The Foreign Service Journal, April 2004

20 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / A P R I L 2 0 0 4 A FTER A DECADE OF STRUGGLE AND ATTRITION , THE D IPLOMATIC R EADINESS I NITIATIVE HAS REVITALIZED THE S TATE D EPARTMENT ’ S OPERATIONS . B Y N IELS M ARQUARDT F O C U S O N F S S T A F F I N G he Diplomatic Readiness Initiative.” DRI. Three years after Secretary of State Colin Powell launched DRI in early 2001, these phrases contin- ue to pepper conversations, cables and other communica- tions throughout the department and at overseas posts. Arguably the most important and successful human resource management initiative undertaken at State in decades, the Diplomatic Readiness Initiative has not only revitalized the department’s operations but, as suggested by its name, has enhanced our readiness for coming chal- lenges. But except for entry-level members of the Foreign Service, how many of us really know how DRI works, or what it has accomplished? Is it primarily a program to streamline red tape to get more people into the system, to more effectively train those new hires, or both? And, most importantly, do we have a shared sense of where it will take the State Department and the Foreign Service in the future? Why DRI Was Necessary The State Department work force that welcomed Secretary Powell on Jan. 20, 2001, had huge gaps in its ranks, with bureaucratic band-aids trying (and largely fail- ing) to cover them up despite valiant efforts to “do more with less.” Facing inadequate budgets through most of the 1990s, State had not been able to hire enough per- sonnel to make up for attrition, even as it stretched to open several dozen new posts, from Asmara to Yerevan. The resulting staffing shortages affected the Civil and Foreign Services, specialists and generalists, alike. In 2001 we had a deficit of over 400 mid-level generalists, and were also short over 300 mid-level Foreign Service specialists. In Washington, we had over 600 vacant Civil Service positions. Heroism abounded in the breach. Record numbers of civil servants went abroad to fill Foreign Service va- cancies. Family members enlisted enthusiastically for work traditionally done by untenured generalists. Many Foreign Service personnel routinely skipped language and professional training (and even deferred home leave and vacations) to make direct transfers to their next post. And our diminished corps of untenured generalists stretched itself even thinner doing multiple tours adjudi- cating visas. These creative approaches were critical in accomplish- ing our mission throughout the 1990s. However, with managers throughout the system “robbing Peter to pay Paul” to fill jobs, hundreds of positions were left unfilled, some for years at a time; the available work force was burning itself out; and there was no relief in sight. Simultaneously, by the end of the last decade, the “ T T HE DRI R IDES TO THE R ESCUE