The Foreign Service Journal, November 2023

12 NOVEMBER 2023 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL TALKING POINTS State Adopts a “Learning Policy” On Sept. 8, Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources Richard Verma sent a departmentwide email announcing the State Department’s adoption of its first Learning Policy, which he called a “key milestone in the Secretary’s Modernization Agenda.” Verma wrote that the policy “is intended to redefine our approach to learning, prioritize learning as part of our culture, and empower learning partnerships between employees and managers.” It offers every employee the opportunity to spend up to 40 hours in nonmandatory training on topics of their choosing. That said, the new courses and training are being presented for now as optional and encouraged, but not “required.” The program will be managed jointly by the Bureau of Global Talent Management and the Foreign Service Institute. As a first step in creating the new Learning Policy, GTM and FSI rolled out a “Core Curriculum” on April 10 (see June 2023 Talking Points). Courses in the curriculum cover essential skills including supervisory leadership, congressional relations, negotiation and presentation, and interagency work. For more on the Learning Policy, employees can visit the Learning@State website. Blinken’s Kyiv Visit Eclipsed by Missile Attack Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a surprise visit to Kyiv on Sept. 6 to show support for the nation as it defends itself from Russia. But the initiative was overshadowed by a Russian airstrike that killed at least 16 civilians and injured another 31 in the Ukrainian city of Kostyantynivka just hours after his visit concluded. While in Kyiv, Blinken met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba, and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. He also joined embassy personnel for a meet and greet, where he told the audience: “Never go to someone’s home without bringing a housewarming gift. We come bearing some further assistance for Ukraine across multiple areas, but that assistance doesn’t actually mean anything unless it is used effectively, and so many of you every single day are working closely with our Ukrainian colleagues to make sure that the assistance we’re providing is being used effectively and is being used properly.” Indeed, while in Kyiv, the Secretary announced that the U.S. government would be providing more than $1 billion in additional aid to Ukraine. The trip marked Blinken’s fourth visit to Ukraine since the war began in February 2022, and his first overnight stay. Meanwhile, across the border, the Russian government expelled two American diplomats on Sept. 14, giving them just seven days to leave the country. The two were accused of conducting “illegal activity” and “maintaining contact” with Robert Shonov, a 25-year employee of the U.S. consulate general in Vladivostok who was arrested in May 2023 and accused of illegally passing information to the Americans. Secretary Urges Partial Return to the Office In a Sept. 11 departmentwide message regarding the future of telework, Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote: “We need to recalibrate our approach— increasing our in-person presence to ensure we’re working as an integrated team, committed to engaging the American people and operating with the highest standards of security.” The Secretary stopped short of requesting a full-time return to the office but explained that in-person work is needed to conduct day-to-day diplomacy: “Much of our team requires regular access to classified materials, systems, and meetings. When it comes Staff at U.S. Embassy Kyiv assemble for a meet and greet with Secretary Blinken on Sept. 7, 2023. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE