215. Memorandum From the Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Personnel (Barnes) to the Under Secretary of State for Management (Read)1


  • Affirmative Action

The attached report at TAB A presents some of the basic issues that were discussed at a meeting on November 30 with a group of officers who entered the Service through one of the two Affirmative Action programs. The meeting, which was chaired by John Burroughs and Ron Palmer, was one of several efforts made by PER/FCA with M/EEO within the past few weeks to carry out the consensus reached at our Airlie House Conference2 for finding more effective ways to carry out the Affirmative Action Program.

Attached at TAB B3 is a follow-up report on three specific cases ([3 names not declassified]) which created concern at the meeting.

[less than 1 line not declassified] have now been cited in a TLG4 letter to the Secretary dated December 15 (TAB C).5

[Page 896]

Tab A

Memorandum From the Director of the Office of Foreign Service Career Development and Assignments (Palmer) to the Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Personnel (Barnes)6


  • Affirmative Action Problems and Plans


John Burroughs and I met November 30 with 16 present and former participants in the FSR/JO and Mid-Level Programs. Doug Watson and Joyce Smith, who are responsible for the FCA Affirmative Action effort, Idris Rossell of PER/PE, Charlie Tanguy, Georgiana Prince and Margaret Anderson of M/EEO, and Mike Durkee sat in. John Gravely of M/MO attended as well as Glenn Mabray of REE/EMP. The stated purpose of the meeting was to discuss draft letters and information sheets which John Burroughs and the FCA staff have drafted and intend to send to all people now on the rolls who came in under either of the special hiring programs, in an effort to zero in on the problems the FSR/JO’s and Mid-Level entrants face in becoming successful FSO’s. The purpose of the letter is to get more specific information from recipients on what they think their problems are so that we can attempt to undertake more individualized counseling in an effort to help them to survive better in the system. (Package attached at TAB A).7

The meeting was characterized by candor. Specific cases dominated the discussion but proved to be useful prisms through which to view the overall situation. There are problems. Personnel and the Department are not trusted. Among blacks, there is a perception that EEO entrants are persistently discriminated against. We have already started to try to deal with some of the most glaring problem areas, but others [Page 897] are more long-range or fundamental; attitudes as well as policies may have to be changed. This memo notes certain items we can and will work on now and also flags some of the longer-term problems.


This is not an all-inclusive list of problems discussed in the meeting, or those which others might raise. But there were several major and interrelated problem sets, as illustrated by several specific cases which were volunteered.

1. Lateral Entry Exam

It is very clear that the lateral entry exam is seen as an unnecessary, arbitrary, and even discriminatory hurdle. The process itself is not fully understood by many of those subject to it, but the strong consensus at the meeting was that it operates in a way which does not properly reflect what people have done on assignments and which does not clearly relate to what is needed to be successful in the Service. [2 names not declassified] described their recent unsuccessful exams and drew considerable peer support for their contention that they were not given a fair shot.

[name not declassified] case is troubling because it suggests that the conduct of the exam was not all it should have been. He is a bright, articulate and vigorous person who should be able to excel in an oral exam situation. [name not declassified] on the other hand, claims that his oral exam was unfair because the Department failed to provide assignment opportunities which would enable him to develop the knowledge and skills needed to pass it. This falls into the category of career development, which is discussed below.

2. Tenure/Promotion

The FSR/JO’s, like most other junior officers, remain puzzled about the tenure process, especially as it relates to the lateral entry exam. We hope that the information prepared by FCA/JO will help answer these questions, and we intend to provide the same information to the Mustangers. With adequate explanation, there should be no major problem with the tenure process per se, but several participants argued that there is double jeopardy for FSR/JO’s, in that they face the lateral entry exam as well as the tenure review.

The instant case is that of [name not declassified] who believes that he, as an FSR/JO who converted to FSO–6 through the lateral exam, has been held back in terms of promotion to O–5 because he is still untenured after five years in the Service. (He is in no immediate danger, having five years to pass the threshold after converting to FSO in 1976.)

