The Foreign Service Journal, April 2020

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | APRIL 2020 9 LETTER FROM THE EDITOR Diplomacy in the Time of Corona BY SHAWN DORMAN A s I write this letter (just before we go to press in mid-March) from Baltimore, AFSA has moved operations to all-remote work in response to the coronavirus out- break, now pandemic. The president has just held a press conference to announce a “national emergency.” Universities are sending students home, sports events are being canceled, and travel restrictions grow by the hour. News about the spread of the virus and how it’s being handled worldwide changes hourly, and the U.S. domestic response is still in the early stages. But from the time the first cases in China were made known, members of the U.S. Foreign Service posted all over the world have been on the front lines, involved in helping track developments, marshal data and information, liaise with foreign governments and international organiza- tions, and keep U.S. citizens informed about public health and travel. A monthly publication planned far in advance, the Journal is not a vehicle for breaking news. The stories, insights and lessons learned from the diplomats grap- pling with this new world health crisis have yet to be told. When they are, you will find them here. In the meantime, we continue cover- ing topics relevant to our community, such as this month’s focus on career management. We take a close look at Shawn Dorman is the editor of The Foreign Service Journal. some very “inside baseball” elements of managing a Foreign Service career and, in particular, changes to the State HR Bureau (in addition to its new name, Bureau of Global Talent Management), as well as to the evaluation processes at State and USAID (the EER and the AEF). We bring you updates on the MSI pilot and the special needs education allow- ance (SNEA) program, and a look at the Balancing Act organization, which shows how employees can make change happen. In addition, a special retirement section offers useful guidance on planning and profiles of life after the Foreign Service. Our April Speaking Out argues against the notion that diplomats are “born, not made.” The column’s authors make a compelling case for a change in State Department culture and for more system- atic training, education and mentoring. Perhaps the most significant space in the Journal , the Speaking Out column is where we can share different views on current issues for the FS community. In recent months, we’ve received fewer Speaking Out submissions than ideal. In hopes of inspiring wider participa- tion in the Journal , I share here thoughts from Editorial Board Chair Alexis Ludwig. Ours is an age of hyperventilation. There’s quite enough yelling and scream- ing going on as it is, and no good reason to join in. But how about reasoned dialogue? How about cool-headed argument with one’s inside voice? Isn’t that what diplomats are supposed to do best, including amid intense and even structural disagreement? We put forth a dispassionate, broadly informed perspective on a several-sided or controversial topic in the hopes of persuading others to take action, accept a compromise course or at least under- stand where we’re coming from. Such engagement would seemwelcome and even tonic at a time like this. Why am I writing this now? The FSJ depends on the Foreign Service com- munity as authors. Right now, we need more submissions for Speaking Out, our opinion page. Issues worthy of speaking out about are not in short supply. They can be big or small, external or internal, large for- eign policy questions or vexing person- nel problems. Whatever deserves a fair, transparent or different kind of airing. Whatever might need fixing. A few possible examples: • Security clearance updates take too long; here’s what needs to be done. • Here’s how to better utilize the diverse professional skills family mem- bers bring to the Foreign Service. • The tangible value of a nonparti- san, professional Foreign Service in a polarized environment. • Here’s what’s wrong with the assignment system and a plan to fix it. Please join the discussion. I urge you to contribute your two cents or more— if only to further ensure that the differ- ent sides of issues that matter to us are duly aired, reflected on and argued. Speak Out! Because silence, too, can be deafening. n —Alexis Ludwig