Diplomats, poor babies, cry about reports
Do they have a real beef?
Government transparency is all about saying what you are doing and then backing it up with proof. My belief is that much of the reporting can be made more efficient through development of a Federal Government Enterprise Performance Optimization System designed for executives and their departments to report on their performance in a standard and routine manner. Diplomats in all governments including the USA have forever been required to report because that is essentially what they do as a result of interacting with their counterparts in their assigned territories.
They do quadrennial reviews every four years like all government departments and they produce rolling documentation that is hopefully read and acted upon by their executive branch and legislative overseers. If the reports are not useful to executives and overseers, those people should ask them to cut it out.
As a part of due diligence, I would ask diplomats to report what they would do with their time if not spent reporting? In addition, about what are they reporting that is not useful to someone other than WickiLeaks?
“Reams of reports burdening diplomats
By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 25, 2011; 7:52 PM
The nation's diplomats are drowning in paperwork, the State Department's inspector general says, churning out hundreds of mind-numbing reports every year that are too long, too expensive, hard to understand and nearly impossible to track.
The reports, mandated year after year by Congress and the State Department, cost the agency's far-flung embassy staff more than $50 million a year to complete, Inspector General Harold W. Geisel concluded in a 55-page report released this month. Completion of some reports, covering issues from human rights to child labor, has become a full-time job for employees based Washington and stationed abroad.
And the same data and the level of detail must be collected by thinly staffed embassies in Liechtenstein (pop. 33,000) and as well as those in China (pop. 1.17 billion).
"The reports themselves have become encyclopedic in detail and length," Geisel wrote. "Shorter would be better," he said, adding that they contain "considerable" overlap in how data are compiled. He urged brevity.
Investigators surveyed staff at 55 embassies and visited small foreign posts in Bridgetown, Barbados, and in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. More than a third of staffs cited the burden of paperwork.
Geisel stressed that the required reports provide policymakers with vital tools but that what goes into them needs to change so that those in small posts aren't overwhelmed. The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.
The report describes overlapping and unnecessary paperwork. The report on "Goods Produced by Child or Forced Labor" (required by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000) contains much of the same information as the annual report on "Products Produced by Forced or Indentured Child Labor" (required by an executive order in 1999). Both overlap with a report on "Worst Forms of Child Labor" (required by the Trade and Development Act of 2000).
The instructions for preparing reports could intimidate any young embassy employee. The guide to compiling the 2009 report, "International Religious Freedom," for example, is 16 pages long. Basic instructions for the 2009 "Human Rights Report" fill 36 pages and are augmented by a 41-page supplement on style.”
In a different report: “Conversation with America: Leading Through Civilian Power:”
“MS. SLAUGHTER: So thanks, P.J. The QDDR is an effort to answer Secretary Clinton’s question, “How can we do better?” As a member of the Armed Services Committee, she watched the Defense Department do the QDR, the Quadrennial Defense Review. This was her effort to say to State and USAID, we need to ask ourselves every four years how can we do what we do better, what changes do we need to make to do it. And this is our first effort to answer that question.
We have answers with respect to diplomacy, with respect to development, with respect to conflict prevention and response, and with respect to how we can work smarter on the inside, how we can contract better, how we can plan and budget better. But at a time when we’re all looking to make government more efficient and more effective, this is our answer, and we are looking forward to working with the new Congress to implement it.
MR. CROWLEY: Now, those of us who work with Secretary Clinton every day understand that she frequently talks about raising the third D, development, to coexist alongside defense and diplomacy. What does that mean?
MR. STEINBERG: Well, it’s an important development because, in fact, we as a country have understood that international development – that is, sustained economic growth in poor countries abroad – isn’t just a question of reflecting our national values but our national interests as well. You can’t have a stable international community when half the world, two thirds of the world, are living on a $1.25 a day. And so there is a recognition in this document that it’s in our national security interest to encourage development, so that we have societies that are not trafficking in drugs, in persons, in weapons, so that we have societies that are not training areas for terrorists, that they are not transmitters of pandemic diseases and refugees.
But at the same time, these countries are going to be our best markets for exports. They’re going to be the places that have the most rapid growth of export markets for the United States. So this is all about jobs as well, and the QDDR recognizes that development, along with defense and diplomacy, has an equal place in our national priority.”