The Foreign Service Journal, September 2017

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | SEPTEMBER 2017 23 How to Get More Bang for Our FSI Buck: Engaging Foreign Diplomats and Diasporas BY M I CHAE L ROSENTHAL Michael Rosenthal is currently in Hindi-language training at the Foreign Service Institute before an assignment to Embassy New Delhi. He has served in Kyrgyzstan and Poland, and on the India and NATO desks in Washington, D.C. The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone, and not necessarily those of the Department of State or the U.S. government. N ow celebrating its 70th anniver- sary, the Foreign Service Insti- tute is an incredible resource. It is certainly among the best diplomatic training institutions in the world, offering courses in language, area studies, leadership and professional skills. My experience with India and Indian- Americans, however, has convinced me that FSI could do more. It could play a prominent role in department-wide efforts to better engage two underutilized partners: foreign diplomats and domestic diaspora populations. The State Department, using FSI’s capabilities, should seek to improve tradecraft and increase interoperability with foreign diplomats by sharing best practices and conducting joint simula- tions and training. FSI can also better engage America’s diaspora communities, leveraging their ties with homelands and connecting the department with taxpay- ers countrywide. Such efforts will require something of a culture change at FSI, which has tradition- ally been inward-focused, as well as sup- port fromother bureaus. Recently, FSI has expanded outreach to bring in new ideas and new partners in adult education. But more can be done, even during a difficult budget climate. At a time when the department is being called upon to build domestic support for our foreign policy and to promote burden- sharing by other governments, enlisting the support of diasporas and engaging foreign diplomats as force multipliers can increase the effectiveness of American diplomacy and reduce costs. Foreign Diplomats Are Natural Partners Foreign diplomats are among the most important interlocutors for the State Department. Abroad, we engage with host- country ministries of foreign affairs (MFAs) on a range of consular, political, economic and other issues. We cooperate with third-country dip- lomats, as well, sharing information and addressing common concerns in the host country such as the investment climate or human rights. Though some foreign counterparts do not share our interests, and like-minded envoys may compete with us occasion- ally (e.g., on defense contracts), State has much to gain from expanding interactions and influence with foreign diplomats. It’s a wonder, then, that the department has not made a concerted effort to build habits of cooperation with friendly diplomats or help build the capacity of developing- country MFAs. Most readers will be familiar with the impressive range of programs run by the Pentagon (often in cooperation with State) to develop the capacity of foreignmilitar- ies. One of the key strengths of NATO, for example, is the high level of interoperabil- ity developed through decades of multina- tional training and education. The engagement exposes counterparts to the best practices of the U.S. military, including respect for human rights. It helps the military develop contacts among foreign officers, some of whom end up in leadership. Engagement includes educa- tion, for example, at the National Defense University inWashington; the deployment of trainers to assist host-country forces; andmultinational exercises around the world. Some readers may not be aware, though, that many MFAs—from the United Kingdom toMexico, Turkey and China— apply the same idea to diplomacy. The training courses, typically a fewweeks long, are similar to our International Visi- tor Leadership Program, with an emphasis on host-country culture and policies, including visits outside of the capital. But they usually also share best practices in tradecraft, such as cable writing. The host governments then have an alumni network of foreign diplomats to cooperate with around the world for years to come. SPEAKING OUT