The U.S. Foreign Service Turns 90, What Will It Be Like in 50 Years?

— Domani Spero
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There was a big do in Foggy Bottom last night celebrating the 90th anniversary of the modern Foreign Service founded on May 24, 1924 when the Diplomatic and Consular Services were unified under the Rogers Act (named for Representative John Jacob Rogers of Massachusetts). Former Secretary Colin Powell and former Senator Lugar, as well as other friends of the Service were in attendance.  Secretary Kerry, the 68th Secretary of State and the son of former Foreign Service officer, Richard John Kerrydelivered the remarks. Excerpt:

Ninety years ago the Foreign Service was just absolutely unrecognizable compared to what it is today. Back then we had fewer than 700 Foreign Service officers and now we have more than 13,000. Back then we had no female chiefs of mission – none. Now we have more than 40. And I’m proud to tell you that right now in this Department five out of six of our regional Assistant Secretaries are women; four out of six of our Under Secretaries are women; and we are joined tonight – since we have two Deputy Secretaries of State, 50 percent are women, and one of them is here. Heather Higginbottom, sitting right over here. So I think that’s a great record. 

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks at an event celebrating the 90th Anniversary of the United States Foreign Service at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on May 22, 2014. The modern Foreign Service was created on May 24, 1924, with the passage of the Rogers Act establishing the current merit-based, professional Foreign Service. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks at an event celebrating the 90th Anniversary of the United States Foreign Service at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on May 22, 2014. The modern Foreign Service was created on May 24, 1924, with the passage of the Rogers Act establishing the current merit-based, professional Foreign Service. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Former Secretary Colin Powell and former Senator Richard Lugar listen as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks at an event celebrating the 90th Anniversary of the United States Foreign Service at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on May 22, 2014. The modern Foreign Service was created on May 24, 1924, with the passage of the Rogers Act establishing the current merit-based, professional Foreign Service. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Former Secretary Colin Powell and former Senator Richard Lugar listen as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks at an event celebrating the 90th Anniversary of the United States Foreign Service at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on May 22, 2014. The modern Foreign Service was created on May 24, 1924, with the passage of the Rogers Act establishing the current merit-based, professional Foreign Service. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Back then, when it started, we had only one African American Foreign Service officer. One. A man named Clifton Wharton. I happened to know of him way back when because my dad actually worked for him way back in those early days. Now we have nearly a thousand African American Foreign Service officers following in his footsteps.
[…]
And in 1924, House Resolution 6357 passed Congress and it gave birth to the modern Foreign Service. Now to quote Rogers: “The promise of good diplomacy is the greatest protector of peace.” And our hope is that people will recognize that 90 years from that moment, that is exactly what the Foreign Service has done. 

See the full Remarks at the 90th Anniversary of the United States Foreign Service.

The U.S. Foreign Service has more than 90 years of history, of course. According to the State Department historian, from 1789 until 1924, the Diplomatic Service, which staffed U.S. Legations and Embassies, and the Consular Service, which was primarily responsible for promoting American commerce and assisting distressed American sailors, developed separately.  

The first Act of Congress providing for U.S. consuls abroad was passed on April 14, 1792. Except for the consuls appointed to the Barbary States of North Africa (who enjoyed quasi-diplomatic status when Muslim countries did not maintain permanent missions abroad), U.S. consuls received no salary and were expected to earn their livings from private trade or from fees charged for official services. Some of these officials did not start getting paid until 1856 when Congress established a salary between $1,000 and $7,500 per year.

In 1781, we had 4 diplomatic posts and 3 consular posts.  By 2010, we had 168 diplomatic and 89 consular posts. In 1781, the State Department also had 4 domestic and 10 overseas personnel. By 1940, this grew to 1,128 domestic personnel and 840 staff overseas. The largest bump in staffing occurred in the 1950s when domestic personnel expanded to 8,609 employees and the Foreign Service grew to 7,710 overseas staff.    By the time the Foreign Service Act of 1980 became law, there were 3,438 Civil Service employees and 9,326 Foreign Service.  When USIA was integrated into the State Department, there were 6,958 CS employees and 9,238 FS employees. The Diplomatic Readiness Initiative (DRI) in 2005 boosted the staffing numbers to 8,098 CS employees and 11,238 FS employees. In 2012, there were 13,676 FS employees of 55% of the total agency employees and 10,811 CS employes or 45% of State employees.

The question we have is what will the Foreign Service look like when it turns 100 in 2024? The DRI hires will be in senior management positions in 10 years. How will their experience help them manage a new generation of diplomats?

In the past decade, we have seen an increase in unaccompanied assignments, and in the number of male eligible family members. The number of danger posts, as well, as the number of priority posts have also expanded.  A good number of junior diplomats have started their careers in war zone assignments in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya; some more were sent to restricted assignments in Pakistan, Yemen, and various countries under civil strife. We have Diplomatic Security agents moving from one priority posting to the next priority posting; rinse that and repeat. We don’t how many PTSD cases and non-natural deaths occur among FS members but we know they exist.

