But our business contacts in Great Britain are already good and trade information is readily available...
...FBIS, an otherwise obscure organization, is remarkably conspicuous in the London embassy...
...However, the main function of the ICA is propaganda: promoting understanding of and sympathy for American policies...
...Itís hard to believe that the44 State Department employees working in the embassyís economic and commercial affairs section and the 22 people employed in the consulates outside of London couldnít serveall the Commerce Departmentís needs...
...People in diplomatic circles still like to talk about the ďspecial relationshipĒ between England and America, but in fact, Great Britain simply isnít such an important or useful ally anymore...
...Another agency in the London embassy that seems to be peculiarly over-represented is the Foreign Broadcasting Information Service...
...with the American embassy on one side and General Eisenhowerís headquarters on another, the square was the center of relations between what were then two great world powers...
...It was felt then that the objectives of the free world had to be aggressively promulgated to combat communist propaganda...
...The Commerce Department, for example, sends its representatives overseas to gather information about foreign market conditions and to promote American trade...
...The Drug Enforcement Agency might have a case here, but there are other agencies whose concerns are not very far from established embassy programs...
...The assumption seems to be that, in supplying information to area specialists, more is necessarily better...
...The idea of having large-scale information and cultural exchange programs overseas was conceived when the Cold War was raging...
...With the demise of the British Empire and the emergence of a centralized European defense, Britain is no longer the unique strategic partner she once was...
...A glaring example of a program that has outlived its purpose is the I n t e r n a t i o n a l Communications Agency, ICA, whichmaintainsastaff of 52 people in the London embassy...
...Today t h e American embassy is still an imposing presence in Grosvenor Square, but the Anglo-American alliance it represents has changed profoundly...
...For more important broadcasts-say, Sadatís latest speech-he could easily get a text from one of Londonís fine newspapers...
...Today our London embassy houses attach& from 16 different federal domestic-policy agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Federal Aviation Administration, Representatives of these agencies are nominally accountable to the ambassador, but most of them receive their instructions from and report to their bureaucratic homes in Washington...
...A lot of dead wood has piled up in the embassies...
...decades of personnel from federal agencies...
...There are, of course, American embassies all over the world with superfluous personnel...
...Middle East specialist in London, for example, receives such a glut of information from other sources that he probably doesnít even look at the transcripts of the polemical broadcasts of the region...
...The Agriculture Department, for example, sends representatives abroad to promote the sale of American farm surplus...
...But the U.S...
...In Great Britain, where radio is not an instrument of political propaganda but primarily an entertainment medium, there isnít much point in scrupulously monitoring broadcasts...
...Overseas operations ought to be evaluated on the basis of each agencyís claim that the Department of State cannot adequately meet its needs...
...with a staff of 80, it has more employees in London than any other federal agency...
...The most important public broadcasts, such as Parliamentary debates, are usually reported or published in full in the London newspapers...

Vol. 10 • July 1978 • No. 5


 
Developed by
Kanda Sofware
  Kanda Software, Inc.