New Report: Scans Show Changes to Brains of U.S. Embassy Havana Staffers

 

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Senate Confirmations: Promotion List – Career FSOs to Class of Counselor

Posted: 12:22 am ET
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The following-named Career Member of the Foreign Service for promotion into the Senior Foreign Service, as a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service of the United States of America, Class of Counselor, effective February 21, 2016.

Nominee State
Laura Ann Griesmer Washington

2016-12-07 PN1908 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Robert L. Adams, and ending Laura Ann Griesmer, which 181 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 29, 2016.

The following-named Career Members of the Foreign Service for promotion into the Senior Foreign Service, as a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service of the United States of America, Class of Counselor:

Nominee State
Deanna Hanek Abdeen Virginia
Stephen Anderson Montana
Keith Mims Anderton Virginia
Douglas Joseph Apostol California
Constance C. Arvis Virginia
Jennifer L. Bachus Kansas
Doron D. Bard Washington
Nicholas R. Berliner Virginia
Marcia P. Bosshardt Virginia
David Noel Brizzee Idaho
Dana M. Brown California
Robert G. Burgess District of Columbia
Carol-Anne Chang Virginia
Angela Colyvas-Mcginnis Pennsylvania
Robert E. Copley Colorado
Chad Parker Cummins California
James R. Dayringer Montana
John C. Dockery Texas
Joel Ehrendreich New York
Jewell Elizabeth Evans District of Columbia
Alan E. Eyre Maryland
Eric A. Fichte Washington
Troy Damian Fitrell Virginia
Richard Harris Glenn Virginia
Matthew Eugene Goshko District of Columbia
Ramond F. Greene III District of Columbia
Theresa Grencik Maryland
Anne E. Grimes Virginia
Edward G. Grulich Virginia
Margaret Hawthorne District of Columbia
John Hennessey-Niland Virginia
Christina Maria Huth Higgins Virginia
Melanie Harris Higgins Florida
Lisa S. Kenna Maryland
Jonathan Stuart Kessler Virginia
Cynthia A. Kierscht Minnesota
Michael F. Kleine District of Columbia
Christopher M. Krafft Virginia
Helen Grace LaFave Virginia
Adam Duane Lamoreaux Oregon
Gregory F. Lawless Virginia
Phillip Linderman Virginia
Charles Luoma-Overstreet Virginia
Michael Macy Florida
Jerrold L. Mallory California
Bettina A. Malone Virginia
Ann Barrows McConnell California
Meredith Clare McEvoy Virginia
Richard Mei Jr. Kentucky
Alan D. Meltzer Virginia
Jane S. W. Messenger Maryland
Joaquin F. Monserrate Puerto Rico
Mitchell R. Moss Virginia
Phillip R. Nelson Montana
Elisha Nyman Maryland
Gary Glenn Oba Arkansas
Martha E. Patterson Texas
Roy Albert Perrin Virginia
David D. Potter Virginia
Virginia Sher Ramadan Virginia
Walter Scott Reid Virginia
Jeffrey James Robertson California
Hugo F. Rodriguez Jr. District of Columbia
Russell A. Schiebel Texas
Jonathan A. Schools Texas
Micaela A. Schweitzer-Bluhm Virginia
Mark Wayne Seibel North Carolina
Jonathan L. Shrier New York
Susan Marie Shultz District of Columbia
Eugenia M. Sidereas District of Columbia
David W. Simons Virginia
Jefferson D. Smith Texas
Matthew D. Smith New York
Willard Tenney Smith Virginia
Linda S. Specht Virginia
Gavin A. Sundwall North Carolina
Rebecca T. Brown Thompson Virginia
Scott Brian Ticknor Virginia
Alan R. Tousignant Virginia
Pamela M. Tremont Virginia
Stewart D. Tuttle Jr. California
Heather Catherine Variava Virginia
Amy Hart Vrampas District of Columbia
JoAnne Wagner Virginia
Susan M. Walsh Rhode Island
Eva Anne Weigold Schultz Virginia
Edward Anthony White Florida
Aleisha Woodward Utah

2016-12-07 PN1908 Foreign Service

The following-named Career Members of the Foreign Service for promotion into the Senior Foreign Service, as a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, and a Consular Officer and a Secretary in the Diplomatic Service of the United States of America:

