The Foreign Service Journal - July/August 2014 - page 30

In fact, bountiful
Web access to open-source
information has the potential
tomake good diplomatic
reporting even better.
analysts in Washington were quick to recognize, however,
that while the Internet would narrow the diplomat’s reporting
domain, it could not compete with the Foreign Service’s ability
to provide policy-relevant insight and invaluable context with
regard to local people, events and trends. In fact, bountiful
online access to open-source information has the potential to
make good diplomatic reporting even better.
Technology Needs Brainpower
We cannot minimize the challenges ahead. U.S. diplomats
must deal with a world in which everything moves faster,
including advances in technology. The State Department will
need to invest more in technology to preserve the global edge
for diplomacy. IT-driven globalization has already fostered
the unprecedented development of interconnected, global
networks that move political, cultural, economic, financial,
military and environmental information around a shrinking
world with unprecedented speed and efficiency. This historic
phenomenon of our age will not go away.
My core message, however, is that, while technology
enhances brainpower, it is no substitute for it. Today a new,
tech-savvy generation of Foreign Service officers is entirely
comfortable with analytic tools and software applications like
time series, clustering, link analysis and visualization. These
young diplomats use social media as easily as they brush their
teeth. But in the end, it is their talent and passion for crisp,
incisive reporting that sustains the State Department’s gold
standard for reporting from the field. Technology enables as
never before, but cognitive power still makes the critical dif-
The advance of technology will only accelerate in the
decades ahead. But it can never match the seasoned diplo-
mat’s powers of observation and artful precision in assessing
complex issues, local developments and trends.
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