PUBLISHED BY THE AMERICAN FOREIGN SERVICE ASSOCIATION SEPTEMBER 2023 Foreign Service Families AT WORK
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | SEPTEMBER 2023 5 September 2023 Volume 100, No. 7 Focus on FS Families at Work 28 Family Member Job Hunting After the Pandemic By Donna Scaramastra Gorman 32 From the FSJ Archive FS Spouse Employment Feature 45 Rock Your Heart Out If being a diplomat becomes your only identity, it’s time to revive those things that brought you joy in the past. By Alvaro Amador Muniz FS Heritage 49 The Diplomat Who Started a (Culture) War U.S. cultural diplomacy took on a new urgency following World War II. Here is a look at the bumpy beginnings of that change. By Matthew Algeo 33 Making Overseas Telework Better By Amelia Shaw 37 What to Expect When You’re Expecting Parental Leave By Anne Coleman-Honn, Laura Hochla, and Isabel Rioja-Scott 42 Single Parents Serving By Tamara Shie
6 SEPTEMBER 2023 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL 92 Reflections From “Redneck Hillbilly” to “Radical” to Career Diplomat By James R. Bullington 94 Local Lens Old Delhi, India By James Adams On the Cover—Illustration by Davide Bonazzi. Marketplace 85 Retirement 88 Real Estate 90 Classifieds 91 Index to Advertisers 7 President’s Views Priorities for the New Governing Board By Tom Yazdgerdi 9 Letter from the Editor FS Families … at Work By Shawn Dorman 24 Speaking Out Merit Pay for Family Member Employees By Jonathan Geense Perspectives Departments 10 Letters 14 Letters-Plus 19 Talking Points 74 In Memory 80 Books AFSA NEWS THE OFFICIAL RECORD OF THE AMERICAN FOREIGN SERVICE ASSOCIATION 53 New AFSA Governing Board Takes Office 53 AFSA Hosts Chiefs of Mission 54 S tate VP Voice—Your Voice Matters: People-Focused Conversations 55 USAID VP Voice—Advancing the Best Interests of USAID FSOs 56 AFSA on the Hill—Advocacy in Congressional Stalemates 56 AFSA Membership Team Welcomes New Hire 57 D iplomats at Work: Helping Americans Overseas as a Consular Officer 58 D ebrief: Netflix’s “The Diplomat” Visits the State Department 59 AFSA Member Survey on Overseas Road Safety 60 Meet the 2023-2025 AFSA Governing Board 65 Mid-Level FS Reentry Program 66 A FSA Scholarships: Meet the 2023 Merit Award Winners 70 AFSA President Concludes Tenure with Outreach 70 AFSA Governing Board Meeting, June 14, 2023 70 A FSA Governing Board Meeting, July 19, 2023 71 Class Action Lawsuit Against TSP 72 A FSA Engages with Recruits and Members 72 Webinar: Financial Planning for the Foreign Affairs Community 73 AFSA Strategic Writing Award Winner: Emily Armitage 53
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | SEPTEMBER 2023 7 Priorities for the New Governing Board BY TOM YAZDGERDI Tom Yazdgerdi is the president of the American Foreign Service Association. PRESIDENT’S VIEWS As I take up my duties as AFSA president, I first want to thank all the AFSA members who supported me and the other members of the new Governing Board. We will do all we can to earn the trust you’ve placed in us by continuing the fight to make Foreign Service life better for our members and their families. After all, that is the main reason AFSA exists. Our Governing Board members bring a wealth of experience in and commitment to the Foreign Service, and some have worked on previous AFSA boards. And for the first time, AFSA now has a full-time elected State Department representative who will focus on the issues facing specialist members—from strengthening the office management specialist (OMS) corps to dealing with the difficulty Diplomatic Security agents have getting promoted to the FS-2 level. I want to leverage that experience and commitment to achieve positive outcomes for members, both on a collective and individual basis. As of this writing, our board is at work defining our priorities and how we should go about achieving them. We plan to hold a retreat in early October to further discuss these priorities and fashion the way forward. In previous years, our congressional advocacy efforts have fallen into three broad categories: health of the Foreign Service as an institution, morale and retention, and parity with the military and other government employees. To my mind, the overarching priority should continue to be getting an appropriation of at least $65 billion for the International Affairs Budget. That would allow our member agencies to properly staff both Washington and the field. Too long have our agencies had to deal with personnel shortages that sap morale and cause burnout. Some other priority issues include the perennial ask for the third tranche of overseas comparability pay (OCP) for members serving overseas; per diem for all hires, not just those joining from outside the Washington, D.C., area; and the elimination of caps on hours and salaries for reemployed annuitants. I will also fight for consistency across AFSA’s six member agencies on how important initiatives related to issues like assignment restrictions reform and provision of benefits for members who suffer from anomalous health incidents (AHIs) are implemented. The push for Foreign Service reform has kicked into high gear in recent months. One of the proposals is establishment of a diplomatic reserve corps—which AFSA strongly supports— that could more effectively manage the potentiality of having to surge our people, as was done in Afghanistan and Iraq. The idea to fund such a reserve corps has gotten some traction on Capitol Hill and is supported by the State Department. A well-funded reserve corps would make a huge difference, because the State Department would not have to rely on pulling employees from current positions to staff emergency needs of the Service. The Foreign Service is still feeling the negative effects of dealing haphazardly with such contingencies in the past, as many of the jobs taken from other diplomatic posts to staff Afghanistan and Iraq were never given back to overseas posts. Of course, none of this will be easy to achieve. Far from it. Given the debt ceiling agreement worked out earlier this year, our future appropriations are likely to be flat or close to flat, although thankfully they start from the 6 percent increase that the International Affairs Budget received in 2023. Partisan rancor will likely be even stronger next year, however, with the 2024 general election. On the bright side, 2024 is the 100th anniversary of the modern Foreign Service and the creation of AFSA as a professional association. AFSA is planning a number of events to commemorate and celebrate these two milestones, including a gala dinner in the Benjamin Franklin Room at the State Department in May 2024. This gives AFSA a rare opportunity to raise our profile and priorities with high-level leaders in Washington and around the country throughout the year. Please write us at email@example.com to let us know what you think the priorities of our 2023-2025 Governing Board should be. I look forward to hearing from you. n
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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | SEPTEMBER 2023 9 Shawn Dorman is the editor of The Foreign Service Journal. LETTER FROM THE EDITOR We regularly return to the evergreen topic of Foreign Service families, a top concern for the entire community. For this year’s focus on families, there was so much interest and so much strong content that we expanded it into a two-edition focus. This month we zoom in on FS family issues related to work life, and next month we turn closer attention to the kids and life at home. We begin this month with the age-old issue of FS family member employment, particularly the difficult quest for good jobs and careers for spouses and partners who accompany FS employees around the world, moving every few years, often starting over. Has the pandemic led to more opportunities as telework skyrocketed globally? Donna Scaramastra Gorman takes a look in “Family Member Job Hunting After the Pandemic.” Related, the “domestic employee teleworking overseas” (DETO) program is an innovative and still quite complicated option for teleworking overseas. FSO Amelia Shaw, who served in a State Department DETO position from Malawi, lays out recent changes that advance pay equity. FSOs Anne Coleman-Honn, Laura Hochla, and Isabel Rioja-Scott are accomplished diplomats and moms. In “What to Expect When You’re Expecting Parental Leave,” they share tips for making it work. Bonus: a resource page for nursing mothers who plan to pump after returning to work. Next, we hear from FSO Tamara Shie on the realities, and the pluses and minuses, of life and work for “Single Parents Serving” at posts abroad. In the Feature, “Rock Your Heart Out,” FS family member and leader of the San José rock band, Mid-Life Crisis, Alvaro Amador Muniz shares his personal journey finding meaning through music. In FS Heritage, Foreign Service family member Matthew Algeo brings us the story of LeRoy Davidson, “The Diplomat Who Started a (Culture) War” by exhibiting American “modern” art abroad in the late-1940s postwar era. In the Speaking Out, FS family member Jonathan Geense makes the pitch for “Merit Pay for Family Member Employees.” And in Reflections, Ambassador (ret.) James R. Bullington tells his story “From ‘Redneck Hillbilly’ to ‘Radical’ to Career Diplomat.” In his first President’s Views column, Tom Yazdgerdi introduces “Priorities for the New Governing Board.” The new Governing Board will lead AFSA through the centennial year as both AFSA and the Foreign Service turn 100 in May 2024. I am pleased to announce the FSJ Centennial Writing Competition, starting now. We hope this competition may spark bold thinking about the future of the Foreign Service. For extra inspiration, the author of the winning essay will receive a $5,000 prize. See page 4 for details. Be well, and be in touch. n FS Families … at Work BY SHAWN DORMAN
10 SEPTEMBER 2023 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL LETTERS Questionable Court Judgments Thanks to our colleague Lee Ann Ross for her excellent article (FSJ July-August 2023) about the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism (USVSST) fund. In addition to what she writes, there are some other points worth mentioning. Source of the funds. The fund is supposed to be financed by fines paid by individuals and companies who have had illegal dealings with state sponsors of terrorism. Whom do you sue? To be eligible to collect under the law, most claimants need a judgment that one of the officially listed state sponsors of terrorism (Cuba, North Korea, Iran, or Syria) was responsible for their injury. In the case of the 9/11 victims who became eligible, in 2015 federal judge George B. Daniels ruled that Saudi Arabia (not a state sponsor) had sovereign immunity, and he dismissed all charges against the kingdom for its alleged role in the attacks. The following year Judge Daniels ruled that Iran (a state sponsor) was responsible. In fact, this ruling seemed to contradict the reality that the Islamic Republic—like the other members of the original “axis of evil”—had no connection to the 9/11 events. Where’s the money? There isn’t any. By assigning blame to a state sponsor (in this case Iran, although apparently any state sponsor would do), the effect was to dilute the fund with thousands of 9/11 claimants who were not eligible for compensation under earlier laws intended to help the direct victims. As W.S. Gilbert wrote in The Gondoliers, “When everybody’s somebody, then no one’s anybody.” Some questionable court judgments