Nominee State
Wendy A. Bashnan South Carolina
John C. Brewer Alabama
Julie S. Cabus Virginia
Cornell Chasten North Carolina
Natalie Cropper South Carolina
Jaime Esquivel Virginia
Yuri P. Fedorenko Michigan
Donald E. Gonneville Jr. Virginia
Marcia K. Henke Alabama
Paul R. Houston Virginia
Joshua D. McDavid Washington
George M. Navadel District of Columbia
Michael Britton Phillips Maryland
Larry D. Roberts Jr. Virginia
Christopher R. Rooks Virginia
Behzad Shahbazian Maryland
Hartaje K. Thiara District of Columbia
Jeffrey A. Thomas Virginia
Tracy Jo Thomas Virginia
Jennifer S. Tseng Colorado
Thomas R. Vandenbrink Virginia
Judith Vardy Florida

2016-12-07 PN1908 Foreign Service

 

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Quickie: Goldberg’s Benghazi Embarrassment, But Who’s Red on the Face?

Jeffrey Goldberg,  a national correspondent for The Atlantic writes:

The embarrassment of the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi is not that it happened. America has its victories against terrorism, and its defeats, and the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three American security personnel represents one defeat in a long war. The embarrassment is that political culture in America is such that we can’t have an adult conversation about the lessons of Benghazi, a conversation that would focus more on understanding al Qaeda affiliates in North Africa, on the limitations and imperfections of security, and on shortfalls in our intelligence gathering, than on who said what when in the Rose Garden.

He made four reasonable points:

1) Because the conversation around Benghazi is so stupid, we’re going to end up with more mindless CYA security “improvements” that will imprison American diplomats in their fortress compounds even more than they are already imprisoned.

2) It would be good if at least some of the blame for the assassination of Chris Stevens was apportioned to his assassins. Both candidates would do us a service if they would re-focus the debate on ways to defeat Islamist terrorism.

3) Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama can both take the blame, or the responsibility, for this attack if they want, but the truth, quite obviously, is that neither one of them is in charge of assessing the security needs of individual American embassies and consulates. The job of leaders is to hire well, supervise their hires to the degree possible, and then, if something goes wrong, spend the time and energy to figure out how to fix the problem. It is unrealistic to believe that either leader could have known about what is ultimately a small problem in a large war. We should spend more time judging them on how they respond to defeats then on blaming them for the defeats. (By the way, I would hold George W. Bush to the same standard re:  9/11, and Bill Clinton to the same standard when it came to his Administration’s unsuccessful efforts to stop the spread of al Qaeda in the late 1990s.)

4) As Blake Hounshell put it, “Amb. Chris Stevens was a big boy and he made his own decision to go to Benghazi despite the risks. If he thought it was too dangerous, he should not have gone.” We’ve lost thousands of American government employees over the past 10 years in the Middle East and in Afghanistan. Nearly all of them were in uniform, but Foreign Service officers know the risks as well. We need to treat the loss of these four men in Libya as a battlefield loss. That would require people such as Darrell Issa, who chaired a House Oversight committee hearing on the Benghazi attacks, from saying foolish things, like he did the other day.

Continue reading, The Benghazi Embarrassment.

– DS

 

 

US Army Activates “Warrior Diplomats” … Unlike State’s Expeditionary Diplomats, These Got Guns

I almost forgot this item I saw from the US Army a few weeks ago.  After the “build phase” is completed, we can expect at least five battalions of “warrior diplomats.”  Since a battalion has around 300–1,200 soldiers, the new warrior diplomats brigade can have a as low as 1,500 soldiers or as high as 6,000 for a brigade consisting of five battalions.

FORT HOOD, Texas, Sept. 22, 2011 — A brand new unit now has a home at Fort Hood. The 85th Civil Affairs Brigade officially stood up at the “Great Place” Sept. 16, after years of planning and coordination.
[…]
“In 2007, the Army saw a need for additional civil affairs capabilities,” Ruth explained. At that time, only one active-duty brigade-sized civil affairs unit existed — the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne) which is aligned under U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C.

After the surge in Iraq was announced in 2007, Ruth said nearly half of the USASOC civil affairs Soldiers were deployed to the Middle East to support ongoing operations. Plans were made to build another brigade, although that process took some time.

“We are in the build phase now,” Ruth said. “By the time we finish building the brigade, we will have five battalions. Each battalion will be oriented on a geographic combatant command.”

The 85th Civil Affairs Bde. is a direct-reporting unit to U.S. Army Forces Command. In addition, the brigade’s first battalion, the 81st Civil Affairs Battalion, stood up Sept. 16 at Fort Hood. That battalion is oriented to Southern Command.

