Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What Kind Of Day Has It Been

  • Both the Libyan Opposition and Qaddafi's government denied Qaddafi offered to step down. The Opposition then offered Qaddafi 72 hours to leave the country without facing any ramifications. The United States then undermined that offer by declaring, "Any departure from Libya dos not exempt Mr Gaddafi or his family from any responsibility and accountability for what has occurred." Stunning footage from fighting yesterday (h/t Tal):

  •  A new report from the American Academy of Diplomacy and the Stimson Center paints a poor picture of the effectiveness of training for Foreign Service Officers. Put this in the stack of reports indicating the State Department needs more funding.

  • Democrats continue to eat their young. Thanks, Joe. **Editors Note: Manchin has made a good couple of years out of twisting with the wind, as anyone who watched his performance during the 2008 West Virginia Democratic Primary can attest.**

  • Potential GOP Front Runner, Mike Huckabee, can't escape the he-said, he-says-he-didn't-say cycle arising from Natalie Portman comments he may or may not have said. Poor Huck.

  • Anne Applebaum takes on intervention in Libya but really just takes on Krauthammer and WaPo-supported neocon (triumphant) revisionism.


Colin said...

The State Dept. needs more funding? In FY 2007 its budget was $9.5 billion. For FY 2010 its budget request was $16.389 billion, which in turn was a $1.885 billion increase over the FY 2009 budget of $14.504 billion. That's a 50% increase in just three years and yet they are still pleading poverty? Something is seriously amiss if they can't get their job done even with an extra $5 billion.

Ben said...

Or they were seriously underfunded to begin with and, despite those increases, remain seriously underfunded. Which is in fact the case.

Colin said...

Which is in fact the case.

That's not a fact, that's an assertion. The contrast between a private sector figuring out ways to do more with less and a public sector that still can't get the job done even after a nearly $7 billion increase could not be more stark.

Also, FYI it seems Joe Manchin isn't the only Democrat criticizing President Obama for a lack of leadership on the budget.

Ben said...

The contrast between a private sector figuring out ways to do more with less and a public sector that still can't get the job done even after a nearly $7 billion increase could not be more stark.

Could you please tie your rhetoric to some comparison? What private sector business is managing the foreign policy of a state the size of the United States for $7 billion? You're just throwing numbers around and hoping the size of those numbers cause people to get upset: SEVEN BILLION DOLLARS J'ACCUSE!

Colin said...

Ben, just so I understand, it is your position that every dollar currently spent by the State department is absolutely crucial -- all $16.4 billion -- so crucial that funding for FSO training should not come out of other areas of the State budget but from fresh additions? That there is no existing waste and every dollar spent is absolutely necessary?

Again, funny how the private sector manages to identify fat for trimming in lean times but apparently State is testing the limits of efficiency to such an extent that it cannot do with a dollar less.

Ben said...

No, I'm sure there is some waste--as there is waste everywhere, even in the private sector. My point is simply that State's budget, even after increases, is insufficient for it to carry out its mission. Again, your pointing to the private sector--it's flatly not instructive in this particular realm. Moreover, of the many federal departments, I would wager State does more with less than most others--if you want to talk about failure to trim fat, let's talk about Defense.

Colin said...

Again, your pointing to the private sector--it's flatly not instructive in this particular realm.

No, it really is. Almost everyone when confronted with lean times can find something to cut out. When people are unemployed they find things to cut from their budget. When corporate offices are instructed to find areas to cut while still carrying out their core roles they do so. It's routine and I've seen it done first hand. In order to believe that the State Department's budget is insufficient even after see its allocated funds increase by roughly 70% in recent years boggles the mind. Maybe, like most people and organizations, State should engage in some reprioritization and cut in certain areas to provide additional funding in others. To believe this is impossible is to believe that literally every activity undertaken by State is absolutely essential to the functioning of this country and that no fat exists -- it's all bone.

As for the Pentagon, you'll get no argument from me. The DoD should be cut by tens, if not hundreds, of billions.

Ben said...

1. Your argument presupposes the fact that portions of State's budget has seen no reductions while the overall budget has grown.
2. Your argument functions better in gross for the federal government than it does for individual departments thereof: if we view the whole federal government like one corporation, then State is like a division of it; instead, you seem to suggest looking at the HR department as if it were a corporation unto itself.
3. Your argument fundamentally fail because the Department of State is *not* like a corporation. Its cannot simply cut costs across the board during a downturn because its customers have suddenly stopped purchasing and wait for demand to return to ramp up production. Instead, regardless of economic downturn, the Department of State is still tasked with carrying out the foreign policy objectives of the United States of America. I assert that it has long been underfunded--its mandated responsibilities are significantly larger than its budget, even when increased "70% in recent years. I think that the shortcomings in FSO training are one symptom of the Department being underfunded.

Colin said...

1. Irrelevant.
2. Not true. Particular divisions of a corporation get asked to make reductions all the time. I have seen this first hand.
3. Yes, it can. Just as the DOD could have its budget cut and still defend the country, the State department could have its budget cut -- or at the very least not increased -- and still carry out diplomacy.

Just out of curiosity, if you think the $16.4 billion budget is inadequate, how much do you think State should be getting?

Ben said...

1. No it's not--reducing fat does not mean overall reduction in the budget. If it's underfunded to begin with but there is fat in some places, the appropriate thing would be to trim the fat while redirecting those fund while increasing the funding to a higher/more appropriate level.
2. As have I which belies your comment in 1.
3. "Still do Diplomacy." Really? I'm not even going to respond to this.

Colin said...

1. Yes, it is irrelevant. So what if portions have been reduced? Does that then mean that there is no more fat left to trim? What reason is there to think this is true?
2. The only thing it belies is your ongoing contention that the fact that companies and individuals can reduce their budgets holds no lessons for the State Department or is inapplicable. You likened State to a division of a company, and yet divisions of companies are tasked with making reductions all the time.
3. Actually I said "carry out" -- not "do." And while you may not want to respond to that, at least you can give some insight into what the appropriate State budget should be. If a $7 billion raise was insufficient, what is the appropriate amount? Because right now it sounds like the answer is simply more, more, more.