Fixing for the Future with Lessons of the Past: The Determinants of Effective Foreign Policy Reform
Research Question: What causes states to (fail to) adapt their national security agencies to meet new threats in a changing international environment? Structural realists and some American politics scholars argue that foreign-policy bureaucracies are rationally (re)organized to meet leaders’ changing policy needs. Standing opposed are sociological and bureaucratic politics scholars who see reform as driven by domestic politics, in particular the relationship between executive branch leaders and the interests of the permanent bureaucracy.
Data: The project is based on an original dataset of nearly 1100 proposed reforms to the Department of State from 1998-2018.
Methods: I utilized Heckman selection models to understand the two-stage process influencing the outcomes of bureaucratic reform proposals: whether an idea was selected, and then if selected, whether it was implemented. Future extensions of the project aim to use a variety of text-analytic methods to better understand patterns in reform proposal contents themselves.
Findings: Analyzing which reform proposals were selected and implemented, I find no evidence that “critical juncture” international events spark bursts of rapid institutional change. Instead, my results suggest that logrolling or garbage-can models of organizational choice are better suited to understanding why America’s diplomatic apparatus did (not) adapt to new foreign policy challenges.