In September 2012, two additional battalions will stand up. They include the 83rd Civil Affairs Battalion at Fort Bragg, N.C., which will be oriented to Central Command, and the 82nd Civil Affairs Battalion at Fort Stewart, Ga., which will be oriented to Africa Command.

The two final battalions will activate in September 2013 and will include the 80th Civil Affairs Battalion at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., which will be oriented to Pacific Command, and the 84th Civil Affairs Battalion at Fort Bliss, which will support European Command.

There’s a simple reason for the roll out of the brigades, according to Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Berry, the brigade’s senior enlisted advisor.

“Part of the challenge of what we have (is) the MOS (military occupational specialty) and the branch have only existed since 2007,” he said. “So as we’re building capacity in the branch, we’re expanding the units at the same time.”

Soldiers that are interested in the civil affairs branch have a challenging road ahead of them before they can join a battalion or a brigade.

“We recruit from inside the Army,” Berry said. “The process is quite lengthy.”

Interested Soldiers must first meet the qualifications and go through a screening process. If they make it through that level but are not yet parachutists, they must complete Airborne school. After that, there is the official civil affairs MOS qualification course, and finally, the Soldiers must learn a foreign language, which means months of additional schooling.
[…]
“It’s very busy, but it’s also very rewarding to do something that not very many people have an opportunity to do in the Army, and that’s stand something up from nothing.”

Standing up a brigade requires identifying unit facilities, creating procedures and policies, and working closely with Human Resources Command to make sure positions are properly staffed, in addition to dozens of other tasks on a daily basis.

“I don’t think we could do this at any other place except Fort Hood, and that goes back to the superb level of support we’re getting,” Ruth said.

The Civil Affairs brigade at Fort Hood equips FORSCOM with a crucial tool, a team of “warrior diplomats,” eager to leave their mark on the world.

“The mission is to provide FORSCOM with a civil affairs capability,” Ruth said. “It can do three things, (including) support the Army Force Generation cycle with civil affairs operators. The second capability that we provide FORSCOM is the ability to provide peacetime engagement throughout the world, and then the last thing we provide is the ability to support any emergent operations.

“So if we have another Haiti (earthquake) or flood in Indonesia, now we have civil affairs Soldiers who can go out and lend their expertise in mitigating those disasters,” he added.

Civil affairs Soldiers play a crucial role in both war and peace, although Ruth admitted that the branch is sometimes misunderstood.

“There’s a misnomer out there that what we do is hand out MREs (meals, ready-to-eat) and dig wells,” he said. “That’s not exactly what we do. We can facilitate that, but we do things for specific reasons, and that’s really to legitimize the local, regional or national government, and facilitate the commander’s ability to operate in theater.”

At the tactical level, civil affairs Soldiers serve as an intermediary between a commander on the ground and local village representatives. That’s where the in-depth training and language skills make all the difference in the world.

“Because of all that training and the way we select those Soldiers, we’re going to be able to provide the Army with a mature Soldier, a Soldier that has the ability to think on his or her feet,” Berry said.

“You can put them in a situation and they may not know the answer when they get there, but they’re going to keep working at it until they figure out what the answer is. They also have the ability to work with people and understand people.”

“Our motto is ‘warrior diplomat’ because we have to be warriors. We have to be Soldiers,” Ruth said. “But the Soldiers also have to add the diplomatic capability to where they can diffuse dissension, identify what the local vulnerabilities are and really bring people together.”
[…]
To mark the brigade’s activation, the unit will host a ceremony at the flagpole in front of III Corps Headquarters Sept. 30 at 9 a.m. The public is invited to attend.

The full article is here.

By September 2013, the full brigade with an upper count of possibly 6,000 soldiers will be in place. One battalion of warrior diplomats will support each combatant command: Central, Southern, Pacific, European and Africom.

To put this in perspective: the diplomatic service, officially called the United States Foreign Service and tasked with carrying out the foreign policy of these United States in over 270 posts overseas has about 13,000 staff members.  Only about 6,500 are Foreign Service officers.  Indeed, they could easily fit aboard a single aircraft carrier.

In the FY2012 budget State requested an addition of 197 full time Foreign Service and Civil Service – a growth of 1 percent, and 165 new positions for USAID. I can’t tell how many additional staffing was granted. But the FY2012 budget request for the State Department was $62.7 billion, and only $53.4 billion was enacted.

For FY2013, State has again requested additional staffing, this time, for 121 new positions (83 Foreign Service and 38 civil service) in high priority programs and regions.

