The Foreign Service Journal, May 2023

10 MAY 2023 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL LETTERS Gaming to Strengthen Diplomacy Fred Hill’s March Letters-Plus, “Gam- ing at State: Needed but Not New, ” and Robert Domaingue’s November 2022 Speaking Out, “Why the State Department Needs an Office of Diplomatic Gaming, ” were most welcome. As a participant in Mr. Hill’s “war gaming” operations in the 1980s, I can testify to their utility and also register my regret that the State Department has not instituted and supported a mechanism within its organizational structure to carry out such operations. The functional link between the Foreign Service Institute and the Office of Policy Planning that was created to carry out the exercises and extract policy- relevant insights from themwas an added value. I commend Robert Domaingue and Fred Hill for introducing this issue into our conversations about strengthening American diplomacy. James E. Goodby Ambassador, retired Washington, D.C. Corridor Courage Congratulations to Tanesha Dillard (March 2023 Speaking Out, “In the Cor- ridors: Where Culture, Reputation, and DEIAMeet” ) for her courage in pointing out the unfortunate use of corridor repu- tation in determining assignments and promotions in the State Department. Reputation and rumors are not facts; nor are they based on performance or results. EERs and awards are not failproof indicators, but at least are reviewed and hopefully objective. Thank you, Tanesha, for the discussion. Dale Giovengo FSO, retired Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Undermining Professional Standards? Kudos and thanks to Ambassador Rubin for writing so forcefully against the different efforts to undermine the merit-based selection and promotion of Foreign Service personnel in his March 2023 Presidents Views, “Back to the Spoils System?” There is, alas, no mention of the current administration’s efforts to undermine the integ- rity of the selection and promotion policy, and to skirt federal law regarding the norming of tests by race or sex, through the imposition of wholistic (vice objective) evaluation meth- ods for selection and promotion. Of course, as this is being done under the guise of enhancing diversity, equity, and inclusion, no one can be expected to speak out against this subtle means of undermining professional standards. Other than that, it’s a great column. Ed Stafford FSO, retired Brigantine, New Jersey Empowering Career Employees The March 2023 FSJ was full of stimu- lating articles about reforming the State Department and the Foreign Service. Perhaps the most thought-provoking was “From Instinct to Evidence, ” in which Dan Spokojny advocates more scientific, less instinctual decision-making by the department—“an improved system of knowledge management.” Better methods of training are pro- posed, as well as more attention to after- action assessments of the effectiveness of policy decisions and implementation. Spokojny distinguishes between “tacit knowledge” (more like “street smarts” and “common sense”) and “explicit knowledge” (which is “captured and written down”). Unfortunately, policy decisions are often made by political appointees lacking benefit of the education and training proposed by Spokojny. The most egregious example of bad decisions made at the political level is the decision to go to war against Iraq in 2003. Extensive State Depart- ment studies and recommen- dations (“explicit knowledge”) were brushed aside, basically ignored, by decision-makers motivated by domestic political considerations or personal objectives. “The State Department should set a goal to become the most highly trained decision-makers in the U.S. government,” says Mr. Spokojny. Great objective, but if our political leaders—elected and appointed—don’t take our expertise into account, then all our training will be to no avail. Political appointees, alas, often have too much confidence in their own tacit knowledge and have authority to over- ride or ignore recommendations of the career Service. And sending career officers to Bagh- dad who have never served in the Arab world is not a formula for successfully dealing with situations they may confront on the ground. Unfortunately, some career officers, devoid of experience in the area, made decisions now seen as unwise. Whatever explicit knowledge was available, they did not embrace it, and their tacit knowledge did not compensate for this failure. What is the difference between experi- ence and tacit knowledge? I’m reminded