have meant that almost no one—even those with legitimate claims—will ever see more than a small portion of the compensation to which they are entitled. A sad story. Alan Golacinski John Limbert Michael Metrinko Barry Rosen Victor Tomseth The signers were members of the Foreign Service assigned to the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979, and among those held captive there for 14 months. We Are Still Waiting Thanks so much for covering the story of the 1998 embassy bombings in the July-August FSJ with the in-depth interview of the two former East African U.S. embassy ambassadors, Prudence Bushnell and John E. Lange, and the clear explanation given by Lee Ann Ross, who had been USAID Kenya deputy director at the time. Lee Ann has given a very good and precise explanation on what the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund is all about and how to make a claim without employing too much lawyer terminology. Please thank her on our behalf. This story still brings back very painful memories of what some of us went through that Friday, Aug. 7, 1998. It has been a long wait, going on 25 years now, and still we are going to wait more years for possible compensation. Some of the victims and family members are either dying or have already died due to natural causes or as result of bomb blast health-related complications. Francis Ywaya Former USAID/Kenya FSN Nairobi, Kenya Tribute to Julian Bartley Commemoration of the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings in the JulyAugust 2023 FSJ provoked a flood of memories. I am remembering the late Julian Bartley, a career FSO, husband, father, hero, friend, and, until his untimely death in the 1998 bombings, my mentor. In 1997, my sister was what consular folks call a “welfare and whereabouts” case in Kenya. The wheels of U.S. government from my small-town mayor to the Secretary of State (the late, great Madeleine Albright) and the upper echelons of the Department of Defense moved to rescue her in a perfect synergy that would bring a tear to the most government-cynical eye and made me as proud as I have ever been in my life to be an American. The consular team at Embassy Nairobi was a 24/7 mission control center that whole week she was lost on Mount Kenya, with Julian as consul general at the helm. They found her. Julian and his son Jay lost their lives a year later when al-Qaida attacked our embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. After Jess got lost and then found, I switched majors in college, and in the intervening year between her rescue and his murder, Julian gave me advice on classes to take and encouragement to persevere through the Foreign Service exam process. He called our house on every major holiday that year and sometimes “just because” to check on Jess and on my parents. He became a real friend. On Aug. 7, 1998, we watched in abject horror as the scenes unfolded on CNN and, eventually, when both their names rolled across the ticker. Though we had
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | SEPTEMBER 2023 11 less than no money, Jess made the trip from Wisconsin to D.C. for Julian and Jay’s service. She sat in the far back of National Cathedral as the person giving the eulogy talked about Julian’s selfless public service, referencing my sister’s case as a prime example of his stellar qualities as an officer and as a human being. After grad school, I signed up for the Foreign Service exam, taking my husband along with me to also take the written exam. He’s now an office director in the Bureau of Counterterrorism, and I am on the European affairs desk. Jess is alive and well in Wisconsin, and we remain in contact with the surviving Bartleys, Sue and Edith. Sarah Lundquist Nuutinen FSO Washington, D.C. Putin Confidant Busts Invasion Rationale I want to thank the Journal for bringing to readers’ attention the advertisement placed in The New York Times on May 16 by the Eisenhower Media Network and signed by several retired diplomats, including Ambassador (ret.) Jack Matlock, Matthew Hoh, Larry Wilkerson, and Ann Wright (July-August 2023 FSJ, page 17: “Former Diplomats Sign NYT Ad”). The gist of their open letter was that the U.S. should start negotiating with Russia now to bring peace to Ukraine because, after all, we are at fault for provoking Russia by expanding NATO to its borders. I can see why the open letter was placed as an advertisement. It is so flawed intellectually, and so slavishly copies Russian disinformation arguments on the Ukraine war, that it would never have been printed as an editorial in any respectable newspaper. The central argument is wrong on the facts, as many of the principals, including former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, former Secretary of State James Baker, and others have pointed out. There was never any commitment not to expand NATO to the east, and such expansion came about because Central and Eastern European countries were clamoring to join, in the expectation that Russia might one day turn revanchist, which, under President Vladimir Putin, it did. Beyond this, however, and perhaps most embarrassingly for the Eisenhower Media Network and its supporters, the arguments in favor of accepting Kremlin propaganda explanations for why Russia was forced to attack Ukraine have been blasted apart by onetime Putin confidant and Kremlin insider Yevgeny Prigozhin. As Prigozhin noted in a lengthy video on Telegram on June 23: “The Armed Forces of Ukraine were not going to attack Russia with the NATO bloc.” In other words, NATO expansion was just a propaganda excuse to invade. Prigozhin said that the real reason for the invasion was that Kremlin insiders wished to promote their political prospects (decency forbids me from repeating his