Page 10 - Foreign Service Journal - December 2012

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Defending the
Foreign Service
Congratulations to AFSA Presi-
dent Susan Johnson on using
her latest column (“Diplomatic
Capacity Needs Professional
Institutional Leadership,”
October President’s Views)
to illuminate a pressing problem: the
increasing politicization of the institu-
tional leadership of the State Department
and Foreign Service.
Ms. Johnson is absolutely correct
that senior political leaders need the
sound, candid and experienced advice
on foreign policy that only comes from a
strong, professional diplomatic service.
Such advice will not come from their fel-
low partisans.
Te American Academy of Diplomacy
has just published its latest analysis of
the personnel situation in the foreign
afairs agencies, “Diplomacy in a Time of
Scarcity.” In our research we came upon
indications of very troubling trends in the
State Department’s administration of its
Civil Service system.
First, during Secretary of State Hillary
Rodham Clinton’s tenure, Diplomacy 3.0
established more additional General Ser-
vice positions (1,500) than either Foreign
Service ofcer (1,200) or Foreign Service
specialist (800) positions.
Are GS personnel—who are not
available for worldwide service, do not
compete for promotions, and are not
subject to selection out for time-in-class
or poor performance—increasingly occu-
pying positions formerly flled by Foreign
Service personnel?
If so, what will be the long-term
impact on Foreign Service promotions
and assignments? Are we headed for a
Washington-feld bifurcation, similar to
the situation that led to “Wristonization”
a half-century ago?
Even more omi-
nous is the apparent
blurring of the line
between Schedule C
political appointments
and the Civil Service.
Since (as I understand
the situation) there is
no longer a Civil Service
examination, GS appointments are made
by matching job descriptions with sub-
mitted curricula vitae.
How difcult is it under those circum-
stances to write a job description that can
only be flled by a deserving party mem-
ber, or the son or daughter of the college
roommate of a 7th-foor principal? Is our
distinguished Civil Service component
becoming a venue for political stay-
behinds and cronies?
I do not have the data to answer these
questions. I also understand that even
raising them will elicit accusations of
violating a code of bureaucratic political
correctness, and prejudice against Civil
Service colleagues. But these matters
are simply too important and potentially
damaging to the principle and practice of
a career Foreign Service to be ignored.
I am sure that many other AFSA
members are prepared to support eforts
to address these critical issues. President
Johnson’s column on the politicization of
the Foreign Service is a worthy opening
salvo in a necessary discussion.
Tom Boyatt
Ambassador, retired
Great Falls, Va
The Promotion “System”
I have an issue with the promotion
system at State. How many of you have
heard this: “Promotions are based on
potential, not on performance at grade,”
or something similar? Since joining State
as an FP-8 in 1985, I have heard that at
least 25 times, if not more.
Until I reached the FP-2 level, my
average time-in-grade lasted 2.16 years.
But now I have been an FP-2 for 14 years!
Going by last year’s statistics, the aver-
age time-in-service and time-in-grade
in my skill code were 19.6 and 5.6 years,
To be considered for promotion, we
are frequently told, we must take owner-
ship of our evaluations, ensure examples
are solid and represent potential, and
take on additional duties (e.g., serve
on Employee Evaluation Report review
panels and post housing boards, support
recruitment eforts).
I have done all these things. Nor are
there any black marks on my personnel
jacket. Over the past 26 years I have been
nominated for the Tomas Morrison
Information Management Award three
times, earned three Superior and fve
Meritorious Honor awards, and received
two Franklin Awards. I also received a
medal from the President’s Council on
Y2K for my performance as a Y2K coor-
In addition, I’ve served in an FP-1
position, garnering evaluations attest-
ing to successes. If performing well in a
stretch position is not a sign of potential,
I don’t know what the termmeans. I have
also served successfully at several posts
as the acting management counselor.
I have watched, with some measure
of pride, employee after employee who
reported to me being promoted to FP-1.
Tey are all excellent employees, and I
am proud to say I had something to do
with their success. However, it also makes
me question my worth to the department
and the promotion system.
For those who made it, congratula-
tions again. For those who sufer quietly
as I have for the past few years, I recom-
mend you exorcise your internal demons,