The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2022

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2022 17 FSJ: For 50 years the State Department has come up short on some of its management promises regarding professional training, diversity and IT infrastructure. Howwill this adminis- tration deliver a training float, a Foreign Service that looks like America and world-class IT? Secretary Blinken: I have no illusions about how difficult it is tomake transformative change in an institution of our size and complexity. But I think we can deliver for three reasons. First, the department has demonstrated the capacity to renew and reinvent itself at previous inflection points. We’re at one of those moments now. Our modernization agenda is not just a new list of management priorities by a new administration. It reflects our commitment to equip the department to lead the reorienta- tion that is occurring in U.S. foreign policy to focus on the forces that most directly and consequentially affect Americans’ lives, livelihoods and security—from addressing COVID-19 and the COVER STORY AN INTERVIEWWITH SECRETARYOFSTATE ANTONYBLINKEN On Moves to Modernize climate crisis to protecting critical data and infrastructure and shaping the rules that govern transformative new technologies. And that focus will increasingly be at the heart of our alliances and partnerships—and our engagement with strategic competitors. Second, we’re not reinventing the wheel or commissioning yet another study. Instead, we’re drawing on the extensive and thoughtful work that has already been done—inside and outside the State Department. There is broad agreement on both the challenges and many of the remedies, as well as bipartisan support in Congress for action. And third, this agenda has been shaped and informed by the people who know and care most about this place—the career workforce. The agenda I laid out in October is the floor, not the ceiling, of our ambitions. We’ve already taken a number of significant steps. In our first budget request, we asked for a 10 percent increase for the department. Among other things, we will use that to fund investments in IT and create nearly 500 new positions—the biggest State Department hiring increase in a decade. We appointed State’s first chief diversity officer, whose team just released a plan to identify and address specific barriers to diversity, inclusion, retention and accessibility—a key step toward ending the unacceptable inequities that we all know persist. We liftedmore than half of all assignment restrictions that have disadvantaged employees of certain backgrounds, and we’re creat- ing a new appeals process to ensure fairness and transparency. We’ve moved to stand up a new bureau for cyberspace and digital policy, and we’re appointing a new special envoy for critical and emerging technology. Antony Blinken was sworn in as the 71st U.S. Secretary of State on Jan. 26, 2021. He previously served as Deputy Secretary of State (2015-2017) and as deputy national security adviser (2013-2015), among other top foreign policy positions. He first served at State nearly 30 years ago as special assistant in the Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs (1993-1994). Secretary Blinken launched a major reform initiative in an Oct. 27 speech at the Foreign Service Institute. Shortly after that, the FSJ had the opportunity to ask him about the specifics of this effort and next steps for modernization. We appreciate his engagement and candor. —Shawn Dorman, Editor