Campaign Promises

Departments -> State -> Foreign Affairs/Diplomacy

Foreign Affairs/DiplomacyGrade
ST-19 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 suggested that this goal might 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 indicated that the State Department had failed to develop a strategic plan to exercise the authority it had to address Foreign Service mid-level personnel gaps, relying instead on its practice of employing Foreign Service retirees on a When Actually Employed (WAE) basis and converting a few of its 10,569 (a CY2011 figure) Civil Service personnel to Foreign Service positions.

Mid-level personnel gaps were expected to continue for the foreseeable future due to fiscal realities coupled with personnel attrition attributed to the graying of the employees, the mandatory retirement age for Foreign Service personnel (65), and the built-in Reduction in Force (RIF) in the Foreign Service with its "up or out" system.

According to the State Department Bureau of Human Resources, and in spite of the above GAO report, during President Obama's two terms in office, and with the exception of slight dips in CY2013 and CY2015, the Foreign Service grew as follows to support 275 posts abroad as of end-CY2016:
CY2009 - 7,070 Officers/5,189 Specialists = 12,268
CY2010 - 7,458 Officers/5,401 Specialists = 12,859
CY2011 - 7,775 Officers/5,657 Specialists = 13,432
CY2012 - 7,940 Officers/5,736 Specialists = 13,676
CY2013 - 7,915 Officers/5,752 Specialists = 13,667
CY2014 - 8,042 Officers/5,759 Specialists = 13,801
CY2015 - 8,026 Officers/5,734 Specialists = 13,760
CY2016 - 8,106 Officers/5,740 Specialists = 13,846

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

This promise was fulfilled.
ST-20 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 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 requested $635M to sustain ECE programs but received $599M. For FY2012, State's requirement was $637.1M but received $598.8M. Subsequent FY appropriations for ECE were as follows:

From the very beginning of his Administration, President Obama fulfilled this promise to improve/expand ECE activities based on increased funding when weighed against the FY2008/FY2009 funding levels.

This promise was fulfilled.
ST-21 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 were maintained during the Obama Administration, some cooled (i.e. United Kingdom, France, Germany), while others became severely strained (i.e. Russia, Israel, Afghanistan).

China continued 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 during 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 included 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 was rejected by China and was one of the root causes for continued strained relationships between the USA and China.

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

There was no known demarche or meaningful pursuit of improved, highest level diplomatic relations between the Obama Administration and 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 slowly mended during 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 first 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 existed 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 elections that, in part, returned Putin to presidential power.

In 08/12, President Obama declared that the use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would cross a "red line for us" and might trigger a U.S. military response. On 08/21/13, Bashar fired rockets loaded with outlawed toxins against his people near Damascus, killing nearly 1,500 civilians, including at least 426 children. Obama did nothing.

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.

In 02/14, Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded and seized Crimea. Obama did nothing.

These are a few examples where President Obama's lack of diplomatic leadership skills were perceived negatively and as a sign a weakness by the international community. For the remainder of his second term through end-CY2016, the USA was generally viewed internationally as militarily strong, but strategically, diplomatically and geo-politically impotent, feckless, untrustworthy, and lacking integrity.

This promise was not fulfilled.