Page 7 - Foreign Service Journal - May 2013

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MAY 2013
n my April column (“AFSA and the
Foreign Service: Te Road Ahead”), I
promised to discuss some of the factors
that are undermining the Foreign Ser-
vice as an institution and to highlight
reforms to strengthen it and the State
Department. Tis column will also draw
on the April 12
Washington Post
“Bring Back Professional Diplomacy,”
that Ambassadors Ronald Neumann and
Tomas Pickering and I co-authored. Tat
opinion piece has generated considerable
comment and served to draw attention to
this important issue.
In it, we identifed two of the factors
which have weakened the Foreign Service
and undermined the efectiveness of
American diplomacy. Te frst is the steady
decline of Foreign Service representation
in the senior-most positions at the State
Department. Increased reliance on politi-
cal appointments has limited the number
of positions available to Senior Foreign
Service ofcers. Te impact of this trend
has been exacerbated by the longstanding
practice of appointing non-career ambas-
sadors to head the overwhelming majority
of our embassies in Group of Eight capitals
and other important countries.
Te second factor relates to the co-
existence under the same roof of two dis-
tinct State Department person-
nel systems: the non-rotational
General Schedule Civil Service
system, with no common entry
standard or up-or-out evalua-
tion; and the Foreign Service’s
rotational, rank-in-person,
up-or-out system. Tat system is
modeled on the U.S. military and
is designed tomeet the requirements of
worldwide diplomacy, as specifed by the
Foreign Service Act of 1980. Te expansion
of GS positions has resulted in a decline in
FS opportunities in all bureaus, especially
those responsible for human resources,
management and global policy issues.
Having two fundamentally diferent,
competing personnel systems cannot be
expected to create a harmonious corporate
environment in the State Department. Ide-
ally, a more integrated personnel system
is called for to serve the requirements and
purposes of American diplomacy.
At the very least, we must rethink the
emphasis on narrow specialization built
on static positions that undergirds the Civil
Service system, and the Foreign Service
framework of specialized political, eco-
nomic, public diplomacy, management
and consular “cones.” But this will require
thoughtful re-examination tomeet the
need for strategic vision and three-dimen-
sional thinking in Foggy Bottom.
Let me be clear: Both the Civil Service
and the Foreign Service personnel systems
need reform. But the inescapable ques-
tion is this: How can the Foreign Service
develop as a top-notch professional cadre
if it is squeezed out of top positions at State
and in the very overseas missions that con-
stitute the operational frame-
work for it and for diplomacy?
Tis trendmust be reversed.
Te Foreign Service itself
needs reform in two areas. First,
State must ofer enhanced pro-
fessional education and training
at all levels of the Service, integrated with
assignments and career advancement, to
build and continually renew a professional
cadre ready to address the complex, chal-
lenging and changing global environment.
Second, State should review how the
“cone” systemhas compartmentalized the
Foreign Service into a set of narrow spe-
cializations. To nurture an efective, profes-
sional cadre of diplomats, especially at the
leadership level, FSOs must develop broad
experience in dealing with the gamut of
bilateral, multilateral, political and eco-
nomic issues, and diplomatic practice, as
well as human resource andmanagement
Discussion of the points raised here is
urgent if diplomacy is to regain its primacy
in the pursuit of the foreign policy goals
of national security, economic prosperity
and democratic values. Te experience of
the two longest wars in U.S. history reveals
the limitations of exclusive dependence on
military or economic pre-eminence.
Efective diplomacy is indispensable
because U.S. strategic goals cannot be
achieved by military power alone. Our
armed forces should support diplomacy,
not the reverse.
In the foreign policy arena, the Depart-
ment of Defense and other national
security agencies must not eclipse or
sideline the State Department. Similarly,
State cannot assert itself as the primary
institution responsible for the conduct of
diplomacy without a strong, professional
Foreign Service.
Reviving the Foreign Service
Susan R. Johnson is the president of the American Foreign Service Association.