161. Memorandum From the Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Personnel (Barnes) to Secretary of State Vance 1
Your Meeting with the FSO Group
You have agreed to meet with a small group of FSOs 2 who represent the 500-some officers who signed a letter (attached) expressing concern over the state of the Service.
This is a serious group. It came together spontaneously. Originally there were 46 signers, mostly mid-level officers, many of whom work on the sixth and seventh floors and are highly regarded.
The total list of signatures is generally representative of all four cones.3 Among them are Ambassadors, Deputy Assistant Secretaries and The President of the Consular Officers Association. A high proportion of women and some minorities signed. No effort was made to gather signers from overseas although some signatures emerged from the Asian Chiefs of Mission meeting.4
The group has taken care to proceed as responsibly as possible. They provided your office with an advance copy of the letter on December 285 before opening it to wider endorsement. They sought to prevent leaks to the press and none have occurred. Their approach is positive and supportive, not confrontational.
Who Will Attend
We do not know exactly whom the group will select to meet with you, but some or most of these core members will be there:[Page 622]
|Ken Quinn||Special Assistant to Dick Holbrooke|
|Alan Romberg||Policy Planning Staff|
|Adrienne Stefan||EUR/Soviet Affairs|
|Jim Shinn||Special Assistant to George Vest|
|Judy Kaufmann||Staff Assistant, EUR|
|Ann Darbyshire||Secretariat Staff|
The group is not connected with AFSA (although they have expressed a readiness to work with AFSA after meeting with you). An AFSA representative—probably President Lars Hydle—has been invited to attend as an observer. Because AFSA is not fully involved, the group understands that it would not be appropriate for them to ask you to make any commitments on specific personnel policies or procedures.
The Group’s Concerns
First, and most fundamentally, the group fears that the basic principles and practices of the Foreign Service—as defined and envisioned by the Congress in the Foreign Service Act of 19466—are endangered. They point to the decision of the court in Bradley v. Vance 7 that found no meaningful difference between a Foreign Service career and domestic Civil Service employment. And they fear that Congressional or Administration proposals on personnel reorganization designed to deal with the vast Federal bureaucracy might, without intending to, do lasting damage to the Foreign Service.
Second, they believe that a variety of problems inside the Foreign Service system—promotions, assignments, selection-out8—could, if not attended to, lead to stagnation, impairing the ability of the Service to perform its mission effectively.
Although the group probably will want to review a range of such specific problems with you, they are not looking for quick fixes; they know, for example, that traditional promotion rates may never be fully restored.
They hope the meeting will result in:
—Your endorsement of the Foreign Service and its underlying principles. This may include their asking you to speak on behalf of the Service to the President or leaders of Congress if necessary and to the extent you feel able.[Page 623]
—Your approval of an ongoing effort involving members of the group with the management of the Department and AFSA to address some of the specific issues in a comprehensive manner.
Since the group representatives are prepared to speak first, I suggest you let them make all their points before responding.
You may wish to make these points in response:
—You recognize and place a high value on the quality and commitment of the Foreign Service. There is no doubt of the nation’s need for the institution. You are committed to do all you can to ensure that the Service is staffed and managed so that it can effectively carry out its responsibilities.
—No one should doubt, however, that we are in a period of considerable social and organizational change. The Foreign Service must expect to be affected by, and respond to, these changes. (Although they used the word “quotas” at one point in their letter as an element that troubled them, we believe their legitimate concerns are much wider.)
—You are determined to do what is necessary in both regards: to ensure that the Service does not lag behind when change is needed—and to defend the fundamental principles without which the Service cannot do its job. In this last regard you are personally involved in the effort to appeal the Bradley vs. Vance decision and have followed the deliberations at Justice closely. You are pleased to report that the lawyer assigned to the case has recommended to the Solicitor General that he file the appeal.
—It is easy to agree with principles articulated in the group’s letter; in fact, hard to take issue with any. But it’s another thing to find sensible steps to ameliorate the situation, and you hope they will develop more specific suggestions.
—In this regard, the Department’s management has been and will continue to work with AFSA on most of the specific problems and questions underlying the general issues expressed in their letter. We regard it as essential that we continue to work with AFSA in this way. Your view and concerns on the issues you have raised are important to both AFSA and management.
—There are basic recognitions that we all share: The importance of the Foreign Service and the need to both preserve and improve it; the need to ensure that our various policy goals do not work at cross-purposes and are capable of being soundly implemented; and the indispensable requirement of greater participation and communication among all those who are committed to the Service and to solving its problems.[Page 624]
—The fact that such a group as this has formed and come forward is a positive sign. You value their ideas and hope they will reinforce AFSA’s efforts with the Department.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Under Secretary for Management (M), 1977–1978, Box 8, Chron January 1978. No classification marking. Sent through Read. An unknown hand initialed the memorandum on Barnes’s behalf.↩
- No minutes of this meeting were found.↩
- Cones are Foreign Service career tracks that must be designated at the time the Foreign Service exam is taken. The four cones are consular, diplomatic, economic, and management.↩
- Held January 5–6 in Hong Kong.↩
- Not found.↩
- P.L. 79–724.↩
- Bradley v. Vance , 436 F.Supp. 134 (D.D.C. 1977).↩
- The Foreign Service Act of 1946 instituted a “selection out” process, in which Foreign Service officers who failed to be promoted within a prescribed amount of time were forced out of the Foreign Service.↩
- No classification marking.↩