The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2022

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2022 23 Step 1: Make the National Security Case The State Department’s existing tradecraft toolbox is largely limited to bilateral and multilateral diplomacy. Bilateral engage- ment, when regional bureaus and missions abroad interact with their ministry-level counterparts, is prioritized at the top. And multilateral diplomacy (which includes regional organizations) is only elevated to the forefront when there is a need for global coordination, whether it’s ensuring equitable vaccine distribu- tion, setting sustainable development benchmarks, or respond- ing to climate and conflict-induced waves of mass migration. Subnational diplomacy, the less visible third instrument, is a powerful, omnipresent force, but one that is rarely leveraged, or even acknowledged. Sister Cities International is an extensive network connecting American and foreign cities around the world in mutually beneficial exchange programs since 1956. In the more recent period, with the rise of trans-subnational global networks such as the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, established in 2005 and currently chaired by Mayor of Los Ange- les Eric Garcetti, subnational actors have become more active on the front lines of foreign policy issues. In the aftermath of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, the U.S. Conference of Mayors issued a bipartisan resolution calling on the Biden administration to resource refugee integration efforts, a rare moment of unity in a deeply polarized national political context. In a decentralized democracy like the United States, mayors and governors have the power to set their own foreign policy agendas and are often first responders when global crises emerge. Sometimes their interests align with the federal government, sometimes they don’t. As the Trump administration was withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017, for example, the governor of Hawaii departed from the president’s stance and signed the first subnational statute to support and align with the global treaty. The city of Los Angeles became a founding member of the Urban 20 (U20), a coalition formed to push G-20 leaders on progressive policies, particularly around pandemic response, compared to the Trump administration’s more insular agenda. The state of California, the world’s fifth-largest economy, signed an agreement in 2019 to establish a Trade and Services Desk to strengthen California-Mexico trade relations. When there is alignment on policy, subnational diplomacy has the capacity to be a diplomatic force multiplier. And even when there is a divergence of thought, rather than view subna- tional diplomacy as a threat to the federal government’s power, the State Department needs to reframe this tension as healthy and potentially useful in strengthening and informing foreign policy at the national level. Subnational diplomacy can also be a laboratory for creativity and experimentation where the stakes are lower if an idea fails, but a successful idea can scale up to the national and even multi- lateral level quickly. When I was posted in Pakistan, the embassy supported a multiyear, two-way, city-to-city entrepreneurship partnership benefiting the economies of Austin and Lahore. Step 2: Mainstream into the Bureaucracy To leverage subnational diplomacy effectively, the State Department needs to set up structures to better coordinate and engage in diplomacy with mayors and governors across the country, the way it already does with foreign counterparts around the world. We can do this in three ways: 1. Establish an Office of Subnational Diplomacy at State. In 2019, Representative Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) introduced the City and State Diplomacy Act calling for establishment of an Office of Subnational Diplomacy at the State Department. This office, ideally led by a senior official who reports to the Secretary, would serve as a bridge between the department and subna- tional actors not only across the United States, but around the world. Existing networks—such as Strong Cities, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, Urban20, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities, Sister Cities, the Resilient Cities Network and others—would be able to connect their work more effectively. Subnational engagement at the State Department has histori- cally been grounded in public affairs work, situated in the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. This new Office of Subnational Diplomacy would broaden the scope of engagement beyond public diplomacy and people-to-people exchanges to core policy issues. U.S. diplomats posted at missions overseas could expand their rolodex of bilateral contacts to also include subnational actors and networks, integrating state and local engagement into reporting cables and other day-to-day work with U.S. foreign policy priorities seamlessly. 2. Expand the Pearson Fellowship program to all 50 states. Another way to build more connectivity between the State Department and subnational actors across the country is to expand the Pearson Fellowship program. The Pearson Fellow- ship was the result of a bill introduced by Senator James Pearson (R-Kan.) in 1974 to expose Foreign Service officers to state and local governments as they advance in their careers. If there were State Department employees, either Civil Service or Foreign