The Foreign Service Journal, March 2021

10 MARCH 2021 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL LETTERS American Diplomacy : A Partner in Strengthening U.S. Diplomacy This year marks the 25th anniversary of the e-zine, American Diplomacy . Founded by retired diplomats in North Carolina in 1996, it was the first digital magazine to focus on foreign affairs and the U.S. Foreign Service. For the past few years, American Diplomacy and The Foreign Service Journal have been partners in outreach to all who are interested in develop- ments, reports and trends in American diplomacy. Together, we have weathered the recent years of disdain and professional abuse toward the value of our profession. We here at American Diplomacy espe- cially applaud the forthright editorial stance of The Foreign Service Journal . We are your sisters and brothers in arms. American Diplomacy has been in continuous publication since its founding and is a forum for commen- tary and analysis related specifically to U.S. diplomacy—including scholarly research, stories of Foreign Service experiences, reviews of books and com- ments from readers. Each year we receive more than 150,000 views worldwide, and our archives contain more than 2,000 articles. We are on Facebook, and our Twitter account is @Amdiplomacy. Our subscriptions are free and provide alerts to new content. Our target audience includes foreign affairs professionals, active-duty and retired; scholars, educators and students; and others interested in foreign policy and the practice of diplomacy. As we move forward to help restore American diplomacy to its place as an indispensable instrument of national • A senior officer surfeit, with attendant forced early-outs for other rising good officers under the wasteful, morale-sapping, up-or-out promotion mechanism. • A performance evaluation and pro- motion system debased by ratings infla- tion on the one hand and, on the other, constrained by relatively few promotion opportunities, especially into the Senior Foreign Service. • Attractive assignments made more on the basis of corridor politics and cronyism than objective quali- fications and docu- mented performance. • Gender- and minority-preference factors. • Artificially narrow, even farcical, application of the multifunctionality concept. • Absence of loyalty downward. • Fervent capitulation by top department leadership to budget strictures and the “do more with less” rubric, rather than fighting for justified resources. • Micromanagement by Congress and by executive order. • Adversarial labor-management relations. How many of these factors still pre- vail in the real life of the Foreign Service today? And how do they degrade the con- cept of a Foreign Service supposedly predicated on performance-based merit principles, as envisaged in the Foreign Service Act? D. Thomas Longo Jr. FS-1, retired Lawrenceburg, Indiana power and international influence, we compliment The Foreign Service Journal for your superb voice and look forward to further collaboration. W. Robert Pearson Ambassador, retired President, American Diplomacy Publishers, Inc. Pittsboro, North Carolina Up or Out: The Bigger Picture In the September 2020 Foreign Service Journal , M r. Ted Craig questioned the Service’s long-standing policy by which FSOs must (involuntarily) retire after 27 years unless selected into the Senior Foreign Service. In addressing only the time limit of 27 years, however, Mr. Craig’s focus was too narrow. The situation is more complicated, as I can attest from my own experience in 1993, when I was retired after only 24 years of service. I had benefited from quick early promotions to FS-1, but then was caught by the six-year window for advancement into the SFS. On Sept. 30, 1993, the day before I was involuntarily retired at the age of 51, I broadly circulated a “Valedictory Open Letter to the U.S. Department of State and the Foreign Service.” I observed in that letter: “The Foreign Service personnel system operates in major ways disconnected both from persons’ performance and their willing- ness under Service discipline to accept more obscure, less-attractive assign- ments by dint of needs of the Service.” The factors affecting my situation were the following: