New @StateDept Authorization Bill Includes 3-Year Pilot Program For Lateral Entry Into the Foreign Service

Posted: 1:07 am ET
Updated: 4:15 pm PT
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On April 28, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the bipartisan Department of State Authorization Act of 2017  (see SFRC Approves the Department of State Authorization Act of 2017 #DOSAA17). One provision of the bill is a 3-year pilot program for lateral entry into the Foreign Service. The question is how would this affect the midlevel ranks of the Foreign Service, some of whom are on their 3rd or 4th assignment and have yet to serve in their own cones or career tracks?

If this bill passes, the new lateral entry employees will be hired above FP-04.  We imagine the new hires won’t be doing entry level work on the visa lines at AIP countries and/or Mexico, Brazil, China, India, and Russia where staffing demands are high (see Foreign Service Staffing Gaps, and Oh, Diplomacy 3.0 Hiring Initiative to Conclude in FY2023). The pilot program employees will only be required to do one directed assignment according to the proposed bill, presumably one two-year tour. The bill does not provide a number on how many individuals should be included in this pilot program. We should note that while this bill cleared the SFRC, a similar authorization bill last year which also cleared the committee, did not survive the congressional obstacle course.  The State Department authorization bill for FY2016 was actually wrapped in the deal that made the Jacobson confirmation possible; it was also passed by the Senate on April 28. (Thanks A!) The FY2017 bill is currently pending in the Senate. 

SEC. 207. LATERAL ENTRY INTO THE FOREIGN SERVICE.

(a) POLICY OF THE UNITED STATES.—It is the policy of the United States to maximize the ability of the Foreign Service to draw upon the talents of the American people to most effectively promote the foreign policy interests of the United States.

(b) FINDING.—Congress finds that—

(1) the Foreign Service practice of grooming generalists for careers in the Foreign Service, starting with junior level directed assignments, is effective for most officers; and

(2) the practice described in paragraph (1) precludes the recruitment of many patriotic, highly- skilled, talented, and experienced mid-career professionals who wish to join public service and contribute to the work of the Foreign Service, but are not in a position to restart their careers as entry-level government employees.

(c) SENSE OF CONGRESS.—It is the sense of Congress that the Foreign Service should create an alternative hiring mechanism to permit mid-career entry into the Foreign Service for qualified individuals who are willing to bring their outstanding talents and experiences to the work of the Foreign Service.

(d) PILOT PROGRAM.—Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall establish a 3-year pilot program for lateral entry into the Foreign Service that—

(1) targets mid-career individuals from the civil service and private sector who have skills and experience that would be extremely valuable to the Foreign Service;

(2) offers participants in the pilot program placement in the Foreign Service at a grade level higher than FS–4 if such placement is warranted by their education and qualifying experience;

(3) requires only 1 directed assignment in a position appropriate to the pilot program participant’s grade level;

(4) includes, as part of the required initial training, a class or module that specifically prepares participants in the pilot program for life in the Foreign Service, including conveying to them essential elements of the practical knowledge that is normally acquired during a Foreign Service officer’s initial assignments; and

(5) includes an annual assessment of the progress of the pilot program by a review board consisting of Department officials with appropriate expertise, including employees of the Foreign Service, in order to evaluate the pilot program’s success and direction in advancing the policy set forth in subsection (a) in light of the findings set forth in subsection (b).

(e) ANNUAL REPORTING.—Not later than 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act, and annually thereafter for the duration of the pilot program, the Secretary shall submit a report to the appropriate congressional committees that describes—

(1) the cumulative number of accepted and unaccepted applicants to the pilot program established under subsection (d);

(2) the cumulative number of pilot program participants placed into each Foreign Service cone;

(3) the grade level at which each pilot program participant entered the Foreign Service;

(4) information about the first assignment to which each pilot program participant was directed;

(5) the structure and operation of the pilot program, including—

(A) the operation of the pilot program to date; and
(B) any observations and lessons learned about the pilot program that the Secretary considers relevant.

(f) LONGITUDINAL DATA.—The Secretary shall—

(1) collect and maintain data on the career progression of each pilot program participant for the length of the participant’s Foreign Service career; and

(2) make the data described in paragraph (1) available to the appropriate congressional committees upon request.

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SFRC Approves the Department of State Authorization Act of 2017 #DOSAA17

Posted:9:11 pm ET
Updated 4:22 pm PT
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On April 28, U.S. Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced committee passage of the bipartisan U.S. Department of State Authorization Act of 2017.  In 2015, the committee approved a State Department authorization bill for the first time in five years. A State Department authorization bill has not been signed into law since 2002.

Senators Corker and Cardin released a statement on the bill’s passage, below is an excerpt:

“Assuring the American people that their taxpayer dollars are used efficiently in advancing U.S. interests has been one of my top priorities as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,” said Senator Corker. “We made a commitment to conduct a review of State Department programs and practices on an annual basis, and for the second consecutive year, I am pleased the committee approved a bipartisan authorization bill to fulfill our oversight responsibilities. This legislation requires the U.S. to use its leverage at the United Nations to end impunity over the horrific cases of abuse by peacekeepers. It also supports a stronger, more dynamic workforce and makes the issuance of passports and visas operate more like a business. I look forward to working with Senator Cardin and our committee colleagues to pass the bill through the full Senate this year.”

“It’s essential to provide the authorities for the State Department so it can strategically and effectively carry out America’s foreign policy, and I believe we’ve taken an important step in that direction today,” Senator Cardin said. “We fought hard to prioritize the Department’s essential requests while also improving some accountability measures. In a world of increasing challenges and opportunities, the men and women of the United States diplomatic corps work tirelessly day in and day out to keep America safe, improve global health, empower women, protect vulnerable populations, and engage with our allies and adversaries alike through our bilateral relationships and multilateral organizations. I thank Chairman Corker and the Committee’s Members for working in a bipartisan fashion to bring this bill to the Senate floor and look forward to its passage.”

The SFRC also released a summary of the key provisions; we hope to have a follow up post for the interesting bits:

We should note that a similar bill was introduced last year. “S.1635 – Department of State Operations Authorization and Embassy Security Act, Fiscal Year 2016″ was the first authorization bill passed by the SFRC in 5 years. At that time, our source on the Hill informed us that the State Authorization bill was offered as an amendment when the NDAA was debated in the Senate but it was not voted on and the NDAA passed on June 18 without it (That would be H.R. 1735 which passed 215 (71-25)  The State Authorization bill was not brought to the floor for a stand alone vote, and as far as we know, Senators Corker/Cardin were not able to attach it to another piece of legislation last year. So the bill died and went to the cemetery for dead bills.   The State Department authorization bill for FY2016 was actually wrapped in the deal that made the Roberta Jacobson confirmation possible; it was also passed by the Senate on April 28. (Thanks A!) The FY2017 bill is currently pending in the Senate. 

We’ll have to wait and see what happens this year.

 

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