One of the State Department’s most highly decorated veterans took the helm of the Foreign Service Institute on Friday as the training school for diplomats is stepping up its education of a new generation of future diplomats.
Daniel B. Smith was sworn in at the Arlington campus of the school. In September, Smith was named a career ambassador, a title given to only a handful of the State Department’s most accomplished diplomats. For the past four-and-a-half years, he has been the assistant secretary for intelligence and research and is a former ambassador to Greece.
FSI, the training academy for aspiring and midcareer State Department officers, has been run for the past year-and-a-half by an acting director, Marc Ostfield, who will become the State Department’s ombudsman.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has vowed to return “swagger” to the Foreign Service, which had been demoralized and shrinking under the leadership of Pompeo’s predecessor, Rex Tillerson. Budget cuts imposed by Tillerson had led to a brain drain as senior diplomats left, many feeling pushed out or fearing their career trajectories were blocked. At the same time, fewer young diplomats were entering for the orientation A-100 class taught at FSI.
The A-100 class that began in March, just before Tillerson was fired, had fewer than 40 students, compared to 80 enrolled in the next class that starts in November. Including the November class, FSI will train 546 new diplomats this year, compared to 473 last year.
Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, who swore in Smith and the new deputy director, Julieta Valls Noyes, said Pompeo’s goal is to make FSI a world-class training center for diplomats in the 21st century.
“FSI will be at the center of a true, long-term reinvestment in the department’s talent,” he said. “We must ensure that the State Department’s team can meet the needs of the American people well into the future.”
Nancy McEldowney, a former director of FSI, praised Smith’s appointment, saying he understands how federal agencies interact and has a level of familiarity with Pompeo developed during the secretary’s time leading the CIA and Smith’s tenure heading the intelligence bureau at State.
“That relationship can also prove invaluable as Dan, in his new role, becomes a voice for the career officials within the department, so many of whom are struggling with the policies and practices of this administration,” she said. “Career officials throughout the department are watching with horror as this administration tears down the institutions and the relationships that our country has spent decades building and are having a crisis of conscience as the values that drew them into public service are being eroded.”
Nicholas Kralev, executive director of the Washington International Diplomatic Academy, said morale had suffered at FSI as it went a year-and-a-half without a permanent director named. But he said many Foreign Service officers think President Trump and senior members of the administration do not value diplomacy, a view reinforced by Trump’s speech at the United Nations in September in which he denounced globalism.
“If you join the Foreign Service, by definition you are an internationalist,” he said. “The best thing Dan can do is make sure the Foreign Service is ready for what comes after Trump.”