Snapshot: @StateDept’s Professional Development Program Principles For #FSOs

Posted: 3:49 am ET


Related to our previous posts on the State Department’s new FSO Professional Development Program (see @StateDept Rolls Out New FSO Development Program, and Promotion Rules to Get Into the Senior Foreign Service and AFSA: FSOs Will Now Compete in a “Scavenger Hunt” to Be Considered for Promotion Into the Senior Foreign Service), see a snapshot of the new PDP principles rolled out by the State Department on the last working day of 2017:

The Professional Development Program (PDP) is designed to enhance leadership and adaptive capacity, fuel professional development, and develop the experience and skills of employees over the length of their careers. It is also designed to meet Service needs at various grade levels. Service needs continue to evolve based on U.S. interests, international challenges, and the evolution of diplomacy to encompass inter-agency and “crisis response” responsibilities. The principles outlined below encompass this dual objective of employee and Service needs. No single career path — no specific set or sequence of assignments, no particular promotion timing — determines success. Professional growth and career advancement come from taking on challenges and demonstrating accomplishments across an array of Service-needs assignments to broaden experience, widen perspective, deepen expertise and language proficiency, and amplify leadership and adaptive capacity. Employees should use assignments and training opportunities to challenge themselves and to integrate competencies and skill sets for positions of greater responsibility irrespective of rank or grade.

The PDP has four principles that an officer must develop and demonstrate over the course of his or her career, from entry through tenure and up to consideration for promotion at the Senior Threshold. Officers considered for entry into the Senior Foreign Service should demonstrate:

1) Operational effectiveness, including a breadth of experience over several regions and functions;

2) Leadership and management effectiveness;

3) Professional language proficiency; and

4) Responsiveness to Service needs.



Mandatory Requirement | A minimum of 15 years in the Foreign Service, to include service in a mix of completed domestic and overseas assignments with demonstrated regional and substantive expertise, including service in two separate bureaus after tenure. Those entering the Foreign Service after January 1, 2017, must serve at least one tour in a global affairs bureau or in a global affairs position.

(Note: Superhard language training held in-region may be counted toward regional expertise. “Domestic assignments” refers to Department positions in Washington and elsewhere in the United States, not details or long-term training.)

Mandatory Requirement: Completing one of the following two electives

1) Professional Development (one tour/one academic year, cumulative, after tenure). Such assignments would be drawn from the annual list of training opportunities and details managed by the HR Bureau’s Professional Development Unit (HR/CDA/PDU), including long-term training opportunities such as Senior Training programs at the War Colleges; academic study; Transatlantic Diplomatic Fellowships; Commands and Staff Colleges; Inter-American Defense College; National Intelligence University; and details such as NSC; DHS; Pearson Fellowships; USTR; Treasury; and USTDA.

2) Out-of-Cone Assignment (one year, after tenure). Such assignments would include a position with a skill code other than your primary skill code.



Mandatory Requirement | Significant and substantial leadership responsibility (one tour, after tenure). Such assignments would include positions that assign work, develop and set priorities, counsel employees, evaluate performances, resolve disputes, effect minor disciplinary measures, interview and recommend candidates for positions within a unit, and supervise other employees who perform such responsibilities. Positions such as Deputy Chief of Mission, section heads, unit chiefs, and office (or deputy office) director positions could be examples of positions that fulfill this requirement. Leadership effectiveness entails executing and achieving policy and programmatic results through people.

Mandatory Requirement | In accordance with the Procedural Precepts, FS-03s must complete Basic Leadership Skills (PK245) for promotion to FS-02; FS-02s must complete Intermediate Leadership Skills (PT207) for promotion to FS-01; and FS-01s must complete Advanced Leadership Skills (PT210) for promotion into the SFS.

(Related post: Burn Bag: Does @StateDept Really Care About Leadership Training?)



Mandatory Requirement | One language at the 3/3 level (or at the 3/2 level for a hard or superhard language) tested after tenure, or one language at the 4/4 level (tested either before or after tenure).



Mandatory Requirement | A completed tour at a 25% or greater hardship differential post from entry into the Foreign Service OR a completed tour at an unaccompanied post from entry into the Foreign Service AND

Another completed tour at a 20% or greater hardship differential post after tenure.

