Amb. Charles Ray: America Needs a Professional Foreign Service (via FSJ)

Posted: 12:18 am EDT

Charles A. Ray retired from the Foreign Service in 2012 after a 30-year career that included ambassadorships to Cambodia and Zimbabwe. Ambassador Ray also served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for prisoners of war/missing personnel affairs, deputy chief of mission in Freetown and consul general in Ho Chi Minh City, among many other assignments. Prior to joining the Foreign Service, Amb. Ray spent 20 years in the U.S. Army. He was the first chair of AFSA’s Committee on the Foreign Service Profession and Ethics, and does freelance writing and speaking. He blogs at; his Amazon author page is here. Below is an excerpt from FSJ:

Via Speaking Out, Foreign Service Journal, July/August 2015:

If the Foreign Service is to adequately serve the American people now and in the future, it is imperative that it become the professional service intended by legislation over the past 91 years. This is not an easy task. It requires political will from elected leadership to provide the necessary direction and resources. It also requires action on the part of every member of the Foreign Service.

Here are some of the actions I believe are necessary.

Establish a system of professional education for the Foreign Service. Develop a long-term academic training program in diplomacy—either at the Foreign Service Institute or through a cooperative agreement with a university or universities in the Washington, D.C., area—designed to prepare members of the Foreign Service for senior diplomatic responsibilities.

There should be training opportunities post-tenuring and at the mid-level designed to increase individual skills in primary career tracks, while also offering education in diplomacy and leadership.

Every member of the Foreign Service should be required to complete a year of academic study relevant to his or her career track before being eligible for promotion to the Senior Foreign Service.

The department should create a true “training float” of 10 to 15 percent above the level required to staff all authorized positions, to allow Foreign Service personnel to take long-term training without posts and bureaus having to suffer long gaps. This will require a commitment by the department’s leadership not to use these positions to meet future manpower requirements—a practice that consumed the two previous authorizations.

Ensure opportunities for professional development through assignments. In coordination with the White House, the department should ensure that an adequate number of senior positions (assistant secretary, ambassador, deputy assistant secretary, etc.) are designated to be filled by Foreign Service personnel.

Priority should also be given to assignment of Foreign Service personnel to lower-level positions, such as regional office directors and desk officers, as much as possible.

Reconcile the differences between Foreign Service and Civil Service personnel systems. The department must recognize that while both are essential to the success of our mission, the Foreign Service and Civil Service personnel systems are inherently different.

Attempts to obliterate the differences benefit neither, and do not contribute to national security in any meaningful way. Action needs to be taken to improve career prospects within both systems.

Consideration should be given to creating a position of Director of Human Resources responsible for Civil Service personnel, and having the Director General of the Foreign Service responsible only for Foreign Service personnel, as envisioned by the 1946 Act that created the position.

In addition, the Director General should be given more authority over discipline and career development of Foreign Service personnel.

Establish a formal code of ethics for the Foreign Service. An essential element of any career personnel system is a mechanism to provide basic standards and rules and to protect it from political abuse.

The American Foreign Service Association established a Committee on the Foreign Service Profession and Ethics in 2012 with the primary mission to develop such a code. I had the honor of being the first chair of the PEC and am happy to report that significant progress has been made on this during the past three years.

Working with the Institute of Global Ethics, the PEC conducted a worldwide survey of Foreign Service personnel and then began creating a draft code. Information on the PEC’s work can be found on AFSA’s website at Details on the results of the survey on professionalism and ethics can be found at

Read in full here.


State Department Serves ‘Guidance on Toxic Behaviors at Work’ Soup, Um …Forgets Meat in Yak Soup

Posted: 12:36 am EDT
Updated: 4/28/2015 at 7:35 am PDT


The State Department recently issued guidance for its American direct-hire employees on “Toxic Behaviors at Work: Where to Turn For Help (see ALDAC 15 STATE 45178) The aim was “to help mitigate the impact of toxic behaviors in the workplace, should they occur.”  It notes that “The stress this causes can lower productivity and employee satisfaction, and make it harder for the Department to retain strong employees and perform its best.”  A separate guidance will reportedly be issued for local employees and contractors.

What is toxic behavior? According to the State Department, the following is what constitutes toxic behavior:

Toxic behaviors are unwanted and can be verbal or non-verbal.  They are behaviors that a reasonable person would consider offensive, humiliating, intimidating, or otherwise significantly detrimental to their ability to do their work.  They include, but are not limited to: violent behavior, e.g., throwing items, breaking items; threatening behavior, i.e.,  intimidation, bullying, yelling, passive aggression, exclusion, lack of communication and/or cooperation; unethical behavior or the appearance of it, loafing, insubordination or failure to follow instructions, discrimination, or harassment.

Let’s add a few more warning signs from Kirk Lawrence of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School:

Types of toxic behaviors include tearing others down, passive aggressive leadership, destructive gossip, devious politics, negativity, aggressiveness, narcissism, lack of credibility, passivity, disorganization, and the resistance to change. These behaviors—individually or combined—can create a toxic workplace environment.

