The Foreign Service Journal - June 2017
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JUNE 2017



needed to succeed. That is a nice way of saying we fielded some

duds, which was sometimes worse than not fielding anyone.

Added to the challenge of finding qualified FSOs to bid on

these jobs is the fact that POLAD service is not seen as career-

enhancing—an open secret that was underscored in 2013 in

an unfortunate, pre-EER season DG cable that lumped those

assignments together with academic training or diplomat-in-

residence positions as akin to taking a year off.

All good things do come to an end. By the time U.S forces

withdrew from Iraq at the end of 2011, a new high point had

been reached in FSO-military engagement. Concomitantly,

however, influence with the military receded rapidly because

we failed to lock in a sustainable level of interaction. With

up-or-out personnel systems common to both the military

and the Foreign Service, the cohort of people with experience

in working with their respective services is shrinking and not

being replenished. Today the only places where rising FSOs

can develop lasting relationships with military counterparts

are either in POLAD assignments or in the military’s senior

service schools, where only a dozen or so FSOs spend a year.

That adds up to about 100 FSOs per year, a fraction of the size

of the Service, in mean-

ingful interaction with the


Today, astonishingly,

not all of the U.S. division

and corps headquarters

rotating in and out of

Iraq, Kuwait and Jordan

have been assigned FSO

POLADs. Nor have the

smaller units operating

inside Iraq or Syria, or

those going to Europe as

part of our European Reassurance Initiative for allies con-

cerned about Russian intentions.

What State Can Do Now

If the State Department wants to claw back some of the turf

it has ceded to the military, it is going to have to dig deep to

find the positions and people to deploy with the military and to

foster an organizational climate that encourages and rewards

its people for investing a year or two to serve with the military’s

current and future leaders.

I would recommend the following specific actions:

Build relationships in advance—the center of gravity for

State-DOD interaction is with the geographic and functional

combatant commands, the partnered State National Guard

and the Army division assigned as the regionally aligned force.

Every chief of mission should visit the division headquarters

that covers his or her country, as well as the adjutant general of

their country’s partnered State National Guard, before leav-

ing Washington. Make a call on the combatant commander a

priority during the first 100 days at post.

The State Department should prioritize recruiting senior

officers who still have five to 10 years left on active duty to serve as

deputy commanders in the three combatant commands that have

them (EUCOM, AFRICOM and SOUTHCOM) and as POLADs at

all combatant commands;

those who do well should be

prioritized for onward chief-

of-mission or geographic

bureau leadership positions.

Recruit, train and

deploy FS-2s and FS-3s

who were recently high-

ranked by promotion

boards to serve with every

task force, division and

corps-level headquarters

that operates in combat


Invite combatant commanders to provide input to COM

evaluations; this will give ambassadors incentive to develop

productive relationships and influence.

Re-establish the flag/general officer deputy assistant sec-

retary position in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.

Double the number of FSOs attending the military’s mid-

and senior-level service schools; give priority to FSOs who have

served as POLADs or in other positions with the military.

Make joint service with the military a bonus in consid-

eration for promotion and a prerequisite for assignment to

leadership (DCM and COM) positions.


Those FSOs and Civil Service

professionals serving alongside

division and brigade command

staffs generated high regard

for American diplomats among

their comrades-in-uniform.

We could knock off all the ISIL and Boko Haram this

afternoon; but by the end of the week…those ranks would

be filled… Many people, especially those in uniform,

have said we can’t kill our way to victory here…The short

answer is no, we cannot [win the war without soft power].

—General Thomas Waldhauser,

Commander, U.S. Africa Command,

March 9, 2017