These folks will all come “home” one day to a Foreign Service where some have never served in the front line states.  We hope somebody at the State Department is thinking and planning for that day. Or maybe that day is already here since there is already a divide between those perceived to be conducting “real diplomacy” and those who are not; with some considering an assignment in a war zone as not being “actual diplomacy.” There are also folks annoyed that FSOs who serve in war zones get much more money and received favorable treatment on promotions.

Something is happening in the Foreign Service. What will it be like in fifty years?

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Foggy Bottom Race: And the next Secretary of State is ….well, go ahead and speculate

With the presidential election over, the parlor game on who will be the next secretary of state has officially intensified with Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), current chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and Susan Rice, current US Ambassador to the UN as front-runners. They are not the only ones mentioned but Kerry and Rice appears to be the the names that fuel the most media speculation.  “Unnamed officials” and “sources” are also working their media contacts, obviously with “inside” information highlighting their candidate’s prospects in this run for Foggy Bottom.

Senator John Kerry

One source quoted by Politico who is “familiar with the circumstances,” reported that Kerry “has the inside track,” having worked on President Obama’s debate-prep during the campaign.

Jezebel notes that the US hasn’t had a white male Secretary of State since 1997 and asks, “Is America ready?” It writes that “John Kerry’s tenure as the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has been remarkably free of in-chamber shootings,” and concludes that “any testosterone-producing, low emotion man is a ticking time bomb.”

James Traub over at FP asks, Would John Kerry do a good job of filling Hillary Clinton’s shoes? Traub writes that “the same restraint and reserve which made him such an unsatisfying presidential candidate have also made him the kind of consummate diplomat whom the White House has counted on to soothe troubled waters in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, and elsewhere. [… If anyone can talk those guys off a ledge, it’s Kerry. […] Kerry has shortcomings. Who doesn’t? But I can’t think of anyone who would be better for the job.”

Hey! Even the Russians have a pick: “An unnamed source in the Russian foreign ministry told the Kommersant business daily that Moscow would “much prefer” to see Mr. Kerry take the post.

Yesterday, WaPo reported that President Obama is “considering John Kerry for job of defense secretary.” Apparently, Senator Kerry is surprised about the buzz that he is being considered as possible SecDef.

 

Ambassador Susan Rice

James Traub who wrote the “Secretary Kerry” piece over at FP explains why Ambassador Rice may not be the best choice: “Susan Rice is a pugnacious team player who, like Donilon, is more insider than outsider, and is notably deficient in that unctuous fluid which issues from the pores of professional diplomats.”

New York Times cites one administration characterizing Rice as “crippled” having been a favorite Republican target since she provided the administration’s initial accounts on the Benghazi attack.

Bloomberg News claimed she had emerged as the odds-on favorite blaring, UN Envoy Susan Rice Is Top Candidate to Succeed Clinton.  She is reportedly emerging as the “favored candidate” even with her baggage on Benghazi: “Six current or former White House officials, who all spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said Rice remains close to President Barack Obama and shares many of his views on foreign policy.”

Today, the NYT also reports that “Ms. Rice, an outspoken, ambitious diplomat with close ties to Mr. Obama, has emerged as the clear favorite.”

WaPo adds that “senior administration officials familiar with the transition planning said that nomination will almost certainly go to Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.”

 

National Security Advisor Tom Donilon

According to Traub’s FP piece, the current U.S. National Security Advisor “is a highly competent administrator who would die of impatience halfway through an interminable lunch with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.”

Now we can’t have that, can we?

The National Interest reported that “…in 2008 Donilon was considered for deputy secretary of state, but the Obama team thought that his previous role as in-house counsel to Fannie Mae was “toxic” and that he “might have serious problems in a Senate confirmation.”

Other names mentioned though not as loudly:

Bill Burns – currently Deputy Secretary of State, a respected career diplomat but not an Obama insider.

Chuck Hagel—the former Nebraska Senate Republican and co-chairman of President Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board.

Jon Huntsman – former Obama ambassador to China and GOP presidential primary contender 2012

Dick Lugar – Outgoing senator and soon to be former ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Moderate Voice writes: “Lugar would need no on the job training to become State secretary. He’s an old pro on the international stage and knows his way around Washington as well. He could take up the reins at the State Department with confidence. As a marathon runner who participated in one of the 26.2-mile races just a few weeks ago, he has the physical stamina for the job of chief US diplomat despite advancing years.” Senator Lugar is 80 years old.

Howard Berman – Outgoing chairman and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. LAT writes that Berman who is 71, “has worked closely with the White House over four years on sensitive issues such as Iran and is known as competent and discreet, traits much prized by President Obama.”

How about a Colin Powell comeback?

George W. Bush’s first secretary of State has been speculated as a possible SecDef.  What about a comeback at State?  He endorsed President Obama in 2008 and again in 2012. Secretary Powell got the “The president would like to make a change” conversation eight days after George W. Bush’s second term reelection.  Don’t know if he would have stayed for the second term without that conversation but we know that he was mindful of the lasting blot on his record after that UN speech.  Another term as a secretary of state might help repair that damage?

But not a comeback for Condi Rice

Don’t call her maybe.  Condoleezza Rice already said she wouldn’t be interested in succeeding Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, even if asked to do so by President Barack Obama.