Situation Room reported on purported Clinton "power grab" at State, but Obama wants to strengthen State Department
CNN's Wolf Blitzer teased a segment by saying, "Hillary Clinton's power grab -- at least some are calling it that. The secretary of state wants to take back resources that she feels rightfully belong to her department." During the report, Jill Dougherty stated: "Hillary Clinton is back on the campaign trail, this time to take back power and resources for the State Department." However, neither noted that President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have both supported expanding the role of the State Department.
The January 23 edition of CNN's The Situation Room aired a segment featuring the on-screen text "Hillary's Clinton's Power Grab: Secretary of State flexing her diplomatic muscle." Host Wolf Blitzer teased the segment by saying, "Hillary Clinton's power grab -- at least some are calling it that. The secretary of state wants to take back resources that she feels rightfully belong to her department." During the report, foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty stated: "Hillary Clinton is back on the campaign trail, this time to take back power and resources for the State Department." However, neither Blitzer nor Dougherty noted that President Obama -- both during his campaign and since assuming the presidency -- has supported expanding the role of the State Department, as has Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Indeed, during the presidential race, the Obama campaign proposed establishing "an [e]xpeditionary [c]apability" in order to deploy civilian personnel from the State Department and other agencies to "help move troops out of civilian roles."
Dougherty quoted Clinton's statements during a January 23 speech  to U.S. Agency for International Development employees that "[m]y goal is to make sure we match the mission and the resources" and that "[c]aptains and majors and lieutenant colonels are given unfettered resources through the Commander's Emergency Response Program to spend as they see fit -- to build a school, to open a health clinic, to pave a road. And our diplomats and our development experts have to go through miles of paperwork to spend 10 cents."
During Dougherty's segment, the following on-screen graphic was displayed:
In fact, Obama himself has expressed support for increasing the State Department's capabilities and responsibilities. For example, the Obama campaign released a document, "A 21st Century Military for America ," that stated :
One of the best ways to support the brave men and women in our armed forces is to address the great imbalance in our executive branch capacity for dealing with 21st-century challenges that aren't of a purely military nature. While many of these policies are detailed in Obama's foreign policy initiatives, some demand inclusion in Obama's vision of national defense. An Obama administration will:
- Establish an Expeditionary Capability: within non-Pentagon agencies (State Department, US Agency for International Development, Homeland Security, Justice, Treasury, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services, etc.) to deploy personnel where they are needed. These civilians will be integrated with, and sometimes operate independently from, our military expeditionary capabilities. This will help move troops out of civilian roles, as well as bring in the experts with the right expertise and skills.
Furthermore, both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden echoed Clinton's call to strengthen the State Department in speeches  they gave alongside her at a January 22 State Department event. Biden said:
I believe -- and as I know you do, Mr. President, because you chose her -- that she has the knowledge, the skill, the experience, as well as that sort of intangible commodity of having personal relationships with many of these world leaders, which makes her uniquely -- in my view, uniquely qualified to put diplomacy back in the forefront of America's foreign policy.
For too long, we've put the bulk of the burden, in my view, on our military. That's a view not only shared by me, but by your secretary of defense, as well. And our military is absolutely, to state the obvious, absolutely necessary, but not sufficient, not sufficient to secure the interest of this great nation.
Obama said, "My appearance today, as has been noted, underscores my commitment to the importance of diplomacy and renewing American leadership." He later added:
You are carrying on a vital task in the safety and security of the American people.
And part of what we want to do is to make sure that everybody understands that the State Department is going to be absolutely critical to our success in the years to come, and you individually are going to be critical to our success in the years to come. And we want to send a signal to all kinds of young people who may be thinking about the Foreign Service that they are going to be critical in terms of projecting not just America's power, but also America's values and America's ideals.
The inheritance of our young century demands a new era of American leadership. We must recognize that America's strength comes not just from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from our enduring values. And for the sake of our national security and the common aspirations of people around the globe, this era has to begin now.
