166. Memorandum From the Director of the Foreign Service Institute (Springsteen) to the Acting Under Secretary of State for Management (Conlin), the Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Personnel (Barnes), and the Deputy Legal Adviser (Michel)1


  • Chapter VII of Draft Foreign Service Legislation

Today, FSI represents an approximately $20 million training effort annually, with about 40% of the student body from other agencies. Its legislative mandate2 is to provide training and instruction in foreign affairs to those in the Government for whom such training and instruction is necessary.

A major defect of the proposed legislation is that it ignores and undermines FSI’s inter-agency training role to the point that, in practice, that role would be almost completely eroded. The practical effect of the new legislation would be to encourage other agencies to develop their own training programs or find substitutes elsewhere. This, in turn, would sharply restrict FSI’s resource base, 40% of which comes from outside agencies. Thus both the range and timeliness of FSI’s training programs would be severely limited. With diminished numbers and frequency of course offerings, opportunities to provide the right training to the right officers at the right time would be disproportionately diminished.

Furthermore, the new legislation would undercut efforts to strengthen the Secretary’s leadership role in the foreign affairs community, a role that other sections of the draft legislation endeavor to strengthen.

There is a fundamental incompatibility between an Institute with a significant inter-agency training role and legislation that relegates it to the role of a training division within the Foreign Service personnel system, and whose principal purpose is “to promote career development within the Service.” The title of the Chapter itself is interesting: “Career Development, Training, and Orientation”; there is no mention of an institution. Further, career development is generally a personnel matter of which training is only one of many ingredients. Moreover, [Page 644] this weakened training branch would not be mandated by law (as at present) but would exist at the discretion of the Secretary.

The new legislation makes no mention of a Director for the Institute nor does it mandate leadership duties to such an official. The inference is clear: training is to be a subordinate aspect of the Department of State’s personnel work, and of such little import it can be handled at a low level.

The new legislation further underscores this new position of training by denying to the new Institute those basic authorizations contained in Section 704 of the current legislation permitting FSI to hire without regard to civil service laws and regulations. This means all our employees in the future must comply with such procedures. This would, for example, make the hire of language instructors virtually impossible on the urgent and as-needed basis that unforeseeable fluctuations in training requirements demand.

More generally, FSI’s position outside of but linked to the personnel system has been an essential element in the development of all of our recent innovations. The development of the 26-week economic course, ConGen Rosslyn and the new administrative training modules, for example, was possible because FSI could deal with authority with functional and regional bureaus. That situation would not exist if FSI is placed in a low level position under the operational control of PER.

The authorities of the current legislation relating to language designated positions (Section 578), and the policy of the Congress that COMs and FSOs have language and area knowledge of the area where they are to serve (Section 500), have been omitted. They provide the statutory base for much of our language and area programs.

Moreover, the demotion of training as an important function of the Department (and by inference of the entire foreign affairs community) is indicated by the inclusion of clearly non-training points in the new Section 704 on career counseling. Section (a) of that Section more properly belongs after the new Section 632 while (b) should follow the new Section 333.

Some of the foregoing defects (like the omission of Section 578) and others (like deletion of authority to accept gifts) can be readily rectified without fundamentally changing the thrust of the new legislation. Others cannot. If FSI’s identity and mandate to provide inter-agency training remains downgraded, as in the present draft, other agencies will turn elsewhere and FSI’s decline will become self-feeding and irreversible. Negative service attitudes toward training will be strengthened, thus furthering the erosion.

At a time when the need for training is becoming more rather than less apparent (current emphasis on language facility and on political [Page 645] reporting), this return to a post-Rogers Act3 (1929–1945) attitude toward training is difficult to understand. It is not conducive to strong Department leadership generally in the foreign affairs community and specifically in the training area. It is the antithesis of the deliberate effort of the authors of the 1946 Act regarding the Institute; they sought a “program of continuous training . . . directed by a strong central authority.”

Therefore, we propose to return to basics and at TAB A4 present a revised text based on the 1946 Act for use in the new legislation. We have built a strong inter-agency foundation under the F.S. Act, and now is the opportunity to go forward with new authority for the Secretary and a strengthened, not weakened, FSI.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Under Secretary for Management (M), 1978–1979, Box 8, Chron April 24–30, 1979. No classification marking.
  2. Reference to the Foreign Service Act of 1946 (P.L. 79–724).
  3. The Foreign Service Act of 1924 (Ch. 182, 43 Stat. 140 (May 24, 1924)), known as the Rogers Act, established a professional Foreign Service, which necessitated an examination for entry, provided salaries, established a training program, and provided retirement benefits.
  4. Attached but not printed.