We need more diplomats … and time to train them

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This post was written by CCLP senior fellow Jeremy Curtin.

When President Obama said, “Our commitment in Iraq is changing – from a military effort led by our troops to a civilian effort led by our diplomats,” he underscored a fact that has become very clear from the research I am doing for the American Academy of Diplomacy and the Stimson Center in Washington on preparing our diplomats for 21st century statecraft.

A key message of our research to date is the absolute necessity for Congress to continue funding a surge in State Department hiring – an initiative launched in 2009 called Diplomacy 3.0 – so that we have not only enough diplomats but also enough time to train them in the skills needed for the new, complex and demanding tasks of service in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Service in tough places is not new, but the demands are growing. And for the last twenty years at least, new requirements, like staffing new embassies in countries that emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union, far outpaced required staffing levels.

Now the dire straits of the U.S. budget as a whole could threaten Diplomacy 3.0 and leave our diplomats unprepared. Our research is scheduled to be completed this fall and will examine the skills and training the new diplomacy requires.

But one initial conclusion – that adequate hiring for training as well as operational service must be sustained – is already clear.

To read the text from President Obama’s speech quoted at the beginning of this post, visit whitehouse.gov.

August 31, 2010 – President Obama Announces End of Combat Operations in Iraq