The State Department guidance cable does not provide examples of toxic behavior so we had to do some archive  diving where we found some relevant examples:

  • A Principal Commercial Officer asserted that there were multiple violations of due process resulting “in an oppressive work environment.”  He claimed that “Resolution of this grievance is in the national interest because any organization in which accountability does not exist, managers may act on whim, and decisions and personnel actions are based not on facts but on hearsay, rumors, bullying and fear affects all employees including myself, paralyzes decision-making, erodes morale, makes risk-taking impossible, erodes motivation and performance . . . .” (Case No. 2011-018)
  • A Senior FSO who was an office director at one of the bureaus was charged with inappropriate conduct in interactions with his staff and others.  The charge and specifications include repeatedly referring to women as “bitches” and “hormonal,” yelling, banging on his desk and forcefully expressing his political views throughout the office. This Senior FSO yelled at subordinates and peers, demonstrating threatening and aggressive behavior towards them in violation of the workplace violence policy, evincing anger management issues, and damaging office morale. According to one witness account, there was a tendency to berate people publicly. “The office has this term being of in the tribe and out of the tribe. You can be put out of the tribe by him. There is a culture of fear to be put out of the tribe. Everyone tries to tip toe because it is not a good place to be. He will take away TDY and site visits and make life difficult.” (FSGB Case No. 2011-004)
  • An FS-01 Office Director referred to a former colleague as a “bitch” and used “little officer” and “little employee” to describe women. He sent an e-mail to officemates “which could be viewed as offensive” and received a Letter of Admonishment. (FSGB Case No. 2010-0035)
  • Most employees described this ambassador as aggressive, bullying, hostile, and intimidating, which resulted in an extremely difficult, unhappy, and uncertain work environment. The ambassador eventually resigned but not before most of the embassy’s senior staff, including two deputy chiefs of mission (DCM) and two section chiefs, had either curtailed or volunteered for service in Kabul and Baghdad (via pdf here).
  • One ambassador’s policy successes were overshadowed within the mission by a leadership style that negatively affected morale. Many mission staff reported that the ambassador occasionally criticized and belittled certain section chiefs and agency heads in front of their peers. Mission staff noted front office reliance on a group of trusted mission leaders. Others not in the favored category were more likely to receive attention to weaknesses rather than strengths or potential.  (via)

So this is not really a case of “toxic behaviors in the workplace, should they occur,” is it?

The State Department unclassified guidance helpfully provided a section for “Roles and Responsibilities” — some of the points enumerated below  like, how it’s “nearly impossible to succeed in changing a toxic situation without making any changes in your own behavior” — are rather questionable. We understand the consequences of meeting fire with fire but it sure looks like the onus is on the person who perceives the toxic environment here, rather than the person who is causing it.  Take a look:

It is incumbent on everyone working at the Department of State to conduct themselves in a professional manner.  This means not only refraining from engaging in toxic behavior, but also following the appropriate steps when confronted by someone who is engaging in such behavior.  Meeting the toxic behavior of another with toxic behavior of one’s own is neither productive nor professional.

It is imperative to keep the following points in mind as you consider how to address a situation that you find toxic or counter-productive:

–> If a supervisor is telling you what needs to be done, in a reasonable and non-threatening manner, and holding you accountable for doing it, in a reasonable and non-threatening manner, this is not toxic behavior.  This is their job.  Therefore, you are required to follow supervisory instructions, unless there is substantial reason to believe that the instruction given would place you in a clearly dangerous situation or cause you irreparable harm.  If you perform the action instructed, you do have the right to register a complaint or grieve later.

–> You cannot control the behavior of others, only your own.

–>You should take some time to consider your own role in a situation you find toxic.

–>It is nearly impossible to succeed in changing a toxic situation without making any changes in your own behavior.

–>These are not easy things to do.  Stretching oneself in a situation that is already difficult is additionally unpleasant.  However, it is a necessary part of one’s own development and the improvement of one’s work environment.

Has somebody been reading those management books about “stretching” again? You’re in a toxic workplace, and your boss is an ass and a bully, and you’re “stretching” yourself, so your boss would be more pleasant? No, you’re stretching yourself so that you’ll be more pleasant to your toxic boss, who will, of course, cease being a bully and an ass? No, whaaat?

Ay, dios mio! Who writes this stuff?

The State Department guidance identifies 10 key resources for toxic behaviors:

  • The Office of the Ombudsman, Workplace Conflict Prevention and Resolution Center (wCPRc)
  • Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR)
  • Human Resources/Employee Relations/Office of Conduct, Suitability, and Discipline (HR/ER/CSD)
  • Employee Consultation Service (ECS)
  • Human Resources/Grievance (HR/G
  • Diplomatic Security Office of Protective Intelligence Investigations (DS/TIA/PII)
  • Diplomatic Security Office of Special Investigations (DS/DO/OSI)
  • Foreign Service Institute (FSI) Leadership and Management School (LMS) Leadership Coaching
  • Office of the Inspector General (OIG)
  • Unions for State Department Employees:  American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 1534, the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), or the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) Local 1998.

