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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

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JUNE 2017

31

a specific task or carry out a clearly defined role or mission,

whereas education broadens knowledge and thinking. While I

was there, the NDU provost often said: “We don’t teach people

what to think; we teach them how to think.” NDU prides itself

on producing strategic thinkers: a few of its well-known gradu-

ates include former Chair-

man of the Joint Chiefs

of Staff and Secretary of

State Colin Powell, former

National Security Advisor

Brent Scowcroft and Mar-

tin Dempsey, who retired

as chairman of the Joint

Chiefs of Staff in 2016.

State’s presence at each

of NDU’s five colleges

is significant. On average, the State Department sends 20-25

officers to the National War College and an equal number to

the Eisenhower School (formerly the Industrial College of the

Armed Forces) each year. A much smaller number (2-3) go to the

College of International Security Affairs, which focuses on coun-

terterrorism, and to the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk,

Virginia. In addition to students, State has faculty slots in each

school and holds the number-two leadership position at the

University, the National War College, the Eisenhower School and

CISA. Altogether, the State contingent at NDU easily numbers

60-70 per year.

Making the Most of the Investment

State personnel benefit tremendously from this experience.

Classroom discussions offer an opportunity to explore issues

(e.g., how to diminish the influence of the Islamic State group)

from a new perspective and to hear what others—especially

military officers—think about these challenges. Personal interac-

tions outside of class provide an opportunity to get to know

people our officers might otherwise never come across and to

build relationships that often prove to be invaluable later down

the line. (If you are interested in bidding on a year at NDU, look

for 17 State 41364, Long-Term Training Opportunities, which

gives details on how to apply.)

There are countless stories of FSOs who graduated fromNDU—

whether from the National War College, the Eisenhower School or

another component—and encountered a classmate five to 10 years

later in an interagency setting. In almost every case, their shared

experience as NDU students facilitated discussion andmade it

easier to resolve issues. We can only guess at howmany disagree-

ments between State and DOD never reached a crisis level because

the people involved understood each other’s cultures and were

able to work out their differences.

A year at NDU represents a substantial investment by the State

Department in officers expected to go on to leadership roles. So

it is almost astounding that

we do not make a concerted

effort to reap the benefits of

this investment by ensur-

ing that the knowledge and

experience our students

acquire is utilized in a delib-

erate manner. Long overdue

improvements to the

selection process for senior

training have been made

recently, but more could be done. One idea involves setting aside

a small number of slots, perhaps two per year, for officers willing

to commit to focus on political-military issues or take an impor-

tant assignment as a foreign policy adviser (known as a POLAD)

to a military service chief or commander.

I met with State FSO students every year while at NDU

and found them frustrated that our personnel system seemed

incapable of finding a way to recognize the added value they

bring out of the assignment. Linked assignments are probably a

bridge too far, but steps forward could include equating a year

at institutions like NDU to interagency experience and requiring

the deputy chief of mission and principal officer selection com-

mittee to give candidates with this experience higher consider-

ation for posts with a large U.S. military presence. Over time, this

might encourage new norms, such as an expectation that service

school graduates will be more competitive for positions that

have a significant political-military component.

Creative thinking and a more strategic approach to how

we fill certain assignments could put us on a stronger footing

in terms of the relationship with DOD. This would absolutely

require a commitment from the seventh floor, and not just from

the Director General’s office. It might be difficult and controver-

sial, but conscious change is needed if we are to make the most

of opportunities that already exist.

What We Can Teach the Military

Another factor that we pay insufficient attention to is the

degree to which we can positively influence our military col-

leagues' perceptions of the State Department and the Foreign

Service. While it is critical to have individual FSOs benefit from

Creative thinking and a more

strategic approach to how we fill

certain assignments could put

us on a stronger footing in terms

of the relationship with DOD.