And that’s that for the chopping block, until the next round.

Also — the State Department’s hiring effort called Diplomacy 3.0 to increase its Foreign Service workforce by 25 percent by 2013 was derailed due to emerging budgetary constraints. It is anticipated that this goal will not be met until 2023.

A Diplomat’s Mom Pens Loving Tribute to the Foreign Service

Below is an excerpt from a piece written by jlsathre in open salon, who says she is “a lawyer in a past life” and the mother of a U.S. diplomat:

It was with sadness and concern that I read about the attacks and deaths of U.S. Diplomats in Libya and Egypt.

My concern is partly personal because my daughter works as a diplomat  in a U.S. Embassy in a foreign country. The attacks raised the issues of safety that are always somewhere in the back of my mind, but that bubble forth whenever I read or hear of things like the recent bomb threats at the U.S.  Embassy in Belgium,  the 2011 evacuation of family members of the embassy staff in Bahrain, the threats earlier this summer to a consulate in a Mexcian border city, or the closure of the U.S. Embassy in Yemen in 2010.
[…]
[D]anger is neither always obvious nor predictable, and the deaths yesterday have dimmed that small comfort.

As has a posting this morning noting that, in the last half century, more U.S. Ambassadors have died in the line of duty than generals.

Perhaps this shouldn’t have come as such a surprise. In most foreign countries, embassies and consulates and the foreign service officers that work in them are the face of the United States. They are the easy target. The “homeland” that sits within striking distance of anyone who wants to make a point or settle a score.

And, although the embassies and diplomats enjoy some security, their duty can’t be carried out in a vacuum, and isn’t. They are there to represent the United States, to show the face of our people, not behind armored tanks or bullet proof vests, but most often with open and outstretched arms. Unlike generals, who don’t always  find themselves on front lines, the diplomats are our feet on the ground in nearly every country around the world.

In a time when the U.S. does not enjoy world-wide respect and is not universally thought of as a protector or a peace maker or an ally, it is not always a comfortable or safe place to be. Even on days like yesterday when no imminent danger was known.

And so, to my daughter and to every other diplomat and worker in a U.S Embassy or Consulate, I say to you with the same outstretched arms that you hold out to the world every day, “Thank you and stay safe.”

Continue reading, From a Diplomat’s Mother. Don’t skip the comments.

Snapshot: Enduring Foreign Service Staffing and Experience Gaps

We’ll have additional post on this later. But here is a quick snapshot from the just released GAO report:

Extracted from GAO: Foreign Service Midlevel Staffing Gaps Persist Despite Significant Increases in Hiring (June 2012)

According to the GAO: In 2008, approximately 7,000 of about 8,100 total Foreign Service positions were filled. Comparatively, in 2011, nearly 7,800 Foreign Service positions were filled—or 11 percent more positions than in 2008—but the total number of positions increased to over 9,000, resulting in the same vacancy rate.

 

Ron Capps | Back From The Brink: War, Suicide, And PTSD

Ron Capps retired from the Foreign Service and the Army reserve in 2008. During a twenty-five-year career, he served  in Kosovo, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Sudan, just about all the hell holes on earth.  He is founder and director at Veterans Writing Project.  He blogs for the Battleland blog at TIME Magazine and in his personal blog, The Next Lost Generation.

In a 2010 issue of Health Affairs, Mr. Capps wrote, Back From The Brink: War, Suicide, And PTSD. The piece is one of the most poignant agonies of post-traumatic stress disorder I have read.  He imagined the dead coming to talk to him every night asking, “Why didn’t you do more to save us?”  He had memories of “the dead, the mutilated, the burned.”  He wrote a story where the protagonist shoots himself in the head with a pistol.  He borrowed a gun, and put a gun to his head.  A timely phone call from his wife saved him.

“When the phone rang I jumped—startled—and nearly shot myself. This was almost comic, because I was already planning to kill myself and was holding the pistol in my hand. So I would have pulled the trigger while the pistol was pointed at my foot rather than my head. The ringing phone broke the spell.”

He was afraid to ask for help, writing, “I thought I would be ridiculed, considered weak and cowardly.”  This from a man who had two Bronze Star medals and tours in Airborne and Special Ops units.

He also writes about Question 21, the one that keeps many soldiers from asking for help. This was changed under Secretary Gates but apparently some things remain the same.

The magazine won’t allow republication on the web (we asked), so go read it in full at the HA website.
Domani Spero

SBU Foreign Service 2011 Promotion Statistics Officially Published, Color Specialist Gets an “F”

Remember our blog post about the promotion statistics cable that was classified as SBU?  In March, a Foggy Bottom nightingale informed us that the State Department had released its promotion statistics internally. We have not seen a copy of the cable.  We were told that the promotion stats are now protected by the following authorities:

Privacy Act of 1974 – which is terribly funny because the Privacy Act of 1974 purposely has a line that says “(B) but does not include–    (i) matches performed to produce aggregate statistical data without any personal identifiers;”

So then, somebody wrote here and asked, “How does the Privacy Act apply to a bunch of numbers?” And we had to confess that we actually have no idea — unless — a bunch of numbers are now people?

Three months later, the promotion statistics which was released in an SBU cable was published by State Magazine; this is something that the magazine does every year, by the way. Only this year, it was months late.

Why bother classifying it SBU in the first place? We did an in-depth research and finally got answers!  Simply put, cables are boooring, repeat, boooring.  DGHR wanted to release the promotion statistics in a full color spectrum; except that their Color Specialist used more dark earth tones on the 8-page spread.  What’s with that? It’s summer time, forgodsakes! Next time use something cheerful like Queen Elizabeth fluroescent lime green.  Take our word for it, it’ll get everyone’s attention. Below is the extracted stats from the magazine.

If you are not able to view the document embedded below, click here to read it on ScribD in full screen.

Domani Spero

Homework for the Next Secretary of State: Revamping the Foreign Service

In November 2011, I posted an excerpt from an article in the Foreign Service Journal by Jon P. Dorschner * on Why the Foreign Service Should Be More Like the Army (see Why the FS Should Be More Like the Army — Esprit de Corps, Taking Care of Troops … Hey, That Includes EFMs, Right?). Below is his guest post on revamping the United States Foreign Service.  This is a good time to think about these things as the Foreign Service is facing unprecedented challenges.  Not just due to the graying workforce.  The Partnership for Public Service projected the 4,682 of State Department and USAID employees are retirement eligible in FY2012.  But also the exponential increase of hardship and unaccompanied assignments.  And by this time next year, there will be a new Secretary of State in Foggy Bottom.  Will he/she do the hard work of fixing all that’s not well in our diplomatic service? – DS

Revamping the Foreign Service

by Jon P. Dorschner, PhD

Identifying the Problems

In my November 2011 Speaking Out piece “Why the Foreign Service Should Be More Like the Army,” I laid out a number of institutional and cultural shortcomings that need to be addressed.  I noted that the Service lacks an Esprit de Corps and that within the Foreign Service culture there is little or no encouragement for supervisors to “take care of the troops,” and their families.

I also pointed out that Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) often have little or no sense of mission or purpose regarding the job they are performing, and that an egoistic obsession with status, hierarchy, assignments and promotions subordinates the mission to personal concerns.  As a result, there is a pervasive attitude that every officer should “look out for number one.”  Because of the internalized and all-pervasive emphasis on competition, FSOs often view their fellow officers as competitors rather than colleagues.  The Service becomes divided into “in groups” and “out groups,” “fast trackers” and “slow trackers.”  This makes it difficult to cooperate to achieve defined objectives.

These deeply engrained aspects of Foreign Service culture have developed over centuries.  I would argue that they are now completely out of date and have resulted in an organization more qualified to deal with the challenges of the 19th Century rather than the 21st.  To revamp the Foreign Service and make it into an effective organization that can best serve the national interests, these detrimental cultural practices will have to be eliminated or changed.  This will not take place, however, without a long-term and thorough rebuilding of a basic mindset that requires a lot of time, and most likely a change of generations.

Making Institutional Changes

While deeply rooted problems are difficult to overcome, the State Department can take steps to set the process in motion.  State Department management can begin by acknowledging that these shortcomings exist.  All too often, persons at the senior level are those who have made the effort to adjust to the system and have personally benefited from it.  Their natural inclination is to embrace the status quo and resist change.  This often involves denying that problems exist and instead decrying the naïve younger generation and blaming the problem on “complainers and misfits.”

As a result, the State Department’s periodic efforts at “reform” have often been met with a justified sense of cynicism.  To overcome this, State Department senior managers would have to express a determination to deal with deeply rooted problems by initiating necessary institutional changes.  Once the Department initiates institutional changes, it must follow through to ensure their actual implementation.  Far too often, the State Department announces ambitious reform programs, but fails to follow through once elites with vested interests begin to protest and pull their weight.  With determination, institutional changes will over the course of time become the new norms, and a new institutional culture will emerge.

