158. Report to Congress Prepared in the Department of State1


Report to the Congress on Plans for Improving and Simplifying the Personnel Systems of the Department of State and the United States Information Agency

[Omitted here is the table of contents.]

I. Introduction and Summary

To meet the demands of national policy in a time of change and growing complexity, the foreign affairs agencies must have an able and diverse corps of professionals. This requires a rational, effective management system which will attract and retain the wide range of talents essential for today’s diplomacy.

Shortly after World War II, the Congress legislated a new charter for the Foreign Service of the United States in the Foreign Service Act of 1946. It has served well in the thirty years since then as the basis for a professional, worldwide diplomatic service. In the ensuing years, however, the foreign affairs environment has changed greatly. Major issues have increasingly involved complex technological or economic questions and, with the growth of interdependence among nations, the link between domestic and foreign policy has grown closer. These changes have called for more varied skills and a stronger capacity in Washington. During these years, we have attempted repeatedly to find a personnel structure which would enable us to meet fully the special requirements of a Washington headquarters staff, to strengthen our capacity at home as well as abroad and to blend successfully our worldwide and domestic staffing requirements. A brief summary of major proposals for reform is contained in Section II.

Six years ago, following an internal review, the Department and USIA embarked on an effort to build a “single service” under the Foreign Service Act. The plan sought to reduce or eliminate the distinction between worldwide and domestic service at the officer level. Based on our experience since then, it is clear that we are still far from achieving a single service, and that in the process of trying to build one we have not [Page 550] been able to meet the legitimate career aspirations of our personnel or our own requirements.

In June 1975, the Secretary of State and the Director of USIA ordered a basic reexamination of the personnel system and structure.2 In the Congress, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 19773 called upon the Secretary to transmit to the Congress a comprehensive plan for the improvement and simplification of the personnel system.

The studies of personnel improvements within both the Department of State and the United States Information Agency4 and discussions between the two agencies have been based on the premise that to the extent possible the personnel systems of the Department and USIA should be compatible but that the different responsibilities of the two agencies may require some differences in the two personnel systems. Our studies have not examined possible unification of State, AID and USIA personnel categories. This question, we believe, would have to be considered in the context of proposals for governmental reorganization.

In parallel studies of the personnel system over the past 18 months, the current administration of the Department and USIA considered a number of options regarding basic personnel structure and concluded that we should seek to resolve our difficulties through an expanded use of existing Civil Service authorities for domestic positions and, as intended by the Foreign Service Act, continued use of Foreign Service authorities for both Foreign Service Officer and specialist needs for those personnel who serve worldwide.

The conclusion that the Department should expand its domestic system is based on the recognition that we need to create a working environment in which specialized, Washington-based, functional talents are respected and rewarded in a department given to a generalist tradition, an overseas orientation, and a regional pattern of organization. Headquarters needs are often different from overseas requirements. There are a number of specialized headquarters jobs, from arms control expert to systems analyst, which have few counterparts abroad. We need both continuity and mobility, generalist and specialist skills and career systems which will allow us to meet all of these needs effectively.

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Under this plan, which the current administration of the Department of State and USIA recommend to their successors,5 the FSO and FSIO corps would remain as the group of professionals conducting our overseas diplomacy and performing related functions while in Washington. The domestic service (GS) would serve in positions peculiar to headquarters and would not be required to serve overseas. As a result of these adjustments, the foreign affairs specialist category would thereafter cover only worldwide specialist careers, including several existing components, primarily Foreign Service Reserve Unlimited and Foreign Service Staff. As a result of personnel management analyses now in process, the category might also include certain specialized functions recently vested in the FSO Corps. In addition, the two agencies will utilize limited or temporary Foreign Service Reserve appointments to meet special, short term needs and to provide probationary status for potential Foreign Service career employees. A comparison of present and future personnel categories is shown in an attachment to this report.6

Past experience has shown that personnel reforms are difficult to implement in the best circumstances and require the full support and commitment of top management if they are to succeed. While simple in concept, effective implementation will require concerted management effort and sustained attention. Certain aspects of the system will be subject to review by the Board of the Foreign Service and consultation with authorized employee representatives prior to implementation.

II. Background

The question of the most appropriate personnel structure for the foreign affairs agencies of the government has been investigated repeatedly since 1946, usually in the course of broader examination of the foreign affairs system or of personnel problems as a whole. These reviews have been conducted by the Congress, by internal groups within the agencies, and by both official and private outside groups. Their conclusions have been mixed. Of the major reform initiatives, the first Hoover Commission (1949),7 the original Hays Bill (1965–66)8 and “Diplomacy for the 70’s” (1970)9 advocated an essentially unitary, world [Page 552] wide Foreign Service system. The Herter Committee (1962)10 recommended worldwide and domestic categories in a Foreign Service system. Three other major reports, however, by the Wriston Committee (1954), the 1968 AFSA report, “Toward a Modern Diplomacy,”11 and the Murphy Commission (1975),12 each explicitly favored continued use of a domestic category based on Civil Service authority. This was also an underlying premise of the 1946 Foreign Service Act itself.

In a more limited action following the failure of the Senate to pass the Hays Bill, PL 90–494 established the Foreign Service Information Officer Corps as a permanent career category for USIA, and created the Foreign Service Reserve Unlimited category for USIA and the Department of State.13 It did not, however, deal with the issue of overall personnel system structure and the use of the Civil Service category.

Thus, these studies, based on different perspectives and spanning three decades, represent two basic approaches to the question of personnel structure, one which emphasizes the advantages of a single system and the other the benefits of a diverse career system. Since 1971, the Department and USIA have followed a personnel policy based on the single service concept. Because of problems which have arisen in attempting to make this system work effectively, our recent study has examined again the advantages and implications of the two approaches.

III. Plan For A More Rational Personnel Structure

The objectives around which any sound personnel structure must be built can be stated simply: to determine the needs and functions of the institution and identify the human resources which best serve those needs. As a summary of past efforts (Part II) illustrates, the two agen-cies and outside groups have sought repeatedly to design an effective foreign affairs personnel system. Unlike some earlier studies which foundered on broad structural conclusions based on ideal solutions, in the recent review we have concentrated on determining our actual requirements and on identifying structural flaws which prevent us from meeting them. In this process, we have operated on four principles:

1. We must improve and clarify the definition of our staffing needs.

2. We must utilize equitable, competitive career systems which support those needs.

3. We must insure fairness for all people in the career service, and mobility among career categories.

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4. We must maintain our goal of an integrated, effective service to conduct our foreign relations.

Thus, we have sought to build a personnel structure that best assures our continued ability to serve national interest and one that is flexible enough to meet the future needs of American diplomacy without repeated reorganization. In the process we have attempted to assure also that no member of the service is disadvantaged as a result of changes required. We have been determined to build carefully from present circumstances, avoiding change for its own sake or symmetry for symmetry’s sake.

The Home Service

A central reality which no earlier study or plan has changed—although some may not have faced it fully—is the existence of a domestic category of people in the Department and USIA who supply essential skills and continuity of service which cannot be met effectively by a worldwide, mobile service.

Our examination of past efforts to create a single service has made clear that the Foreign Service Act cannot serve as an instrument to manage a domestic service. Efforts to implement this program have not been successful. Uniformity has not brought equity or management efficiency. Serious management and legal questions have arisen. In retrospect it is clear that the Foreign Service Act, designed for a generalist, disciplined, mobile officer corps, serving throughout the world, does not fit the career patterns and needs of individuals hired for specialized and essentially home service jobs in Washington. Nor was it evidently intended for this purpose. For example, under the Foreign Service promotion system it is possible for a subordinate to be promoted to a rank above his supervisor; while this is tolerable in a mobile, worldwide system where transfers are frequent, it is clearly undesirable where longer term staffing patterns prevail, as in the domestic corps.

Thus, barring substantial amendment of the Act, in concept as well as in provision, management of a domestic component in the foreign affairs agencies must rest, as it has in the past, on authority contained in the Civil Service system. Since several of the largest cabinet departments have successfully managed dual service systems, the foreign affairs agencies should not find this beyond them. We need a single management program but not necessarily a single structure.

Rebuilding the domestic service to provide needed skills and institutional stability and strength has involved substantial analysis and redesign. It has included extensive work in designating which functions and positions form the home service. In deciding this, we considered whether prior service abroad was essential to effective job performance, whether counterpart jobs exist abroad, the importance of conti [Page 554] nuity, the degree of specialization required and career needs. Rebuilding the domestic service also includes return to participation in the Civil Service recruitment program, improved mechanisms for promotion, assignment and training, and other elements in proper management of careers within Civil Service authorities and principles. All of these have tended to fall into disuse as we moved away in recent years from reliance upon a strong home service working alongside the Foreign Service.

As a corollary to definition of the home service, simplification of the personnel system around three integrated elements makes it possible to sharpen definition of the Foreign Service categories. The Foreign Service Officer Corps and the Foreign Service Information Officer Corps will continue to perform the core diplomatic, information and related functions. The foreign affairs specialist category will continue to provide career specialists to meet worldwide needs for skills in special professional fields, e.g. science, technology, trade development, and in support of the diplomatic effort. The specialist category, based on Foreign Service Act authorities, and henceforth including only personnel available for worldwide service, will operate under a career system which maintains stringent, competitive merit standards for recruitment, selection and other terms of service.

As a corollary to the clarity and simplicity of the three-category system, it is important to include methods for insuring mobility for individuals among the career categories on the basis of institutional needs and rigorous standards. Such flexibility will help to guard against parochialism or divisiveness and help to insure preservation of a truly coherent, integrated service. At the same time rigorous standards governing both new recruitment and conversion from one category to another will insure quality and the preservation of merit principles.

Finally, in designing an integrated system we have taken steps to assure the preservation of adequate career opportunities in each category and have developed policies to assure that individuals involved in the changeover will not be adversely affected.

The Department and USIA are aware that much time has been spent in developing an improved foreign affairs personnel system. We have, however, been motivated both by recognition of history of past efforts and by a determination to avoid the pitfalls of writing a grand design which may or may not accord with reality. We have, thus, sought for the proven and practical rather than the ideal and untested. We have built around existing authority. Thus, except for possible minor technical adjustments in the Foreign Service Act (which would be sought in due course) no legislative action would be required.

  1. Source: Department of State, Policy and Procedural Files of the Deputy Under Secretary for Management: Lot 79 D 63, M Chron, January 1977 D. No classification marking. Eagleburger forwarded the report to the President of the Senate, Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr. (D–Massachusetts), under separate covering memoranda dated January 12. (Ibid.)
  2. See Document 144.
  3. The Foreign Relations Authorization Act for FY 1977 was signed into law on July 12, 1976. (S. 3168; P.L. 94–350)
  4. See Documents 156 and 109, respectively.
  5. Under a December 27 covering memorandum, Ortiz forwarded a briefing paper on the Department’s organization and personnel issues to Anthony Lake of Carter’s Department of State transition team. See Document 223. The paper was one of a series of transition papers requested by Lake on November 24. See Document 221.
  6. Attached but not printed.
  7. See footnote 3, Document 154.
  8. See footnote 2, Document 156.
  9. See footnote 4, Document 154.
  10. See footnote 5, Document 154.
  11. See footnote 6, Document 154.
  12. See Document 147.
  13. P.L. 90–494 was signed by President Johnson on August 20, 1968.