The Foreign Service Journal - December 2017

14 DECEMBER 2017 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL TALKING POINTS AAD Opposes Nomination for Director General I n an unprecedented move, the American Academy of Diplomacy sent a letter to the chairman and rank ing member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Oct. 30 urging them to oppose the nomination of Stephen Akard as Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources at the State Department. “We have concluded that Mr. Akard lacks the necessary professional back- ground,” write AAD Chairman Ambassa- dor (ret.) Thomas R. Pickering and AAD President Ambassador (ret.) Ronald E. Neumann. “His confirmation would be contrary to Congress’ longstanding intent and desire to create a professional Ameri- can diplomatic service based on merit.” The American Academy of Diplomacy is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that is dedicated to strengthening U.S. diplomacy. Its membership includes former senior ambassadors and leaders in foreign policy. Akard was nominated for the top personnel management position at State by the Trump administration on Oct. 16. He has served as a senior adviser in the Office of the Under Secretary for Eco- nomic Growth since January. Historically, the Director General position has gone to a senior Foreign Service officer who has served as an ambassador and has decades of dip- lomatic experience. The DG heads the Bureau of Human Resources, handles training and promotions, advises the Secretary of State on management and personnel, and manages internal issues with diplomats abroad. In 1980, under the Foreign Service Act, Congress mandated the presidentially appointed position be given to a current or retired Foreign Service officer to guard against politicization while elevating the position to require Senate confirmation. Akard was an FSO for eight years, serving in Belgium and India and as a staff aide to Secretary of State Colin Pow- ell. He left the Foreign Service in 2005 to work on economic development for the state of Indiana. “While Akard is technically eligible for the position under the Foreign Service Act,” states the AAD, “to confirm some- one who had less than a decade in the Foreign Service would be like making a former Army Captain the Chief of Staff of the Army, the equivalent of a four-star general.” AAD argues: “He does not have the experience necessary to advise the Sec- retary on the Department’s most senior appointments or the management of the 75,000 Foreign Service, Civil Service, and Locally Employed staff employed by the State Department.” “As good and decent a person as Mr. Akard may be,” the AAD adds, “his confir- mation as the Director General would be another step to further weaken the State Department, whose Foreign Service and Civil Service employees loyally serve the President, the Secretary of State and the United States of America.” In 10 years as head of the organization, AAD President Neumann told Foreign Policy , he hasn’t sent such a letter, adding that he can’t recall if it’s ever been done in the organization’s 34-year history. The letter includes a chart of previ- ous Directors General that indicates, among other things, the ambassador- ships and senior-level positions they held before being named DG, and also spells out the association’s criteria for the DG position. For a full discussion of AAD’s views on the challenges facing American diplomacy, see their American Diplomacy at Risk (2015). What’s Going on with Support for Families with Special Needs Children? C oncerns about support for Foreign Service children with special needs that began to arise during 2015 were spotlighted in the Journal’ s January 2016 focus on mental health care in the Foreign Service. We heard from parents frustrated by what they saw as increas- ing difficulty obtaining support and, in particular, obtaining access to the Special Needs Education Allowance. In June 2016, the Journal ran a compi- lation of comments from FS family mem- bers regarding mental health and special needs support for FS children, along with a June 2016 Speaking Out column by Foreign Service authors Maureen Danzot and Mark Evans. Danzot and Evans pointed to confu- sion surrounding the SNEA allowance and recommended that the department work to engage parents in policymaking, separate the medical clearance pro-