Regional Specialization

The Foreign Service has long propagated the myth that we are all “generalists,” available for worldwide service.  At present, there are few Foreign Service Officers that do not have quite specific regional and functional specializations.  The current system does not sufficiently reward this specialization.  Regional specialization should no longer be discouraged but made a central tenet of a revamped Foreign Service.  To function well in extremely complex cultures FSOs must spend years mastering cultural subtleties and acquiring fluency in often-difficult languages.  Those who make the considerable effort to acquire these essential skills should be assured of reward.  The age of the Foreign Service generalist has long passed.  To be truly effective in today’s world, FSOs must have a regional specialization that requires them to acquire in-depth background, experience and linguistic skill.

Every officer should be certified in a region and formally assigned to the “home bureau” that oversees his/her region.  While he/she will naturally take occasional assignments outside of the region of specialization, especially while in Washington, this tie to the home bureau will be career long.  The majority of an officer’s assignments will be within his/her home bureau.

Every officer’s “home bureau” should be formally noted in his/her personnel file.  Regional specialization will be a common designation and will be an adjunct to the current conal designations.  Officers entering the service will be given a requisite amount of time to acquire regional specialization, including designated time for language and academic training at the Foreign Service Institute or within the region.  Regional specialization would have to be completed prior to tenure.

To gain regional specialization, an officer should earn a minimum 3/3 score on a regional language test, take specified classes on the region at FSI, and serve a requisite number of tours in the region.  Upon entry, officers would select their region of specialization.  Bureaus would be encouraged to recruit officers.  After the selection process is complete, the new officer would join his/her bureau and select initial assignments only in that region.

Rewards for Seniority

There is far too much individual focus by FSOs on winning the next promotion.  Too much time is spent trying to get promoted to the next highest rank to the detriment of diplomacy.  To put a stop to this obsession, the State Department should implement a three-track career path.  A small minority would state at the outset of their career that they aspire to join the Senior Foreign Service.  The vast majority would retire at FS1, and a small group would be selected out for poor performance.

To make this three-track system work, the State Department must guarantee tenured officers that they will retire at the grade of FS1 as long as they do not have a negative EER over the course of their career.  The State Department would do this by implementing a seniority system.  It would set specified limits for officers to remain in grade.  Once they reach the limit, they would be automatically promoted to the next highest grade if they did not have a negative EER in their file.

This will make explicit what is already informally acknowledged within the Foreign Service, that there are two classes of officers, those who aspire to the Senior Foreign Service and those who do not.  It would also acknowledge that not every officer intends to make the Foreign Service his/her sole career.  Officers would then self-select early, with those aspiring to the Senior Foreign Service quickly differentiating between their competitors, and those who do not “pose a threat.”  This would eliminate much of the tension generated by competition for promotion and make it easier for a collegial culture to develop that would allow officers to work together to solve problems.

The Senior Foreign Service would be limited formally to only five percent of total personnel.  Since FSOs would be informed upon entry that they have only a five percent chance of entering the senior ranks, and that they can expect to retire at FS1’s, they could make reasonably informed career decisions early in their careers.  This obvious transparency would also eliminate considerable uncertainty and anxiety.

The days when individuals spent their entire adult lives in one job are long gone.  The vast majority of individuals expect to pursue multiple careers over the course of their lives.  Those who aspire to join the Senior Foreign Service are making an unusual career choice that requires an inordinate amount of dedication and hard work.  The Foreign Service should acknowledge these realities and work to remove any stigma currently attached to those “on the slow track.”

We should retain the up or out system, but it should be applied only when officers show a consistent pattern of negative performance as documented in EER’s.  Officers who demonstrate such a pattern should be selected out regardless of their seniority.  Officers who have been promoted to FS1 on the basis of seniority and have too much time in grade will be required to retire and not allowed to compete for entry into the Foreign Service.  If all tenured officers have a reasonable expectation of retiring at the grade of FS1, they will no longer spend so much time lobbying for assignments and promotion and can concentrate on doing their job.

Rewards for Hardship

I would define a hardship post as those with a hardship differential of 20 percent or more.  A large number of the world’s countries fall into this category, including war zones and those posts that do not allow families.  No FSO can claim to have a viable view of today’s world without on the ground experience in a hardship post.

Any FSO who serves in a hardship post would be awarded points that give him/her a leg-up over those with no hardship service when bidding on their next post.  No officer would be promoted into the Senior Foreign Service who has not served in a hardship post.  Officers would not be allowed to serve more than six consecutive years in non-differential posts.  Likewise, any officer who has served six or more consecutive years in hardship posts should be guaranteed an assignment in a non-hardship post if he/she so desires.  These should be hard and fast rules that are spelled out to every officer the day he/she joins the Foreign Service.

At present those who serve most of their careers in regions with many hardship posts (Africa, Asia, Latin America) are not guaranteed an assignment in a non-differential post regardless of how many hardship tours they have under their belt.  At the same time, there are individuals who spend little or no time in hardship posts over the course of their career.  This is inherently unfair and cannot be allowed to continue.  Those interested in joining the Foreign Service should be told before applying that it will require hardship post service, with no exceptions.  Those who do not want to undertake such service would then be free to opt for another career.

Put An End to Lobbying

The lack of transparency in the assignments process is one of the biggest injustices currently plaguing the Foreign Service.  This is because most officers are now convinced that assignments are made on the basis of lobbying rather than qualification.  As a result, there is far too much emphasis on lobbying for the next assignment.  This encourages the cultivation of exclusive “clubs” that ensure choice assignments for their members, and keep well-qualified candidates from serving in highly desirable locations and jobs.  It would be easy to provide transparency.  Simply end the current practice of obtaining jobs through lobbying.

When bureaus are filling their assignments, they would make an initial short-list of applicants based solely on their written personnel files, the regional specialization of the candidate, and the points awarded the candidate for his/her hardship service.  Only after the short list has been determined, would the bureau interview the qualified candidates and select the best person for the assignment based on their ability to do the job.

At no point in the process would bidders be allowed to lobby the bureaus either in writing, by e-mail, or through phone calls.  No bidder would be allowed to have senior ranking officers make entreaties on his/her behalf to “rig the assignment.”  Bureaus would not be allowed to select candidates before the bidding season or to contact candidates before the short list has been determined.  Bureaus would not be allowed to talk about assignments with officers outside of the bidding season.  Officers who attempted to buck the system by ignoring these regulations would face disciplinary action, including notes in the personnel file.

In any case, the implementation of regional specialization and the formalization of all officers’ relationship with their home bureaus would take much of the anxiety out of the bidding season and make the assignment process much simpler and smoother.  Officers serving in their home bureau throughout their career would be known quantities.  Officers without regional certification would only be considered if there are no regionally certified bidders on the position.  No one would be allowed to serve in a language -designated position without the required language.  There would be no exceptions.

* * *
About Jon P. Dorschner: A native of Tucson, Arizona, Jon P. Dorschner earned a PhD. in South Asian studies from the University of Arizona.  He currently teaches South Asian Studies and International Relations at his alma mater, and publishes articles and books on South Asian subjects. He was a career Foreign Service Officer for 27 years (1983 -2011).    A Political Officer, Dr. Dorschner’s career specialties were internal politics and political/military affairs.  He served in Germany, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, the United States Military Academy at West Point and Washington. From 2003-2007 he headed the Internal Politics Unit at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India.  In 2007-2008 Dr. Dorschner completed a one-year assignment on an Italian Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Tallil, Iraq.  From 2009-2011 he served as an Economic Officer, in Berlin, Germany.

Anonymous FSO: AIP Posts Not the Only Places Where FSOs Are At Risk

On June 4, we posted an excerpt from a USIP interview of an FSO who served at an Iraq PRT (read Insider Quote: AIP Fatigue and a Little Hostility). That post generated the following comment, which I am reposting up front because the writer brings up important issues about the realities of service in the Foreign Service, particularly in the post 9/11 world.

Maybe there should be a little resentment from some quarters. The AIP posts aren’t the only places where FSOs put, or have put, themselves at risk to serve their country. Yes, we should honor and reward the service of FS personnel serving in AIP. But let’s not forget those who serve, or served, in other war zones.

Not to be morbid, but has anyone compared the mortality rate for USG personnel in stationed in Ciudad Juarez to those in Kabul and Baghdad? What “incentives” do we give people currently in the Mexican border posts or Yemen (where its so dangerous that Embassy personnel are not allowed to sleep in their homes)? Or until recently in Libya and Syria?

