Fellowships at FSI
Experienced practitioner participation is a key aspect to successful training. It allows the officers to hear first-hand anecdotes regarding the topics they are learning in the classroom. It also allows them to receive informal mentoring before they get to the field. However, legislative authorities in the Foreign Service Act currently deter retired diplomats from returning to teach at FSI. Annuitants who are rehired as government employees are not permitted to earn more any single year than the difference between their highest earnings before retirement and their annuity.
Thus we have executed a Fellowship initiative with FSI. The initiative began in August 2019. The Foundation has hired retired senior Foreign Service officers to help update and expand the curriculum for recently extended Area Studies courses, including South and Central Asia, Near East, East Asia and the Pacific, and Africa.
The State Department and Congress have a history of animosity and ineffective communication, which has resulted in a congressional perception that the Department is unresponsive to Congress and by the Department, that Congress fails to understand and appreciate the work of diplomacy. This tension has created difficulty for both sides in executing the oversight and conduct of US foreign policy. We believe there are steps that can be taken today to improve relations that “have a history of strain and tension that is based more on a breakdown in education and communication than on policy differences” (Atlantic Council’s State Department Reform Report, p. 28).
To address this issue, the Foundation has partnered with the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) to conduct a pilot seminar series for mid-level Foreign and Civil Service officers as well as mid-level Congressional staffers. The objective of the series is twofold: (1) provide education on the role of Congress and the State Department in foreign policy, particularly where the two roles intersect, and (2) offer State and Hill employees the opportunity to form relationships and foster working-level relationships. The first series was rolled out in February 2020. The series included four seminar sessions for thirteen State and thirteen Hill employees. Topics covered include oversight, nominations, treaties and international agreements, responding to crises, and budget.
Leadership and Management Training
The US Diplomatic Studies Foundation spent a year visiting various other departments and agencies to learn about their best training and education practices. A key to success identified across the board was putting time and resources into leadership and management training. Thus DSF is working with business schools to create a robust training module focused on leadership and management skills.
The goal of this program is to provide an offsite, multi-disciplinary training program that includes classroom and external teaching sessions, case studies, and seminars built to deliver unique content in the context of current FSI programs that will enhance the knowledge, experience, and skills of emerging State Department leaders to prepare them for positions of greater responsibility. The target audience will be ten to fifteen emerging department leaders per course drawn from foreign service officers and civil servants working toward serving or currently serving as DCM, Head of Political Section, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Assistant Secretary, Ambassador or similar duties.
The United States uniformed services have for many years conducted “War Games” as an integral part of the training of senior officers. These games simulate the challenges inherent to any military confrontation with the objective of training senior officers to think through a kinetic engagement, consider all options, and make decisions aimed at successfully leading American military forces in a confrontation.
We believe it would be beneficial for the civilian leadership of American international presence, the Department of State, to conduct such exercises. However, unlike military games where kinetic engagement is the default and civilian roles are supporting, the Peace Games will put the Ambassador and civilian roles out front. This exercise will be particularly useful for the American Ambassador, who has broad authority and responsibility from the President and should have the opportunity to simulate the challenges that she or he will have at post. The Ambassadorial mandate to integrate all U.S. assets and civilian capabilities in the most efficient manner to address conflicts abroad is a daunting responsibility. Even with the best of training in effective management, the challenge facing the Ambassador is immense. We are confident these exercises will improve our ability to successfully mitigate conflicts abroad.