Thursday, June 19, 2008

Highlights of Senate Hearing on State's Arms Control and Nonproliferation Capabilities

Last Friday (June 6) the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight and Government Management, The Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia held a hearing entitled “National Security Bureaucracy for Arms Control, Counterproliferation, and Nonproliferation Part II: The Role of the Department of State.”

The witness list for the hearing included two representatives from the Department of State: Ms. Patricia McNerney, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, and Ms. Linda S. Taglialatela, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Human Resources. McNerney’s testimony can be found here.

Friday’s hearing was the second in a series of hearings on the effectiveness of the State Department’s arms control, counterproliferation, and nonproliferation bureaucracy, also known as the T Bureau, particularly in the wake of the reorganizations that resulted in (1) the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA)-State Department merger in 1999 and (2) the merger of the arms control and nonproliferation bureaus into the new Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) in 2005. During the first hearing, witnesses testified that the State Department’s current organizational structure has compromised its ability to implement effective arms control and nonproliferation policy.

Friday’s hearing focused primarily on the diplomatic and human capital readiness challenges confronting the T Bureau. Here are some (paraphrased) highlights from the Q/A:

Daniel Akaka (D-HI): There have been reports that the 2005 merger caused many experienced career officers to leave the new ISN Bureau. How much attrition has ISN experienced since 2005?

Taglialatela: No merit system principles or laws were violated. Everyone had a position to go to after the reorganization. Some employees did choose to leave, but since the reorganization we haven’t experienced a high rate of attrition; things have pretty much stabilized. The State Department has one of the lowest attrition rates in the federal government.


Akaka: A witness from the last hearing said that a large number of full time equivalent (FTE) personnel positions were eliminated in the wake of the 2005 merger. Were any FTE positions elminated? If so, why were they eliminated?

Taglialatela: None of these positions were eliminated; they were shifted to other areas of the T Bureau. The total number of FTEs left in ISN was probably less that what was in the Bureau of Arms Control and the Bureau of Nonproliferation because some of those functions were shifted to other areas.


Akaka: One of the criticisms of the 2005 reorganization is that the panel tasked with crafting the recommendations for the reorganization operated in near secrecy without the benefit of the Department's human resources expertise. Why was the undersecretary for management not put in charge of implementing this reorganization?

Taglialatela: In hindsight I think the process could have been much more transparent.


Akaka: The State Department's Office of Inspector General reports released in December 2004 concluded that the Nonproliferation Bureau was overworked, the Arms Control Bureau was underworked, and the Verification and Compliance Bureau should be downsized and its responsbilities reduced. However, the new ISN Bureau was apparently reduced in staff size far below the total size of the combined number before the merger, while the new Verification, Compliance and Implementation Bureau grew in size and responsibilities. Why the apparent departure from the findings and conclusions of the OIG?

Taglialatela: The Inspector General’s recommendations do not have to be implemented; they only require a response from the Bureau’s to which they’re directed.
McNerney: Secretary Rice and Under Secretary Bob Joseph made the ultimate reorganization decisions, and they felt that it was necessary to take some of the responsibility of the Arms Control Bureau and add it to the Verification and Compliance Bureau


Taglialatela: One of the things that needs to be made clear is that from 2004 or 2005 to now, the State Department has not received any additional resources. The bureaus domestically have all lost resources because of reprogramming to staffing our embassy in Iraq, our embassy in Kabul, and expanding our presence in Pakistan.


Akaka: The foreign service gives Foreign Service Officers [FSOs] little incentive to obtain the knowledge for leadership positions in nonproliferation and arms control. How would you develop a career path for FSOs in these areas?

McNerney: Spending a couple of years at a functional bureau really doesn't build the kind of relationships out to the embassies. So many of our postings for vacancies go unfilled. There are great challenges, but I've talked to the director general about how he can attract good FSOs through incentives.
Taglialatela: We’re beginning to require that FSOs undertake nontraditional tours (such as in functional bureaus like ISN) before they can move from the foreign service into the senior foreign service.


Akaka: Do either of you have any, say three, recommendations?

1. Don’t recreate a separate agency for arms control and nonproliferation. Our employees are proud to be working at the State Department.
2. Create incentives/opportunities for civil servants to advance to senior executive service (SES) positions
3. Hire uniquely for unique expertise

Despite the best efforts of McNerney and Taglialatela to shine a positive light on the ability of the State Department to address critical arms control and nonproliferation issues, the hearing illustrated the numerous inadequacies of the current organizational structure and the serious human capital problems that continue to prevent the T Bureau from effectively carrying out its mission.

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