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macy. By the time I thought about

converting to the Foreign Service, I

was so senior (a GS-15) that conver-

sion would have hurt my career. I’d be

bounced back to entry level; so I never

did it. (In contrast, FSOs can convert to

Civil Service without sacrificing rank if

they meet certain conditions. That needs

to change, so that members of both

services can move back and forth on an

equal basis.)

The Work of an FAO

Is Never Done

All the same, like many FAOs and

FSOs, I led or participated in sensitive

negotiations to control technology that

could have been converted into weapons

against the United States. I was also the

first economic officer to visit Albania

(before we had an embassy there), served

with the Multinational Force of Observ-

ers in Egypt and worked on counter-

smuggling operations with the European

Commission in Brussels. And I helped

negotiate the Tampere Convention on

the Provision of Telecommunications, a

treaty designed to save lives in disasters.

In most of those assignments, I

served alongside fellow civil servants

and FSOs. However, the Tampere dele-

gation was entirely Civil Service, as were

my several missions to Sudan to talk to

rebels and relief workers. My career at

State was truly wonderful, but so are

the careers of many other FAOs, all true

foreign policy professionals who take

courses at the Foreign Service Institute,

in academia and other venues.

Today’s diplomacy is nearly always

developed by a team of Foreign Service

and Civil Service professionals—law-

yers in the Office of the Legal Adviser

who focus on treaties; scientists in the

Bureau of Oceans and International

Environmental and Scientific Affairs

who help combat climate change;

experts in the Bureau of Population,

Refugees and Migration who provide

relief for refugees; officers in the Bureau

of Consular Affairs who protect Ameri-

cans living overseas; and analysts in the

Bureau of Intelligence and Research

who provide critical insights into the

world’s hotspots.

Many State bureaus are run by

deputy assistant secretaries who are

Civil Service employees; some have

even been assistant secretaries or

ambassadors. Add to that the non-

Foreign Service folks from the U.S.

Agency for International Development

and other federal agencies who are

on embassy country teams. Every civil

servant should be proud of our brand of

diplomacy, a brand which deserves full

expression in the new National Museum

of American Diplomacy.

Time to End Double


There was only one case where I

felt my career was hindered by being a

member of the Civil Service rather than

the Foreign Service. In 2004, the Bureau

of Near Eastern Affairs accepted me

for a tour of duty in Iraq. However, my

supervisor felt it would be too compli-

cated to hire a Civil Service replacement,

and—despite my clear qualifications as

ex-military and having done detached

duty before—refused to let me go. That,

too, needs to change. Such assignments

should be easier to get.

We need a personnel system that

gives FAOs easier access to overseas

assignments. We are often just as brave

and educated as members of the Foreign

Service, so why can’t foreign affairs offi-

cers aspire to be ambassadors?

My colleagues and I have also

encountered prejudice over not being

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