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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Remarks to POLAD Orientation Course

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
September 12, 2011


Thank you, Andrew – good morning, everyone.

Let me start by thanking all of you for taking on the tremendous responsibility you have signed up for. The POLAD program has a long and distinguished history at the State Department. POLADs have been a critical link in our efforts to coordinate American diplomatic and military efforts for more than 50 years – and today they are more essential than ever.

On Friday I spoke at length about our counterterrorism efforts. That is not a speech a Secretary of State would have given 50 or even 20 years ago. But we are facing unprecedented challenges, and we understand that preserving America’s security must involve every element of our power and every tool of our foreign policy. Better coordination between our military and civilian efforts is not just nice to have. In the 21st century, it’s a necessity. That’s why Secretary Panetta and I sat down together at NDU last month to lay out our strategic priorities for the partnership between State and DoD. And that’s why we have expanded this program so rapidly in the past five years.

I have said it many times, and I will continue to say it: a smart power approach requires development and diplomacy to function hand-in-hand with our defense capability. And you, in a very practical way, are the hands out front, holding us together.

As we move forward implementing the QDDR and improving interagency cooperation, you will be the ones in daily planning meetings to facilitate State and DoD efforts. And as the budgets at both Departments continue to tighten, you will help us become more efficient and coordinate our actions—which will allow us to cut costs without endangering Americans’ security.

Improving intergovernmental coordination may not sound all that exciting on paper, but our POLADs do work that has a real impact on people’s lives. Over the last few years, our military responses to natural disasters or tense international situations have been improved by having a POLAD on deck. Sometimes literally. Earlier this year, the USS Whitney was in the Mediterranean, waiting on the UN Security Council vote to authorize a no-fly zone over Libya. The POLAD on board was the ship’s link back to State and our diplomatic efforts to secure a resolution. He kept information flowing so that, as soon as the vote came, the Whitney was ready for duty and immediately began enforcing the zone to protect Libyan civilians.

POLADs are crucial in our humanitarian work too. In 2009, when the earthquake devastated Haiti, TRANSCOM dispatched Patrick Spatz, their POLAD of just a few weeks, to help coordinate humanitarian relief on the ground. He spent eight weeks living in a tent next to a runway, eating MREs right along with his DoD counterparts. But he helped make sure USAID and the other agencies bringing supplies were hooked in with the TRANSCOM team keeping Haiti’s damaged main port open, and getting supplies where they needed to go. He also ensured essential foreign policy considerations were respected – including Haitian sovereignty – despite the need for expediency on the ground.

Now, that won’t be everyone’s experience. But your assignments will each require that same flexibility and tenacity and creativity. You will draw upon all your years of experience and test your skills. You need both regional and functional knowledge. The ability to both plan and execute. That’s why we have traditionally chosen senior foreign service officers and even former ambassadors for these billets. But with the growth of the POLAD program, this is also an excellent opportunity for more mid-level officers. And your interagency experience will give you a leg up on your future tours with the State Department.

Our POLADs and the MILADs serving here at State are invaluable liaisons between the Departments – establishing relationships, sharing information, improving understanding each day. You will not only wear two hats, you will speak two languages. Three if you count English. And neither ‘diplomatese’ nor ‘militarese’ are easy to translate. But as you do, you will build the connections that will make both our organizations stronger as we move forward with our missions around the world.

I encourage you to be proactive in this – reach out not just to your senior-level counterparts, but to everyone on the team. Build communication and trust that reaches into the core of your unit. Be a resource for everyone.

This could very well be one of the most challenging and most rewarding assignments you ever take on. I know you will earn the respect of your military colleagues and make the State Department proud.

Thank you.

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