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10
NOVEMBER 2012
|
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
LETTERS
Tragedy in Benghazi
Much remains to be learned about the
Sept. 11 attack on our mission in Bengha-
zi that resulted in the loss of Ambassador
Chris Stevens, Information Resources
Ofcer Sean Smith and two former Navy
Seals. But Foreign Service history during
the 1980s might serve as an important
reference point in any review.
Specifcally, events at two posts where
I served during that period, Beirut and
Moscow, ultimately led to the creation
of the Diplomatic Security Service. Tey
also brought about major institutional
changes through what became known
as the Inman Commission, directed by
Secretary of State George P. Shultz.
While I was on temporary duty in Bei-
rut in 1983, massive truck bombings took
place at our embassy and, later, at the U.S.
Marine Corps barracks. Te latter tragedy
demonstrated the vulnerability of U.S.
government buildings to a new, uncon-
ventional style of terrorist warfare.
A few years later in Moscow, a poten-
tially devastating loss of critical national
security information from KGB-bugged
embassy typewriters, as well as other fac-
tors associated with our Marine security
guard detachment’s “Corporal Lonetree”
saga, served as another major operational
security wake-up call. Like the tragedy in
Libya, both setbacks reverberated all the
way to the White House.
Te Inman Commission’s 1985 recom-
mendations called for radical modifca-
tions to physical, procedural and elec-
tronic security at every U.S. diplomatic
post around the world. Tese altered
Foreign Service operations and security
regimens more than any others in the his-
tory of the State Department.
As important as those changes were,
a quarter-century later they may seem to
be ancient history. But their ramifcations
and the reasoning behind themmight
still hold meaning for us
today.
I sincerely hope that the
State Department treats the
Benghazi tragedy not just
as a loss of national treasure
and blood, but as a clear sig-
nal that the time has come for
another thorough assessment
of our global security posture. A
close review of events before, during and
after the attack should be a priority.
As the department reassesses the
level of security appropriate to the cur-
rent operational environment, so that
Foreign Service operations can continue
to promote America’s interests in a more
dangerous world than ever before, per-
haps an “Inman Commission II” would
be helpful.
Timothy C. Lawson
Senior FSO, retired
Hua Hin, Tailand
Fixing Employee
Evaluations
While I agree with Tyler Sparks that our
evaluation system would beneft from
some changes (“Overhauling the EER
Process,” September Speaking Out), I
see those changes as tied more to the
need for a culture of leadership in the
State Department than the fact that, on
average, we spend 15 hours on each
employee evaluation report.
As an Air Force veteran, I can attest to
the fact that ranking employees against
their peers and guarding against grade
infation do not necessarily promote
the best and weed out the worst. What
does achieve those objectives is a clearly
defned and closely followed set of core
values.
Sparks cites the Marine Corps rating
system as a possible model, but this sys-
tem would not be very efective without
the vision of the ofcers and
enlisted personnel trusted to
administer it.
In contrast, the State
Department often avoids
the charge of leadership
by promoting a “manage
up” culture, which creates
territorial, unnecessarily
competitive junior ofcers, impo-
tent mid-level ofcers and inert supervi-
sors.
Te Bureau of Consular Afairs has
dedicated more time to the study and
practice of leadership than any other
bureau in the State Department. Consular
leaders hold themselves, their peers,
subordinates and superiors accountable
for the proper management of people
and resources by means of the leader-
ship tenets they have carefully developed,
continue to hone and have shared with
other bureaus.
Te department should not only fol-
low CA’s lead, but take it further by devot-
ing itself to the study and pursuit of good
leadership. Again, that is what distin-
guishes our soldiers, sailors, airmen and
marines. It should be what distinguishes
us, as well.
John Fer
FSO
Washington, D.C.
Defning Dissent
Te September
Journal
contained a use-
ful review of an interesting new book by
Professor Hannah Gurman:
Te Dissent
Papers: Te Voices of Diplomats in the
Cold War and Beyond
, a serious study
of our profession and its central profes-
sional practices.
Tere is much of interest in the
book, such as the lucid discussion and
description of the central professional
role of reporting and writing. Gurman’s