DR. RUTH A WHITESIDE
DIRECTOR GENERAL OF THE FOREIGN SERVICE AND
DIRECTOR OF HUMAN RESOURCES
STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD
SENATE GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
SUBCOMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL SECURITY, PROLIFERATION, AND
MARCH 12, 2002, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 342
Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman.
I welcome the opportunity to appear before this
subcommittee on behalf of Under Secretary for Management Grant
Green and the Director General of the Foreign Service and
Director of Human Resources Amb. Ruth A. Davis. Mr. Green is making a long-planned trip to Africa, and
Director General Davis is in the hospital.
I am therefore appearing on their behalf.
Mr. Chairman, in commenting on the particular bill under
consideration by this subcommittee, I would like to provide you
with a few general comments about what the State Department is
doing – right now, with money Congress appropriated last fall
– to improve our ability to recruit and retain the top talent
we require to further our nation’s diplomatic interests.
The most important point I would like to make, Mr.
Chairman, is that our diplomacy must be seen as part of the U.S.
national security strategy. If anyone had any doubt about this,
I hope that the events of September 11 have erased them
Our diplomats and our diplomacy are an essential part of our
great nation’s security and prosperity.
Whether it is in Afghanistan or Zimbabwe, our diplomats
are defending our interests and telling America’s story.
Secretary Powell likes to say that our diplomats are the
country’s “first line of offense.”
As you know, he doesn’t like to play defense.
Secretary Powell has also said that we can not
subordinate the needs of people to the demands of policy.
He pays enormous attention to the management and morale
of our people, from presiding at swearing-in ceremonies for new
officers to swearing in our ambassadors.
The Secretary is a very visible presence among his
“troops,” and the energy and sense of loyalty and commitment
his leadership has generated is palpable throughout the
Last winter, when the Secretary looked over our
“corporate balance sheet,” he saw that the Department faced
a serious shortage of people.
There were not enough people to give the Department a
“training float,” something the military has built into its
staffing pattern, for example.
If you will allow me a brief personal digression here, I
can tell you that as deputy director of the Foreign Service
Institute from 1997 to 2001, I was constantly faced with the
problem of ambassadors or deputy chiefs of mission calling up to
ask that someone be pulled out of training in order to fill an
urgent staffing gap in the Department or overseas.
I long ago concluded that this “rob Peter to pay
Paul” approach is neither healthy for the institution nor good
for the officer's effectiveness and morale, so I was delighted
to see the Secretary tackle this issue from his very first weeks
The Secretary also determined that we didn’t have enough
people to deal with the cutting edge issues of diplomacy, such
as the environment, transnational crime, narcotics, HIV/AIDS,
critical infrastructure protection, and of course terrorism.
Last spring, well before the events of September 11, he
sent the Congress a three-year plan – the Diplomatic Readiness
Initiative -- to deal with the problem. The Congress responded
favorably, passing Year One of the Initiative last fall.
All of us in the Department thank you for this.
We are now busy implementing that program.
It has meant ramping up our recruitment, hiring, and
training effort. It
has meant finding more mentors and guides for our new officers.
It means thinking of innovative ways to make the
Department more family friendly, and to help spouses who
accompany our people overseas to find employment opportunities. It has allowed us to do what we have long wanted to do –
train more in such vital areas as languages, tradecraft, science
and technology, and leadership and management.
This latter issue is one which is getting attention like
We are eager to show you that this vote of confidence in
the Department is fully justified.
We are determined to use the new resources wisely to
recruit widely, train more effectively, represent U.S. interests
appropriately, and be prepared to meet new challenges.
Mr. Chairman, this is the context in which the Student
Loan Repayment Program fits, at least with regard to the State
Department. It has
to be seen as part of our overall recruitment and retention
The Department continues to attract a large pool of
patriotic, talented, and committed people.
It is a source of particular pride and satisfaction that
the events of September 11 have if anything increased the number
of people willing to serve our country.
I can report to you that over 12,000 people took last
September’s Foreign Service entrance exam, including the
largest number of minority applicants ever.
For this April’s iteration of the exam, we are also
experiencing a high level of interest.
It is clear that some of these applicants come to us with
fairly heavy education bills.
We all know that a first-class education in the U.S. can
be very expensive. Many
of our applicants and employees have student loans, and the
prospect of assistance with those obligations is indeed a
valuable and useful tool for us, especially as we work to
implement the Secretary’s goal of making the Department of
State “look more like America” by increasing access to the
Foreign Service for Americans from modest financial backgrounds.
At present, we are designing our Student Loan Repayment
Program to target recruiting and retention in chronically
difficult to staff skills and positions.
