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The Foreign Service

Act of 1946 at 20


welve score and three months

ago, the thirty-third President of

the United States signed into law the

Foreign Service Act of 1946. …

Amended frequently, the Act still

embodies the essential aims of its

conceivers and drafters (the Chapin-

Foster group), its sponsors (Secre-

tary of State Byrnes and Assistant

Secretary—now Senator from South

Carolina—Russell), as well as its

legitimizers (the Congress). The Act,

however, conjured doubts among its

opponents (mainly in the Bureau of

the Budget) on the grounds that it

was too detailed, too inflexible and

that it insulated the Foreign Service

from direct control by the Secretary

and the President.

The Act of 1946 codified as law of

the land the principles of a career ser-

vice which accepted most of its new

members at the bottom of a career

ladder after rigorous examination—a

career service which would reward

excellence of performance through

promotion and which would also rid

its ranks of the least able through

selection-out. …

The Act also provided for the lat-

eral entry of persons into the several

ranks of the Service…under specified


The questions of separating-out

the least able and providing for the

intake of fresh viewpoints and needed

talents have been sources of conten-

tion in the past two decades since the

Act became law.

The members of the Foreign Ser-

vice today—as

in the past—

have no fear

about competi-

tion…so long as

the procedures

are fair, are

unabused and improve the level of

excellence of our service to the Secre-

tary, the President and the Nation.

Certain persons sometimes lost

sight of the fact that the Foreign Ser-

vice has changed enormously since

1946. Our size has multiplied to meet

new national needs. In 1946, almost

all members of the Foreign Service

were engaged in the usual political or

economic reporting, and consular or

administrative duties. Today, we work

in Vietnam provinces, advise the mili-

tary, help to manage AID and Peace

Corps missions, engage in education,

information, cultural and scientific

programs, and are reestablishing

contact with American campuses and

businesses—in addition to the more

traditional diplomatic and consular


Doubtlessly the Foreign Service of

the United States will have changed

even more by 1986 when we come to

the fortieth anniversary of this Act.

We face the future with optimism

and determination.We welcome all

change as long as that change is

improvement. Competition will always

be our stimulus.We appreciate the

heat in the kitchen, not because it is

comfortable, but because it keeps our

corporate body warm.

—Excerpted from the lead editorial

in the November 1966



50 Years Ago