The Foreign Service Journal - March 2016
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MARCH 2016



work on our behalf in places of conflict,

crisis or instability.

Lee R. Briggs

Siddharth Ashvin Shah

Greenleaf Integrative Strategies

Arlington, Virginia

Toxic Workplaces

As I read through the “Foreign Service Members Weigh In” section of the Jour- nal’s January-February “Mental Health” issue, I chuckled—but the mirth was


Throughout the litany of uncaring and

suspicious bureaucrats, toxic workplaces

and vicious bosses, I recognized all too

clearly the Foreign Service in which I—

and a vast majority of my colleagues—

worked. “Stress and anxiety” were as com-

mon as breathing and about as healthy

as a winter’s worth of air in 1970s Ankara,

when the sidewalks sizzled in the dilute

sulfuric acid falling from the sky.

The problem is that the Foreign Service

seems to see itself as a collegial service

of intelligent, creative people working

together to advance the national interest

and to protect our citizens. But it is noth-

ing of the sort. Most higher-ranking super-

visors wouldn’t recognize “collegiality” if

it walked up and smacked them across the

face with a mackerel.

But they—and their lower-level

colleagues destined to rise—would be

perfectly familiar with other interpersonal

behaviors: shameless self-promotion,

bootlicking, backstabbing for fun and

profit, and whispering campaigns appro-

priate to a gaggle of 15-year-old Valley

Girls. All of this takes place in a climate

of frenzied competition through a lottery

of supervisors able to write well and suf-

ficiently interested to do so, presided over

by a charmed circle of those with con-

nections, family ties or education at the

proper schools.

Amore perfect recipe to brewmadness

I cannot imagine. In my 26 years in the

Foreign Service, I saw five years’ worth of

supervisors who functionally understood

“collegial.”They were the jewels that made

the rest bearable.

I see one way to fix the problem: each

morning, supervisors should look in the

mirror and ask, “What will I do today to

show those working for me that I appreci-

ate what they do? How can I help them

achieve their goals?”

The level of self-examination being

what it is in the Foreign Service, I look for-

ward to the


revisiting the problem

of mental health care in a future issue. In

the meantime, Prozac and Johnny Walker

all around.

Morgan Liddick

FSO, retired

Stuarts Draft, Virginia

An FS Reserve Still Needed

Thank you for the great review of the

Foreign Service Act of 1980 in the Septem-

ber issue (“The Foreign Service Act of 1980 Turns 35”). One unfortunate result of the

act was to eliminate the Foreign Service

Reserve corps.

At the time it probably made sense

to consolidate, either allowing corps

members to convert to the Foreign Service

proper or revert to the Civil Service.

However, practice has shown that the

State Department cannot do without such

employees brought into the Foreign Ser-

vice for limited appointments. The Bureau

of Consular Affairs, in particular, is leading

the way with creative programs to fill vital

adjudicator slots that cannot all be filled

by incoming entry-level FSO classes.

Originally created as the Foreign Ser-

vice Auxiliary during World War II to bring

additional employees on board quickly

outside of the FS examination process,

the Foreign Service Reserve was codified

under the 1946 Foreign Service Act but

eliminated in 1980. Perhaps it is time to

consider its reinstatement.

The department currently has dispa-

rate programs that would be best unified

under a single reserve corps: the Civil Ser-

vice “hard to fill” program, the Overseas

Development Program (for civil servants),

limited non-career appointment (LNA)

consular adjudicators, A-EFM consular

adjudicators, EFM professional associ-

ates, WAE (“While Actually Employed”) FS

retirees, flyaway teams (e.g., a civil servant

who provides three weeks of press support

leading up to a Secretary of State visit, or

supports a post during a consular evacua-

tion) and technical experts brought from

outside of the State Department to assist

in post-conflict stabilization situations.

A revived reserve corps could be a

single cadre with a common entry pro-

gram and its own esprit de corps. It would

serve the combined goals of filling unmet

needs in the Foreign Service and provid-

ing career development for qualified civil

servants. It could incorporate all those

civil servants who pass an examination

and have worldwide availability; but like

current LNAs and WAEs, the appoint-

ments would be for a limited duration.

(LNAs are limited to no more than 5 years

continuous overseas service.)

At the end of this period, the employee

could compete for entry into the Foreign

Service officer or specialist corps, or

return to the Civil Service.

The newly constituted Foreign Service

Reserve could incorporate a registry, cre-

ating a common pool centrally managed

by the Bureau of Human Resources, of the

hitherto separately maintained groups.

The registry would include information on

skills, training, language ability and medi-

cal clearance. All reservists would possess

a diplomatic passport to allow travel on

short notice.