The Foreign Service Journal, September 2011

E very administration seems to have its own vision for the future of American diplomacy. Old-timers remember a number of earlier — sometimes very different — visions, and expect that each new visionwill have that same rel- atively short shelf life. One vision thatmay be here to stay, how- ever, is the Quadrennial Diplomacy andDevelopment Review, which is both a process and a planning document that has a number of implications for Foreign Service careers. As the name implies, the QDDR is a process under which American diplomatic efforts writ large are reviewed every four years to assess their success, efficiency and responsiveness to America’s needs. That assessment forms the basis for future planning, budget requests and continuous tweaking of the way we do business. Washington is beginning to implement a series of recom- mendations that would, in theory, integrate the work of dis- parate agencies and bureaus, empower key personnel to lead, and focus resources more narrowly on achievable goals. This involves restructuring some bureaus, creating others and using each agency’s expertise to greatest advantage. Not every agency is equally on board, but the State Department has been moving steadily toward implementing what it can. Changes are being made both to procedures and to the ForeignAffairsManual, responsibilities are being realigned and resources are being redistributed. Slippery Precedents AFSA generally supports these efforts. On the whole, the QDDRmakes sense, and would tend to increase the effective- ness of American diplomacy. Our concerns, where we have them, aremore about scope and the setting of certain “slippery” precedents than they are about the concepts themselves. Two key elements of the QDDR are flexibility and integra- tion. Both involve identifying the best agency, bureau or per- son—or combination thereof — for a given mission, tasking themand coordinating efforts. Washington leaders and chiefs of mission at posts would be similar to chief executive officers, choosing from the tools available to them to best position resources and abilities. These tools would include all agencies under COM authority, nongovernmental organizations, Civil Service personnel and private contractors. This constitutes a broadening, strengthening and codificationof authorities already implied by the “plenipotentiary” in the ambassador’s title. Our concerns in this regard pertain to long-term conse- quences. Foreign Service training, when available, is already on an “as needed” basis. Will increased reliance on “outside” experts diminish incentives toprovide employeeswith the long-promised kinds of training aimed not at filling an immediate need, but at developingmore versatile FSmembers? Will increased flex- ibility in mid-level hiring and staffing impede promotion and assignment opportunities formembers of an up-or-out FS per- sonnel system? How will encouragement to view FS employ- ees as being “one among several possible tools” affect the value of a Foreign Service career? Will FS members be adequately apprisedof changing expectations or terms of employment? The answers to these questions may not be immediately apparent, and the consequences to FS members may be significant. Risk-Taking Is Okay Similarly, in an effort to get away from the staid, bureau- cratic conservatismof much of the Service, theQDDR encour- ages “risk-taking.” In fact, a group has been tasked to develop ways to recruit less risk-averse employees, “out-of-the-box” thinkers whowill approachmissions with imagination and goal- orientation. While we agree that the department can be too conserva- tive for its own good, we hope that it will stand behind its peo- ple if risk-taking fails. The reason that higher-level employees are risk-averse is often not that they started out that way, but that State has made it clear that the architects of failed ideas are punished, and that thosewho judge are fairly intolerant of imag- ination. Will somebody tell theOffice of the Inspector General that risk-taking is okay, and if so, will the terms be defined? Despite these and other concerns, theQDDR is already being implemented. Candidates for chief of mission, principal offi- cer and deputy chief of mission positions are already being reviewed for experience leading or coordinating interagency and NGO collaborations, out-of-the-box thinking and willingness to take risks to achieve results. Anyonewhohas hopes of becom- ing aDCMor COMsomeday should begin now to think about jobs that expose them to other agencies, NGOs or pangovern- mental entities. Certainly, these factors will be considered in other assignments and promotions as well, and all employees should bear in mind these new expectations. Making our government function better andmore efficiently is a primary responsibility of every employee. We want to be certain, however, that as good ideas are implemented, all con- sequences are considered. QDDR: Changing the Game and Changing the Rules V.P. VOICE: STATE BY DANIEL HIRSCH S E P T EMB E R 2 0 1 1 / F OR E I GN S E R V I C E J OU R N A L 49 A F S A N E W S