The Future of the Foreign Service

Start Date/Time: 
Thursday, November 19, 2020 - 14:00
End Date/Time: 
Thursday, November 19, 2020 - 15:00

AFSA is delighted to invite you to join us on November 19, from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. EST, for a special event with Ambassadors Nicholas Burns, Marc Grossman and Marcie Ries who will present their report, “A U.S. Diplomatic Service for the 21st Century,” and look forward to comments from members of the Foreign Service.

As AFSA members and co-chairs of Harvard Kennedy School’s American Diplomacy Project, they will share their recommendations on how to rebuild, reform and reimagine the U.S. Foreign Service so that America can have the strongest and most effective diplomatic service to defend our country and advance its interests. 

The U.S. Foreign Service is confronting one of the most profound crises in its long and proud history. Our nation’s career diplomats find themselves without the support, funding, training and inclusion in senior leadership positions they need to represent the American people effectively overseas, and to assist our elected leaders with policy advice and recommendations on key decisions.

Many of the most serious challenges the United States will face in 2021 and beyond will require our diplomats to take the lead. The country deserves the strongest possible Foreign Service to deal with great power competition, coordinating globally on the pandemic, helping American companies succeed overseas during a brutal recession, mounting a major effort on climate change, negotiating an end to the Afghan and Iraq Wars, and assisting Americans citizens in every corner of the world who need the support of their government.

There are challenges to be met inside the Foreign Service as well, including an honest self-assessment of the Service’s internal culture. Morale is low, and efforts to promote greater racial, ethnic and gender diversity have, to date, been inadequate.

The American Diplomacy Project leadership value the opportunity to discuss the findings and recommendations in their forthcoming report with Foreign Service colleagues.

The event was held via Zoom. To watch the recording, please click here.

The discussion will be led by AFSA President Ambassador Eric Rubin.

Ambassador Nicholas Burns is the Goodman Family Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations at Harvard Kennedy School. He is the founder and faculty chair of the Future of Diplomacy Project and faculty chair of the Project on Europe and the Transatlantic Relationship at the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Ambassador Burns served as a career Foreign Service officer for 27 years. He was under secretary of State for political affairs (2005-2008), ambassador to NATO (2001-2005), ambassador to Greece (1997-2001) and State Department spokesperson (1995-1997).

Ambassador Marc Grossman is vice chair of The Cohen Group in Washington, D.C. He had a distinguished 29-year career in the U.S. Foreign Service, including serving as the under secretary of State for political affairs (2001-2005), Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources (2000-2001), assistant secretary of State for European affairs (1997-2000) and U.S. ambassador to Turkey (1994-1997). Ambassador Grossman returned to the State Department in 2011-2012 to serve as U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Ambassador Marcie Ries is a senior fellow with the Future of Diplomacy Project at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. She is a senior adviser at the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute, where she mentors new ambassadors and senior officers as they prepare for their ongoing assignments. During 37 years in the U.S. Foreign Service, she was a three-time chief of mission, serving as head of the U.S. Office Pristina (2003-2004), U.S. ambassador to Albania (2004-2007) and U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria (2012-2015).