Rice’s Management at Issue
Critics Cite Blackwater, Baghdad Embassy and Passports
By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 10, 2007; A01
Shortly after Condoleezza Rice took charge of the 57,000-person State Department in 2005, she said she relished the challenge of “line responsibility” in leading a large organization. “I really enjoy that,” she said in an interview. “Some of my favorite times here have been my budget and high-level management reviews.”
Nearly three years later, Rice is under fire from inside and outside the State Department for a range of crises that are largely managerial in nature — the failure to monitor private security guards in Iraq, the delays in opening the huge U.S. Embassy under construction in Baghdad and the resistance of some Foreign Service officers to being forced to serve there. Over the summer, the department also fell woefully short in processing passport applications, resulting in ruined vacation plans for many Americans.
Within the department, Rice is viewed by many rank-and-file employees as an aloof manager who relies on a tight circle of aides, leaving her out of touch with the rest of the staff, in contrast to her predecessor, Colin L. Powell, a retired Army general who won praise from workers for treating them as though they were his “troops.”
God is in the details and details are a function of management. Hob-nobbing with heads of state doesn’t mean much if ‘State’ is broken at the functional level. While it’s not the primary job of the Secretary to organize operational issues, it is her job to oversee them.
Blackwater lands squarely on her desk, as does the Embassy staffing issue and horrors of passport mismanagement. Michael Chertoff no doubt had a hand in that last issue, but she should have stepped on his fingers.
Leaders ignore staff at their peril. The lowliest are the ones who can efficiently cut you off at the legs and Condi (as well as John Negroponte) has yet to learn that.
Her boss is learning it the hard way.