A more complex problem was raised by several of the people who had successfully converted and were now FSO–5s. Their perception is [Page 898] that, relative to their A–1008 classmates who entered as FSO’s, they have been promoted more slowly. Although suspicions were voiced about prejudice in OERs or by selection boards, there was no clear consensus that there was an institutional problem amenable to policy or procedural changes. Several participants argued that black officers were affected most severely, other minorities or women less so.

3. Career Development and Counseling

While the subject of career development did not come up as an explicit problem area, the burden of [name not declassified] complaint, as well as side comments by others, is that the Department does not provide proper developmental opportunities or advice. Specifically, [name not declassified]—and others—believe that the Department has an obligation to give people a range of experiences so that they will be prepared to handle the range of questions in the lateral entry exam, covering all aspects of Foreign Service work. They also believe that they receive conflicting or misleading information about positions, language probation, and promotion prospects.

The [name not declassified] case provides evidence that we need to do better; it also illustrates that not everyone can be a winner in what remains, after all, a competitive system. [name not declassified] spent two years doing visa work at Toronto as his first tour, then came back at his request and spent nearly four years in the Visa Office. He has wanted to remain in Washington and was not accepted for several possible assignments out of VO. Despite specific advice before and after his first try in 1977 at the lateral exam, there is no evidence that he did much to prepare himself in non-consular areas; on the second lateral exam try in September, he was found inadequate even in consular matters.

4. Mid-Level Program

While much of the discussion centered on the FSR/JO Program, the Mid-Level FSR’s confirmed that they need more help, too. Career counseling was identified as an essential ingredient, especially counseling that gave a better perspective of the institution and culture of the Service, well beyond assignment matters. The need for initial training/orientation was also stressed, both as a way to learn who does what to whom and as a way to start building contacts.

One salutary note—of the seven Mid-Level entry officers at the meeting, two recent entries felt the A–100 orientation in which they participated was extremely useful. As you are aware, we are now [Page 899] timing the entry of Mid-Level hires to permit their participation in this course.


As the list of problems herein is not all-inclusive, neither are our recommended actions. To move sensibly towards implementation of a comprehensive action plan will require more time and effort on our part. Let me note several steps I think we can now take.

1. Analysis and comparison of promotion rates for minority program JO’s with all other JO’s

Working with John Burroughs’ staff, MGT/HRM and MGT/OS, we should be able to capture this data. If the promotion rates of minority JO’s are significantly lower (and this is indeed the perception of minority officers), then we may attempt to discover ways to remedy this, more particularly so if the degree of difference constitutes an “adverse impact” on minority personnel. Actions could range from exhortations to rating and reviewing officers, to additional language and other training, to creation of a point system to improve the rank ordering of minority personnel on lists submitted by Selection and/or Commissioning & Tenure Boards. The first step clearly is to obtain the data and make promotion rate comparisons.

2. Identification of and counseling by more senior minority personnel (using the role model)

I’m not quite sure how to go about this, but I’d like to urge the attention of all mid and senior level officers (including minority officers) to take an interest in the supervision, counseling and career development of all junior officers (including minority officers). In the most acceptable yet forthright way, I’d particularly want to emphasize this challenge to senior minority and women officers. I have not quite figured out how but we need to ask such officers to join in our outreach program.

A first step in this direction might be a first person cable from you to all Ambassadors and DCMs (and a personal letter to all Assistant and Deputy Assistant Secretaries) urging them to take a more aggressive interest in the development of all junior officers, with particular concern for the counseling and career development of minority, women and mustang personnel. I think our basic theme would be that study of the overall junior officer situation indicates a serious need to improve the supervision and counseling of such officers at the workplace.

3. Apparent inconsistency between evaluations by BEX lateral boards, Selection Boards and Commissioning & Tenure Boards

Various “horror” stories were cited at our meeting: an officer who passed the lateral, yet failed the C&T Board; another who received [Page 900] tenure, but failed the subsequent lateral exam. The second lateral (the abolishment of which is now pending our and AFSA’s concurrence) is clearly seen by minority officers as redundant and unfair. Even should it be abolished for future entrants, it still will apply to those minority and mid-level officers now on board. It would seem that officers recommended for tenure should by virtue of demonstrated performance be defined as career material. The lateral entry exam should be waived for these personnel. Any question regarding their suitability has effectively been answered. Similarly it would seem that those officers who have successfully passed the lateral exam hurdle, demonstrating interpersonal skills, substantive knowledge, synthesizing and analytic ability, as well as some intangible savoir faire, should be judged as fit for career status as FSO’s, hence imminently tenureable. Tenure status should be awarded them on passing the lateral exam.