That’s a long list but dear ones, aren’t you forgetting the meat in the soup?

What about leadership?

Leadership—or the lack of it—lays at the core a toxic workplace. When a toxic workplace develops on a peer-to-peer level, it is the lack of leadership that allows it to fester. All too often, however, toxic workplaces are created from the top down, when managers or supervisors are the root of the problem. One study found that 37 percent of workers said they had been bullied at work and that the majority of those bullies (72 percent), were bosses. (via)

A piece on toxic culture from notes that there is a large body of research showing that a leader sets the tone for the office and sets an example for internal comportment. “Executives who claim to operate at such a lofty level that they cannot be bothered by the daily operations or political scale-balancing of their organizations are simply poor leaders.”

One HR manager interviewed by Peter Frost in Toxic Emotions at Work (Harvard Business School Press) also observed:

“Fish stinks from the head!” The higher up the toxic person is, the more widely spread is the pain, and the more people there are who behave in the same way. If you have a CEO who delivers public lashings—in effect does his performance appraisals in public—then you will have the lieutenants begin to join in.

We understand the intention is good but c’mon folks … to issue a lengthy guidance on toxic behavior in a workplace without addressing leadership is like serving yak soup without yak meat.

Here are some wild yaks to look at when you read that official guidance. Not quite the same but better than nothin.

“Wild Yaks” by Nadeemmushtaque – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –


More yak meat here:



State Department Seeks Contractor For Simulated Congressional Hearing Sessions

— Domani Spero


Last month, the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute issued Solicitation #SFSIAQ14Q3002 for a contractor to provide professional training on effective congressional testimony and briefing skills.  The requirement solicitation also includes a requirement for Simulated Congressional Hearing Sessions.

Related post: US Embassy Oslo: Clueless on Norway, Murder Boards Next?


Screen Shot 2014-03-09

Below is an excerpt from the solicitation posted on fedbiz:

The purpose of this project is to obtain the services of a contractor to deliver interactive, professional training seminars for senior-level officials on effective congressional testimony and briefing skills. There will be one primary product, a two-day course entitled “PT-302 – Communicating with Congress: Briefing and Testifying.” This course targets government professionals at the GS-14/FS-02 level or higher, who will be testifying before Congress or briefing members or staffers. We will offer this course between three to four times per year. There is a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 15 participants per class.

Secondly, LMS [Leadership Management School] will seek the services of a contractor to deliver training on strategies for building effective relationships with members of Congress and their staffers to participants of the Ambassadorial Seminar (PT-120) and other senior-level courses. The Ambassadorial Seminar is offered to Ambassadors-designate (including both career Foreign Service Officers and political appointees) and their spouses. This seminar normally runs two weeks and includes up to, but not limited to, 14 participants.

Lastly, contractor shall submit additional proposals to deliver hour-long, one-on-one simulated congressional hearing sessions with feedback for individuals as preparation for anticipated congressional testimony. These individuals may or may not be graduates of the Ambassadorial seminar, or they may be or may not be other, senior-ranking government officials.

C.4.1. Communicating With Congress: Briefing and Testifying (PT-302)

  • Provide professional services to design and deliver PT-302, Communicating with Congress: Briefing and Testifying, for senior ranking officers drawn from the Foreign Service, Civil Service, and military. It is expected that the first year will include significant course design work, but that option years will not involve major course design.
  • It shall include the following topics presented by individuals with current or recent Capitol Hill experience. Experience within the past two years is highly desirable.
  • Training and skill-building in briefing techniques;
  • Presentations/discussions on congressional committees and the hearing process
  • Presentations/discussions on tips for leveraging State’s Bureau of Legislative Affairs
  • Presentations/discussions on building effective relationships with Congress members and staffers.
  • It shall also include simulated congressional hearings, at which:
    • Each class member will deliver written and oral briefs/testimony before a panel of experts capable of appropriate questioning and criticism;
    • All briefings/testimony and responses to questions are video recorded;
    • Experts critique the individual briefing/testimony and responses to questions.

C.4.2. Ambassadorial Seminar (PT-120)

  • Provide professional services to design and deliver a three-hour training segment on strategies for building effective relationships with members of Congress and their staffers to participants of the Ambassadorial Seminar (PT-120) and other senior-level courses.
  • This shall be delivered via 1-2 presenters with ample time for questions and answers. If contractor provides two presenters, one presenter shall have current or recent experience on Capitol Hill as a member or staffer (experience within the past two years highly desirable), and the second presenter shall have recent senior-level executive branch service with personal experience in developing successful relationships on Capitol Hill, to include effective congressional testimony and briefing experience (experience within the past three years highly desirable). If contractor provides only one presenter, this presenter shall have both current or recent experience on Capitol Hill as a member or staff, and recent senior-level executive branch service with personal experience in developing successful relationships with Capitol Hill.

