The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2012

Standing Up for the Foreign Service In the May Journal AFSA Presi- dent Susan Johnson uses her Presi- dent’s Views column to make an eloquent pitch that “It’s time for FSOs to stand up for the Foreign Service … to explain who they are and what they do.” Her column goes on to note that doing so will require leadership from the State Department itself to make a better “case for professional education and training, improved assignment policies and clearer criteria for career advancement.” The obvious mutuality of that ex- pression of needs makes needful ac- tion on the part of all concerned equally obvious. Is AFSA’s president issuing some kind of call for action? Bruce Laingen Ambassador, retired Bethesda, Md. Distance Learning at the Army War College I saw the announcement that your July-August issue is going to focus on Foreign Service training and educa- tion, and believe my experience at the U.S. Army War College might shed some useful light on the issue of pro- fessional training. FSI offers an advanced training op- portunity that is located, for the most part, in the ether. Six State Depart- ment employees annually participate in the Master of Strategic Studies dis- tance education program offered by the U.S. Army War College. It takes two years to complete but, with the ex- ception of two two-week sessions held at Carlisle Barracks, Pa., participants conduct all their work online. As a graduate of the class of 2012, I highly recommend this program to my State Department colleagues. The State Department began en- rolling students in this program in 2003. Some 54 students have started since then; 40 have graduated. (This attrition is in line with the dropout rate for military members of the student body.) Students in the distance education program follow the curriculum of the Army War College’s one-year residen- tial course, which is also available to State Department employees. The program trains senior leaders to think and plan strategically in order to achieve the president’s national secu- rity objectives. State Department students are well received by the Army War College. Clayton Chun, chair of the Depart- ment of Distance Education, told me in an e-mail that “Our State Depart- ment students are some of the bright- est and best thinkers at the U.S. Army War College. They provide a very unique and diverse view of the world and national security challenges. I only wish that we could have more State Department students to share our educational program and forge lasting relationships with our military, civilian and international students.” FSO Jonas Wechsler, who gradu- ated in the class of 2010, echoes this sentiment: “The Army War College is more than welcoming of FSOs and State Department perspectives. What FSOs may lack in terms of familiarity with some of the Army’s planning pro- cedures and terminology, they more than make up for in writing skills and experience in the international arena.” The program is rigorous. Nine courses over two years (not counting the two residential courses) works out to about 10 weeks per course, and one starts right after the next. FSI advises students to plan on 15-20 hours of class work per week. That’s about right, in my experience. 8 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / J U LY- A U G U S T 2 0 1 2 L ETTERS