The Foreign Service Journal - January/February 2017
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dards. After the report was issued, the situation became even

worse as a result of the department-wide pay freeze that caused

LE staff wages in high-inflation countries to plummet.

The State Department has been addressing this situation

on a case-by-case basis, but a more comprehensive solution is

needed. The effectiveness of our missions abroad depends on

our ability to attract and retain talented local staff members.

I urge the new administration to make fair pay for our LE staff

colleagues a top priority and to seek funding from Congress to

make it a reality.

Mary Grace McGeehan

FSO, retired

Cape Town, South Africa

America’s First Line of Defense

The Foreign Service is America’s first line of defense. Should

the Foreign Service fail to resolve an existential dispute, the U.S.

military then takes over. The Foreign Service and the State Depart-

ment are de facto, and generally unrecognized, national security


Langdon Williams

FSO, retired

Reston, Virginia

Recognize the


in Foreign Service

We understand that many Americans don’t have a clear under-

standing of what we do—at home or abroad—compared to our

fellows in other agencies and departments.

My colleagues—whether Foreign Service or Civil Service,

military or foreign local employees—work long hours every day

because they want to serve our government. No matter the politi-

cal leanings of the administration, we believe in American leader-

ship in the world, and we want to ensure good governance and

defend and advance the interests of our nation and the principles

our country stands for.

Our collective dedication, experience and, yes, counsel, can

be a powerful asset—and I urge the new administration to please

take advantage.

H. Martin McDowell


Fairfax, Virginia

Understand What

We Do

I am a Midwesterner. I had no connection

to the Foreign Service prior to joining.

I have proudly served America in six

countries during my career—helping in

a mass evacuation after an earthquake,

visiting Americans in prison to make sure

their rights were protected, assisting an

American in the middle of the night who

was destitute and had just been assaulted,

uncovering various smuggling rings and

preventing cartel members from being

issued visas.

I served in Bogota, where the Revolutionary Armed Forces of

Colombia–People’s Army, known as FARC, blew up car bombs;

and I served in Havana when we were considered the imperialist

enemy. My wife and kids adapt to a new posting, language and

culture every few years. My career isn’t unusual—this is what we

in the Foreign Service do, and we are proud to do it.

Robert Neus

FSO, Diplomat in Residence

Chicago, Illinois

Elevate Public Diplomacy

It is time to take public diplomacy out of the State Department

and give it back the agency status it once had. We are losing the

war of ideas around the world. Social media has changed the way

we practice public diplomacy, and we are not keeping up with it.

To help make America great again, we need to do a better job tell-

ing its story and explaining its policies.

Ray Burson

FSO, retired

Doniphan, Missouri

Our Most Important Role

The most important role of the Foreign Service is to get foreign-

ers to do what we want. To be most effective in that, we need an

understanding of foreign societies, interests and leadership. Our

embassies need to be secure and supplied with the right people

and equipment to allow interaction with host governments and

people at every level, including outside the capital. We use these

contacts and relationships to develop policy recommendations