Campaign Promises

Cabinet/Departments -> State -> Foreign Affairs/Diplomacy

Foreign Affairs/DiplomacyGrade
The Promise: "Increase the size of the foreign service."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan "Strengthening Our Common Security by Investing in Our Common Humanity," dated 09/11/08.
Status:In CY2009, the State Department launched a four-year plan known as "Diplomacy 3.0" to increase its foreign service officer strength by 25% by end-FY2018. Fiscal realities suggest that this goal may not be met until FY2023. According to General Accountability Office (GAO) Report 12-721 entitled "Foreign Service Workforce Gaps" dated 06/14/12, the State Department faced "experience gaps in 28 percent of overseas Foreign Service positions...14 percent are vacant...14 percent are filled through upstretch assignments" (where the incumbent has not attained the grade of the position he or she fills).

The same GAO report indicates that the State Department has failed to develop a strategic plan to exercise the authority it has to address Foreign Service midlevel personnel gaps, supplementing its practice of employing Foreign Service retirees on a "When Actually Employed (WAE) basis and converting a few of its 10,490 Civil Service personnel to Foreign Service positions.

President Obama's first budget proposal (FY2010) for diplomatic and consular programs resulted in a Democrat-controlled Congressional appropriation of $8.227B, $733M below the President's original request but $1.164B above the FY2009 appropriation. This increase in funding permitted the hiring of up to 740 new Foreign Service personnel to augment the 11,700 personnel at State at that time. During FY2009 and FY2010, the State Department increased the size of the Foreign Service by 17% or 1,900 employees above attrition. However, this did little to close position vacancies at the midlevels because of an increase in overseas positions due to increased personnel needs in response to emerging/higher diplomatic priority positions.

For USAID, the FY2010 appropriation was $1.39B, $330M above FY2009 but $50M less than President Obama's request. This FY2010 appropriation permitted USAID to hire up to 300 additional Foreign Service Officers as part of its Development Leadership Initiative (DLI).

For FY2011, the State Department requested funding for an additional 410 Foreign Service personnel but managed to hire only 38 due to budget constraints. As of 06/30/11, the Foreign Service personnel strength was 13,385, representing approximately 20% of the State Department's workforce.

In FY2012, 150 new Foreign Service positions are being added, and 82 new positions are projected to be added annually between FY2013 and FY2018.

Without specifying numerical goals, President Obama promised to increase the size of the foreign service and has done so.

This promise has been fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will fully fund the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization and create a new Office of Conflict Prevention and Resolution with senior Ambassadors to support high-level negotiations and provide the expertise and capacity to seize opportunities or address crises as they arise. An Obama administration will also build a ready reserve corps of private civilians that can participate in post-conflict, humanitarian and stabilization efforts around the globe."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Strengthening Our Common Security by Investing in Our Common Humanity," dated 09/11/08.
Status:The Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS) took a hit in State's FY2010 appropriation. This office was funded at $150M, which was $173.2M below the President's request and nearly $100M less than its FY2009 budget of $249M.

The FY2010 appropriation also did not support the creation of a 2,000-strong Civilian Reserve Capability (CRC) for which the State Department had requested $63.3M. President Obama did not included funding for a CRC in his FY2011 budget proposal.

For FY2011, the State Department requested $100M for the "Complex Crises Fund" (CCF) established by the 111th Congress as a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) account. The purpose of this fund was to "respond to emerging or unforeseen crises through support of reconstruction, security, or stabilization needs." Under Continuing Resolution procedures, CCF was funded at $50M for FY2011.

In FY2010, State requested $323.2M for the Civilian Stabilization Initiative (CSI). Congress appropriated only $150M State's FY2011 budget request for CSI was $184M to be managed by S/CRS in replacement of Section 1207 funds formerly transferred to State by the Department of Defense. Congress appropriated only $40M for State and $7M for USAID for CSI activities in FY2011.

For FY2012, the State Department's requirement for Conflict Stabilization Operations was $92.2M, of which only $8.5M was appropriated by Congress. No funds were appropriated in FY2012 for USAID's CCF account.

As to the creation of a new "Office of Conflict Prevention and Resolution" within the S/CRS, the State no such office has been created.

