December 16, 2020

Rep. Castro, Amb. Abercrombie-Winstanley, Sen. Murphy Launch New Truman Center Task Force on Transforming the State Department

The task force will release a report in early 2021 with innovative policy recommendations to turn the agency into a more just and equitable institution.

WASHINGTON — Today, the Truman National Security Project announced that Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Vice Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Chairman of its Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, will co-chair a task force on transforming the State Department. In October, Rep. Castro authored an article in Foreign Affairs on rebuilding America’s infrastructure of diplomacy and introduced new legislation last week to promote diversity and inclusion at the State Department.

The State Department needs major reforms. Over the last four years, morale has crateredattrition has skyrocketed,and diversity efforts have stalled. These issues are the byproducts of long-standing problems. For decades, flawed assignments and promotions systems and a risk-averse culture have stalled the advancement of women, people of color, and other underrepresented groups. Numerous reports have offered recommendations to address these challenges, but progress has remained elusive.

As the Biden administration seeks to restore American global leadership, the need for a strong and inclusive State Department has never been greater. That is why the Truman Center for National Policy is launching a new task force that will offer policy recommendations to restore confidence in and grow the capabilities of America’s lead foreign-affairs agency.

Co-chairs U.S. Representative Joaquin Castro, former Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, and U.S. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut led the Task Force kick-off on December 15. They are joined by a diverse coalition led by Truman members and supported in part by Guidehouse and Senior Advisor Kjell Bergh. 

The Task Force’s report, scheduled for release in February, will focus on solutions that generate the most impact for mid-career foreign policy professionals, who are especially prone to departure if issues remain unaddressed. These candid voices are critical to exposing the roots of the Department’s problems, and until now, have remained underrepresented in reform efforts.

Their recommendations will provide:

  • A clear roadmap with actionable insights to transform the State Department into a more just and equitable institution.
  • Safeguards to protect the Department from corrupt practices.
  • Innovative, evidence-based policy prescriptions that incorporate non-governmental and private-sector expertise.

The report will spark discussions and policy workshops throughout the course of 2021, led by Truman across the country. These conversations will serve as a launchpad for long overdue reforms.

Rep. Joaquin Castro said: “We need to rebuild America’s infrastructure of diplomacy for the 21st Century and tackle our greatest challenges from COVID-19 to climate change. Despite the last four years, people worldwide still look to the United States as a global leader and we must restore their trust in us. I’m proud to co-chair this Truman Center task force to advance principled diplomacy through a more equitable and effective State Department. The United States at its best can be a North Star in the world on issues like freedom, democracy, and human rights for all.” 

Amb. Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley said: “With the wisdom and commitment of my esteemed co-chairs, I am confident that the Department’s need for effective actionable recommendations will be met by the talent of this group. The time is now and this Task Force is eager to support the Department of State’s effort to put needed changes in place.”

Sen. Chris Murphy said: “There are far too many people that we represent that think the only way America projects its strength is through the point of a sword. We’ve got to be more creative, more nimble, and stronger in how we explain to the American public what’s happening at the State Department. It’s only through investment in making the Department more effective and better resourced that we can actually protect this country against the real threats — like pandemic diseases — that will be present for the next hundred years.”

Jenna Ben-Yehuda, President and CEO of Truman Center said: “The United States cannot advance diplomacy as this nation’s leading instrument of global engagement without a strong and capable State Department that attracts and retains this nation’s top talent. Truman Center’s Task Force seeks to support principled American leadership by offering clear recommendations to President-elect Biden’s State Department that center on supporting and empowering that agency’s most powerful tool: its people.”

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