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Dear @JohnKerry: One of Your Foggy Bottom Folks Is Asking — Is This Diversity?

Posted: 1:25 pm ET
Note: In an ideal, healthy organization, this letter would be signed by the author and you’d be reading this and discussing creative solutions on the Secretary’s Sounding Board.  What is clear to us is that the fears of reprisal/retaliation are real. This anonymous letter is one more proof of that.  Except for the four active hyperlinks we’ve added to help readers, the text and photo below are published below as received —

 

From an anonymous DS Employee: Is This Diversity?

A poignant piece in the President’s Memorandum on Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in the National Security Workforce was the conclusion that “In broad comparison with the wider Federal Government, the federal workforce dedicated to our national security and foreign policy is – on average – less diverse, including at the highest levels.”  Unfortunately, when it comes to the highest levels of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) diversity is not only less than the average – – it is nonexistent!

ds-top-ranks

A review of the facts.

DS senior leadership is composed of an Assistant Secretary, a Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, seven Deputy Assistant Secretaries, an Executive Director, and a Coordinator for Security Infrastructure.  Four years ago all of these positions with the exception of the AS were held by active Senior Foreign Service and Senior Executive Service officers.  Two positions were held by female officers and one by a African-American officer.  In the past three years, all three minority members either retired or moved into other positions outside of DS.  Eight of the ten senior leadership positions have become vacant during that time, some more than once, and the current PDAS – Bill Miller, who became subject to Time-in-Class (TIC) restrictions and left active service – was appointed into the PDAS role.

Of the ten opportunities that DS has had to select officers to fill vacancies at the Bureau’s senior-most positions it has consistently selected Caucasian male officers. DS went from a Bureau that from a diversity standpoint was about where the rest of the government is now – less diverse than the average – to one that is now all white, all male, all the time.

We have witnessed the cleansing of DS over the past three years.  It is troubling, and, it should be raising alarm bells throughout the Department.

But is it not.

Instead, the Department is preparing to reward DSS Director Miller with a third appointment year as PDAS of DS.  Furthermore, DS is now expanding the practice of appointing officers subject to TIC up or out restrictions into positions formerly held exclusively by active SFS officers with the appointment of the outgoing Overseas Security Advisory Council Office Director into his own position, as an appointee. This was accomplished quietly, with the Department’s concurrence, devoid of any semblance of transparency.

The lack diversity is not limited to the FE-MC/OC and SES level officers who make up DS’s Senior Leadership.  It also extends to the subordinate staffs.  Unlike the Assistant Secretary’s DS Front Office, which to Gregory Starr’s credit has consistent been composed of a highly qualified and richly diverse staff, the PDAS’ DSS FO has been anything but.  To this day, the DSS FO staff with the exception of the Office Manager consists of…all white males.  One DS Senior sets a model for the Bureau to emulate, the other projects a do as I say not as I do standard.

In May, PDAS Miller brought most of the DS leadership from around the globe to the Department for a two-day leadership forum.  On day two he showcased his all-white, all-male team of seniors on the dais for a full day of Q&As. The one area the PDAS and the rest in the dais were unprepared to discuss were the stream of questions on the topic of diversity that were raised throughout the day and which went largely unaddressed.

It is difficult to reconcile Director General Arnold Chacon’s statements about Department values and principles, and ensuring that the Department’s workforce reflect the nation’s richness and diversity, when matched against the reality of the past three years within DS.  Even more difficult considering that all senior-most assignments in DS require the approval of Department Seniors.

In response, the Department should:

  • first and foremost, acknowledge that there is an appalling lack of diversity in the senior-most ranks of DS that should jar the Department’s Leadership into action to identity immediate steps to rectify the issue;
  • either instill a sense of urgency in current DS Leadership on the topic or allow the next set of leaders to rise to the top positions, with a renewed sense of purpose and focus that truly embraces the ideals that the Department publishes;
  • if the current PDAS is to remain in place for another year, an officer from the Office of Civil Rights should be permanently assigned to his Front Office to help guide him on matters of inclusivity and diversity;
  • mandate that DS develop and publicly publish a comprehensive diversity strategy;
  • understand that it shares in the responsibility for the current state within DS;
  • also, understand the likelihood that this letter will evoke a backlash from those who have been criticized and take steps to guard against the potential for retribution.
A series of conscious decisions led to the current state of DS. This is written in part as a call for accountability. It is also written in the hope that it will trigger action and a sense among the increasingly disenfranchised segment of DS that it is ok to voice concern even when aimed at our most senior leadership.
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3 responses

  1. You have highlighted a very serious issue within DS, yet none of your recommendations, save the one mandating a comprehensive diversity strategy, will truly solve this problem. It also begs the question, are there any qualified non-white people to fill key positions? If not, this points to a systemic problem that could take a long time (years) to fix. Perhaps we need to start a more concerted effort to recruit minorities into the Department, as well as focus more on grooming those already in the system for these roles. My fear is that these angry calls for more diversity will result in sloppy quick fixes that put minorities in key positions before they are ready all in the name of diversity, while creating more issues. This needs to be a well thought out process, and those calling for change need to be prepared to take a long term view at bringing about these changes, rather than demanding instant change. If minorities either don’t know about the foreign service or don’t view it as a viable career choice, the Department needs to focus their effort on changing that perception.

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  2. In 2011, I looked around the room at my 90 fellow newly-minted FSOs and saw zero people of color. Shocked and dismayed, I thought there has to be a better way, and ginned up a proposal for a task force that could work on the issue under the guidance of the Recruitment, Examination, and Employment office. The un-American condition was repeated in each of the four classes that year and I found it was no different for 2010. I and three of my colleagues were repeatedly rebuffed by the director of Recruitment and eight months later I went off to post without any of my classmates having any opportunity to contribute to a solution. (The director was promoted to become an ambassador to a FSU country.) FS and CS Workforce Diversity Statistics FY2011-FY2014 shows a constant of just 6 percent African American and 4 percent Hispanic in the Senior Career Leadership. Has anything changed since then? Any why are we FSOs not allowed to play a part in the solution?

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