C.4.3. Simulated Congressional Hearing Sessions

  • Provide professional services to deliver hour-long, one-on-one simulated congressional hearing sessions with feedback for individuals as preparation for anticipated congressional testimony. These individuals may or may not be graduates of the Ambassadorial seminar, or they may be or may not be other, senior-ranking government officials.


The solicitation requires that the contractor/s’ professional qualifications include experience delivering training in a federal government context with senior executive participants; professional experience in working with Congressional staffers and members; current or recent Capitol Hill professional experience. Experience within the past two years is also highly desirable.  For presenters in the three-hour and one-hour sessions, qualifications also include prior service as a senior executive in a federal agency with personal experience briefing and testifying to Congress.  But the government also wants contractors with “knowledge of and experience using adult learning principles in the facilitation and delivery of a course” as well as “expertise in experiential learning methodologies and techniques.”

This should help avoid future incidents of trampling through the salad bowl during a confirmation hearing and save us from covering our eyes.



* * *





State/OIG Terminates Preparation of Report Cards for Ambassadors and Sr. Embassy Officials

|| >We’re running our crowdfunding project from January 1 to February 15, 2014. If you want to keep us around, see Help Diplopundit Continue the Chase—Crowdfunding for 2014 via RocketHub <||

— Domani Spero

We heard recently that the State Department’s Office of Inspector General  no longer issue “report cards” for ambassadors and senior officials at inspected diplomatic missions. Apparently, State/OIG no longer prepare Inspector’s Evaluation Reports (IERs) but that there are measures underway to collect input for the performance of chiefs of mission (COMs). One we’ve heard is evaluation of ambassadors by their deputy chiefs of missions and by desk officers.  (Achoooo! May we point out that the chief of mission is also the rating officer of the deputy chief of mission?) We could not verify those measures because DGHR is not responsive to email inquiries from this blog. However, we can confirm that the Inspector General Office stopped preparing Inspector’s Evaluation Reports in April 2013. We should note that the current OIG Steve Linick was nominated in June 2013 and did not come into office until September, five months after this change was put in place

The next question , of course is — was this an OIG decision and if so, why?  This is what we were told by State/OIG:

It was an OIG decision, in part based on the points mentioned below that we will continue to comment on executive direction in the course of each inspection in the published report, and because we have seen progress with implementation of the recommendations in the memo report mentioned before (the 360 reviews noted in our 2012 memo report

That memorandum report from State/Deputy OIG Harold Geisel to State/M Patrick Kennedy dated September 19, 2012 talks about Improving Leadership at Posts and Bureaus.  We’ve blogged about it here: State Dept’s Leadership and Mgt School Needs Some Leadership, And It’s Not Alone.  As an aside, the U.S. military is reported to be in various stages of ramping up efforts to implement 360-degrees feedback. According to Marine Corps Times, it is currently used as a self-developmental tool and not/not as a part of the formal system of performance evaluation. The report notes that “Even if there is interest among the brass to formalize the process, there may be big legal hurdles to expanding the 360-review process beyond a strictly confidential tool for self-awareness.” (Previous post on 360 feedback used as a bidding tool: Sexing up the 360-Degree Feedback, Revisited and for the heck of it, this one Earth Embassy Ganymede – Administrative Notice #04-011300).

We think that the termination of IER preparation by State/OIG is a step in the wrong direction.

The problem here is simple. Do we really expect to see the OIG reports to be included in the official personnel file  (OPF) used for promotion consideration?  Of course not.  Comments on senior officials performance on the executive direction portion of OIG reports will not go into their official personnel file.   Some of the more egregious sections in OIG reports, we don’t even get to read because they are politely Sharpied out.  Meanwhile, the persons referred to in these reports are sometimes quietly moved to other posts.  In one case, a DCM was allowed to curtail and landed as a principal officer at another post.  Previously, this DCM was a senior officer at country X where he/she is alleged to have “pushed a seasoned FSO he/she supervised so cruelly and relentlessly, that this FSO attempted suicide.” In another case, a senior management officer was allowed to serve out a remaining tour and moved to one of our more dysfunctional posts at the end of the world.   As if that post needed a bump on its misery factor.  We have typically called this personnel movement, the State Department’s Recycling Program.  Of which we were roundly scolded by one reader who suffered the brunt in one case. “To suggest the Dept.‘s recycling program merely ‘stinks’, is to insult Parisian taxis and slaughter house septic tanks, everywhere.” 

OIG’s FY 2012 inspections found that “while 75 percent of ambassadors, deputy chiefs of mission, and principal officers are doing a good to excellent job, 25 percent have weaknesses that, in most cases, have a significant impact on the effectiveness and morale of their posts and certainly warrant intervention by the Department.” Then Deputy OIG Geisel was careful to point out that “The 75 percent/25 percent figures apply to the posts OIG inspected and not necessarily to the Department as a whole.”

