The State Department wants to create more training, advancement and recruitment opportunities to bolster its employees with specialized skills. (AFP/Getty Images)
The State Department wants to create more training, advancement and recruitment opportunities to bolster its cadre of employees with specialized skills and improve America's diplomatic power, according to a new report.
The first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, released Wednesday, said State and the U.S. Agency for International Development must rely on both traditional skills and specialized knowledge — such as arms control, police training, counter-radicalization, public health and food security — to meet today's challenges in volatile areas such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. The government has nearly doubled the number of employees in those three countries — from almost 2,600 to more than 5,000 — since 2006, and expects to have 6,396 there by 2012.
"In the short term, the personnel reforms undertaken through the QDDR will begin to change the face and pace of our global engagement," the report said. "In the long term, they will deliver on the promise of a global service that reflects these attributes."
In the report, USAID said it would ask the Office of Personnel Management for Schedule B direct hiring authorities — which would allow the agency to quickly hire without going through the normal, lengthy competitive process — to fill jobs under unusual or special circumstances, or to bring on employees who have unique and necessary skills. Currently, USAID often has to rely on interagency agreements and costly contractors to fill crucial gaps in its expertise.
State and USAID also plan to expand fellowship programs that temporarily bring experts on board for little or no cost. Under the Franklin Fellows program, for example, professionals serve one-year tours at State or USAID and continue to be paid by their home institutions. The government gets the fellows' service and expertise essentially for free, and the fellows gain valuable experience and insight into the world of diplomacy.
State and USAID also will expand the use of limited-term authorities to bolster the Foreign Service with experts from their civil service ranks, other agencies, Foreign Service retirees, and from organizations outside the government.
USAID will also create a career path for technical Foreign Service officers — who often miss out on promotion opportunities because their assignments are narrowly focused — to give them better opportunities to rotate into new assignment and clear opportunities for promotion into the Senior Foreign Service.
State and USAID also will focus on recruiting potential employees with experience in science and technology, security, law, macroeconomics, gender issues, environmental issues, and humanitarian assistance. The report said the agencies will recruit from professional, educational and other groups that include people with such skills.
State will upgrade its outdated Employee Profile + system so it can keep track of employees' skills and experience. This will allow the agencies to quickly deploy people with vital skills in a crisis.
"With these improvements, we will not again face the situation we did in September 2001, when it took us weeks to determine how many Arabic speakers we had and where they were assigned," the report said.
State and USAID also plan to tie training to promotion.
USAID is planning to expand its two-month Development Studies Program, which now covers midcareer Foreign Service personnel, to include junior and senior employees, as well as select civil service and foreign national employees. This program will teach employees about the latest development theory and training and aims to prepare employees for advancement.