The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2022
12 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL only 12 have been confirmed. Nineteen senior positions at State are filled by fully confirmed appointees, three at USAID, and none at the Departments of Agricul- ture or Commerce or the U.S. Agency for Global Media. That leaves 26 nominees awaiting confirmation. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) contin- ues to delay action on nominees over objections to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. He lifted his hold for former senators and former senators’ widows to become ambassadors, but has not done so for career diplomats and other political appointees. Rumors of a major push on diplo- matic and national security nominees in the Senate remain just that. AFSA would welcome such a push, as the languishing of nominees at a time when their expertise and experience are greatly needed in the field is a loss for America’s global leader- ship role and a threat to national security. In a November intervieww ith NPR’s “All Things Considered,” AFSA President Eric Rubin pointed out that countries with no confirmed U.S. representative don’t understand the hold-up. “It’s insulting [to them],” he said. “It’s a sign of disrespect and lack of interest and lack of commit- ment.” Blinken Invites Employee Input A s part of his plan to modernize the Foreign Service, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is enhancing efforts to encourage innovation and initiative by rolling out a new channel for input and revitalizing an existing one. A new “Policy Ideas Channel” is intended as a distinct way for staffers at all levels anywhere in the world to share their foreign policy ideas directly with department leadership. In remarks delivered Oct. 27 at the For- eign Service Institute, Secretary Blinken explained the need for the channel: “We know [employees] have fresh and creative thinking. And we believe that good ideas are good ideas wherever they come from. So, let’s make it easier for your good ideas to be heard by people making the deci- sions.” Secretary Blinken wants to ensure that promising policy ideas don’t get lost in the agency’s bureaucracy. Employees with ideas to share, both classified and unclassified, can send an email to IdeasChannel@state.gov with the following information: a concise summary of the idea; the strategic impact of the idea on U.S. foreign policy and potential value to Americans; the relevance of the idea to the submitter’s experience within or outside the depart- ment; the submitter’s own assessment of the pros and cons of the idea; the efforts already taken to engage with supervisors and stakeholder bureaus and offices to advance the idea; and why the decision was made to use the channel. Employees should also note whether they want to remain anonymous. Submissions will be reviewed by the Secretary’s Policy Planning Staff, who will acknowledge and respond to submis- sions, prioritizing those that demonstrate thorough due diligence, and decide whether or not the idea should be put into action. According to a Nov. 1 departmentwide memo, a submission suitable for the channel is defined as “a foreign policy idea that offers fresh approaches to inform or engage diplomatic challenges or introduce impactful ways to improve diplomatic tradecraft.” The Policy Ideas Channel does not supplant existing input mechanisms. In particular, the Director General’s innova- tion portal, created in 2019 and moni- tored by the Bureau for Global Talent Management, remains the State Depart- ment’s clearinghouse for workforce- related initiatives. Secretary Blinken has also announced his wish to bolster the Dissent Channel. “Dissent is patriotic,” he told the audience at FSI. “It shouldn’t just be protected; it will be welcomed. I’m read- ing and responding to every dissent that comes through the channel, and I hope [it] will encourage a culture of construc- State Department’s Knowledge Portal web page.