The Foreign Service Journal - July/August 2016
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tion” of the uniformedmilitary with the

civilians of the Pentagon.

The U.S. Foreign Service and the State

Department Civil Service work together

to realize the international goals of

the United States. But they are distinct

personnel systems operating within indi-

vidual legislative and regulatory frame-

works, each with different missions.

This is not easy to administer, but each

is in need of more coherent personnel

management, career development and

professional training (see the American

Academy of Diplomacy report, “American Diplomacy at Risk”). Eachmerits respect.

And eachmust be better protected from

political abuse.

General Powell’s actions were well-

intentioned in a misunderstood context

of political correctness. But his policy

encouraged a dysfunctional drive to

attempt the amalgamation of disparate

personnel systems.

And, sadly, this has led to the cur-

rent State Department aberration of

“disappearing” the Foreign Service of

the United States, of pretending that the

Congress did not create a professional

diplomatic service of commissioned

officers confirmed by the Senate and

supported by competent Foreign Service

specialists—in fact, of suppressing the

very title “Foreign Service Officer” and

even avoiding, whenever possible, the

proud name “Foreign Service.”

I imagine Colin Powell would regret the

role he played in this outcome, which we

must hope will be short-lived. Like other

modern nations, the United States needs

a disciplined professional diplomatic ser-

vice, nowmore than ever. The Rogers Act of 1924, reinforced by the Foreign Service

Acts of 1946 and 1980, established one.

Bill Harrop

FSO, retired

Bethesda, Maryland

Foreign Service Day and

the Foreign Service Act

Colin Powell came to the State

Department as Secretary in 2001 and was

concerned that he found an apparently

divided workforce—a Foreign Service and

a somehow less prestigious Civil Service.

This troubled him. He sensed an elitism

that sappedmorale and probably impaired


Foreign Service Day

had existed for

half a century as an opportunity for

Foreign Service retirees to return each

year to Washington to reminisce with old

friends and be briefed on current devel-

opments in foreign policy and diplo-

macy. It had nothing to do with the Civil

Service; its members lived in Washington


The Foreign Service Lounge was a sort

of sanctuary, where Foreign Service staff

returning fromoverseas could have an

address where their mail would be held,

and where they could find a typewriter

(later a computer), telephone directories

and telephones to re-establish contact

with old friends and work through the

sometimes confusing experience of

repatriation to a changing America. It had

absolutely nothing to do with the Civil

Service or political appointees in the State


Without exploring the facts or the

background, Secretary Powell disrup-

tively set out to correct a problem that

did not exist. He asked, “What about

Civil Service Day?” He wanted to “level

the personnel playing field,” and so

he renamed these institutions Foreign

Affairs Day and the Employee Services

Center, respectively, as part of a policy to

eradicate perceived elitism.

Poorly advised, he did not grasp the

distinctive nature of a professional diplo-

matic service grounded in law. He would

never have promoted the “homogeniza-