Gates has also advocated for increasing the State Department's budget, citing the need to "focus our energies on the other elements of national power that will be so crucial in the coming years." During a November 26, 2007, lecture, Gates said :
Despite the improvements of recent years, despite the potential innovative ideas hold for the future, sometimes there is no substitute for resources -- for money.
Funding for non-military foreign-affairs programs has increased since 2001, but it remains disproportionately small relative to what we spend on the military and to the importance of such capabilities. Consider that this year's budget for the Department of Defense -- not counting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan -- is nearly half a trillion dollars. The total foreign affairs budget request for the State Department is $36 billion -- less than what the Pentagon spends on health care alone. Secretary [Condoleezza] Rice has asked for a budget increase for the State Department and an expansion of the Foreign Service. The need is real.
What is clear to me is that there is a need for a dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security -- diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action, and economic reconstruction and development. Secretary Rice addressed this need in a speech at Georgetown University nearly two years ago. We must focus our energies beyond the guns and steel of the military, beyond just our brave soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen. We must also focus our energies on the other elements of national power that will be so crucial in the coming years.
Now, I am well aware that having a sitting Secretary of Defense travel halfway across the country to make a pitch to increase the budget of other agencies might fit into the category of "man bites dog" -- or for some back in the Pentagon, "blasphemy." It is certainly not an easy sell politically. And don't get me wrong, I'll be asking for yet more money for Defense next year.
Still, I hear all the time from the senior leadership of our Armed Forces about how important these civilian capabilities are. In fact, when Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen was Chief of Naval Operations, he once said he'd hand a part of his budget to the State Department "in a heartbeat," assuming it was spent in the right place.
After all, civilian participation is both necessary to making military operations successful and to relieving stress on the men and women of our armed services who have endured so much these last few years, and done so with such unflagging bravery and devotion. Indeed, having robust civilian capabilities available could make it less likely that military force will have to be used in the first place, as local problems might be dealt with before they become crises.
From the January 23 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
BLITZER: Hillary Clinton's power grab -- at least some are calling it that. The secretary of state wants to take back resources that she feels rightfully belong to her department.
BLITZER: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is settling in on her new job, rallying her diplomatic troops, and revealing her priorities. Let's go to the State Department. Our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, is monitoring this Day Two of Secretary Clinton's tenure.
DOUGHERTY: Wolf, Secretary Clinton has been doing some intensive telephone diplomacy today, reaching out to allies in the Middle East, Europe, and Asia even as the administration is beginning some intensive reviews of foreign policy hot spots.
[begin video clip]
DOUGHERTY: Hillary Clinton is back on the campaign trail, this time to take back power and resources for the State Department.
CLINTON: My goal is to make sure we match the mission and the resources.
DOUGHERTY: The message drew cheers from staff at the U.S. Agency for International Development. The U.S. military is now doing jobs that used to be done by diplomats, like handing out dollars to support small business in Iraq. Clinton says that that should stop.
CLINTON: Captains and majors and lieutenant colonels are given unfettered resources through the Commander's Emergency Response Program to spend as they see fit -- to build a school, to open a health clinic, to pave a road. And our diplomats and our development experts have to go through miles of paperwork to spend 10 cents.
DOUGHERTY: Just two days on the job, Clinton is flexing her muscles. Traditionally, a new president visits the Pentagon first. Instead, he visited the State Department. And a verbal slip by the vice president showed how the new team is putting diplomacy and Hillary Clinton in the lead.
VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: In a moment, Mr. President, you're going to announce two new powerful weapons in our -- I guess the secretary is going to announce -- two very powerful weapons in our diplomatic arsenal.
[end video clip]
DOUGHERTY: But Hillary Clinton also knows that if she wants to get more resources for State, she has to make that case. And that means making a more efficient operation and one that can react quickly in times of crisis or in other hot spots around the world. Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's see how she does, Jill. Thanks very much.