Evan Ellis: Reflections for the Army from a year at the State Department

Cultural Intelligence, Peace Intelligence
Evan Ellis

Reflections for the Army from a year at the State Department

EXTRACTS:

. . . despite everything, we were not achieving significant advances in important U.S. policy goals.

. . . I observed the balance of the work that came across my desk to be about “transmitting” rather than “receiving.” Every high-level meeting involves the preparation of “talking points” seeking to advance an agenda, too seldom did they include questions about what our partners thought or needed.

I found that learning how to prioritize and interact with the deluge of documents is an important part of effectively shaping policy.

The process highlighted a reality that often goes overlooked by media accounts of U.S. foreign policy: that critical decisions are often not clear to well-intentioned and well-informed people, and are indeed thoroughly debated.

A fourth and often overlooked mechanism of influence for S/P is through the secretary’s speechwriters.

Finally S/P management of the “dissent channel” allows it to facilitate the “reconsideration” of important issues by senior leadership, and to shape the definition for posterity, of those decisions which are not reversed.

Although INR was particularly valuable to my work, and an important resource to my S/P colleagues, I was also aware of perceptions in the building that the organization was not as fully utilized, or integrated into the day-to-day policy, strategy and decision support process as it could be.

In my own work, I did not see substantial evidence that the strategy and policy documents of each organization (State, DoD) are actively used as guides to action by the other, beyond superficial references to fundamental documents such as the National Security Strategy.

Read full article — extremely thoughtful and comprehensive.

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