Note: The standard definitions for “tour completion” apply:

10 months for a 12-month TOD

20 months for a 24-month TOD

30 months for a 36-month TOD


The term ‘global affairs bureau’ means any bureau of the Department that is under the following —

  •  Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and Environment (E);
  • Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Affairs (T);
  • Under Secretary for Management (M);
  • Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs (IO);
  • Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R); or
  • Under Secretary for Civilian, Security, Democracy, and Human Rights (J)

Global affairs positions refers to diplomatic policy and support: components funded under this category are the bureaus and offices of the following:

  • Administration;
  • Arms Control, Verification and Compliance;
  • Budget and Planning;
  • Chief of Protocol;
  • Comptroller and Global Financial Services;
  • Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor;
  • Economic and Business Affairs;
  • Energy Resources;
  • Information Resource Management;
  • Intelligence and Research;
  • International Criminal Justice;
  • International Security and Nonproliferation;
  • Legal Adviser;
  • Legislative Affairs;
  • Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs;
  • Political-Military Affairs; Population and International Migration;
  • Public Affairs;
  • Secretary of State;
  • Under Secretary for Management;
  • Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.



@StateDept Rolls Out New FSO Development Program, and Promotion Rules to Get Into the Senior Foreign Service

Posted: 4:49 am ET


On the last working day of 2017, the State Department quietly rolled out its new “Professional Development Program for Foreign Service Generalists.” This new program will reportedly “ultimately replace” the current Career Development Plan (CDP). The cable that went out to all posts says that the PDP “places greater emphasis on leadership and professional development, and requires “significant and substantial” supervisory and management experience.”    The current Career Development Plan principles are as follows:

  • Operational effectiveness, including a breadth of experience over several regions and functions
  • Leadership and management effectiveness
  • Sustained professional language proficiency
  • Responsiveness to Service needs

The new Professional Development Program principles are as follows:

  1. Operational effectiveness, including a breadth of experience over several regions and functions;
  2. Leadership and management effectiveness;
  3. Professional language proficiency; and
  4. Responsiveness to Service needs.


The PDP will be phased in over the next eight years, beginning in 2018. Through 2025, FSOs who apply for Senior Threshold Board (STB) review may elect to meet all of the CDP requirements or may instead elect to meet all of the new PDP requirements, depending on which complete plan they prefer. Beginning January 1, 2026, all FSOs who apply to open their windows must meet the requirements of the PDP.

The announcement notes that the PDP Service need requirement (see below) is designed to enhance the ability of FSOs “to lead effectively once they cross the Senior Threshold, ensure more equitable burden-sharing, and expand the pool of qualified bidders at historically-difficult-to-staff posts.”

On waivers for the PDP Service need requirement, the cable notes that they will include “limited medical clearances or needs of the Service – as is the case with the CDP – and will be expanded to include extraordinary circumstances that may affect an FSO’s ability to service in the required hardship postings.”

The Department has reportedly started “initial consultations with AFSA on this matter.” The guidance also says that “Once HR attests that an FSO has met the requirements to open his or her window – either through the CDP or PDP – he or she does not need to reapply or resubmit another application for consideration.”

One source called this “another pointless gimmick” rolled out during the holidays when no one was paying attention. We understand that this whole process is self-certified, so there is some doubt if HR even verifies anything. We’ve heard feedback that the Promotion Boards won’t even see this. If  you’re an HR ninja and knows more, let us know.

Career Development Plan/CDP

  • requires FSOs to serve three tours dealing with one region and two tours dealing with one region (Major/minor regional assignments from entry into service)
  • requires Generalists to test at the 3/3 level within seven years before opening their window for consideration of promotion across the Senior Threshold.

Professional Development Program/PDP:

  • requires a mix of domestic and overseas assignments in at least two different bureaus after tenure
  • FSOs who entered the service after January 1, 2017 must serve at least one tour in a global affairs bureau or in a global affairs position
  • requires Generalists to test at the 3/3 level (or at the 3/2 level for a hard or super-hard language) any time after tenure
  • requires Generalists to serve at hardship posts in order to be considered for promotion across the Senior Threshold
  • requires Generalists to complete a tour at a 25 percent or greater hardship/danger differential post from entry into the Foreign Service OR complete a tour at an unaccompanied post from entry into the Foreign Service, AND complete another tour at a 20 percent or greater hardship/danger differential post after tenure.

That requirement to test at a 3/3 any time after tenure instead of testing at the 3/3 level within seven years before opening their window for consideration of promotion — have folks thought that through? We don’t understand this actually. Language skills can quickly atrophy when not in used; this can’t be good for the Service, can it? The comment section is open.

There are also Foreign Service specialists, not many but some, who also get promoted into the Senior Foreign Service. When we asked about the PDP requirement for them, our source is not sure what requirement comparable to the PDP will be required.

The CDP notes that “perhaps the most important difference among the 17 separate specialist career paths lies in the fact that the Career Development Programs pinnacle is not always the grade of FE-OC, as it is for generalists. The pinnacle for specialists may be FS-04 as it is for the Office Management Specialists, FS-01 for the Facilities Management Specialists, or FE-MC for Physicians.”