Amb. Barbara Stephenson, president of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), a union for US international service personnel, wrote the letter for the December difficulty of the group’s publication.
“While I do my best, as principal advocate for our institution and as a seasoned American diplomat, to model responsible, civil discourse,” she wrote, “there is simply no denying the warning signs that point to mounting threats to our institution — and to the global leadership that depends on us.”
“There is no denying that our leadership ranks are being depleted at a dizzying speed, due in part to the decision to slash promotion numbers by more than half,” she wrote, noting 60 p.c of profession ambbadadors have left the State Department since January, with equally dramatic attrition on the subsequent most senior ranges.
Career ambbadadors are essentially the most elite US diplomats within the international service. Fewer than 60 people have attained the rank because it was instituted in 1955. Of the 5 individuals who held the rank at first of the administration, three have since retired.
In her letter, Stephenson lamented the division’s partial hiring freeze, which has slowed the consumption of junior international service officers.
“As the shape and extent of the staffing cuts to the Foreign Service at State become clearer,” Stephenson wrote, “I believe we must shine a light on these disturbing trends and ask ‘why?’ and ‘to what end?'”
Stephenson didn’t single out Secretary of State Rex Tillerson or President Donald Trump within the letter, however mentioned that “the need to make the case for the Foreign Service with fellow Americans and our elected representatives has taken on a new urgency.”
The State Department is attributing the current dip to its ongoing reorganization effort.
“The goal of the redesign has always been to find new ways to best leverage our team’s brains, ingenuity and commitment to serving our nation’s interests,” a State Department official advised CNN in a press release. “AFSA and other employee groups are important partners in the redesign effort. As has been said many times before, the freezes on hiring, promotions, are only temporary while we study how to refine our organization.”
However, the official added, “suggestions that drastic cuts to our foreign service ranks are taking place are simply not accurate.”
The general variety of diplomats serving the State Department is just like final yr when people pending congressional affirmation are included, the official famous, and there was a decline in potential new international officers taking the doorway examination.
“Secretary Tillerson remains fully committed to the success of our team, the professional development of the foreign service and America’s global leadership,” the official added. “These facts will again be reinforced once the freezes on personnel movement, including hiring, are lifted at the appropriate time.”