The Foreign Service Journal, May 2024

10 MAY 2024 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL LETTERS Measuring an FSO’s Effectiveness In 1974, when serving as a consular officer in Abu Dhabi, Ambassador John Limbert helped my mother return to the United States under difficult circumstances. She was a toddler. She had been kidnapped by my grandfather to one of the Gulf states when a U.S. court awarded custody to my grandmother. It was a dangerous situation, and without assistance, her prospects in life were grim. Amb. Limbert’s acts at that time enabled my mother to return to the United States and, eventually, start an American family. I recently joined the Foreign Service, and during the last few months, I have reflected on my family history and what it means to serve. To me, this episode demonstrates the interconnectedness of our work; but it also shows how difficult it is to appraise the results of our actions. We have lots of performance metrics, but it’s much harder to capture the implications. As I see it, the measure of effectiveness of Amb. Limbert’s actions is an American family that would not have existed but for the kindness and diligence of a Department of State employee in 1974. Today, some 50 years later, I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to our mission. A New FSO San Francisco, California The “Career Taper” Problem In the March 2024 FSJ, Retiree Vice President John Naland mentions in passing that he would “support raising the mandatory retirement age to 67 to match the full Social Security retirement age.” I agree and would highlight a separate but related issue, which I will call “career taper.” An example will demonstrate what I mean: A 63-year-old officer may not bid on a three-year deputy chief of mission assignment because they would not be able to complete it before mandatory retirement. As a result, officers approaching retirement age must “taper” their ambitions to fit their time remaining. While changing the retirement age would require legislation, I wonder if this problem could be fixed by policy. Specifically, for officers who are paneled to a job before their 65th birthday, an automatic career extension would be provided, ending at the conclusion of that tour (with no extensions allowed). Although the Supreme Court has ruled that mandatory retirement itself is not discriminatory, it appears that these restrictions prior to retirement may be. After all, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits discrimination in any aspect of employment, including job assignments. George N. Sibley FSO, retired Nordland, Washington Championing Diversity I commend AFSA and AFSA President Tom Yazdgerdi for continuing to champion diversity in the State Department. In the March 2024 President’s Views, however, this sentence gave me pause: “Miami Dade College (MDC), with the largest undergraduate enrollment of any college or university in the country, can be a rich source of talent for the Foreign Service and help the department and other foreign affairs agencies better reflect the face of America abroad and at home.” This should not be news. We have had Diplomats in Residence (DIR) based at MDC—and Florida International University—for decades. At least within the Bureau of Global Talent Management, these HispanicServing Institutions are well known and a focus of recruitment. Touching on several other topics raised there—the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) and the Foreign Service Officer Assessment (FSOA)—one of the most heartbreaking experiences I had as a DIR was to find that so many enthusiastic and talented candidates at these schools come away disappointed when they are unable to overcome these hurdles and, as a result, lose interest in the department. I know the Board of Examiners (BEX) has taken many a deep dive as to why standardized tests and other screening tools disadvantage certain groups, so I’m happy to see the department and AFSA discuss and experiment with alternate methods. Edward Loo FSO, retired Diplomat in Residence, South Florida (2012-2015) McLean, Virginia Diplomatic Treasures I have no connection to the Foreign Service but was very excited to see the March 2024 Speaking Out by Glyn Davies, “Needed: A New Approach to Protecting America’s Diplomatic Treasures.” Because the article was so interesting, if also somewhat esoteric, and so aligned with my interests, I thought I would write to give it a thumbs-up. As an art collector and someone concerned with the preservation of architecture and art, I found the article by Ambassador Davies very well researched. I totally agree that a timely approach to the conservation of the collection of diplomatic buildings and artifacts is something that should not be neglected.