Foreign Service Promotions

For Immediate Release
September 1, 2017
Contact: Director of Communications Ásgeir Sigfússon,

Washington, D.C. – The American Foreign Service Association, the principal advocate for the long-term well-being of the Foreign Service as an institution, staunchly defends the rigors of the military-style “up-or-out” system established in the Foreign Service Act. Even though it means pain for individual members of the Service, the majority of whom are “separated” (forced to leave the Service) long before they would prefer, the up-or-out system produces a highly disciplined, high-performing diplomatic corps.

Foreign Service promotion numbers are unusually low this year. In June, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he planned to cut the Foreign Service by 4 percent: “The Foreign Service is going to be down about four percent. Civil servants are going to be down about 12%.” He offered this assurance to the committee: “It’s being managed in a very deliberate way, but being mindful of not diminishing the strength of our Foreign Service officers.”

A four percent cut to the Foreign Service officer corps translates into lower hiring numbers and lower promotion numbers. Under this plan, America’s diplomatic corps will shrink by 327 officers, from 8,127 to 7,849.

At a time when threats abound and nine in ten Americans support strong American global leadership, AFSA questions whether it is wise to diminish the strength of our diplomatic corps, easily the most cost-effective tool in our country’s national security toolkit.

AFSA, the voice of the Foreign Service, is the professional association and labor union of the U.S. Foreign Service. Founded in 1924, AFSA represents 31,000 active and retired Foreign Service employees at the Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, Foreign Commercial Service, Foreign Agricultural Service, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.