The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2021

14 JULY-AUGUST 2021 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL TALKING POINTS USAID’s New Diversity Policy O n May 3, her first day on the job, USAID Administrator Samantha Power approved USAID’s new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan, emphasizing the importance she and the agency place on the issues. “Each of us has a responsibility to address bigotry, gender discrimina- tion and structural racism and uphold individual dignity. This isn’t just one of our values; it’s our mission—one hand extended out to another to meet people where they are and treat others as equals,” Power said. Under the new DEI strategy, USAID commits to three goals: improving and enhancing diversity throughout the agency; enhancing inclusion and equity for everyone in the workplace; and strengthening accountability for promoting and sustaining a diverse workforce and an inclusive agency culture. USAID leadership will seek out and address internal systems that inhibit inclusive diversity efforts. The agency will create a range of policies and pro- grams to improve and increase diversity. It will also develop outreach strategies to attract talent from diverse backgrounds. Agency leaders will champion staff participation in DEI initiatives. The agency will establish and enhance training on diversity fundamentals, bias and principles of inclusion for all staff, including managers and supervisors. USAID says it will consistently apply DEI principles across program and management. All agency leaders will be required to show evidence of their support for DEI principles, and the agency pledges to be transparent and use workforce data in its efforts to promote DEI. “Unexplained Health Incidents” Update M ore than 130 U.S. diplomats, intel- ligence agents, soldiers and other U.S. government personnel have been affected by the mysterious, debilitating health incidents that started five years ago, The New York Times reported on May 12. That’s far more than the 60 cases con- firmed initially, which were concentrated in Cuba and China. The newer tally includes cases in Europe and other parts of Asia, accord- ing to the Times , which added that the Biden administration has not deter- mined who or what is responsible for the episodes, or whether they represent actual attacks. The alleged attacks may be starting to hit closer to home. CNN reported on May 17 that two White House officials were struck by the syndrome late last year. There was another suspected case in Northern Virginia in 2019. In March, the State Department named Ambassador Pamela Spratlen, a retired career FSO, to head the Health Incident Response Task Force, which was formed in 2018 to coordinate the response to the alleged attacks. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been briefed on the issue several times, CNN reports. CIA Director and retired Career Ambassador William Burns has moved aggressively to improve the agency’s response, meeting with victims, visiting doctors who have treated them and brief- ing lawmakers, according to the Times . Members of Congress from both parties have started to criticize what they see as a “yearslong failure” to address the issue, Politico reports. Contemporary Quote We need a strong Department of State. We need a strong Foreign Service to meet the challenges that we face around the world, and the budget you proposed contains resources to recruit, train, retain a first-rate, diverse workforce. I think you’d also agree that one of the key tools in both recruitment and retention is how we treat our Foreign Service families serv- ing overseas. Four years ago Senator [Dan] Sullivan [R-Alaska] and I founded the bipartisan Foreign Service caucus here on the Hill; and, based on our conversations with the American Foreign Service Association and others, we introduced a bill called the Foreign Service Families Act. … It essentially provides Foreign Service families serving overseas the same kind of amenities and benefits that many military families serving overseas have. —Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) Certainly, as described and in terms of the objectives, I couldn’t agree more. And by the way, now that I’ve had the opportunity to travel a little bit on the job, every place I go I spend time with our embassy and the embassy community, and I share your high regard and determination to support the families of the men and women who are part of our Foreign Service. Because, as we both know, they’re serving too. —Secretary of State Antony Blinken From an exchange during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the Biden administration’s 2021-2022 international affairs budget, June 8.