And because State/OIG saw “progress” which is not detailed or publicly available, it is terminating the preparation of  IERs for ambassadors, deputy chiefs of mission, and other senior officials.

Is that the kind of accountability that serves the public interest and the employees that work in these missions?

In fact, the Foreign Affairs Manual that dictates the preparation of the IERs for senior managers is still in the books and has not been deleted or superseded by new guidance:

3 FAM 2813.5-1 last updated on November 23, 2012 states that OIG Inspectors will prepare Inspector’s Evaluation Reports (IERs) on senior officers (chiefs of mission, permanent chargés, deputy chiefs of mission, principal officers, Assistant Secretaries and deputy assistant secretaries) in connection with each post or bureau inspection. These IERs will be related directly to the officer’s management or supervision of the domestic unit or post abroad being inspected and will constitute a part of the independent review of the operation being evaluated. They will focus on the skills and abilities of rated officers to manage personnel, budgets, resources, and programs. Both career and noncareer officers will be evaluated.

Another section of that FAM cites additional reasons for the preparation of the IERs as follows:

1 FAM 055.6(f) last updated on July 17, 2013 says that IERs may be prepared, at the discretion of inspectors, on any employee for the reasons stated in 3 FAM 2813.5-2, including: (1) To record outstanding or substandard performance that the inspection team leader feels needs further documentation; or (2) To record performance observed during the inspection that noticeably differs from that reported in an employee’s evaluation report prepared by his or her regular supervisors.

What happens to these IERs when prepared by the OIG inspection teams?

“Upon receiving an IER from the inspection team, OIG/ISP designates a panel of three active or retired ambassadors who have been senior inspectors to review the IER. Once approved, the panel sends the IER to the Inspector General. In the case of a career employee, the Inspector General sends it with a memorandum to the Director General of the Foreign Service, requesting that it be placed in the rated officer’s official performance evaluation file. In the case of a noncareer employee, the Inspector General sends it to the Director General to review and send to the Deputy Secretary and White House Liaison Office to forward to the White House’s personnel office.”

So now, since the IERs are no longer prepared, poor performance will no longer be documented and will not appear in the rated officer’s official performance evaluation file. They will appear in OIG reports, which may or may not be redacted, but will not be included in the official personnel file.  The Promotion Boards will have no idea how senior officers manage our overseas missions when those officers names come up for promotion.

Do we really think this a good thing?

Also, the White House is now saved from the embarrassment of learning how some of its “highly qualified” political ambassadors show their deficiencies as stewards of the embassies and representatives of the United States abroad.

One less headache for the Press Secretary to worry about, yes?

The IERs typically are not released to the public. But some of the details occasionally leaks out when cases end up in the Foreign Service Grievance Board. We hope to have a separate blog post on that.

If you value accountability and the proper functioning of the service, you might consider  sending a love letter to State/OIG Steve Linick and asking him to reverse the prior OIG decision of terminating the preparation of IER reports.


Because … gummy bears!  All teeth, but no bite will have repercussions.


Gummy Bears by Dentt42 via

* * *

Enhanced by Zemanta

AAD Report: Under-investment in diplomacy has left Foreign Service overstretched, under prepared

The American Academy of Diplomacy has released a new report on the U.S. Foreign Service that points to the “urgent need to prepare and sustain a corps of American diplomatic professionals that is intellectually and operationally ready to lead in the new environment.”  The report also says that “there is little question that under-investment in diplomacy over the last decade or so has left our Foreign Service overstretched and under prepared.”

Among its recommendations are 1) fully funding of the staffing initiative under Diplomacy 3.0, 2) creation of a 15% training float, 3) long-term commitment to investing in the professional education and training needed “to build a 21st-century diplomatic service of the United States able to meet the complex challenges and competition we face in the coming decades”; 4) strengthening and expansion of the Department of State’s professional development process ; 5) establishment of a temporary corps of roving counselors to address mentoring problems caused by the mid-level gap; 6) a study that will examine best practices in the field to determine how on-the-job training can be most effectively conducted for FSOs; 7) completion of a year of advanced study related to FSO’s career track as a requirement for promotion to the Senior Foreign Service; and 8) appropriately targeted consultations before a new Chief of Mission (COM) even begins pre-assignment consultations.
You can read the whole thing below. Or you can download the abridged and full version of the report here. Do not skip the appendices.  The US Foreign Service Primer in Appendix A includes the most current employment numbers as well as a quick look on promotion and the ‘up or out’ system. Appendix D includes an interesting item on the professional development in other diplomatic services. You probably already know that Chinese officers must take a leadership and management training course, along with courses on international relations, economics and finance, international history, Chinese history, protocol, and consular affairs for promotion to 2nd Secretary. But do you know that these courses apparently are taken in officers’ spare time, in addition to their normal duties? Do you know which diplomatic service requires its officers to sit for exams following a one-month course that focuses on economics, law, civil society, and politics before promotion to 1st Secretary?  Or which one requires a PhD-level dissertation for promotion to Counselor?  Read more below.

