The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2021

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2021 37 FOCUS REVITALIZING THE STATE DEPARTMENT AND AMERICAN DIPLOMACY By Uzra S. Zeya and Jon Finer Council on Foreign Relations Council Special Report No. 89 November 2020 This report and set of proposals (summarized here) are based on input from an advisory committee of experienced former Foreign Service and Civil Service officers and State Department political appointees from both parties, led by Ambassadors William J. Burns and LindaThomas-Greenfield. The report also drew from previous reports and recom- mendations from the American Academy of Diplomacy, the American Foreign Service Association, the Atlantic Council, the Stimson Center, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The following are excerpts from the overall introduction, the introductions to each of the main policy areas (with the specifics in each policy area listed in italics), and the conclusion. The role of the State Department has received heightened atten- tion amid the onslaught it has suffered under the Donald J. Trump administration, which has treated American diplomats and diplo- macy with a mix of neglect and disdain. But many of the challenges facing the DOS have existed for decades. …The most pressing chal- lenges facing the State Department include a 21st-century policy environment that has, in some priority areas, evolved beyond the core competencies of most Foreign and Civil Service officers and an institution hollowed out by three years of talent flight, mired in excessively layered structure, and resistant to reform. ON BOOSTING U.S. DIPLOMACY AND NATIONAL SECURITY ThreeNewReports Perhaps most important, they include the multigenera- tional challenge of a diplomatic workforce that falls woefully short of reflecting the diverse country it serves, particularly at the senior-most ranks. …The State Department today risks losing the “war for talent,” not only to the private sector but increasingly to other government agencies, due to inflexible career tracks, self-defeating hiring constraints, and a lack of commitment to training and professional development. Finally, DOS is hampered by Congress’ failure over many years to pass authorizing legislation, leading to budgetary pressures and diminishing DOS’ status in the hierarchy of national secu- rity agencies. …This report does not speak to every challenge the State Department faces but rather highlights the reform areas that we identified as reflecting greatest need based on discussions with veteran diplomats and other experts. Statecraft For diplomacy to remain the foremost tool of American foreign policy, the State Department should be appropri- ately postured against the range of emerging national secu- rity threats and opportunities the nation faces. …The State Department should therefore develop—both within the Foreign and Civil Service and by bringing on board top outside practitioners—greater expertise in the range of issues that will be essential to American leadership in the 21st century. … The following critical areas are intended to reflect not so much top policy priorities as issues that will shape the decades to come and for which DOS is currently inadequately postured: • Climate Change • Pandemic Disease • A Global Diplomatic Footprint That Matches Shifting Global Power • Economic Competitiveness, Equity, and Anticorruption • Technological Transformation