The Foreign Service Journal, March 2024

Sarah Wardwell is currently serving as an innovation adviser in the Bureau of Global Talent Management. She is a consular-coned Foreign Service officer. She has previously served in the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ Office of 1CA, Santo Domingo, and Jakarta. The Learning Policy is intended to stimulate a culture shift around learning and training at the State Department. BY SARAH WARDWELL There is a clear consensus that the State Department needs to take a more systematic approach to professional training and education for all its employees. As Secretary of State Antony Blinken articulated in October 2021, “We need to put the State Department in the best possible position to confront the challenges facing our country, and we need to build, support, and protect the workforce that makes everything that we do possible.” Traditionally, the State Department has leaned on mentorship or learning on the job to develop the skills of employees during the middle of their career. While these are important A Look at the New Learning Policy How, When, and Where Do State Department Employees Learn? parts of a professional development program, former senior leaders suggest the department needs a more methodical approach (see the report by Ambassadors Nicholas Burns, Marc Grossman, and Marcie Ries, “A U.S. Diplomatic Service for the 21st Century,” Harvard Kennedy School, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, November 2020, pages 26–27 and 29–35). Similarly, a needs assessment completed by the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) School of Professional and Area Studies in 2021 identified concerns with respect to the training and performance of the department’s mid-career Foreign Service (FS) and Civil Service (CS) professionals (FS-3/2 and GS-12/13/14). Recognizing the need to nurture a culture shift around learning, Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources Richard Verma (D-MR) introduced State’s first Learning Policy in September 2023, as part of Secretary Blinken’s Modernization Agenda. The Learning Policy redefines the department’s approach to learning. It prioritizes learning as a part of the department’s culture by dedicating more time for learning, empowering employee–manager learning partnerships, and expanding learning opportunities. STRAIGHT FROM THE SOURCE THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MARCH 2024 47