Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Compulsory Iraq Duty - Rehashed News

I don't know why this is making headlines again. The threat of directed assignment to Iraq is not news; it happened last year and will continue to happen in 2010, 2011, 2012 and on and on regardless of who wins the White House in November. The mainstream media might as well put that in their news now, it'll save them ink and paper and online page in the foreseeable future. Consider the following for the next Jeopardy round: =>Our diplomats staff 260 embassies and consulates worldwide. Two-thirds are at posts categorized as “hardship” due to difficult living conditions including violent crime, extreme health risks or terrorist threats (e.g. Sana'a). =>The Foreign Service has 11,500 members; that is is less than one-half of 1 percent the size of the U.S. military. Only a small fraction of this number is trained as Arabic speakers or in reconstruction. Why? Because the FS was trained and prepared for engagement with the entire world not one specific area of the globe. =>The average U.S. embassy has only 79 percent of its authorized staffing; recent reports show a 1,015-position shortfall in the Foreign Service, plus an additional 1,079-position deficit in training and related staffing needs (can't send people to Arabic language training while they are also working in Anbar Province). =>Iraq is the largest U.S. Embassy in the world; short of shuttering 1/3 of this humongous building, we need people there; the place needs to be rightsized, IMHO, but that's not going to happen tomorrow. =>Over 2,000 FSOs have already volunteered for duty in Iraq, despite the fact that they are also working in close to 180 hardship locations worldwide. It's all in the numbers. Sooner or later this volunteer well would dry up, not because people refuses to go to Iraq but because we would run out of qualified people to send. The news should not be that the FS is under threat of compulsory assignment to Iraq (FSOs know they signed up for worldwide assignment). The real news is when we start compulsory assignment for employees who have already gone to Iraq to return there for their 2nd, 3rd, or nth tour in the future. That will break the Service that I love, irreparably - and that'll be news.

1 comment:

Consul-At-Arms said...

I've quoted you and linked to you here: