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Standing Up for the
Foreign Service
In the May
AFSA Presi-
dent Susan Johnson uses her Presi-
dent’s Views column to make an
eloquent pitch that “It’s time for FSOs
to stand up for the Foreign Service …
to explain who they are and what they
do.” Her column goes on to note that
doing so will require leadership from
the State Department itself to make a
better “case for professional education
and training, improved assignment
policies and clearer criteria for career
The obvious mutuality of that ex-
pression of needs makes needful ac-
tion on the part of all concerned
equally obvious. Is AFSA’s president
issuing some kind of call for action?
Bruce Laingen
Ambassador, retired
Bethesda, Md.
Distance Learning
at the Army War College
I saw the announcement that your
July-August issue is going to focus on
Foreign Service training and educa-
tion, and believe my experience at the
U.S. Army War College might shed
some useful light on the issue of pro-
fessional training.
FSI offers an advanced training op-
portunity that is located, for the most
part, in the ether. Six State Depart-
ment employees annually participate
in the Master of Strategic Studies dis-
tance education program offered by
the U.S. Army War College. It takes
two years to complete but, with the ex-
ception of two two-week sessions held
at Carlisle Barracks, Pa., participants
conduct all their work online. As a
graduate of the class of 2012, I highly
recommend this program to my State
Department colleagues.
The State Department began en-
rolling students in this program in
2003. Some 54 students have started
since then; 40 have graduated. (This
attrition is in line with the dropout rate
for military members of the student
Students in the distance education
program follow the curriculum of the
Army War College’s one-year residen-
tial course, which is also available to
State Department employees. The
program trains senior leaders to think
and plan strategically in order to
achieve the president’s national secu-
rity objectives.
State Department students are well
received by the Army War College.
Clayton Chun, chair of the Depart-
ment of Distance Education, told me
in an e-mail that “Our State Depart-
ment students are some of the bright-
est and best thinkers at the U.S. Army
War College. They provide a very
unique and diverse view of the world
and national security challenges. I
only wish that we could have more
State Department students to share
our educational program and forge
lasting relationships with our military,
civilian and international students.”
FSO Jonas Wechsler, who gradu-
ated in the class of 2010, echoes this
sentiment: “The Army War College is
more than welcoming of FSOs and
State Department perspectives. What
FSOs may lack in terms of familiarity
with some of the Army’s planning pro-
cedures and terminology, they more
than make up for in writing skills and
experience in the international arena.”
The program is rigorous. Nine
courses over two years (not counting
the two residential courses) works out
to about 10 weeks per course, and one
starts right after the next. FSI advises
students to plan on 15-20 hours of
class work per week. That’s about
right, in my experience.
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