A Word on Diplomacy 3.0

Future Or Bust!Image by Vermin Inc via Flickr

The Director General of the US Foreign Service, Nancy Powell writes about Diplomacy 3.0 in the November issue of State Magazine: “Diplomacy 3.0” is a term that highlights strengthening the workforce for the three pillars of Diplomacy, Development and Defense.

I can understand State strengthening the workforce for the first two Ds here, but Defense? D3.0 does not seem to include large scale rotations of FS personnel to the combatant commands and elsewhere in the military structure. How do you strengthen the FS workforce for the third pillar, er great looming tower of Defense? I hate it when the marketing spin misses the bull’s-eye and just sounds pretentious. Or I’m just dim – ‘cuz I really don’t get it. I need my headlights replaced, darn it!

In fairness to Ambassador Powell, she did not get nominated to her current position until May 21, 2009; she inherited this advert from her immediate predecessor, Harry Thomas, Jr., the former DG and current nominee to be Ambassador to the Philippines. But she now pitches for it. Excerpts below:

Launched in March 2009, Diplomacy 3.0, a multi-year effort to increase the size of the workforce by 25 percent, aims to bring on board 1,200 new Foreign and Civil Service employees above attrition in fiscal year 2009 and another 1,200 in fiscal year 2010. These unprecedented hiring numbers are a significant increase over recent years, higher than the Diplomatic Readiness Initiative we undertook in 2001–2004.
These additional resources gave us the opportunity to redress existing deficits, thaw the “frozen” positions of recent assignment cycles, eliminate the need for freezes in future cycles and create new positions needed to better respond to the Administration’s foreign policy objectives. In the short-term, we are working to identify and establish at least 200 new positions by December and more in 2010. With these new positions, we can also build a language training float, particularly for priority languages, such as Arabic, Chinese and Urdu. We hope that our carefully structured approach will help us achieve these priority goals while also creating new assignment opportunities for our mid-level colleagues and the positions we need to accommodate our new hires.
In order to reach our hiring targets, we are also pulling out the stops to get the people we recruit into the pipeline. For example, the Board of Examiners has instituted Saturday assessments for Foreign Service Specialists. MED and DS continue to work on reducing the time that it takes to get all clearances and thus the time that elapses from conditional offer to entry into service. At the same time, the Foreign Service Institute has increased its offerings of orientation courses for FS Generalists (A-100) and Specialists. The revised course for Generalists is now five weeks in duration, with eight classes scheduled for fiscal year 2010. For Specialists’ orientation, there are seven classes scheduled in fiscal year 2010, with the possibility of adding additional classes, depending on hiring.

So, we are well on our way to reaching our hiring targets under Diplomacy 3.0. These new hires will go a long way toward easing our chronic Departmental vacancies.

While I find this new staffing authorization good news, the thing that is particularly worrisome is that the State Department seems to be looking no further than 2010 or 2012. Even during the recent hearings on diplomatic readiness, I did not hear anything new, or inspiring, or forward looking.

AFSA President Susan Johnson recently calls for “Rebranding the Foreign Service” but that FSJ piece had me scratching my head, too. In these difficult economic times you want to talk about building a memorial?

The managers, leaders and ambassadors of the State Department in 2035 are already serving their first-second tours in China, India, Brazil, Mexico and the rest of our overseas missions. The political ambassadors of 2035 are just starting their businesses and networking right now. In 25 years, they will all be confronted with newer and harder challenges in a world that will be exponentially more complicated.

What are we doing to prepare them for it?