WASHINGTON—A reorganization of the State Department offices that are leading the fight against weapons of mass destruction was badly managed and politicized, which led to a flight of experts with decades of knowledge, according to a new account by a veteran weapons expert.
Dean Rust, who watched the reorganization unfold, charges that its "botched implementation" led many career officers to leave and "will hamper the State Department's role at home and abroad for years to come."
The account by Rust, who left the department last September, appears in the upcoming issue of Arms Control Today magazine, published by the nonpartisan Arms Control Association. It's scheduled to be posted Tuesday on the group's Web site.
Knight Ridder first reported in February about problems in State Department offices that deal with weapons proliferation, one of President Bush's national security priorities.
The reorganization, which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced last July, ostensibly was done to strengthen the department's ability to counter 21st-century weapons threats.
But, according to numerous officials and documents, it was carried out largely in secret by a panel composed of political appointees, it denied top jobs to career officials who had clashed with former Undersecretary of State John Bolton and it ran counter to some recommendations by the department's inspector general.
Robert Joseph, Bolton's successor as the department's top arms-control official, told Arms Control Today in an interview that "the reorganization was not politically motivated," according to excerpts that the magazine provided.
The new structure, he said, will allow the United States to better address threats from Iran, North Korea and terrorists seeking mass-destruction weapons.
But a State Department official said Monday that the office that dealt with nuclear diplomacy toward Iran, North Korea and other countries had lost five of its 12 employees and two more were on their way out.
The official and others spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing retaliation.
Three senior female employees who were denied promotions in the reorganization have left or are leaving and, according to current and former officials, one has sued alleging gender discrimination.
Undersecretary of State for Management Henrietta Fore appointed a panel to review the reorganization earlier this year, the officials said. But its mandate is limited to assessing bureaus' work load under the new management structure.
Rust, a veteran with 35 years' experience, said in a telephone interview that he was "very dismayed with the decisions" made by political appointees but would have retired last year in any event.
"Undoubtedly, this is not the first time that sub-Cabinet-level political appointees have hijacked a reorganization to pursue their own agenda," Rust wrote. Rice, he said, "can still salvage some aspects of this unfortunate situation, but she needs to move quickly."
For more information online, go to the Arms Control Today Web site, at
(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
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