State Department officials are developing a “precept on diversity and inclusion” for the foreign service promotion process as Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s team tries to manage perennial criticism that the U.S. diplomatic corps isn't diverse enough.
The news comes as the Blinken State Department has become known for promoting a "woke" cultural agenda. The department also announced its first nonbinary gender passports on Tuesday and celebrated International Pronouns Day on Twitter earlier this month.
“The Foreign Service promotion system guides promotion with something they call the promotion precepts,” State Department Deputy Secretary Brian McKeon, the top official for management and resources, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “And we're looking at a specific precept on diversity and inclusion which would be, I think, a game changer.”
That revelation added specificity to a forthcoming diversity strategy that Blinken touted during a speech, delivered in parallel to McKeon’s testimony, on his plans for “the Modernization of American Diplomacy.” State Department leaders and Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, agreed that the current demographic makeup of the State Department hampers foreign outreach.
“The diversity in the foreign and civil service, particularly in the State Department, has one of the worst records of any of the federal departments,” said Menendez. "It's not only one of the best ways of representing the United States and our values abroad. It's also, I believe, a national security imperative.”
Blinken stated a related priority: “We need to do more on diversity, inclusion, accessibility, and equity so that talented people from all walks of life see the State Department as a place where they can belong and they can thrive,” he said at the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, Virginia. “We need to empower employees and create more opportunities for advancement so mid-career professionals don’t have to make painful choices about whether to stay or leave.”
McKeon acknowledged that State Department officials have “a real concern” that they’ll soon see a substantial exodus from across the workforce.
“Some surveys are suggesting that a significant number of employees are thinking about leaving, so that's the canary in the coal mine that we have to worry about,” McKeon said. "And so we have to address a lot of the pain points that make it hard to serve and that undermine morale.”
McKeon also lamented that the pipeline of diplomats to replace them is too white and too male — in part a function of the population that chooses or does not choose to apply to take the foreign service officer exam.
“I just looked at the statistics of people who are taking the exam, and it’s not a very good picture,” he said. “The ratio between men and women taking the exam is 2-to-1, and underrepresented communities are not signing up to take the exam. Our human resources bureau has done some analysis on both why women are not signing up to take the test, and why African Americans in particular are not doing very well on the test. And so that will guide our thinking on how we try to strengthen our recruitment.”
Menendez already had implied his dissatisfaction with the foreign service officer application process.
“When I have looked into this issue in the past, the oral exam has always been a somewhat amorphous process to me, in terms of who can communicate well orally and who can not,” he said. “And then, of course, the review panel seems to be a certain type of people.”
Menendez also suggested that the State Department recruitment team is too dependent on elite academic institutions to provide would-be diplomats, an issue that Blinken addressed in his own remarks on modernization.
“I’ll be asking all senior officials to make domestic travel and engagement a greater priority, and that includes senior leaders at posts who can engage virtually,” Blinken said. “We’ll make sure that we’re connecting with people from different parts of the country, urban and rural, because our mission isn’t to serve some Americans, but all Americans. We’re diplomats, and we’re going to focus more of our diplomacy here at home to make sure our policies reflect the needs, the aspirations, the values of the American people.”
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Original Author: Joel Gehrke
Original Location: Blinken's 'woke' State Department to add new 'diversity precept'