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Cutting the Foreign Service Hurts America…and Silicon Valley

Original post made by Scott Kilner, Leland Manor/Garland Drive, on Nov 29, 2017

Foreign Service Officers and Specialists of the U.S. Department of State come from every corner of our society to promote and protect the interests of the United States and its citizens around the world as career diplomats.

These dedicated men and women serve at more than 240 posts in almost every country, including war zones in the Middle East and elsewhere. They open markets, defend intellectual property rights, and protect investements of U.S. businesses overseas, including countless Silicon Valley companies. Our diplomats also aid Americans citizens traveling abroad, resolve international conflicts peacefully, and work with other countries to fight international crime, combat the spread of disease and much, much more. The latest Congressional authorization bill notes that their work is "critical to the projection of American power and leadership worldwide,… and without which Americans would be less safe, {and} our economic power would be diminished...."

The current U.S. Administration insists that it seeks to bolster America’s presence in the world, including by making the State Department and the Foreign Service stronger. Sadly, recent actions are having the opposite effect.

At every level, the U.S. Foreign Service is being ravaged, with the damage most severe among the top leadership. State has lost some 40 percent of its Career Ambassadors (the civilian equivalent of four-star generals) and "three-star” equivalents since the beginning of the year. At lower levels, promotions are down and attrition is up.

At the entry-level, a self-imposed hiring freeze has slowed the intake of new talent to about one-quarter of last year’s level. Given a largely blocked entry path, the number of young Americans applying to take the entrance exam has fallen by half.

The bottom line: the ranks of our most experienced career professionals are being decimated, while the career paths to replace those hard-earned diplomatic, cultural and language skills are being severely constricted and America's interests are being put in peril for years to come.

Why and to what end is this happening? With bipartisan support, Congress rejected drastic cuts to the State Department budget, with the Senate labeling the Administration’s proposed cuts a “doctrine of retreat.” Similarly, Secretary of Defense James Mattis recently stated that “the more we put into the State Department’s diplomacy, ...the less we have to put into a military budget.” He understands that in a world of increasing complexity, threat and opportunity, diplomacy is a vital and lower-cost way to advance America’s interests.

I can attest from my 32 years as a career diplomat under five Presidents of both parties that the Foreign Service is a politically neutral institution. Its women and men are dedicated to serving the national interest by promoting the policies of our democratically elected leaders. The Foreign Service needs support to carry out that work now and for the years to come.

U.S. diplomats are grateful for the support that Congress has shown for the work of the Department of State and I urge Palo Altans to express your support to our elected representatives and in public for maintaining a strong Foreign Service.

Scott Kilner is a recently retired career Foreign Service Officer and a Board Member of the Foreign Service Association of Northern California

Comments (1)

Posted by Pelper
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 29, 2017 at 4:34 pm

For the TL;DR crowd, Scott is implying:

Diplomats are cheaper than bullets.

Thank you for your service, Mr Kilner.

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