Wednesday, March 9, 2011

AAD Report: Under-investment in diplomacy has left Foreign Service overstretched, under prepared

The American Academy of Diplomacy has released a new report on the U.S. Foreign Service that points to the "urgent need to prepare and sustain a corps of American diplomatic professionals that is intellectually and operationally ready to lead in the new environment."  The report also says that "there is little question that under-investment in diplomacy over the last decade or so has left our Foreign Service overstretched and under prepared."

Among its recommendations are 1) fully funding of the staffing initiative under Diplomacy 3.0, 2) creation of a 15% training float, 3) long-term commitment to investing in the professional education and training needed "to build a 21st-century diplomatic service of the United States able to meet the complex challenges and competition we face in the coming decades"; 4) strengthening and expansion of the Department of State’s professional development process ; 5) establishment of a temporary corps of roving counselors to address mentoring problems caused by the mid-level gap; 6) a study that will examine best practices in the field to determine how on-the-job training can be most effectively conducted for FSOs; 7) completion of a year of advanced study related to FSO's career track as a requirement for promotion to the Senior Foreign Service; and 8) appropriately targeted consultations before a new Chief of Mission (COM) even begins pre-assignment consultations.
You can read the whole thing below. Or you can download the abridged and full version of the report here. Do not skip the appendices.  The US Foreign Service Primer in Appendix A includes the most current employment numbers as well as a quick look on promotion and the 'up or out' system. Appendix D includes an interesting item on the professional development in other diplomatic services. You probably already know that Chinese officers must take a leadership and management training course, along with courses on international relations, economics and finance, international history, Chinese history, protocol, and consular affairs for promotion to 2nd Secretary. But do you know that these courses apparently are taken in officers’ spare time, in addition to their normal duties? Do you know which diplomatic service requires its officers to sit for exams following a one-month course that focuses on economics, law, civil society, and politics before promotion to 1st Secretary?  Or which one requires a PhD-level dissertation for promotion to Counselor?  Read more below.

Forging a 21st Century Diplomatic Service for the United States through Professional Education and Training

Copyright © 2011 American Academy of Diplomacy, the Henry L. Stimson Center and the American Foreign Service Association // Republished with permission from AAD.

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Consul-At-Arms said...

1. Failing to fully fund staffing means jobs go unfilled means FSOs juggle multiple jobs means decreasing quality of all jobs. And that even more jobs are simply left unfilled.

2. A "training float" means that officers are able to take the training needed to perform new duties or learn new languages before they go to new jobs. A lot of the hiring under the old DRI was intended to make this good, but then a war broke out and things like PRTs and two or three of the world's most highly-staffed embassies soaked up that safety margin like a sponge.

3. The Foreign Service Institute does a pretty good job training officers but not, so far as I've seen, such a good job at educating them. There's sort of an unspoken attitude of you-should-already-be-fully-educated-when-you-get-hired.

That's not the attitude, by the way, one encounters in DoD. Funny how it's the killing-people-and-breaking-things agencies that actually value education.

Odd how these legacies of the old WASP establishment era of American diplomacy seem to linger on, when the actual Foreign Service looks "a lot like America," as the saying goes.

State needs to consider establishment of an institute focused on education, and learn the difference between training and education. There is one, which is one reason you generally can't get college credit for courses taken at FSI. Not to disrespect FSI too much because it's actually pretty good at the training piece, but while it's got many of the trappings of an educational institute (coat-of-arms, deans, registrars, &tc.) that's all surface gloss.

4. SecState Powell did a phenomenal job at establishing and implementing the beginnings of professional development training because he understood, coming from DoD, why it's important. He got that there's a continuum of training necessary during the life-cycle of a career officer, whether they are military or civilians.

5. I'm not sure what "roving counselors" are intended to accomplish, where they're supposed to come from, and what mid-grade jobs will they leave unfilled while they're "roving." (If mid-grade FSOs weren't facing a 24% pay cut for serving overseas, perhaps it'd be easier to make up the shortfall in their numbers.)

6. Best practices are always good to share, Consular bureau makes this a near fetish (and I mean that in a good way).

7. Another requirement for "passing the senior threshold" may or may not be a good thing. Making it a requirement means the Department would need to make it a possibility rather than the fairly rare opportunity it is now. FSOs are eligible to bid on a number of out-of-Department training opportunities once they become tenured. Some of these are at non-governmental universities, others are as sort of exchange students at DoD schools like the various war colleges. Making this a requirement for promotion means either providing a lot more opportunities (governmental or otherwise), expecting FSOs to be independently wealthy enough to take year-long leave-without-pay (LWOP) sabbaticals to accomplish this, or deciding relatively early who's destined for "flag rank" and who's not.

A word about governmental/DoD schools: they generally seem happy to have a State Dept. person or two in any given class, as well as from other civilian agencies, in the various war college and other DoD schools. But if we're going to start really trying to load more FSOs into their training system, perhaps we should consider establishing our own advanced educational program, based at FSI for instance, where they can send their own exchange students. See #3 above.

8. I'm not quite sure what this intends. Is the idea that there should be more general pre-COM training for new ambassadors before they begin focussing on post-/country-specific consultations?

I've quoted you and linked to you here:

Domani Spero said...

Thanks for the thoughtful rejoinder, CAA!

#5 on roving counselors -- if I'm reading this correctly, these are retirees who will be filling the gap as mentors. Not sure how great is the mentorship program currently available. If it is strong and known to work, by all means, but no reason why can't be done by video-conf.

True, true, true about professional education vs, training. Like the saying goes, FSO are the most educated when they enter the service, but miloffs are the best educated by the time they leave. The traditional mindset seems to be that FSOs are already plenty educated/smart when they get into the Service, they can't be spared to do more study. It may be changing now, but for a long time, training and going back to school is like pastureland that must be endured until officers get a better assignment.

I also think that there is something missing in State's leadership training. Foundation should start at A100 and builds on through time, as is done in the military. Can't expect FSOs to pick up that skill after a week or so of basic LMS training after their career has long been launched.

I've once worked with one who took the intermediate leadership training in preparation for higher calling; boss had thereafter advanced his/her learned skills in misleadership and demotivation. It was awesome to watch.