THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
wrote inmy very first column
of the joy
of receiving members of the 183rd A-100
class at AFSA headquarters, in my first
act after being sworn in as president
in July. Their excitement and enthusiasm
about their careers was contagious.
Recently, I shared lunch and a consid-
erably more somber conversation with
members of the 185th A-100 class. They
are ready to serve, but concerned.
Their concern: that the recent surge in
demand for entry-level consular adjudi-
cators will lead to back-to-back consular
tours that will distort their career paths
and hinder their development into well-
rounded Foreign Service officers.
One thoughtful member of the class
followed up with me in writing, describ-
ing the impact of the “present crushing
demand” for consular staffing and urging
expanded use of the limited non-career
appointment (LNA) adjudicator program.
The current A-100 class, he wrote,
“consists of 93 members, all of whomwill
serve in the consular section during their
first tour. It is highly likely that a majority
will serve their second tour in the consular
section, as well. Of those 93, only 20 are
actually consular-coned officers. If the
desired end state is well-rounded officers,
the remaining 73 individuals are being put
at a disadvantage.”
that the desired
end state is well-
In fact, a key
purpose of the
personnel system is to produce a deep
bench of experienced, seasoned leaders
year after year.
How are those leaders produced?
Primarily through a series of varied and
increasingly responsible assignments. The
rule of thumb is 70-20-10: that is, 70 per-
cent of career development comes from
a carefully thought out series of assign-
ments; 20 percent frommentoring; and 10
percent from formal training.
On-the-job training, through assign-
ments designed to master the core busi-
ness and develop a leader, is not just nice
to have if circumstances permit. On the
contrary, it is the primary means by which
the Foreign Service develops the next
generation of leaders.
A consular tour—for all officers, of
every cone—is an important step in
mastering the core business of the Foreign
Service, including leader development,
a signature strength of Consular Affairs.
That said, when the one or two years of
consular work slip to four, five or six years,
we are putting career development at risk.
AFSA recognizes the short-term chal-
lenge of filling a sharply higher number of
entry-level consular adjudicator slots and
will engage constructively with depart-
ment management to address it.
As the principal advocate for the long-
term institutional health of the Foreign
Service, AFSA will insist that solutions to
the short-term challenge give due weight
to the long-termwell-being of our com-
petitive up-or-out Service.
Here is the good news. The current
staffing challenge pales in comparison to
past challenges and can be easily over-
come—without sacrificing access to the
varied assignments key to career develop-
Let’s do some quick math. Workload
projections indicate that 600 entry-level
consular adjudicators are needed this
year. About 365 positions will be filled with
new entry-level officers, leaving a gap of
How does filling 235 LNA positions
in cities like São Paulo, Guadalajara and
Shanghai stack up against past challenges?
As deputy coordinator for Iraq in Janu-
ary 2007, I found myself with less than a
year to get more than 600 trained civil-
ians to Iraq, then experiencing horrific
violence. It was the largest deployment of
civilians to a war zone since the Vietnam
War, and we filled every position.
To my new colleagues in the 185th
A100 class, I say: Fear not. You joined a
strong, resilient organization, one that
has faced down bigger challenges in the
past. Count on AFSA to advocate cease-
lessly and effectively for a career path that
ensures that you too can develop into
the seasoned, well-rounded leaders the
Foreign Service needs.
Ambassador Barbara Stephenson is the president of the American Foreign Service Association.
Building the Deep Bench
BY BARBARA STEPHENSON
The training acquired through assignments is
the primary means by which the Foreign Service
develops the next generation of leaders.