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State Department Photo/Public Domain

Analysis & Opinions - Economist

America’s foreign service

| Nov. 20, 2020

Joe Biden, the president-elect, wants to end his country’s “forever wars” and believes diplomacy should be “the first instrument of American power”. He promises to reinvest in America’s hollowed-out diplomatic corps, the better to nurture alliances and tackle the global issues of the future, such as climate change and great-power competition. But how to make the foreign service fit for the future? Two new reports, one from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a think-tank, the other the result of an extensive project at Harvard University, offer thoughts.

Both say the State Department is in crisis. Its problems stretch back well beyond the Trump administration but have deepened dramatically under it. Morale is low, budgets are squeezed and the foreign service is suffering from an exodus of talent. Diplomats’ careers are stymied by the politicisation of senior posts. For the first time in a century, not one of the 23 Senate-confirmed assistant-secretary positions is a serving career official, and 43% of ambassadors are political appointees, also a modern record. The story on diversity is dismal: in March the Senior Foreign Service was 90% white and 69% male. Only five of 189 ambassadors are African-American (over their two terms, Barack Obama appointed 46 African-American ambassadors and George W. Bush had 44). Under Donald Trump, a quarter-century trend of rising female ambassadors has gone into reverse.

2020 WACA National Conference

World Affairs Councils of America

Analysis & Opinions

2020 WACA National Conference | Report: A U.S. Diplomatic Service for the 21st Century

| Nov. 18, 2020

On November 18, 2020, Harvard Kennedy School's Professor & Faculty Chair at the Belfer Center Amb. (Ret.) Nicholas Burns, Harvard Kennedy School's Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center Amb. (Ret.) Marcie Ries, The Cohen Group's Vice Chairman (and former WACA Board Chairman) Marc Grossman discussed their report: "A U.S. Diplomatic Service for the 21st Century | Special Briefing: The American Diplomacy Project," moderated by World Affairs Council of Harrisburg President Joyce Davis, as part of WACA's first time ever all-virtual annual National Conference November 16-20: New Frontiers in Diplomacy and National Security.

Great Seal of the United States

U.S. Embassy to Costa Rica

Presentation - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Presentation: A U.S. Diplomatic Service for the 21st Century

On November 17, Ambassadors Nicholas Burns, Marc Grossman, and Marcie Ries officially launched their report, “A U.S. Diplomatic Service for the 21st Century,”published as part of the American Diplomacy Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School.  These distinguished career Foreign Service Officers, and report co-authors, shared their recommendations on how to rebuild, reform, and reimagine the U.S. Foreign Service so that America can have the strongest and most effective diplomatic service to defend our country and advance its interests. 

Report - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

A U.S. Diplomatic Service for the 21st Century

Many of the most serious challenges the United States will face in 2021 and beyond will require our diplomats to take the lead. These include the return of great power competition, leading a global response to the pandemic and its consequences, supporting American companies overseas during a devastating recession, mounting a major effort on climate change, negotiating an end to the Afghan and Iraq wars, and helping American citizens in every corner of the world who need the support of their government. Morale in the State Department, however, is at an all-time low and efforts to promote greater racial and ethnic diversity have failed just when the country needs women and men of all backgrounds as our primary link to nearly every country in the world. There are challenges to be met inside the Foreign Service, including an honest self-assessment of the Service’s internal culture.

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Announcement - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Harvard Kennedy School’s Future of Diplomacy Project Launches Initiative to Modernize U.S. Foreign Service for the 21st Century

| Apr. 01, 2020

The Future of Diplomacy Project at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center this week launched a new initiative, The American Diplomacy Project: A Foreign Service for the 21st Century.

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- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Welcome to New Senior Fellows

| Spring 2020

The Geopolitics of Energy project is pleased to welcome Adnan Amin as a Senior Fellow this year. Ambassador Marcie Ries, a career diplomat with nearly four decades of experience in the U.S. Foreign Service, served in Europe, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. Susan M. (Sue) Gordon was Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence until August 2019.