Forging a 21st Century Diplomatic Service for the United States through Professional Education and Training

Copyright © 2011 American Academy of Diplomacy, the Henry L. Stimson Center and the American Foreign Service Association // Republished with permission from AAD.

Related items:

International Career Advancement Program Opens for Mid-Career Professionals

Josef Korbel School of International StudiesImage via Wikipedia

Thought this might interest some of our readers:

The Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver, and the Aspen Institute invite applications for the International Career Advancement Program (ICAP) for 2010. ICAP will bring together mid-career professionals from groups underrepresented in leadership positions in international affairs with senior officials, faculty and staff to spend one week in Aspen, Colorado from September 25-October 3, 2010 discussing:

•    Major international issues to be faced during the next decade;
•    The credentials and experiences normally sought for senior leadership positions;
•    The importance of diversity if US interests are to be served adequately;
•    Career issues or problems and how they can be addressed;
•    Obstacles faced by those seeking advancement and how to overcome them; and
•    Programs and policies designed to increase diversity at senior levels

The purpose of ICAP is to help bring higher quality and greater diversity to the staffing of senior management and policy-making positions in international careers in the US, both governmental and private. The aim is to assist highly promising mid-career professionals advance to more senior positions in international affairs. Those selected for the program pay for their own travel and must pay a $200 registration fee but their room, meals and program expenses in Aspen are provided by the program.

Applicants should:

  • Have a demonstrated commitment to increasing the quality and diversity of senior leadership in the US in international affairs;
  • Be US citizens or permanent residents;
  • Be professionals who have been or are now in international careers, with 3 to 15 years of working experience;
  • Have a demonstrated interest in a long-term career in international affairs;
  • Have credentials and achievements that indicate potential for the highest levels of leadership; and
  • Be committed to providing support for their peers and mentoring those junior to them

An application form can be downloaded from or requested from:

Professor Thomas Rowe, Director
International Career Advancement Program
Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver
2201 South Gaylord Street
Denver, Colorado 80208

Completed applications are due by May 10, 2010. 

Josef Korbel (born Josef Körbel 20 September 1909, Letohrad – 18 July 1977, Denver) if the name doesn’t ring a loud bell was a Czechoslovakian diplomat and U.S. educator, who is now best known as the father of former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, and the teacher and mentor of SoS 66, Condoleezza Rice.  According to his Wikipedia entry, Korbel was granted political asylum in the United States in 1949. He was hired to teach international politics at the University of Denver, and became the founding Dean of the Graduate School of International Studies (GSIS).The school was renamed the Josef Korbel School of International Studies on May 28, 2008.


Peter Bergen’s Ultimate AfPak Reading List


Peter Bergen has put together a guide to the most critical readings on Afghanistan and Pakistan. He writes that this is
an amalgamation of syllabi from classes he has taught at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. The list includes books and articles that he says he found particularly insightful on the topic from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to al Qaeda’s media strategy.

Bergen is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington D.C. where he co-directs the Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative; a research fellow at New York University’s Center on Law and Security and CNN’s national security analyst. He is also the editor of Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel.

Check out his Ultimate AfPak Reading List. The list also is available for download in Word document here. I have appended a second list to the downloadable material — George Packer’s AfPak list that came along with his piece on Richard Holbrooke in the New Yorker.

Download: Ultimate AfPak Reading List (Word docx format).

Insider Quote: Learning a Language – the Best Antidote to That Classic Sin

“Learning a language is a path to the avoidance of the kinds of misunderstandings and miscalculations that give rise to conflict. It is essential to understand how the native speakers of the language think. It is the sine qua non of transnational cooperation and alliance management. It is also the best antidote to the classic sin of analysts and military commanders: the tendency to view one’s partners and competitors as the mirror image of oneself, projecting onto them one’s own values and thought processes rather than understanding their perspectives and proclivities in their own terms, for what they are. In peacetime such false expectations are a source of tension; in wartime they can lead to surprise and defeat.”

Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr.

Honoring Language Learners

At the spring’s graduation ceremonies at West Point to present awards to cadets who had excelled in learning Chinese and Russian

H.R. 2410: Towards a Modern and Expeditionary Foreign Service

TITLE III– Subtitle A of H.R. 2410 calls for modernizing the Department of State. Section 301 specifically provides for “a more modern and expeditionary Foreign Service.” I don’t know why “a more modern” language is used here. One is either modern or not. What does “more modern” actually means, I can’t say but see below. Full text of the bill is here.


(a) Targeted Expansion of Foreign Service- The Secretary of State shall expand the Foreign Service to–

(1) fill vacancies, particularly those vacancies overseas that are critical to key United States foreign policy and national security interests, and, in particular, to prevent crises before they emerge;

(2) increase the capacity of the Department of State to assign and deploy Foreign Service officers and other personnel to prevent, mitigate, and respond to international crises and instability in foreign countries that threaten key United States foreign policy and national security interests; and

(3) ensure that before being assigned to assignments requiring new or improved skills, members of the Foreign Service, other than foreign national employees and consular agents (as such terms are defined in section 103 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 (22 U.S.C. 3903)), as appropriate, receive language, security, area, and other training that is necessary to successfully execute their responsibilities and to enable such members to obtain advanced and other education that will increase the capacity of the Foreign Service to complete its mission.