How about officers who’ve served in Angola, Congo, DROC, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Mali, Chad, Sudan, Somalia, Zimbabwe etc. Sierra Leone and Liberia were particular garden spots. Remember when President Taylor’s troops strafed Embassy Monrovia? How about the 50 mm shells embedded in the Ambassador’s desk in Freetown after the AFRC coup (or was it the Nigerian invasion, or the RUF coup, or the Strasser coup)? We had FS personnel staffing a makeshift Embassy in Sierra Leone when DOD would not let its people visit on TDY because it was too dangerous.

Bosnia. (Just the word is enough.)

When I was in Angola, our DOD colleagues were getting combat pay; that wasn’t too long after UNITA attacked the Embassy compound. When we hitched rides into the interior on 40 year old C-130s chartered to WFP, the pilots corkscrewed into landings to make it harder for anyone with a SAM to take aim.

And what about the FS personnel who’ve lost family members, including children, because of medical, safety, traffic conditions in third world posts. When we honor service at AIP above all else, we diminish the sacrifice of those who put themselves, and sometimes their families, at risk to serve the USA in other dangerous places.

Folks might remember that State’s personnel system fell into a crisis in the post Vietnam years. At the height of the CORDS program, more than 400 FSOs were in the field with the CORDS (Civil Operations and Rural Development Support) program with over a hundred more were in language training.  According to Kopp and Gillespie, a number of those officers were “thoroughly dismayed” and left the service; those who remained with their operational skills received rapid advancement in their careers. But as they moved up the ranks, there were not enough positions to accommodate them all.  The up or out system had grown lax and midlevel officers resented the senior officers glut which frustrated the officers’ (many of them veterans of CORDS) chances for promotion.

A former FSO who recently wrote about the CORDS program (which he calls the Civil Operations and Revolutionary
Development Support) for the May 2012 issue of State Magazine, and who calls it as a success had the following tidbit:

At the FSO pre-employment oral exam, male applicants were told they stood every chance of going to war if accepted. Midcareer and senior FSOs were also sent to the front.[…] “You had a simple option,” he recalled. “If you were assigned to Vietnam and didn’t take it, you resigned your commission and left the service. It was as simple as that.”

It seems to me that early on in the Iraq War junior officers were sent to Baghdad straight out of FSI but that did not last long.  The vacancies in Iraq and Afghanistan and later Pakistan, as other assignments in the Foreign Service continued to be filled with volunteers (first tours excepted, of course).  There was that threat for “directed assignment” in 2007 with the accompanying brouhaha but that did not materialized. There was that “prime candidate” exercise, too, with letters sent out, but later died a natural bureaucratic death.

I’m tired digging up my yard to put up an edible garden today so I may be going around this in a convoluted way.  But what I think is a concern is the fracturing of the Foreign Service.  There have always been hardship and dangerous assignments in the Foreign Service.  But in the past, members of the FS can point to that collective experience of serving in places that were great, not so great, and really gadawful places on earth.  But in the years following our war of choice in Iraq, and our war of necessity in Afghanistan (I don’t know what you’d call what we’re doing in Pakistan, or Yemen, etc.), folks would be hard pressed to point to  one collective experience for all the Foreign Service.  Some FSOs with less than five years in the Foreign Service have already done two tours in the war zones. Some are heading to non war zones posts that are as perilous as any red zone.  Before too long, they will come back to a normal embassy operation, reporting in some cases to midlevel or senior officers who may have served in difficult assignments but have never done a tour in Iraq or Afghanistan where as one FSO calls it like “everything is rushing at you at 110 miles an hour.” How will that organizational relationship pans out?
Just a quick point while I’m thinking about this.  There is a distinction that is being made in the Foreign Service today: there are those who went to the war zones and there are those who did not. In a perfect world, one is either an effective officer or one is not. But we do not live in a perfect world.  Should a so-s0 Political Officer who goes to the war zone on a Hail Mary pass to get a promotion get all the carrots as opposed to a stellar Political Officer in say, the Marshall Islands?  Never mind asking why a stellar PolOff is in the Marshall Islands.  But — how does the system weigh mediocre performance in a war zone as opposed to a solid performance elsewhere in the worldwide available universe?
Then there’s this other thing.  The State Dept provides a lot of carrots to get people to go to the war zones and also hardship assignments. But the pool of volunteers is drying up. The world is getting more dangerous every day. The number of hardship and danger assignments is going up exponentially. The interviewee who talked about AIP fatigue and hostility has some unhappiness about getting the follow on or linked assignments nailed down.  Presumably, he is not the only one.
There won’t be enough carrots to go around, period.  And that will divide the Foreign Service as much as the war zone assignments.
Domani Spero