Joel Mowbray

Almost all hiring, firing, transferring, and promoting are handled not by the Secretary of State, but by the Foreign Service itself.  Which means that career-minded Foreign Service Officers, when faced with a choice between loyalties, will not really face much of a choice.

Since roughly 99% of substantive positions at State are filled by career FSOs, most of the building is to the Secretary of State?s powers of persuasion.

Condi?s first big screw-up was to not undo Powell?s biggest one.  Powell elevated FSOs to fill the relative handful of top-level positions usually filled by outside political appointees, making Foggy Bottom a vertically-integrated echo chamber.

If Condi wanted to make a statement that change is coming, she could have brought in fresh blood to reinvigorate the top ranks.  She hasn?t.

Perhpas the surest sign Condi won?t reform State is the retention of a bureaucrat most folks have never heard of.  Maura Harty was promoted to consular chief in 2002 to tighten visa policy, a glaring weakness considering that at least 15 of the 9/11 terrorists were here on visas for which they did not qualify under the law.

But on her most important task?preventing terrorists from again exploiting ridiculously lax visa polcies?Harty has failed.  Consular training has not been beefed up, and her subordinates at Consular Affairs still believe the customer they serve is foreign visa applicants.  Worst of all, the country that sent us 15 of 19 terrorists still receives the red carpet treatment.  Nearly 90% of all Saudi nationals applying for visas receive them?a far higher figure than almost anywhere else in the Arab world.

If any section of State needs a thorough shake-up, it?s Consular Affairs.  But last week, Harty was given word she could stick around.  Notes one Consular Affairs official, ?We were all surprised, including Maura, that Condi asked her to stay.? 

Anyone who expected Condi to reform State should be just as surprised.

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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