The Foreign Service Journal - December 2017

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | DECEMBER 2017 29 have a chance to work in their career track, as all officers must do at least one year of consular work, and often more than that. As a result, many junior officers begin to lose some of the enthusiasm they had when they entered, especially since these early postings are followed by what can be a painfully slow rise through the ranks. As U.S. diplomats progress through their careers, they often find that the Foreign Service does not offer sufficient time off to pursue advanced academic training or gain experience in another professional setting. Contrast this with their military counterparts, who routinely receive yearlong training at least twice in a career. The very few FSOs who are afforded mid-career academic opportunities most often receive their strategic train- ing at the National War College, with the result that diplomats learn strategy from the military rather than the other way around. The United States is an extreme outlier among foreign ser- vices in the number of political appointees who serve as ambas- sadors and senior leaders in the State Department. No other country permits this level of amateurism, and the United States pays a heavy price for being so disadvantaged at the top level of critical missions abroad and within the department itself. None of this is to denigrate the U.S. Foreign Service, whose officers are often among the most skilled and dedicated of any diplomatic service. Rather, it is to suggest that there are lessons to be learned from other services that could better empower the U.S. Foreign Service to field the strongest officers at entry level, prepare them to be both experts and strategic thinkers, and ensure that only the most qualified individuals represent the United States at the highest levels. These are the lessons that our nation’s leaders, in Congress and in the White House, must appreciate. And the American public must understand these insights, too. We need to nurture new Benjamin Franklins who will represent our country as skilled diplomats, and educate citizens about the importance of their work. n