The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2019

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2019 11 Place-Based Strategy Works Thanks to the Journal and to Jim Nealon for his October article, “The ‘Place- Based’ Strategy in Honduras,” suggesting a reasonable—and ultimately the only—way to solve Honduras’ and other Central American coun- tries’ crime/drug problems, reduc- ing their emigra- tion situation and eliminating the ugly border crises facing both Mexico and the United States. Increasing funding and effective man- agement of a well-designed USAID pro- gramwould be money much better spent than increasing our border control forces and building fences. I hope you might dis- seminate Jim’s message to all members of Congress. They should be interested. Jon W. Stewart USIA FSO, retired Bothell, Washington Change the FS, Change the Future I read with interest Ambassador Barbara Bodine’s article in the September issue of The Foreign Service Journal , asking questions that appear like clockwork every few years. How does the Foreign Service find the best? How does it keep them? She followed that with an impassioned argu- ment for the status quo. “Who Is the Future of the Foreign Ser- vice?” Look at the seventh floor at State. It’s a self-selecting system, so that’s what it will look like until the cows come home. “Who Should Be the Future of the Foreign Service?” might have been more useful. Amb. Bodine goes through familiar LETTERS hand-wringing to answer the questions she poses. She employs the regular shibbo- leths about appealing to State employees’ pride and sense of sacrifice, while remind- ing them to behave. She could have saved both herself and her readers valuable time with a briefer andmore relevant list: 1. Cultivate applications from state universities as well as Harvard and the Walsh School, because talent comes from everywhere. It may even be that graduates from places where people grow stuff and make things better represent the average American than those from Ivy League schools, or legacy appointees. 2. Don’t just tell junior officers they are valued; show them. Regular and extensive training as part of a logical career path that moves officers along clear lines of specific developing expertise and greater authority would do this. 3. Don’t lie. FSOs are not stupid. They clearly and quickly see that the “needs of the Service” that shuttle many among the sticky places on earth are the same that move a favored few of their colleagues from Berlin to Paris to London. 4. Since the Foreign Service involves work abroad, service inWashington, D.C., should be brief and occasional. Foreign assignments should be key to promotions. Service in hardship posts should receive real, not just theoretical, consideration. These changes would require no structural adjustments, no new bureaus, no radical departures. In at least three instances, they simply require that the reality of the department’s treatment of FSOs conformmore closely to its rhetoric. But since the extant crop of soon-to-be leaders at State have invested far too much time and effort in the current system, I look forward to the next iteration of “Who Is the Future of the Foreign Service?” Which is the unfortunate thing about Amb. Bodine’s article. Morgan Liddick FSO, retired Stuarts Draft, Virginia Chronic Medical Conditions and the FS As FSJ readers are aware, chronic medical issues can be difficult to com- bine with a Foreign Service commit- ment, which comes with the “worldwide availability” obligation and medical clearance requirement. I was struck by Barbara Bodine’s thoughtful piece in the September Jour- nal (“Who Is the Future of the Foreign Service?”), which, despite its laudable inclusiveness, made no men- tion of medically challenged persons, those with disabili- ties, or more senior persons who work at State. State has yet to deal openly with these aspects of its person- nel system. Persons who become chronically ill are expected to quietly resign from their careers, while persons with physical dis- abilities are not recruited as Foreign Service officers and not part of America’s diversity of talent deployed abroad. While consideration of these aspects of human resources (HR) policy may run up against privacy issues, they remain valid concerns for State. With recent advances in pharmaceuticals and medical treat- ment, illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and other ailments are becoming lifetime health management issues, not death sentences. Given the aging population of the United States, working life spans are lengthening andmore people are opting