exact words), and Kremlin-linked oligarchs wanted to plunder Ukraine’s resources after its military capture and the appointment of a puppet regime in Kyiv. Naturally, Prigozhin studiously avoided the obvious point that Putin simply wanted to erase Ukraine from existence, as he has implied repeatedly in his own speeches. The signatories of the Eisenhower Media Network open letter have a lot of explaining to do. James F. Schumaker FSO, retired San Clemente, California Potty Mouths and Gratuitous Sex Commentaries about The Diplomat abound, including by our current ambassador in London quoted in The New York Times and Ambassador Barbara Stephenson’s review in the July-August FSJ. I’ve been surprised that no one has mentioned the potty mouths of the ambassador and her husband. In my 28 years at the U.S. Information Agency and State, at embassies and consulates in South Asia and Latin America, I have not once attended an official meeting or even an informal conversation among colleagues who curse like that. Cursing for emphasis may have its place, but recreational cursing in official situations represented in the series does not resemble my experience in the Foreign Service and misleads viewers who are unfamiliar with the work we do in the field. Even the British foreign secretary’s character notes the Americans’ language, letting loose his own stream of invective— to prove his bona fides, no doubt. And while I’m kvetching, the gratuitous sex does nothing to advance either character or plot, other than confirming that our middle-aged hotties can still get it on! Rex Moser FSO, retired Pacific Palisades, California A gathering after Sarah Nuutinen’s FS swearing-in ceremony in 2010. From left: Edith Bartley; Sue Bartley; Sarah Nuutinen; her sister Jessica; her father, David Lundquist; her mother, Mary; and her little sister, Lisa McDevitt. COURTESY OF SARAH LUNDQUIST NUUTINEN
12 SEPTEMBER 2023 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Critical Shortage of FCS Officers in Africa I am responding to the excellent article in the June FSJ, “The Business of Diplomacy: Prioritizing the U.S.-Africa Commercial Agenda,” by Scott Eisner. I am a retired Senior Foreign Commercial Service officer who served as Commerce Department regional director for Africa, Near East, and South Asia from 1991 to 1994 at the end of apartheid in South Africa. I was also FCS AFSA VP from 1997 to 1999. The critical shortage of commercial officers at U.S. embassies across Africa has been a constant since the FCS was created in 1980. This is primarily the result of institutional shortages of officers, inadequate budgets, and systemic priorities for other parts of the world markets, especially Asia and Europe. To have one regional American officer located in Kenya, Morocco, Côte d’Ivoire, and South Africa is simply inadequate for the size and value of the African market—especially with China overwhelming the African minerals and metals industries essential to future global battery production. The tragedy is that U.S. global trade policies still undervalue African markets both as sources of supply and as consumers. Unless and until we change that view, the opportunities will not be fulfilled, and U.S. manufacturing and trade will not reach full potential. Charles Kestenbaum Senior FCS FSO, retired Vienna, Virginia Advancing with Africa Requires More Ag Officers Set apart by its list of specific recommendations on how to strengthen U.S.- Africa commercial relations, Scott Eisner’s article “The Business of Diplomacy: The Wrong Direction on Taiwan At the highest strategic public policy level, our country has a choice to make between confronting the rise of China and wrestling down CO2-based climate change. Robert S. Wang in his June 2023 FSJ Speaking Out article is sending us in the wrong direction. He encourages the Biden administration to stand by democratic Taiwan and to be ready to deter and fight military or “coercive” pressures on Taiwan from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). He downplays the costs and dangers of heightened conflict between the U.S. and the PRC, which could become lethal and tragic on the largest scale. The Taiwan point of friction needs to be made less military. Mr. Wang’s argument is well presented, but it is bad advice. Taiwan’s thirst for autonomy is not unanimously supported on the island, and Taiwan is certainly not eager to have war for it. Taiwan’s separatist drive is significantly our own creation, driven for more than 70 years by the American anti- communist right wing. This was revived by President Donald Trump, and a negative view of China remains preponderant in the U.S. Congress, and now even among the general public. It’s striking how much talk about saving Taiwan is not really about Taiwan but about American uneasiness with the rise of the PRC. We should be listening hard and reflectively when the PRC says that it sees us as trying to “contain, encircle, and suppress” modern China and using the Taiwan issue for that purpose. Mr. Wang posits, in effect, a moral obligation on us to continue to protect the small democracy, Taiwan, from the large authoritarian PRC. But such an Prioritizing the U.S.