The Foreign Service Journal, March 2021

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MARCH 2021 19 FOCUS D uring the first 20 years of this century, America’s diplomats have been tasked to serve in more dangerous and highly threatened assignments than perhaps at any time since World War II. Both the executive branch and Congress saw the need to have a U.S. diplomatic presence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Libya, even while wars were still being fought there and insecurity was rampant. Assignments to dozens of other high-threat posts continued throughout this period, as well. The U.S. diplomatic establishment stood up and answered the call—officers from the Department of State, USAID and other foreign affairs agencies volunteered to leave their fami- lies behind and serve at our most dangerous and strategically important posts. Such service continues at many high-risk posts. Unfortunately, while serving in these tough circumstances, our officers too often operated with one hand tied behind their back. With support from Congress, the State Department made great progress during this period replacing old, insecure and highly vulnerable facilities abroad with safe and secure embassies and consulates. The risk of losing an entire diplo- matic platform and suffering massive loss of life and heavy injuries was greatly reduced. Though rocket attacks, complex assaults using car bombs and heavily armed attackers, and Changing a Risk-Averse Paradigm AT HIGH-THREAT POSTS ABROAD Risk aversion is undermining diplomats’ ability to do their jobs. It’s an urgent problem, says an experienced panel that is proposing a solution. BY GREG STARR AND RONALD E . NEUMANN Retired FSO Greg Starr, who had a 29-year career in diplomatic security, is the director of the American Academy of Diplomacy’s “Changing the Risk Paradigm for U.S. Diplomats” project. He retired in 2017 after serving as director and then assistant secretary for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. He also served at the United Nations as under secretary general for safety and security from 2009 to 2012. Ambassador (ret.) Ronald E. Neumann is president of the American Academy of Diplomacy and serves as chair of AAD’s risk management project. He served as U.S. ambassador to Algeria, Bahrain and Afghanistan, among many other high-profile assignments. NOTES TO THE NEW ADMINISTRATION