This Statement of Support for U.S. diplomats, first issued October 22, 2019, has been signed by several hundred former USAID employees.
As former Foreign Service Officers, civil servants and political appointees with the US Agency for International Development, we have served under both Republican and Democratic administrations, in Washington DC and throughout the developing world. We are writing in support of colleagues now under siege for their work as diplomats with the Department of State. Together, we spent our careers working to represent the policies and values of the United States. We are angered at the treatment of dedicated, experienced, and wise public servants like Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch; and we are distraught at the dangers inherent in the President’s cavalier (and quite possibly corrupt) approach to making foreign policy on impulse and personal interest rather than in response to national security concerns.
As USAID veterans, we spent our careers helping countries develop the capacity to govern and care for their people. Like our State and military colleagues, we pledge to serve wherever we are sent, in war zones, fragile states, or at the center of natural and man-made disasters. We have been under fire, evacuated from countries in crisis, and helicoptered in to help with floods, earthquakes and famines. Friends and colleagues have sacrificed their lives. We have worked closely with State colleagues to help countries recover from conflict, build new democracies, create jobs, deal with health issues like Ebola and HIV/AIDs, and feed the hungry. It was our job and we were glad to do it.
We are appalled that taxpayer funds for foreign aid may have been used to leverage foreign support for partisan political objectives. The way the President is conducting foreign policy raises questions about the reliability of the U.S. as a partner, its commitment to diplomatic norms, and its capacity for leadership. His administration’s treatment of State Department officers raises concerns about whether we will have the human and institutional capacity to answer those questions.
In a recent essay in Foreign Affairs, former Deputy Secretary of State William Burns calls the President’s “scorched-earth tactics, casual relationship with truth and contempt for career public service” a “New McCarthyism.” The President’s contempt for professionals is having a marked impact on the capacity of the State Department to do its job. According to a Government Accountability Office report, a 13-month hiring freeze left the State Department dangerously overstretched with “limited capacity to engage host country officials, to identify security risks or protect sensitive information.” An August 2019 Inspector General Report admonished political appointees in the Department for “inappropriate practices…including disrespect and hostile treatment of career employees,” based on “perceived political views.” Experienced Foreign Service Officers have been looking for the exits. They are not being replaced. Applications to the Foreign Service have dropped to levels rarely seen in 40 years.
A professional Foreign Service is key to the ability of the United States to develop and conduct a coherent foreign policy that protects our national interests. All of us, as Ambassador Yovanovitch stated in her deposition, took an oath when we joined to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” and “bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” As she said, we feel privileged to serve and are committed to do so on a nonpartisan basis “to strengthen our national security and promote our national interests.”
Our country needs a strong and vibrant Foreign Service, untainted by partisan political interference, to strengthen our relationships with countries around the world. If there is one small consolation all of us can take from recent events in Ukraine, it is that the country has been introduced to public servants like Ambassadors Marie Yovanovitch, Michael McKinley, William Taylor and DAS George Kent. They represent the high integrity, capability and professionalism of career State Department officers, and we are proud to stand with them.
Click here for the original post and the list of signatories.