-Africa Commercial Agenda” in the June 2023 FSJ is must-reading, and hopefully he and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will disseminate it throughout Capitol Hill and the federal bureaucracy. I would only add that not only do we need more Foreign Commercial Service officers on the scene promoting U.S. products and services but also many more Foreign Agricultural Service officers in the field because agriculture remains the primary engine for growth and employment in most African countries. As the FCS and FAS backup in Morocco and Kenya, I witnessed firsthand the terrific networking and matchmaking these foreign affairs colleagues and their local staff members do in promoting mutually beneficial trade or, in Eisner’s words, “equitable growth for Americans and Africans alike.” What I learned from them was extremely useful to my econ teammates and me in Sudan where, in spite of our broad sanctions regime, we were able to facilitate sales of more than 2,000 dairy cattle from Missouri, pivot and linear irrigation equipment and other agricultural machinery, pharmaceuticals, and imagery technology for the Khartoum Breast Care Centre established by radiologist Dr. Hania Morsi Fadl—one of the most inspiring women I have ever met. We even tried to establish business links between farmers, herders, and entrepreneurs in Darfur with American suppliers. As Mr. Eisner advocates so adroitly, we want to “Advance with Africa.” George Aldridge FSO, retired Arlington, Texas
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | SEPTEMBER 2023 13 Share your thoughts about this month’s issue. Submit letters to the editor: firstname.lastname@example.org obligation, if fixed and invariable, makes us a prisoner of our client. It is easy, but potentially fatal, to be inattentive to the dangers to a great power arising from its relationship with a much smaller client. In October 1962, the concerns of the client, Cuba, were narrow and intense, as they usually are, and Cuba’s Fidel Castro was ready to see the superpower Soviet Union go to nuclear war with the United States. Our obligations to Taiwan, then, cannot be immune to adjustment to meet real-world developments, such as the transforming growth in the PRC’s capacity and our imperative need for China’s cooperation in ending Russia’s atavistic crime in Ukraine and in fighting climate change. The U.S. needs to regain its capacity for independent action and emerge from the American right wing’s view of Asia. We need a better footing with China, which requires a cooling of our relationship with Taiwan. A respectful and respectable distancing can be gradual, discreet, and consultative. In the case of Taiwan, that means starting a detachment process soon, particularly so that the Taiwanese public understands that the island’s relationship with the United States is changing when it votes for a new president to succeed Tsai Ing-wen in January 2024. Peter Lydon FSO, retired Berkeley, California n
14 SEPTEMBER 2023 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL LETTERS-PLUS New State Department Diversity Data Exposes Challenges and Opportunities BY ELLICE HUANG, THOMAS SCHERER, VIC MARSH, AND DAN SPOKOJNY RESPONSE TO JULY-AUGUST 2023 FOCUS ARTICLE, “DEIA IS NO LONGER JUST ‘NICE TO HAVE’” Ellice Huang is the operations executive at fp21 and a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. Thomas Leo Scherer is the research director at fp21 and an academic practitioner. Vic Marsh is a researcher at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and a former econ track FSO (2007-2015). Dan Spokojny, a former FSO, is the CEO of fp21 and is writing a doctoral dissertation on foreign policy expertise. We are writing in response to “DEIA Is No Longer Just ‘Nice to Have’” by Ambassador Gina AbercrombieWinstanley in the July-August 2023 FSJ. The State Department’s first Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) Strategic Plan states: “We need to be transparent in our efforts. This means transparency as we analyze and report DEIA-related data and trends.” The very first goal in the strategy is for the department to broaden the availability and analysis of demographic data to support an evidence-based approach to improving our diplomatic workforce and evaluate progress. A key finding of our own organization’s research into evidence-based solutions for State Department’s workforce challenges is that data is a vital strategic capability. Demographic data is necessary to both diagnose obstacles and create targeted solutions. Transparency creates shared identification of problems, conveys to employees that diversity is an important goal, and creates accountability for progress. The State Department should be commended for releasing demographic baseline numbers this summer, as promised in the FSJ article. That said, the data still leave much to be desired. Only aggregated summaries of the data are presented, and only for the past two years. This makes it nearly impossible to run external analysis of the data or identify trends over time. For example, many officials at State believe they hit a glass ceiling blocking their career progression, but aggregated data cannot expose where people get stuck in the system. Our organization is working to fill this gap by using sophisticated data science tools and archival information to examine representation in American diplomacy. Our data source is the State Department Key Officers of Foreign Service Posts directory, which is a series of documents going back to 1965 that list Foreign Service officers and their positions assigned to each U.S. embassy. Using text-scraping tools, we extracted the names and positions of more than 110,000 key officers—the people who serve as team leaders in embassies. We then used classification tools to identify each officer’s gender and race based on their first and last name. These classification tools are not perfectly accurate, but they provide reasonable estimates. More information can be found in the full report on our website. Our analysis shows that the gender gap among those who lead embassy offices is steadily narrowing but will not completely close until 2040 (see Graph 1). A key finding of our own organization’s research into evidence-based solutions for State Department’s workforce challenges is that data is a vital strategic capability.