We support fully this Committee’s efforts to help
Federal agencies attract and retain certain skilled employees
through a student loan repayment program. We would also like to urge you to give consideration to
the following factors:
First, it may be simpler and more efficient to modify the
existing Student Loan Repayment Program rather than create new
or overlapping different programs.
the legislation to be really effective, it needs to give the
respective agencies sufficient discretion to frame their
eligibility and participation criteria, and administer their
programs in order to deal with their unique recruitment and
retention problems. This
is one area where one size definitely does not fit all.
Mr. Chairman, with regard to the graduate fellows program
in the legislation we applaud the intention; I would like to
describe how we use current such programs for recruitment.
On the Foreign Service side, we have the Pickering
Foreign Affairs Fellows. The
Secretary likes to call this his “ROTC for the Foreign
Service.” It allows us to fund education for outstanding young
people who then commit to serving in the Foreign Service.
It has been a very effective recruitment tool for us,
especially in attracting minorities into the Foreign Service.
We also have the Fascell Fellows program which allows
Fellows at the graduate school level in certain foreign
languages and area studies to serve in Embassies abroad on
limited appointments. We
consider this a recruitment tool and encourage Fascell Fellows
to seek permanent employment with the Department in both the
Foreign Service and Civil Service.
We also draw heavily on the Presidential Management
Intern program, which produces outstanding new Civil Service
employees who have relevant masters degree-level education.
I would like to refer you to another outstanding current
program--the National Security Education Program (NSEP). The
NSEP has an international focus, and the program includes a
foreign language requirement. One in four of the awards is in areas such as engineering,
the applied sciences, or health.
In considering the
intention of the legislation before the committee, and our
experiences, we believe that the key to these programs is for
there to be Department control over the process so that
selection of positions and employees can be best tailored to the
We also note that programs which pay for education are
better benefits for the agency when they are linked to permanent
With regard to the National Security Service Corps portion of
the legislation, we believe the concept of the proposal is
sound. We do have authorities to allow for and encourage
cross-pollination between the national security agencies.
We believe this is important and therefore send our
employees on details to other agencies - as advisors to regional
Commanders in Chief, to the National Security Council, to
Congress - as well as participate in exchange agreements, such
as with the Department of Defense, so that we benefit from
having their employees here. We believe that these are very beneficial programs that
should continue to be encouraged.
You asked us to address the Department’s needs in the areas of
math, science and languages.
Language skills are essential for many of our thousands
of overseas American positions, and to a much lesser, but
growing, extent science expertise is important.
However, because of the generalist nature and worldwide
availability required for all candidates, these particular
skills are not a requirement for hiring of our Foreign Service
we do recruit heavily among groups where language-qualified
Americans are likely to be found, such as at universities with
strong language programs, and at annual meetings of the Foreign
Likewise, we are now recruiting actively people with science and
technology credentials to strengthen S&T literacy in our
diplomatic corps. We
work closely with the Department’s Science Advisor to identify
recruitment targets. For example, we recently sent recruiters to the annual career
fair in Boston of the American Association for the Advancement
of Science. The
response was overwhelming.
As we recruit, we also seek applicants for domestic Civil
Service positions at the Department, where we do have some
positions that require language skills and some that require
science skills as a prerequisite for employment.
I would note, however, that the proposed legislation singles out
the physical sciences but excludes many areas of study critical
to national security, some of which are particularly relevant to
the Department of State’s needs, in areas of study such as
international affairs, political science, and economics.
In the coming decades, we believe that we will need not
only people with certain special skills, but also people with
the critical general skills for diplomacy: creativity,
flexibility, leadership. This
is what we are seeking in an increasingly complex world with
Further, I would like to remind the committee that these
creative approaches to Federal workforce management sometimes
unintentionally leave out the considerations of the Foreign
Service. We are
always available to discuss the particular needs of our
Finally, I would like to encourage the Congress to pass promptly
the Administration’s Managerial Flexibility Act, which will
benefit the State Department and other Federal agencies.
We are already using to great effect the available
recruitment and retention incentives; in fact, OPM has cited our
IT recruitment and retention program as a “best practice.”
We would welcome and benefit from further flexibility in
these programs. We
could potentially benefit from a streamlined and simplified
process for human resources demonstration projects as we look
for ways to further integrate Secretary Powell’s team, which
consists of employees in three different personnel systems.
Mr. Chairman, I end my remarks with the following: A request for your continuing support for Year Two of the
Diplomatic Readiness Initiative.
This is Secretary Powell's top human resources priority. It is essential that we get the new people we require if
America is going to retain its first-class diplomatic
leadership role in the world faces us with many challenges, some
of which did not exist when I joined the Department in 1978.
I can assure you that we in the Department of State are
eager to meet these challenges, but to do so requires new people
and adequate resources.
Thank you very much.