The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2021

24 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2021 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Ambassador Marc Grossman: We tried to say [that] a wise system would combine the idea of the midlevel entry and the Diplomatic Reserve Corps. Use midlevel entry when you need to. Use the Diplomatic Reserve Corps when you need to. But the total is to try to support this expanded definition of diplomacy. AFSA President Eric Rubin: We do have a real shortage of overseas assignments, particularly at the midlevel, particularly in certain cones and specialties. We have an incredibly slow promo- tion situation, particularly in certain cones and specialties. What will we say to members who say: “I already am having a hard time getting promoted. I’m already having a hard time getting overseas assignments. I’ve been doing this for 15 years. I’ve paid my dues. I’ve sacrificed a lot. My family has. I’ve learned a lot. I have a lot of skills that I could put to use.” Ambassador Marc Grossman: AFSA has to decide what AFSA has to decide for its members. What we’re saying is here’s an idea that needs to be considered—a defined midlevel entry program: 25 people the first year, 25 people the second year, 50 people the third year. Stop, evaluate. If you like it, go on to a maximum of 500. If you take the rest of our recommendations, you’d have a Foreign Service of about 16,500 people. And I think that given the world as it is today, if you could have 500 people or fewer who had come for very specific reasons, that’s a manage- able problem. I got it. You don’t like this. But I promise you, you will like some of the other ideas out there even less. And believe me, we heard ideas about deprofessionalizing the Service, five-year drop- in, no more careers. And we say we oppose that. And we also know that people who are very senior in the transition, they’re attracted to these ideas. So, what are we going to do? We’re just going to sit back and say, “No, can’t change anything,” or will we have something to say: “The way you’re thinking about this is incorrect; we oppose it, but we get it. Here’s another way to think about it.” ABOLISHING CONES AFSA President Eric Rubin: I endorse that point in going back to the original argument that you can’t fight something with nothing, and no is not a sufficient answer. And I think we all agree on that. On the question of getting rid of cones: “The Foreign Service already tried an unconed system in the early 1990s. And it was widely viewed as a failure. How would a new systemwithout cones be different?” Ambassador Marc Grossman: We were conscious of the efforts in the past, but we felt that the cones system, as it cur- rently exists, is a caste system. And it creates division not only inside the Foreign Service but between the Foreign Service and the Civil Service. And so we wanted to put out a new idea. What we’ve said is this: Everybody should enter the Foreign Ser- vice without a cone. Let people come in as Foreign Service people. And then they do their first few years, andmaybe themajority of themdo it in consular or other areas.Then when they hit tenure to the time that people become senior, we recommend that they don’t chase cones, they chase competencies and capacity. So that when they get ready to compete for senior ranks, they will have worked in all areas and be able to lead people who are in all of these areas. Some people will say, “I just want to do consular work.” And “I’d just like to be inmanagement.”That’s fine. And there’ll be a place for that. But themost senior people shouldn’t be an ambassador unless you can run and understand every part of your mission. FINALWORDS Ambassador Marcie Ries: We aren’t going to get change without support from all parts of the government, from the new president and their staff, from the Congress and, most especially, from the Foreign Service and those of us who are retired from the Foreign Service. It has to be a nonpartisan effort. Ambassador Nicholas Burns: If Congress and the president could enact even three-quarters of these reforms, it would be the biggest transformation in the Foreign Service in generations. And that’s what we need. We’re going to have an administration that really cares about the federal workforce and about public service and will honor it. So this is a great time for AFSA. It’s a great time for our com- munity to be very respectfully putting ideas in front of the new administration. Eric, thank you again for your leadership and friendship. We’re members of your organization. We’re going to look to you for leadership as we go forward. AFSA President Eric Rubin: Thank you, Marcie and Marc and Nick, and all of your staff. This kind of road map, suggested road map, is a first step, but it’s very substantive, very bold. I can also assure our members we will go into this process looking out for the welfare and the interests and the needs of our members, and our obligations to our members and the U.S. government’s obligation to people who have sacrificed a lot, whose families have sacrificed a lot in service to their country. I think we can find the right balance there. And I hope this partnership can continue, because we all want the same thing, which is a revived and healthy and influ- ential Foreign Service that serves our country well and serves it better than it can right now. n