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | SEPTEMBER 2023 15 The picture is more complicated when one examines specific job categories. Underrepresented groups have long suggested that high-profile jobs are reserved for white males. Is this true? We can see in Graph 2 that while consular and public diplomacy jobs are close to parity, political, economic, and management jobs are disproportionately male. This is significant because the expectation at the State Department is that political and economic jobs are feeder jobs to positions of higher authority. That said, our analysis shows more females than males over the past decade in principal officer assignments. Why might this be? Perhaps female officials are on average better qualified than their counterparts, leaders are going out of their way to select females for high-profile jobs, or women are disproportionately landing in less significant principal officer spots, such as one- or two-person outposts far away from capitals. Our data on race and ethnicity is less accurate given the uncertainty of identifying these characteristics from names alone. The gap in terms of ethnicity, nationality, and cultural diversity is wide. Though the non-white and white proportions appear to diverge over time (see Graph 3), we estimate at least a 50 percent discrepancy between the two groups even today. If more detailed (but carefully anonymized) data is made public, one would be able to answer many more vital questions at the State Department. Which mid-level jobs lead to high-profile positions down the road? What experience, skill, Graph 1: The Gender Gap Graph 2: The Gender Gap by Job Category Graph 3: The White vs. Non-white Gap
16 SEPTEMBER 2023 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL It’s the EER Itself …! BY JOHN BONDS RESPONSE TO APRIL 2023 SPEAKING OUT, “WHY OUR EVALUATION SYSTEM IS BROKEN AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT” John Bonds, a former U.S. Army officer, joined the Foreign Service in 2017 and has served in Hong Kong, Islamabad, and London. He is currently a student at the Foreign Service Institute and will serve in São Paulo upon completion of training. Virginia Blaser’s article, “Why Our Evaluation System Is Broken and What to Do About It” (April 2023 FSJ), was fantastic. It provided many tips to rated employees, raters, and reviewers, as well as pointers on what the Foreign Service agencies can do about the problem. While all of those tips are wonderful, they fail to tackle the main obstacle to realistic, effective, and less timeconsuming reviews. To bring our human resources efforts into the 21st century, we must take a hard look at the actual problem: the Foreign Service Employee Evaluation Report (EER) itself is broken. The EER often fails to identify particularly high- and low-performing colleagues. It is time-consuming and onerous to produce. It distracts from our goals and often fails to reward skills that make both effective leaders and followers. It often fails to reward basic effectiveness in a job, but rather demands extra projects that may even take away from a rated employee’s core work responsibilities. It has essentially become a creative writing exercise. It is time to take a close look at how we do things. A new EER could save massive amounts of labor-hours while simultaneously making it easier for the promotion boards to identify high and low performers. and training are most useful for promotion? Are certain bureaus and embassies doing a better job of managing a diverse workforce? Recent moves to publish demographic data are a step in the right direction. We hope the State Department will now take the next step to follow through on its Strategic Plan and make its workforce data more transparent. Treating demographic data as a strategic asset would be a positive step for a department that has historically struggled to leverage the best that this diverse country has to offer.
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | SEPTEMBER 2023 17 The bulk of the EER consists of three narrative statements—from the employee being rated, their immediate supervisor, and their reviewer. These lengthy statements often focus on extra projects or additional work outside the scope of the rated employee’s principal tasks. Ideally, they will tie the achievements of the rated employee to the goals of their section, mission, or the department at large. While the system has its benefits, the process of drafting and editing such lengthy statements lends itself to stretching accomplishments and, with shifting requirements and guidelines over the years, uncertainty about what is valued by the organization. On its best day, the system is hugely stressful and makes it extremely difficult for supervisors and promotion panels to identify the truly high-performing employees. The U.S. Army faced a similar problem. When everyone walks on water, how do you identify your highest performers? Their solution was to numerically limit the number of employees who could receive the top mark. A New System A new EER could mirror their system. The major change would be the introduction of three or four check boxes—from “exceeded requirements” to “failed to meet requirements”—where the reviewer could easily and effectively identify their highest performers. In most cases, the reviewer is reviewing many more EERs than the rater and would have a larger sample size to better identify the actual percentage of top employees. In addition to the check boxes, the rater and reviewer would still have a narrative portion as in the current system, but the amount of space provided would be reduced based on the box When everyone walks on water, how do you identify your highest performers?
18 SEPTEMBER 2023 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL checked by the reviewer. For example, the top box and the bottom box would both require a lengthier justification, while the middle two could require a shorter narrative justification or none at all. The boxes would look something like the following. (1) Far Exceeded Requirements. This box would be numerically limited to some percentage of EERs reviewed, for instance, 10 percent of those reviewed at X grade, to enforce its use only for top performers. This percentage would be linked to the reviewer throughout their career. The Army calls this the individual’s rating “profile,” and it would be visible to promotion panels. In this way, if a reviewer tended to rank people either on the high end or the low end, a promotion panel would be able to see that and take it into account—someone who consistently ranked their subordinates lower than others could be averaged out, essentially allowing everyone to be graded on a more level playing field. If the reviewer thinks that no one is in the top 10 percent of employees they have ever reviewed at one post or rating cycle, he or she would then have the ability to use this box at the next post or rating cycle if everyone they review truly does a top job. Allowing reviewers to carry over unused top boxes would enable them to use those boxes when they are merited, like in a crisis response. For example, if they review 10 employees, and the percentage limit is 10, they can rank only one person in this box. If no one reached that level of performance during the rating period, they could then rank two people as top 10 percent in the next cycle if they felt they deserved it. Or they could so rank one and carry the extra to the next cycle. (Ten percent is just a suggestion; we could use any percentage that would still allow reviewers to identify their top performers.) (2) Exceeded Requirements. Top 50 percent of those reviewed at X grade (or whatever percentage would make the most sense). There would be no limit on these; most EERs would probably end up in this block. This would identify high-performing employees who perhaps didn’t stand out to the level of those in the box above. (3) Met Requirements. Again, there is no limit, i.e., no requirement to low-rank. This part could show where someone needed improvement in certain areas, but it would not necessarily trigger any sort of review for continued employment. (4) Did Not Meet Requirements. The reviewer must state either that the employee should be retained/is able to be brought back to standard or that the employee should be separated from the Service. There is no limit on these. This could potentially be used by promotion panels to low rank or trigger an automatic review if presented with more than one. This would require a longer narrative and potentially also require the rater/ reviewer to attach their counseling statements where they have attempted corrective action. EERs can be streamlined by requir- ing drastically less narrative for “Met” or “Exceeded Requirements,” while requiring something lengthier for the “Far Exceeded” and “Did Not Meet Requirements” categories. Finally, the rated employee statement should go away completely. If it isn’t important to your rater or reviewer, then it is not important. A More Straightforward Evaluation This way of conducting evaluations reduces the time we spend writing EERs, identifies and rewards the truly outstanding people we work with, and provides a more straightforward way to identify when people are not performing and need to try something other than the Foreign Service. Moving to this system would absolutely require some tougher conversations between leaders and the people they supervise, but isn’t it the job of a leader to give honest feedback? Are we not hurting our higher performers and losing talent if their EERs get lost in a sea of people walking on water? By numerically limiting the number of top blocks available to reviewers, they would be forced to save those for their actual top performers. The top block would clearly indicate to the promotion panel that the rated employee exceeded the expectations of effectiveness at their grade and has the potential to achieve at a higher level. While this can be captured in narrative form, the fact that raters or reviewers are able to say this about all of their employees necessarily takes away from the highest performers. If everyone should be promoted in a system where you can’t promote everyone, then promotions become mostly a game of chance. Even if this may not be the best way forward, we need to have a conversation as an institution about what is working and what isn’t. n
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | SEPTEMBER 2023 19 TALKING POINTS Ordered Departure from Haiti On July 27, the State Department called for the ordered departure of nonemergency U.S. government personnel and their families from Portau-Prince as gang fighting overtook the capital. The announcement came after a week in which Haitians swarmed the area outside the U.S. embassy, seeking protection from heavy gunfire in the vicinity. Embassy employees had already been ordered not to leave the U.S. compound. Armed gangs have taken power in 90 percent of the Haitian capital since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse two years ago, The Washington Post wrote. As rival groups contest territory, they have engaged in widespread killing, rape, and displacement of civilians. To combat the gangs, vigilantes have begun forming their own armed groups. While the U.S. has expressed reluctance to lead a response to the conflict, on July 31 the State Department announced its plans to introduce a resolution to the United Nations Security Council authorizing a multinational force to Haiti, The New York Times reported. Kenya has offered to lead a force to restore order. Logjam Breaks on Confirmations Since our last update in June, 11 new nominees for high-level foreign affairs positions have been announced. Three career FSOs were nominated for ambassadorships in Haiti, Burkina Faso, and the Marshall Islands, and an additional career FSO was named for the role of U.S. coordinator for international communications and information policy. Political appointees were named for Croatia, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.N. agencies in Rome, and for the position of assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs. There are also (finally) nominees to serve as inspectors general at State and USAID: Cardell Kenneth Richardson Sr. and Paul K. Martin, respectively. AFSA welcomes this news, as the positions have been vacant for nearly three years. For most of the summer, confirmations were minimal. Only political appointee Elizabeth Allen was confirmed to serve as under secretary of State for public diplomacy. However, on the Senate’s last day before the summer recess, a logjam was broken, and 15 total nominees were confirmed that day, 13 of whom are career Foreign Service nominees serving as ambassadors in Palau (Joel Ehrendreich, a recent FSJ Editorial Board member), Micronesia (Jennifer L. Johnson), Rwanda (Eric Kneedler), Uganda (William Popp), Georgia (Robin Dunnigan), Niger (Kathleen FitzGibbon), Sierra Leone (Bryan David Hunt), Jordan (Yael Lempert), Ethiopia (Ervin Jose Massinga), Guyana (Nicole Theriot), the Maldives (Hugo Yue-Ho Yon), the United Arab Emirates (Martina Strong), and U.S. Senior Official for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Matthew D. Murray). Of note, career FSO Hugo Yue-Ho Yon will be the first ambassador appointed to the Maldives without being double-hatted as the ambassador to Sri Lanka. Two political appointees were also confirmed: Jack Markell to serve as ambassador to Italy and San Marino, and Julie Turner for the role of special envoy on North Korean human rights. As many have heard me say, diplomacy is not for the faint of heart. But its promise is possible as long as individuals of conscience and leaders of principle sustain the courage to persist and persevere, and never lose hope in the cause of justice, the pursuit of peace, and the possibility of tomorrow. —Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in a July 28 farewell email to Department of State employees before retiring. Contemporary Quote As a military coup gripped the West African country of Niger in early August, the State Department prepared to evacuate U.S. embassy personnel. The Biden administration has steered clear of calling the military-backed ouster of President Mohamed Bazoum a “coup.” More than just a word, the legal determination could trigger an end to U.S. security aid to a country that’s key to battling terrorism and curbing Russian influence in Africa, Politico wrote. Reports have also emerged that the military junta currently in power is seeking support from the Russian-backed mercenary Wagner Group. European countries, including the French armed forces, had already begun evacuating foreign nationals from the country in early August. Niger Coup Leads to Evacuations
20 SEPTEMBER 2023 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL More than 30 of the nominees— mostly career Foreign Service members—had long been ready for a Senate vote but remained blocked by Senators J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who had issued sweeping holds on all State Department nominees. In mid-July, the obstructions prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to issue a plea, urging senators to advance the dozens of nominees and decrying the impact of the holds on U.S. national security. The summer saw two high-level positions vacated: Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley stepped down from her role as chief diversity and inclusion officer, and Rick Waters left his role as China coordinator and deputy assistant Secretary of State for China and Taiwan. He had also led the department’s newly created China House policy division. In late June, in an apparent response to congressional criticism of the Biden administration’s approach to East Africa policy, John Godfrey was named special envoy for Sudan. Godfrey had already been serving as ambassador to that country since 2022. Finally, in a largely symbolic move in late July, President Joe Biden named Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns to his Cabinet, elevating one of his closest advisers on national security and foreign policy. In 2021, Burns became the first career diplomat to lead the CIA. New Bill Preserves LE Staff Visas In an effort to preserve the opportunity for long-serving locally employed (LE) staff overseas to obtain Immigrant Visas, Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) introduced S.1887 on June 8. Known as the GRATEFUL (Granting Recognition to Accomplished Talented Employees for Unwavering Loyalty) Act, this bill would revitalize a visa category created in 1952 for LE staff and rename it the Government Employee Immigrant Visa (GIV) program. In practice, the proposed legislation would reallocate visas from an underutilized existing program, redirecting 3,500 visas in FY2024 and 3,000 visas each year after, into the GIV program. This would allow foreign nationals with at least 15 years of exceptional service to the United States to immigrate with their families. As it stands, retiring U.S. government employees abroad face an estimated 14-year wait between qualifying for and receiving a visa amid a backlog of more than 118,000 cases. Years of shifting immigration policy have placed these employees in line for visas alongside others who have no connection to U.S. government service. The GIV program represents a commitment to employees abroad, particularly those who have placed themselves in harm’s way in service of the U.S. mission. It has also received the full endorsement of AFSA, the American Academy of Diplomacy, and the Council of American Ambassadors. As of early August, S.1887 was included in the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act. If included in the final version, it would become law in late 2023. DoS Afghanistan Report: Not an A+ A long-awaited after-action report on the Afghanistan evacuation published by the State Department on June 30 found that the Biden and Trump administrations did not sufficiently plan for “worst-case scenarios” ahead of the summer 2021 withdrawal. Notable findings from the heavily redacted review are as follows: There was insufficient “senior-level consideration” of worst-case outcomes and the speed at which they could transpire. While U.S. military planning for a possible evacuation operation was underway for some time, the State Department’s Short-Staffed Overseas We know we don’t have enough personnel in [U.S. diplomatic] missions in order to carry out what we expect them to do. We also know that we are regularly reprioritizing where we have to put our resources because of international events and circumstances, and that requires us to take personnel out of missions, and they become very short-staffed. —Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) at an event on May 31 at the Meridian Center for Diplomatic Engagement where he discussed S.3491, proposed legislation to modernize the State Department. Creating a Reserve Corps [Former diplomats] would come back in a heartbeat if they were needed. They will rise to the occasion. I am certain they will. —Senator Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) at an event on May 31 at the Meridian Center for Diplomatic Engagement where he proposed legislation to create a reserve corps. HEARD ON THE HILL JOSH