US State Department’s Africa Bureau Takes Some Heat

The US State Department’s Africa Bureau (known in US government lingo as AF) took quite a beating in a recent report from State’s Office of the Inspector General. Elizabeth Dickenson on Foreign Policy’s Cable blog has a review, and the full report can be found on the State Department website. On the whole, I think the OIG report is disturbingly accurate, and I am impressed that State actually published it.

I also strongly suspect that the troubles aren’t limited to Africa Bureau – they’re just the ones who were looked at. Sure, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Fraser took a lot of criticism for her handling of AF, but this report was focused on April-June 2009. They’d had five months to recover at that point.

 A few highlights from the report:

 1) Apparently it’s difficult to staff Africa postings, because of “perceptions about the poor quality of living abroad and insufficient hardship or danger pay.” That’s just depressing.

 2) “Embassy platforms are collapsing under the weight of new programs and staffing without corresponding resources to provide the services required.” That is true not just of Africa embassies, but across the globe. It’s what happens when you underfund the State Department.

 3) There is a lack of focus on long-term strategies, and the focus is on putting out fires and scoring quick victories, not broader thinking. Once again, a problem that afflicts the whole department, not just AF.

 4) Lastly, apparently Africa Bureau’s not getting along with AFRICOM. And the reasons, while depressing, make perfect sense. AFRICOM’s got all the money, State is ambivalent about the military’s role in development, and no one has received any training on how to work together.