The Foreign Service Journal - September 2014 - page 7

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
|
SEPTEMBER 2014
7
dvocating for the Foreign
Service in Congress and the
American public over the past
year has taught me some les-
sons. One is to focus on the positive—here
is what the Foreign Service brings to the
foreign policy table, and here is why the
diverse and skilled women andmen of the
Foreign Service should be at the center of
our policymaking and execution.
Perhaps in a prior generation that sort
of advocacy was unnecessary. But I do feel
that in today’s globalized American soci-
ety, with dozens of NGOs, businesses and
think-tanks producing cadre with inter-
national savvy, the Foreign Service must
make its case to the public. To strengthen
that advocacy, we must look inward to
sharpen our tools and keep our profession
current.
Conversations with colleagues have
surfaced two concepts along these lines
that I want to share with you.
Information Dominance.
One way
for Foreign Service members to lead—for
instance, to prevail in a debate over policy
X in country Y—is for that person to know
more about X and Y, and how other U.S.
government operations interact with them,
than anyone else.
A colleague with plenty
of National Security Council
experience calls that
infor-
mation dominance
, and she
sees a need for more Foreign
Service people to adopt the
concept. It shouldn’t imply
being overbearing or aggres-
sive—just having the relevant
knowledge and the good
sense on when to deploy it.
Service in country and taking an FSI
course are necessary but quite insuffi-
cient to achieve information dominance.
Here is an example. I used to sit in Near
Eastern Affairs Bureaumeetings next to an
FSO named Alberto Fernandez who took
detailed notes—in Arabic. He went on to
reach an extraordinary level of fluency,
and deployed it inmedia interviews that
established his pre-eminence in that dif-
ficult language.
My advice is to seek appropriate
opportunities to acquire the highest pos-
sible level of expertise in areas of interest
for current and future assignments, to go
beyond what the State Department can
provide through personal investment of
time and energy.
This level of expertise, along with strong
leadership and interpersonal skills, is key
to the “wow” factor of the top Foreign
Service cadre.
ANewCareer Track for Expedition-
learning frompast experiences, fromViet-
nam and Bosnia to Iraq and Afghanistan.
That led to a conversation with several
colleagues about how one might
institutionalize in the Foreign
Service the skills needed to be
successful in these situations.
One idea we discussed
was seeking to establish a
new career track or cone for
expeditionary diplomacy. True,
we are reducing the presence of provincial
reconstruction teams in Afghanistan and
Iraq. But the need for volunteers to serve in
similar situations is present elsewhere—for
instance, in Syria and South Sudan—and
the need for expeditionary diplomacy
skills isn’t going away.
What skills?They involve the ability to
work in fluid situations without a strong
central host government or U.S. embassy
infrastructure to promote the local govern-
ment’s rule of law, reconstruction and
economic development, and delivery of
services.
Different in nature from the work of the
other FS cones and skill codes, expedition-
ary diplomacy is more akin to the work of
the U.S. military’s civil-military affairs or
the United States Institute for Peace’s post-
conflict reconstruction.
This Foreign Service discipline would
require intensive interagency leadership
training. The homes for it already exist in
State’s Conflict and Stabilization Opera-
tions Bureau and USAID’s Office of Transi-
tion Initiatives.
The main purpose of establishing this
new track would be to deepen the Foreign
Service’s expertise in critical areas for the
U.S. national interest. It would demon-
strate Foreign Service leadership in hard-
ship environments through a sustainable
institutional framework.
Willingness to lead in the toughest
places would also resonate with the Ameri-
can public and strengthen our advocacy.
Bob
n
PRESIDENT’S VIEWS
A
Robert J. Silverman is the president of the American Foreign Service Association.
Talking About Foreign Service Advocacy
BY ROBERT J . S I LVERMAN
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