Letter to the Editor

The State Department needs its Civil Service

Susan R. Johnson, Ronald E. Neumann and Thomas R. Pickering may or may not have a point about political appointees in the foreign policy process [“Bring back professional diplomacy,” Washington Forum, April 12], but their implied criticism of the State Department’s Civil Service was misplaced. The department’s two main personnel systems, Foreign Service and Civil Service, both have critical functions, and they must work together as equals to meet the challenge of protecting U.S. interests on a rapidly changing geostrategic stage. 

The department’s first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, released in 2010, emphasized the need for the traditional Foreign Service “to lead and manage in the face of the unexpected” as well as the “specialized expertise” more commonly developed in the Civil Service in fields such as energy, counterterrorism, refugees, international finance and food security.

Diplomacy has changed in the past 20 years, with more hardship and high-threat posts and more direct engagement on complex technical and scientific issues. To be successful, the State Department needs both a strong Foreign Service and a strong Civil Service.

Jeremy Curtin, Bethesda

The writer, a retired Foreign Service officer, is a consultant to the State Department on personnel matters.

 
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