Page 19 - FSJ_11_2012

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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
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NOVEMBER 2012
19
of embassies, on the other hand, was
restricted to the number of countries
where bilateral relations were suf-
ciently active that a resident diplomatic
representative was required.
Merit Becomes a
Consideration
As the 19th century drew to a close,
Washington policymakers came to
the realization that the business of
government was becoming too impor-
tant and complex to be left entirely to
inexperienced political appointees,
who changed from one administration
to the next. Career ofcials, hired and
promoted on the basis of merit, started
to become the norm for both the Civil
Service and the Foreign Service.
President William Howard Taft gave
the process of professionalizing the
diplomatic and consular services a big
boost. In each of his four State of the
Union speeches, from 1909 to 1912, he
described what he had done to improve
the efciency of the State Department
and urged Congress to help institu-
tionalize reform. Tis process eventu-
ally bore fruit with the passage of the
Rogers Act of 1924, which combined the
diplomatic and consular services into a
unifed United States Foreign Service.
Te dramatic change that these
eforts brought about during the frst
half of the 20th century is refected in
the statistics. Te number of consular
posts peaked at 368 in 1920, then began
a precipitous decline due to the replace-
ment of freelance consular agents with
paid bureaucrats.
At that time the United States only
maintained 45 embassies, but the total
quickly began to climb. Even so, it was
not until the 1970s that the number
of embassies exceeded the number of
consular posts.
As the number of diplomatic mis-
sions went up, more of them were
headed by an ambassador. By 1950, they
accounted for more than three-quarters
of the total. At the same time, the pro-
portion of ambassadors who were career
ofcers jumped from 10 percent in 1920
to 68 percent in 1950.
Tese trends refected several
developments. First, as decoloniza-
tion increased the number of nations,
our consulates in the former colonies
were replaced by embassies. In addi-
tion, the emergence of the United States
from World War II as the most powerful
nation in the world and the onset of the
Cold War both required diplomatic rep-
resentation in nearly every country to
protect American interests and to wage
worldwide struggle against communism.
During the Eisenhower administra-
tion, the percentage of career ambas-
sadors reached about two-thirds of the
total. It has stayed at roughly that level
Ever since the Eisenhower administration,
the proportion of career ambassadors
has hovered at about two-thirds of the
total, regardless of the party in power.