This promise has not been fulfilled.
The Promise: "Unfortunately, our resources for cultural diplomacy are at their lowest level in a decade. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will work to reverse this trend and improve and expand public-private partnerships to expand cultural and arts exchanges throughout the world."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Champions for Arts and Culture" dated 09/11/08.
Status:Funding for State's Educational and Cultural Exchange (ECE) program for FY2008 was $501M and $538M for FY2009.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2010, signed into law by President Obama on 12/16/09, provided $635M to the Department of State for its an increase of $97M over the FY2009 appropriation, to "fund educational, cultural and professional exchange programs worldwide to foster mutual understanding between the United States and more than 160 other nations."

For FY2011, the State Department required $635M to sustain ECE programs but received $600M. For FY2012, that requirement was $637.1M but State received only $598.8M. For FY2013, President Obama requested $586.9M for ECE. If the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for FY2013 (H.R. 6018) is signed into law, the ECE should be authorized funding at the FY2012 level ($598.8).

This promise to improve/expand ECE activities has been fulfilled based on increased funding from the FY2008/FY2009 baselines.
The Promise: "...will pursue direct diplomacy with all nations, friend and foe. He will do the careful preparation necessary, but will signal that America is ready to come to the table, and that he is willing to lead."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan for America: "Blueprint for Change" dated 10/09/08.
Status:While relations with most of America's friends are being maintained during the Obama Administration, some have cooled (i.e. United Kingdom, France, Germany), while others have become severely strained (i.e. Russia, Israel, Afghanistan).

China continues to deeply distrust the USA over its continued relationship with and support of Taiwan. On the other hand, Taiwan's continuing need for 66 new F-16C/D fighter aircraft and upgrades for its aging fleet of F-16/A/B aircraft were repeatedly blocked the first three years of the Obama Administration, gaining traction only in 04/12 when the Administration reversed its position and declared that it would give "serious consideration" to an F-16C/D sale. To that end, the House approved the "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013" (H.R. 4310) which includes Section 1240 that reads: "The President shall carry out the sale of no fewer than 66 F-16C/D multirole fighter aircraft to Taiwan." This potential sale is being rejected by China and is one of the root causes for continued strained relationships the USA and China.

China also see the USA as encircling Chinese assertive expansion efforts in Southeast Asia by establishing new transpacific relationships with Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and others that could be seen as running against China's free trade objectives with Association of Southeastern Asian Nation (ASEAN) member countries.

There has also been no known demarche or meaningful pursuit of improved, highest level diplomatic relations with countries the USA considers its foes (i.e. Venezuela, Iran, Syria, North Korea).

The collapse of climate negotiations in Copenhagan was considered a serious defeat for the Obama Administration. His brokering of a separate deal with the Chinese left his European allies stymied by what was referred to in European media as President Obama's "pomposity and arrogance."

President Obama's failure to show up at the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 11/09 further infuriated his British, French and German counterparts. These relationships are slowly mending as witnessed by President Obama's visit to London in 05/11 and his hosting of German Chancellor Merkel in the first state visit he accorded to a European leader, 2 1/2 years into his first term in office.

In 11/10, he failed again to deal effectively with China on the issue of the latter's currency manipulation.

In 05/12, the new Russian President Vladimir Putin elected not to attend the Group of Eight (G8) Summit at Camp David, Maryland for the time since Russia became the 8th member of this forum in CY1997. Russia sent its Prime Minister instead, a move that was interpreted by international observers as a sign of the high level of tension that exists between the U.S. and Russian presidencies. This strained bilateral relationship got worse as a result of the mid-09/12 closure of USAID activities in Russia because of funding provided by USAID to "Golos," a group that reported on widespread fraud during recent parliamentary and presidential election that, in part, returned Putin to Presidential power.

In 09/12, President Obama decided not to meet with any foreign leaders during the annual United Nations General Assembly, further straining relationships with traditional allies, especially Israel. Instead, his priority was to hit the campaign trail to secure a second term in office.

In 08/13, President Obama cancelled a planned summit with Russia's President Putin, indicating that Obama's "reset" of bilateral relations announced during his first term had failed.

These are a few recent examples where President Obama's lack of diplomatic leadership skills were perceived negatively and at times as a sign a weakness by the international community.

This promise has not, as of end-CY2014, been fulfilled.