Speaking with one voice on foreign economic policy

Things that belong together should be together, right?

Normally, yes.  Bureaucracies, however, have other ideas.  There, fiefdom outweighs virtually everything. The results are utterly predictable: more staffers than are really necessary, needless duplication of effort, lack of coordination when responsibilities overlap, turf fights over who gets to do what, budget battles, and so on and so on.

Let’s assume that soon after taking office – which can’t be soon enough, as far as I’m concerned – President Trump will do a government-wide review looking for ways to streamline the behemoth he inherited from the previous administration – which can’t leave town soon enough, as far as I’m concerned.  Here is an idea that follows up on an earlier article where I suggested that the new secretary of state consider looking after the foreign economic interests of the United States as his primary responsibility.  Put on the back burner “shuttle diplomacy” and other Kissinger-style exercises in futility (and worse).

The idea will seem childishly obvious once we look at the State Department organizational chart, where the under secretary for economic growth, energy and environment – State(E) – is shown as one of six under secretaries.

The idea I want to suggest is that State(E) absorb the responsibilities and personnel as necessary of three other offices that have similar missions: the United States trade representative (USTR), the Department of Commerce’s under secretary of commerce for international trade – USC(IT) – and its subordinate office, the International Trade Administration (ITA).

State(E) thus beefed up will make it considerably easier for the new secretary of state, and effectively the president, to speak with one voice on matters related to foreign economic policy, which will certainly be a key focus of the incoming administration, as President-Elect Trump has already indicated.

I realize that the idea is simple only on paper, but the benefits and the message sent to the rest of the government make it worth considering.

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