State waking up to economics

Long ago in the  State Department culture the political reporting officer reigned supreme. All other forms of work within the department were seen as less important.

Slowly that changed over the years. The fact that economic factors affect political events and vice-versa led some embassies to make sure that economic and political reporting were combined. (Not all that many but there were a few enlightened foreign service officers.)

And now, finally, the State Department leadership has decided that it needs someone dedicated to looking at econ and only econ. (Currently the top economic person is the Undersecretary of State for Economic, Energy, and Agricultural Affairs.)

State Department to hire new ‘chief economist’

The biggest danger is that the new econ slot will become so focused on econ issues that the political implications of economic policy will not be properly covered out of this office. Likewise, it would be nice to see more comments about how political events have an economic impact.

You know: Coordinating efforts and sharing information. In this area there are still a lot of people at the State Department who need to learn that lesson.

Oh, and by the way, so do a lot of journalists. Just once I would like to see a steady stream of reporting that looks at the economic AND political implications of an overseas’ event or US diplomatic initiative. We keep getting — when we get — just one part of the story.

Journalists covering global events, like foreign service officers, need to see and report the big picture if that reporting is to be any use at all.

UPDATE: I was told that George Schultz tried to strengthen the econ side. He even setup an econ think tank within State. But without regular support that operation withered and faded away. At least the whole idea of  integrated econ/pol reporting kept expanding.

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