The Foreign Service Journal, April 2021

56 APRIL 2021 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL A Truly Trustworthy Leader George P. Shultz 1920-2020 BY STEVEN ALAN HONL EY APPRECIATION Steven Alan Honley, a State Department Foreign Ser- vice officer from 1985 to 1997, and editor in chief of The Foreign Service Journal from 2001 to 2014, is a regular contributor to the Journal . He is the author of Future Forward: FSI at 70—A History of the Foreign Service Institute (Arlington Hall Press, 2017). I n December 1985, news broke that the Reagan administration was planning to require State Department employees to take lie detector tests to keep their security clearances. Expressing “grave reservations” about the validity of poly- graphs, Secretary of State George P. Shultz threat- ened to resign if the policy change went forward, calling it a sign that “I am not trusted.” President Ronald Reagan took that threat so seriously that, after meeting with Secretary Shultz, he declared that he would leave it up to State Department officials to decide whether to administer polygraphs. Although that incident did not change the status quo, and was soon forgotten by most people, it reveals much about George Shultz’s character. First, while he was a fully committed Cold Warrior, he instinctively understood that not every trade-off of liberty for security is warranted. Second, his background as an economist led him to value data over theory, so he saw no reason to trust polygraphs. Third, he was intensely loyal to his employees, and they trusted him to have their backs. Although he couched his protest in personal terms (“I am not trusted”), everyone knew there was no chance he would ever be asked to take a lie detec- tor test—let alone forced to do so to keep his job. But George Shultz understood full well that his subordinates at State did not enjoy that luxury, so he spoke out on their behalf—first through internal channels, then publicly. For those reasons, and more, many Foreign Service members who served during Secretary Shultz’s tenure in Foggy Bottom (1982-1989) remember him fondly. (As far as I know, AFSA has never surveyed its members as to the Secretary of State they believe was the best leader of the department, but I’m willing to bet Shultz would come in at or very near the top of such a list.) A thoughtful institutionalist, he not only understood and valued the work of State and other foreign affairs agencies, but advo-