(b) Authorized Increases-

(1) AT THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE- The Secretary of State is authorized to hire an additional 750 members of the Foreign Service (above attrition) in fiscal year 2010 over the number of such members employed as of September 30, 2009, and an additional 750 members of the Foreign Service (above attrition) in fiscal year 2011 over the number of such members employed as of September 30, 2010.

(2) AT USAID- The Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development is authorized to hire an additional 350 members of the Foreign Service (above attrition) in fiscal year 2010 over the number of such members employed as of September 30, 2009, and an additional 350 members of the Foreign Service (above attrition) in fiscal year 2011 over the number of such members employed as of September 30, 2010.

(3) RULE OF CONSTRUCTION- Nothing in this subsection shall be construed as limiting the authority of the Secretary of State or the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development to hire personnel.

(c) Expansion of Functions of the Foreign Service- Section 104 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 (22 U.S.C. 3904) is amended–

(1) by redesignating paragraphs (2) and (3) as paragraphs (3) and (4), respectively; and

(2) by inserting after paragraph (1) the following new paragraph:

‘(2) work actively to prevent, mitigate, and respond in a timely manner to international crises and instability in foreign countries that threaten the key United States foreign policy and national security interests;’.

(d) Worldwide Availability- Section 301(b) of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 (22 U.S.C. 3941(b)) is amended–

(1) by inserting ‘(1)’ before ‘The Secretary’; and

(2) by adding at the end the following new paragraph:

‘(2)(A) Except as provided in subparagraphs (B) and (C), at the time of entry into the Service, each member of the Service shall be available to be assigned worldwide.

‘(B) With respect to the medical eligibility of any applicant for appointment as a Foreign Service officer candidate, the Secretary of State shall determine such availability through appropriate medical examinations. If based on such examinations the Secretary determines that such applicant is ineligible to be assigned worldwide, the Secretary may waive the worldwide availability requirement under subparagraph (A) if the Secretary determines that such waiver is required to fulfill a compelling Service need. The Secretary shall establish an internal administrative review process for medical ineligibility determinations.

‘(C) The Secretary may also waive or reduce the worldwide availability requirement under subparagraph (A) if the Secretary determines, in the Secretary’s discretion, that such waiver or reduction is warranted.’.

(e) Recruiting Candidates Who Have Experience in Unstable Situations- Section 301 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 (22 U.S.C. 3941), as amended by section 212(c) of this Act, is further amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:

‘(f) Experience in Unstable Situations- The fact that an applicant for appointment as a Foreign Service officer candidate has the experience of working in situations where public order has been undermined by instability, or where there is no civil authority that can effectively provide public safety, may be considered an affirmative factor in making such appointments.’.

(f) Training- Section 708 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 (22 U.S.C. 4028) is amended by adding at the end the following new subsections:

‘(c) The Secretary of State shall ensure that members of the Service, other than foreign national employees and consular agents, as appropriate, receive training on methods for conflict mitigation and resolution and on the necessary skills to be able to function successfully where public order has been undermined by instability or where there is no civil authority that can effectively provide public safety.

‘(d) The Secretary of State shall ensure that members of the Service, other than foreign national employees and consular agents, as appropriate, have opportunities during their careers to obtain advanced education and training in academic and other relevant institutions in the United States and abroad to increase the capacity of the Service to fulfill its mission.’

* * *

, if this bill passes, I hope this would just be a down payment on that much-talked about Foreign Service bench strength. This authorizes the hiring of an additional 1500 FS employees above attrition for State and 700 new employees above attrition for USAID in the next two fiscal years. A 2007 report from the GAO says that from 2002 through 2004, the DRI (Diplomatic readiness Initiative) enabled State to hire more than 1,000 employees above attrition to respond to emerging crises and allow staff time for critical job training. However, that increase was absorbed by the demand for personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan; and thus, the desired crises and training reserve was not achieved.

The Embassy of the Future Commission called for more than 1,000 additional diplomats—a 9.3 percent increase; however, the
American Academy of Diplomacy documented the need for 2,848 additional State positions for core diplomatic functions and a training complement, as well as for 1,250 additional USAID positions by Fiscal Year 2014.

In a recent congressional hearing, Jack Lew pointed out that in FY 1990, USAID employed nearly 3,500 permanent direct hires administering $5 billion a year in assistance. As of FY 2008, USAID employed about 2,200 permanent direct hires administering $13.2 billion in assistance. Just one graphic example of doing more with less (one jaded employee said that if we continue doing more with less, there’ll come a time when we’ll be able to do everything perfectly with nothing).

