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MAY 2017



We need to build on the new 2 FAM 030 risk management policy and the Vital

Presence Validation Process to put in

place a comprehensive risk manage-

ment framework that extends to the

operational and tactical decisions made

at post by Emergency Action Commit-


If you missed Greg Starr’s interview,

watch it on AFSA’s YouTube channel


and give careful thought to the oppor-

tunities the political transition presents

to move our organization to a firmer

risk management footing. Doing so will

help ensure that the Foreign Service

team can be where we need to be, any-

where in the world, to defend America’s

people, interests and values.

Let’s refocus on core diplomatic


For all of you who have lamented

(quite rightly) that the profusion of

special envoys and the proliferation of

priorities have weakened our effective-

ness—when everything is a priority,

nothing is a priority—I say to you that

we now have an opportunity to stream-

line and create the conditions for a

more effective and focused American

foreign policy.

We must take care during such

reorganizing to preserve core diplomatic

capability, and I expect high-quality,

informed debates over the coming

months about what makes the cut, and

what does not. There is no one better

than seasoned, experienced members of

the Foreign Service to shape that debate.

Let’s reintroduce the Foreign Ser-

vice. As a quick glance at AFSA’s daily media digest shows, there is great inte


est now in the well-being of the Foreign

Service, certainly more than I have ever

seen in my career. We need to make the

most of this interest to achieve a long-

sought goal: increased awareness of and

appreciation for the Foreign Service.

This is a chance to shed some false

narratives, including the one about

members of the Foreign Service being

unwilling to serve in Iraq a decade ago

during the height of the war. I regret

that we did not do a better job then of

explaining to the American people that



fill every one of those Iraq posi-

tions, but at a cost.

We met our Iraq surge obligations

by moving Foreign Service personnel,

and then positions, from other impor-

tant posts, sustaining vacancy rates of

more than 25 percent at posts around

the world to meet those obligations.

Despite perceptions that took hold, the

problem was never lack of courage and

patriotism, but rather lack of numbers.

Then, as now, Foreign Service num-

bers were minuscule compared to those

of the U.S. Department of Defense. With

just over 16,000 total members—8,000

State FSOs, 6,000 FS specialists, 1,850

USAID FSOs, 255 Foreign Commercial

Service officers, 175 FSOs from Agri-

culture, and a dozen from BBG—the

Foreign Service is completely dwarfed

by the Department of Defense’s 750,000

civilian workforce and the nearly two

million members of the uniformed

military (1.4 million on active duty plus

580,000 in the reserves). The number of

American diplomats is not much big-

ger than the number of people in U.S.

military bands.

Though not as dramatic, compari-

sons with other diplomatic services

show that the U.S. Foreign Service is dis-

tinctly modest in size. Take the United

Kingdom, for example, which has about

one-fifth the population of the United

States, and a military roughly one-tenth

the size of ours. The U.K.’s Department

for International Development reports

staff of 2,700,


than the total num-

ber of FSOs at USAID; and the Foreign

Office reports about 5,000 diplomats,

not vastly smaller than the 8,000 FSOs at

State—and U.S. numbers, in contrast to

U.K. numbers, include those adjudicat-

ing visas.

Despite our small size, much is

expected of the highly skilled, dedicated

and flexible U.S. Foreign Service—and

long may that be so. We are, I would

argue, exactly the right national security

tool for the moment: a Service designed

to be regularly redeployed around the

world in pursuit of U.S. foreign policy


With our up-or-out system, we have

a built-in reduction in force (RIF) that

removes 300 of our colleagues from

the Service each year—ensuring that it

is high-performing, accountable and

responsive to new priorities.

I urge each of you to give your

best effort to making the most of the

opportunities presented by this tran-

sition to make the Foreign Service

stronger, in fact and in reputation, so

that we can do our part to sustain the

global leadership Americans want and

the world needs.


I propose that we seize the opportunities

presented by this transition tomake the

Foreign Service stronger as a key instrument

of American global leadership.