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36

SEPTEMBER 2017

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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.

FSJ:

What impact do you think the current hiring freeze will

have on the Foreign Service?

NJP:

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

overseas.

FSJ:

When did you join AFSA? How was your

relationship with AFSA when you were on the man-

agement side of the table?

NJP:

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

FSJ:

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?

NJP:

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

culture.

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-

U.S.AIRFORCE/CAPT.BENSAKRISSON

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.