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State Department to cut middle management

The Bush administration Wednesday called for a 5.5 percent increase in the nation's international affairs budget, but proposed cuts in the number of middle management positions at the State Department. While not committing to a specific number of management cuts, President Bush's federal budget overview contended that lines of authority at the State Department are too complicated and hinder foreign policy efforts. The overview also proposed more funding for information technology improvements and a comprehensive examination of State's workforce. "Current personnel policies and workforce planning threaten the department's ability to recruit and retain the highest possible caliber workforce," Bush's budget overview said. "The Department of State will create and implement policies to ensure that it recruits, hires and retains foreign and civil service officers with the right skills needed to fulfill the department's strategic and performance goals." The administration proposed a $23.1 billion international affairs budget for 2002. In 1998, the international affairs budget was $18.2 billion, rising to $22.7 billion in 2000. The budget took a dip in 2001 to $21.9 billion. The 2002 budget includes $1.3 billion for State Department infrastructure, including the construction of secure overseas facilities. The 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania convinced Congress to provide more funding for improvements in security at foreign posts. In addition to being concerned about their security, overseas federal personnel have complained about the general condition of the facilities in which they work and have questioned the State Department's ability to manage its physical assets. The Bush budget overview proposed a review aimed at improving facilities management practices. Some observers have advocated the creation of an independent government corporation to manage the federal government's overseas properties. The budget overview does not take a stand on that suggestion. The management cuts and workforce and facilities reviews are listed in the budget outline as potential reforms, reflecting the fact that State still has only one confirmed Bush appointee-Secretary of State Colin Powell. The Bush administration is not yet committing itself to launching detailed State Department management reforms. But management issues do have Powell's attention. Powell's first meeting after his swearing-in was with Frank Carlucci, the former Defense Secretary who headed a recent task force on State Department management reform. The two discussed the task force's recommendations on a number of the management problems outlined in Bush's budget plan. Carlucci testified Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, contending that department leaders need to pay more attention to management problems and that Congress needs to give them additional money to address those problems. "It's an institution literally crying out for reform," Carlucci said. "The State Department has never been able to manage itself properly." Sens. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., George Allen, R-Va. and Joseph Biden, D-Del., agreed with Carlucci that Powell and his subordinates need to improve management of human resources, technology and facilities. Allen, who was previously governor of Virginia, said the State Department should develop a strategic plan that ties investment proposals to measurable performance improvements, particularly in the area of information technology. Thomas Donilon, a member of the Carlucci task force and a former State Department chief of staff, said this year is a good one for management reform because of large budget surpluses and a new Secretary of State with a lot of sway on Capitol Hill and in the administration. "The stars are aligned here," Donilon said.