The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2022

10 JULY-AUGUST 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL LETTERS Thoughts on Foreign Service “Reform” Apparently, little has changed in the Foreign Service in the two decades since I retired, given the episodic calls for, and promises of, “reform.” This has always meant aping the intellectual fashion of the moment. Instead, I offer several simple sug- gestions for improvement in the Foreign Service’s personnel system, in the hope that interest in actual, impactful reform is real this time. Begin by considering the triple task of the Foreign Service. First, represent the United States overseas in a way that will make what we do and want both comprehensible and, to the degree that others’ national aims coincide, attrac- tive. Second, explain to U.S. decision- makers how they should help make the first possible to achieve our country’s national goals. Third, serve the needs of American travelers abroad and intend- ing travelers to the U.S. To accomplish these, mastery of for- eign languages and cultures is essential. To that end, a Foreign Service officer should be assigned to no more than two areas of the world, and to two linguistic- cultural groups over a career. And, to be fair, such a career must include an equal number of hardship and nonhardship posts, unless the officer specifically waives this require- ment at the beginning of each onward assignment process. Such area and language specializa- tion would enhance officer effective- ness; and recognition of such effective- ness would improve job satisfaction. Both morale and service prestige would grow as a result. The foregoing requires changes in the Foreign Service personnel system. The current pastiche of favoritism, cor- ridor reputation, cronyism, favor-trading and snap judgment with a veneer of professional qualifications must go. “Career counselors” should be replaced by algorithms and, with few exceptions, a blind assignment system that responds to the two strictures of area expertise and fair balance of hard- ship and nonhardship postings. Dakar, Yaoundé and Paris are Francophone capitals, but they are not the same. The Foreign Service should also insist on being a foreign service. Wash- ington assignments should be limited to one in three, at most, with strict limits on consecutive state- side assignments save for specific and limited train- ing. Those wishing to continue serving stateside should trans- fer to the Civil Service. More consideration should also be given to Foreign Service spouses and families. Frommaking sure a family incoming to post is greeted with proper temporary accommoda- tion—including a full refrigerator— and sufficient help with settling in, to offering employment to those spouses who wish it and full integration into the mission community, making an FS member’s family feel welcome will help that employee concentrate on duties sooner and better. These tweaks wouldn’t be costly and would offer great benefits. But they will be difficult to implement because they fly in the face of tradition and threaten those who trade on petty power for their own benefit, while arguing even to themselves that they are doing what is right for the good of the Service. Experience and perennial morale problems have shown they are wrong. Time for new approaches, if “reform” is a serious goal. Morgan Liddick FSO, retired Sparks, Nevada Space Diplomacy Our team at Duke University’s Rethinking Diplomacy project thanks David Epstein for his outstanding article, “Boosting Space Diplomacy at State, ” in the May FSJ . The Rethinking Diplomacy program began in 2020 as an effort to broaden and extend the reach of diplomacy to deal with global issues, including outer space. Climate change, migration, health, the Arctic, the oceans, food security and energy transformation are among the other areas we are exploring. In March we created a new Space Lab at Duke for a multidisciplinary approach to reach solutions for a “secure and sustainable future of humanity in space.” We hope, also, to encourage efforts to deal with the concerns Epstein presents. Our aim is to develop Foreign Service competency in science and technology as a true partner with diplo- macy. To that end, we have urged rees- tablishment of the science officer cone and a full career track in the Foreign Service for these officers, among other improvements. Moreover, through a further advance that we call “anticipatory diplomacy,” we advocate an improved process for reaching into the future beyond the present crisis management approach. We want to foresee coming global issues