THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
qualified individuals, and that there were incentives and support
mechanisms in place to assist those volunteering (and their fami-
lies) for these dangerous and high-stress embassies. I was very
proud of the Foreign Service for stepping up. We did not have to
make any directed assignments.
HR also continued its efforts to adopt new approaches to
assignments, career counseling, organization of the HR function
within the department and use of information technology. Not
everything worked the first time—I haven’t forgotten the debacle
with the initial rollout of the electronic EER, and the need to rede-
sign and rethink our approach.
What impact do you think the current hiring freeze will
have on the Foreign Service?
I think the current approach, especially with regard to
entry classes and to eligible family member hiring, is extraordi-
narily counterproductive and betrays a lack of understanding of
how the department works. I am delighted with the decision to
go ahead with two A-100 classes, which will include the eligible
Rangel and Pickering Fellows, and hope that it signals a willing-
ness to reconsider the ban on hiring within the department and
the EFM decision.
The Foreign Service depends on a steady inflow/outflow,
and disruptions in that flow result in problems
that persist for a generation. I am offended by the
notion that the EFM program is somehow an “FSO
welfare” benefit. It ignores the important contribu-
tions family members make to missions around
the world. Creation and staffing of the positions
are governed by a strict set of regulations in order
to justify the positions and ensure that all eligible
EFMs can compete. The program saves the depart-
ment money by hiring people whose transporta-
tion and housing have already been paid, and
whose skills greatly enhance our performance
When did you join AFSA? How was your
relationship with AFSA when you were on the man-
agement side of the table?
I think I joined AFSA on the first day of
A-100. There is a certain amount of tension built
into the relationship when you are the DG, given
the different perspectives, especially involving dis-
cipline cases. But I think there was mutual respect
and a common desire to do what was best for the
country and for Foreign Service employees. Then-AFSA President
Susan Johnson and I met frequently.
Diversity and Mentoring
When you joined the Foreign Service 40 years ago, it was
far less diverse than it is today. Did you ever feel you were treated
differently as a woman hailing from the Midwest who had not
attended an Ivy League school? If so, how did you handle that?
The senior officer who welcomed my A-100 class to
the State Department told a sexist joke as part of his greeting.
The five women in the class used a bathroom break to wonder
aloud about what we had gotten ourselves into. It was a pattern
that helped to deal with other incidents—there was always a
sisterhood that could be relied on to discuss, counsel and act,
and often we had support frommen who did not share the old
There were a few of my early colleagues who were convinced
that the arrival of women (including one from Iowa who hadn’t
been to one of the Seven Sisters and who didn’t drink) meant
the Foreign Service was going to hell in a handbasket, and some
later on who felt threatened and disadvantaged as women
assumed leadership positions. While I did more than my fair
share of pouring coffee and taking notes, I also had the sup-
Ambassador Nancy J. Powell (center) opens the U.S. Pavilion at Aero Indian
2013, an international air show at Air Force Station Yalahanka in Bangalore,
India. Preparing to cut the ceremonial ribbon with her on Feb. 6 were (front from
left) Vice Adm. William E. Landay, III, Defense Security Cooperation Agency
director; Heidi H. Grant, Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force, International
Affairs; Lt. Gen. Stanley T. Kresge, Pacific Air Forces vice commander; and
aviation industry partners.