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long time. But as it documented in
Rebuilding Diplomacy: A Survey of
Past Calls for State Department Trans-
(, “c
staffing shortfalls driven by budget
cuts and increased responsibilities se-
verely constrain the department’s abil-
ity to release employees from daily
duties so that they can undertake
needed education and training.”
The CNAS study made it clear
that expanded State Department training should go be-
yond simply preparing employees for their next assign-
ment to offering courses to prepare Foreign Service
officers for a career in government. “The State Depart-
ment should make an institutional commitment to train-
ing its diplomats to excel at conducting 21st-century
diplomacy,” the Center said.
As soon as he became Secretary of State in 2001, Colin
Powell made rectifying the situation a top priority.
Through the Diplomatic Readiness Initiative, intended to
rebuild a Foreign Service gutted by a decade of flat or de-
clining budgets, State quickly hired more than a thousand
Foreign Service personnel, exceeding the rate of attrition.
The goal was to create a surplus “float,” or reserve, of of-
ficers that would allow full staffing of posts overseas even
as a sizable contingent of officers underwent long-term
education and training in Washington.
Unfortunately, the demand for Foreign Service per-
sonnel, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, grew so vo-
raciously that allowing them to stay in Washington to
pursue long-term professional training was a luxury most
posts couldn’t afford.
Diplomacy 3.0, We Hardly Knew Ye
In 2009, the Obama administration decided to tackle
this longstanding challenge head on. Secretary of State
Hillary Rodham Clinton launched an initiative dubbed
Diplomacy 3.0, with an ambitious goal of expanding the
ranks of Foreign Service personnel at the State Depart-
ment by 25 percent, both to meet new needs and to allow
more officers to take training. The year before, USAID
launched the Development Leadership Initiative, a re-
lated program, with the even bolder goal of doubling the
number of FSOs there.
As its name suggests, Diplomacy
3.0 — also known as “The 3 Ds” —
has three elements: diplomacy, de-
velopment and defense. Developed
as part of a creative marketing pitch
aimed at Congress, the initiative cen-
tered on the proposition that the
Foreign Service faces increasingly
complex challenges in the post-9/11
world. Besides serving in war zones,
today’s diplomats have to engage their foreign peers on
subjects ranging from terrorism and international crime to
nuclear nonproliferation, the environment and many oth-
ers requiring specialized knowledge, program manage-
ment abilities and familiarity with the interagency
To do that effectively, they also need to master diffi-
cult languages like Chinese and Arabic. Taken together,
all of these demands require a massive expansion of pro-
grams at the Foreign Service Institute, the department’s
training center, as well as sufficient hiring to create and
maintain a training float.
For a while, the approach seemed to be working.
Thanks to massive infusions of resources, State expanded
the ranks of Foreign Service employees by about 17 per-
cent in less than two years to more than 13,000. As of
2011, USAID had hired 809 new officers, boosting its
Foreign Service work force by two-thirds. FSI received
sizable budget increases, as well. Its budget doubled be-
tween 2008 and 2011, rising from $121 million to $240
But the progress stopped once Democrats lost the
House of Representatives in November 2010 and held a
narrower majority in the Senate. A huge class of Repub-
lican freshmen, many of them inspired by the fiscally aus-
tere Tea Party movement, joined forces with other fiscal
conservatives and foreign policy isolationists on Capitol
Hill to downsize federal agencies. FSI’s budget went flat,
and funds for Foreign Service recruitment and hiring also
took a hit.
In early 2011 Senator Tom Coburn, R-Okla., perhaps
the Senate’s foremost budget-cutter, delivered a blunt
message to State Department officials at a Homeland Se-
curity and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing.
Diplomacy 3.0, he said, was dead.
“We are all on an absolutely unsustainable course in
J U LY - A U G U S T 2 0 1 2 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L
Diplomacy 3.0 and the
Development Leadership
Initiative have attempted
to institutionalize
a training reserve.
Shawn Zeller, a regular contributor to the
, is a free-
lance writer in Washington, D.C.