, this does not talk about “directed assignment” but it talks about filling critical vacancies and increasing “the capacity of the Department of State to assign and deploy Foreign Service officers and other personnel.” It also talks about worldwide availability as in “each member of the Service shall be available to be assigned worldwide.” Makes you wonder why this is in the bill unless this is a soft nudge to use the directed assignment authority. Worldwide availability has been in the books for a long time but – it has been exercised only to a limited degree. In 2007, the Government Accountability Office has recommended that the State Department use this authority: “State has not traditionally assigned its limited number of employees to particular posts based on risk and priorities; rather, it has generally assigned staff to posts for which they have expressed an interest. We recommended that State consider using its authority to direct staff to accept assignments, as necessary, to ensure that critical gaps are filled.”

, it talks about Recruiting Candidates Who Have Experience in Unstable Situations saying that “experience of working in situations where public order has been undermined by instability, or where there is no civil authority that can effectively provide public safety, may be considered an affirmative factor in making such appointments.” Right now, veterans are the only group subject to a hiring preference, but only post-FSWE and after the oral exam. According to “Veterans who pass the Oral Assessment and qualify as preference eligibles are entitled to .175 for a 5 point preference or to .35 for a 10 point preference, based on a seven point scale. Specialist candidates, who are assessed on a 100 point scale, and who pass their oral assessment are entitled to an additional 5 to 10 points added to their competitive rating. Candidates must submit form DD-214 to document creditable military service.”

I don’t know what shape this “affirmative factor” would take on eventually. But two large groups of prospective applicants would probably fall under this category of “experience in unstable situations” – military personnel and 3161 employees.

, the last part of this section addresses training in the FS – in one part providing that FS personnel (except FSNs and consular agents) “receive training on methods for conflict mitigation and resolution and on the necessary skills to be able to function successfully where public order has been undermined by instability.” And the second part providing that the SoS, “ensure that members of the Service (except FSNs and consular agents), have opportunities during their careers to obtain advanced education and training in academic and other relevant institutions in the United States and abroad.”

Like I said in my previous post on that new cone – this does not talk about reforming the promotion process in the Foreign Service. And that will have an impact if this bill passes. Employees who feel that their careers may be negatively impacted by taking a year or two out for advanced schooling may think twice about pursuing advanced education and academic training.

It is a different story in the armed services, of course. Have you noticed how many of our military officers retire from the armed services with PhDs? It has been said that almost every
officer in the US military gains a graduate degree by the time they reach the rank of O-5, around 15-20 years of service. I don’t know if it is still true, but there was time when you can’t get promoted to a major without a master’s degree. In fact, General David Petraeus did receive his MPA in 1985 the year he made major. Two years later, he received his PhD in international relations from Princeton University and made LTC in 1991. His published works span from 1983-2008.

Military officers can pursue full-time studies toward a master’s or doctorate degree through programs paid for by the military. Many more officers pursue advanced education on their own time. The US Army for instance has the Advanced Degree Program and the Fully Funded Legal Education Program (FLEP) just to name two.

The military also spends a significant amount of time considering not only its future challenges 25-30 years from now, but also the education requirement of its future leaders:

This is the fundamental challenge the U.S. military will confront: providing the education so that future leaders can understand the political, strategic, historical, and cultural framework of a more complex world, as well as having a thorough grounding in the nature of war, past, present, and future. […] The complexity of the future suggests that the education of senior officers must not remain limited to staff and war colleges, but should extend to the world’s best graduate schools. Professional military education must impart the ability to think critically and creatively in both the conduct of military operations and acquisition and resource allocation. The services should draw from a breadth and depth of education in a range of relevant disciplines to include history, anthropology, economics, geopolitics, cultural studies, the ‘hard’ sciences, law, and strategic communications. Their best officers should attend such programs. Officers cannot master all these disciplines, but they can and must become familiar with their implications. In other words, the educational development of America’s future military leaders must not remain confined to the school house, but must involve self study and intellectual engagement by officers throughout their careers. Read more here.

As for State — I cannot immediately name a single program in the State Department except those advanced degrees pursued by Foreign Service officers in the war colleges and a few degrees on Social Work by employees in the Consular Bureau. Can you? How many diplomats do you know have taken sabbaticals to pursue advanced degrees in various institutions of higher learning after they’ve joined the Service? Ryan Crocker spent a year in Princeton pursuing course work in Near Eastern studies in 1984. But how many officers came in with a B.A and retired with a B.A.? In the military, it’s kind of hard to find a single general without an advanced degree under his/her belt (there probably isn’t even one).

If you drill beyond the surface, you may recognize this as true — whereas the pursuit of advanced education and continuous learning has been woven deeply into the fabric of military culture, the threads are not fully present in the State Department. That’s one change that needs to occur if the State Department expects to provide foreign policy and rigorous intellectual leadership into the next century. And if that happens, I’d be happy to call it “more modern.”

Related Item:

GAO-07-1154T: State Department: Staffing and Foreign Language Shortfalls Persist Despite Initiatives to Address Gaps

Related Posts: