Foreign Service Revitalization and Reform Roundtable
Over the past two years or so, there have been a number of studies and reports on the need to fix the State Department, the Foreign Service, our diplomacy, etc. The onset of a new Administration, especially one so different from its predecessor, seems to be an opportune moment to try to move forward on revitalization and reform. To capture the voices of our members in this process, we decided to use one of the most recent reports, the Harvard University Belfer Center report -- the subject of two DACOR programs last year -- authored by the three ambassadors (Nick Burns, Marc Grossman, and Marcie Ries) with its ten recommendations as the starting point for a series of Roundtable discussions.
The Board and Executive Committee held an initial discussion earlier this month on the first two broad Belfer recommendations -- passing a new Foreign Service Act and defining a new mission and a new mandate for the Foreign Service. At the conclusion of that meeting, it was decided to open the following roundtables, which would consider the more specific recommendations of the Belfer report, to all interested members. We currently envision a total of three or four roundtables, each one considering a cluster of related Belfer recommendations. Participants in the roundtables could mention contrary, complementary, or identical recommendations contained in other reports, and are encouraged to bring up recommendations for important changes that the authors of the various reports forgot to consider.
Our plan is to convey our conclusions to the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) sister organizations, after which the FAC or its individual organizations could decide how to move forward, and which recommendations to focus on.
The next Roundtable discussion on Foreign Service Revitalization and Reform will be held on Thursday, February 25, 2021, 10:30-12:00.
The subject of this roundtable will be Recommendations #4, 5, 6, and 9 of the Belfer report:
4. Direct a relentless focus on diversity as a first-order strategic priority
5. Strengthen the professionalization of our diplomats through education and training: obtain additional funding for a training float of 2,000 positions.
6. Initiate a wholesale overhaul of the personnel system and obtain additional funding for an additional 1,400-1,800 FS positions to cover existing staffing gaps.
9. Create a stronger and more non-partisan Foreign Service by expanding the number of ambassadorial and senior Washington assignments for career professionals, limiting the number of political appointees.
While the Belfer report sometimes waxes philosophical, we hope that our discussions will focus on the practical – what is needed, and what will actually get us there in the real world. Sharing your experiences on what works to bring about change and achieve our goals will be very helpful.
To prepare for our roundtable discussion, please read at least the Executive Summary of the Harvard/Belfer Report, and, if possible, also the Executive Summaries in the other attached reports. (The CFR report is more unwieldy than the rest; you might start with the intro and the conclusion.)