167. Letter From the Chairman of the Board of the Foreign Service (Newsom) to Secretary of State Vance1

Dear Mr. Secretary:

The Board of the Foreign Service has held a series of meetings on the proposed Foreign Service restructuring. In the course of several sessions, we have discussed the matter with Management, ICA, and AID, as well as the employee organizations, AFGE and AFSA.

In my capacity as Chairman of the Board, I am sending to Under Secretary Read the results of the Board’s deliberations on the restructuring plan based on our understanding of these proposals as of April 19. I attach a copy for your perusal.2

In general, the Board has agreed that it is desirable to make some major changes in the current Foreign Service structure. The Board [Page 646] endorses the proposal to move to a unified pay scale, the principle that Foreign Service personnel should be subject to overseas duty and the establishment of a rigorous senior threshold process. The Board has serious reservations about performance pay, the period of time allowed for officers to cross the threshold into the senior ranks of the Service and the automatic adoption of a system of three-year renewable contracts for all personnel who have reached the top of their career ladders.

The Board advises that any request for legislation should be held until the results of the current pay comparability study3 are received. Furthermore, the Board recommends that the timing of the submission of legislation should be designed to ensure that the bill will receive maximum support from the Service. The Board also urges that thorough advance consultation be undertaken to ensure that the climate in the Congress will be favorable to such a major reorganization of the Foreign Service.

The Board, in its deliberations, has also considered what its future role should be. There is no other forum in which all of the agencies using or represented by the Foreign Service now meet. The suggestion has been made that new legislation should once again put the Board on a statutory basis. We believe that the Board’s effectiveness as an advisor to you on Foreign Service matters could be enhanced if this were done. I am enclosing draft statutory language4 which will provide a legislative basis for the Board while ensuring that its composition and functions (to be elaborated by Executive Order) will be kept under the control of the President and yourself.

Depending on your own views, we would see the role of the Board in a restructure plan as follows:

1. To serve as an advisory body to you and the Directors of ICA and AID, or its successor agency, with respect to policies governing the administration and personnel management of the Service, including hiring, assignment, rating, promotion, selection-out and retirement policies and procedures; (Note: AID does not currently come under the jurisdiction of the Board with respect to matters pertaining to the labor/management relations system. While the Board is unanimous in recommending that AID be subject to the Board’s jurisdiction in all matters falling under the Board’s authority, this is a question which would have to be reviewed by the director of any successor agency to AID.)

2. To review the implementation of Foreign Service responsibilities toward user agencies;

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3. To ensure that the personnel policies of the Department of State, ICA and AID are as compatible as possible;

4. To ensure that in considering personnel policies for the Foreign Service the impact of such policies on the Civil Service elements of the Foreign Affairs agencies, and developments and trends in personnel policies in the Civil Service are adequately taken into account;

5. To provide a forum for a review of problems common to the Foreign Affairs agencies;

6. To oversee the functioning of the labor/management relations structure, including disputes, unfair labor practice complaints, consultability issues, and elections for representation rights;.

A full list of the current membership of the Board is enclosed.5

We will welcome your comments on how the Board can most effectively serve you and participate in the strengthening of the Foreign Service.


David D. Newsom
Board of the Foreign Service
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Under Secretary for Management (M), 1978–1979, Box 8, Chron May 1–7, 1979. No classification marking.
  2. Not found attached.
  3. Not found.
  4. Not found attached.
  5. Not found attached.