I understand that these possibilities have been studied earlier and that there are problems of implementation, but I believe we should take another look.

4. Additional focus by PER travellers on JO’s

Our PER travellers, fully briefed on EEO concerns, should meet one-on-one with all JO’s, and take special interest in minority officers. This extra attention is in my view easily justifiable. Minority officers are in a unique situation, and our investment in them as individuals, and in the Affirmative Action program, merit special efforts for their retention and development. Our travellers should identify these personnel prior to departing Washington, and be fully briefed by JO and conal CDO’s on each officer, with special attention to problem situations. At post their in and out-briefings with the Ambassador and DCM should address JO’s, and especially all minority officers. On return to Washington each traveller should submit a short paper on discussions with each minority officer to the appropriate CDO.

We should likewise ask S/IG to give similar attention to minority officers during inspections.

The cost in time and attention do not appear inordinate, but more importantly, we can’t afford not to follow through with our interest in these personnel.

5. Specific cases for consideration

Finally, with regard to [3 names not declassified] we are studying their cases to determine whether remedial action is warranted. Our lateral entry/tenure recommendation would take care of [name not declassified]. Perhaps [name not declassified] case has gone too far for us to be helpful. It appears [name not declassified] case may be worth taking a closer look. I shall prepare reports on these cases to share with you. [Page 901] I think if one or more of these cases could be put back on the tracks our credibility would be improved. We have little credibility with this group now.


We are moving perhaps slowly, but, I hope, surely. And, we are sharpening our focus on a couple of areas where we can take positive steps. Improvement in our Affirmative Action efforts, as in many other personnel management concerns, will come about largely through doing more of what we are doing, doing it consistently and doing it better until, as the old saw goes, we finally get it right.

With this paper perhaps as a focal point you may wish to have a meeting to discuss areas of concern, identify actions we are taking, and describe plans and responsibilities for further implementation. Some of the Airlie House participants and M/EEO staff might attend. Also, considering Ben’s9 participation in the Airlie House Conference and interest in our Affirmative Action program, you may wish to share the material in this package with him to foster further discussion. A draft memo to Ben is attached at TAB B.10

At TAB C11 I have also attached for your information a memo just received from M/EEO illustrating the status of 22 minority officers, some of whom are in difficult straits regarding the lateral exam and/or tenure. We may wish to focus our efforts towards assisting several of these officers.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Under Secretary for Management (M), 1978–1979, Box 5, Chron December 14–18, 1978. No classification marking. Printed from an unsigned copy.
  2. Not further identified.
  3. Attached but not printed.
  4. Thursday Luncheon Group.
  5. Attached but not printed.
  6. No classification marking. Drafted on December 7 by Joyce A Smith, Michael L. Durkee, and Douglas K. Watson. Sent through Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Personnel Nancy Rawls and Gershenson. Copies were sent to Burroughs, Rawls, Gershenson, Arthur Woodruff (PER/FCA), Douglas Watson (FCA/ARA), Joyce Smith (FCA/ARA), Michael Durkee (FCA/JO), Kang Huang (DGP/PC), Dudley Miller (PER/REE), Glenn Mabray (PER/REE/REC/SP), Richard Moon (PER/PE), Philip Bourbon (PER/CCA), Anthony Kern (DG/EM), Lawrence Russell (PER/MGT), Harrell Fuller (PER/MGT/HRM), and Ronald Main (PER/MGT/OS). Printed from an unsigned copy.
  7. Attached but not printed.
  8. A–100 is the designation of the FSO orientation class at the Foreign Service Institute.
  9. Ben Read.
  10. Attached but not printed.
  11. Attached but not printed.