This chapter considers steps to enhance the science and technology (S&T) capabilities of employees of the Department of State (department) and to strengthen the organizational framework of the department that enables them to develop and use these capabilities effectively. Many positions in the functional bureaus of the department and in Environment, Science, Technology, and Health (ESTH) units within the embassies call for a concentrated focus on S&T-related issues. In addition, many other positions throughout the department increasingly require higher levels of up-to-date S&T literacy. Strong capabilities of the entire workforce to address S&T-related issues should be an overarching goal for conducting effective diplomacy in the years ahead. Just as language fluency and area expertise have long been critical aspects of the practice of diplomacy, S&T literacy is rapidly becoming of comparable importance in the formulation and implementation of foreign policy.
The department has 72,000 employees, including 14,000 Foreign Service Officers (FSOs), 11,000 civil servants, and 35,000 Foreign Service Nationals (FSNs). The remainder of the workforce is composed primarily of locally hired administrative-support personnel at the embassies. The leadership of the department includes about 900 senior FSOs, 150 senior civil servants, 80 politically appointed executives, and in 2014, 45 politically appointed ambassadors (Kennedy, 2015; Stimson Center, 2014).
Data as to the number of department officials that have a high-level of S&T expertise are not readily available, but the committee responsible for this report estimates that several hundred civil servants have the technical capability that is necessary to carry out their current assignments effectively; and this cadre is likely to continue to grow significantly during the next decade. Most of these officers are working in the functional bureaus of the department, and particularly in the bureaus reporting to the Undersecretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment and to the Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security. A particularly important concentration of civilian-oriented S&T talent resides in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES).
Despite the uncertainties in the foregoing estimates, the number of department civil service officers requiring a high level of S&T expertise is clearly a small fraction of the total workforce. But it is an important fraction. Also, a growing number of FSOs during the course of their careers will be expected to deal with important issues that have substantial S&T dimensions. In short, many civil servants and FSOs will continually be called upon to update and expand their areas of special competence, and particularly S&T competence.
Since the publication of the 1999 report of the National Research Council titled The Pervasive Role of Science, Engineering, and Health in Foreign Policy: An Imperative for the Department of State, a number of steps have been taken by the department to implement the report’s recommendations. They included small but important modifications of the department’s organizational structure and adoption of personnel policies to strengthen the S&T capabilities of the workforce. Chapter 1 identifies early steps taken by the department in response to several of the 12 major recommendations of the 1999 report, including those concerning organizational and human resource issues; and this chapter expands and updates that discussion.
Among the organizational actions that were promptly taken by the department after the release of the 1999 report was the establishment of the Office of the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary (STAS) as required by the new congressional mandate set forth in Box 5-1. The appointment of the first Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary (S&T Adviser) then followed. The first four S&T Advisers were the following:
2000-2004: Norman P. Neureiter (Ph.D., organic chemistry, Northwestern University)
Prior to becoming S&T Adviser, he was Vice President for Asia of Texas Instruments, Inc. Earlier in his career, he served in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, following assignments as Science Officer in U.S. embassies in Bonn and Warsaw.
2004-2007: George H. Atkinson (Ph.D., physical chemistry, Indiana University)
Prior to becoming S&T Adviser, he was an American Institute of Physics Fellow within the department. Previously he had been a Professor of Chemistry and Optical Sciences at Arizona University and a visiting professor at universities and research institutes in Japan, Great Britain, Germany, and Israel.
2007-2010: Nina V. Fedoroff (Ph.D., molecular biology, Rockefeller University)
Prior to becoming S&T adviser, she was Professor of Biology at Pennsylvania State University and the first Director of the Life
Legislation Creating Position of Science and Technology Adviser
SEC. 303. SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY ADVISER TO SECRETARY OF STATE.
- (a) DESIGNATION.—The Secretary of State shall designate a senior-level official of the Department of State as the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State (in this section referred to as the “Adviser”). The Adviser shall have substantial experience in the area of science and technology. The Adviser shall report to the Secretary of State through the appropriate Under Secretary of State.
- (b) DUTIES. —The Adviser shall—(1) advise the Secretary of State, through the appropriate Under Secretary of State, on international science and technology matters affecting the foreign policy of the United States; and (2) perform such duties, exercise such powers, and have such rank and status as the Secretary of State shall prescribe.
SOURCE: Public Law 106–113 (1999).
Sciences Consortium (now the Huck Institute for the Life Sciences). She is a 2006 National Medal of Science Laureate.
2011-2014: E. William Colglazier (Ph.D., theoretical physics, California Institute of Technology).
Prior to becoming S&T Adviser, he was Executive Officer of the National Academy of Sciences and Chief Operating Officer of the National Research Council. Earlier in his career he was Professor of Physics and Director of the Energy, Environment, and Resources Center at the University of Tennessee following appointments at Stanford, Harvard, and Princeton Universities.
In 2005, the Office of the Inspector General of the department conducted an internal review of STAS that was generally positive about the contributions of the office, while offering the findings set forth below (Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors Office of Inspector General, 2005). This committee’s comments on the topics that were addressed in the findings are set forth in bold italic print, and they provide an update on relevant activities and begin to set the stage for the committee’s recommendations concerning further strengthening of the department’s capabilities.
- A lack of clarity about the respective roles of OES and STAS at times leads to competition and confusion. There were difficulties over the years, but by 2014 a much improved relationship had been established between OES and STAS, with decisions concerning uncertainties as to respective roles made jointly by the two organizations on a case-by-case basis.
- STAS has expanded some activities, such as science fellows programs, and created innovative programs for specific activities. But there should be a mechanism to evaluate their initiatives, manage funds that are donated by private foundations and other entities, and eventually transfer projects to appropriate and willing offices. STAS has effectively managed the AAAS and Jefferson Fellows programs, but this committee has no basis for commenting on accountability for expenditures of funds. Extensive informal feedback indicates deep satisfaction throughout the department with the performance over the years of AAAS Fellows. An in-depth evaluation of the AAAS program would be useful to provide guidance on the future of the program. There have been regular—and positive— evaluations of the Jefferson Fellows program. The day-to-day activities of all types of S&T Fellows have been the responsibility of a variety of offices throughout the department which give high marks to the facilitative role of STAS. As to innovative activities of the S&T Advisers, this committee singles out as particularly important initiatives (a) multi-year STAS leadership in implementation of the bilateral S&T agreement with Pakistan, one of the most difficult and important S&T agreements to implement, (b) establishment of the Jefferson Fellows Program, with funding initially obtained by STAS from private foundations, (c) establishment of the first PEER program whereby USAID joins with a number of agencies in financing collaborative research projects, with the agencies supporting American collaborators and USAID funding developing country collaborators, (d) dual-hatting the S&T Adviser to also serve on a temporary basis as an Adviser to the USAID Administrator and then supporting the appointment of the first full-time S&T Adviser to the USAID Administrator, which in time led to establishment of USAID’s Development Lab, (e) explanation and advocacy of technological innovation during public diplomacy dialogues with high ranking officials of a number of important countries, and (f) assistance to nongovernment entities in arranging many scientific visits to Iran and Cuba, including a visit to Havana in 2014 wherein the Deputy Director of STAS became the highest ranking U.S. government official to visit the island in many years. Finally, the comment that STAS should transfer projects to other offices is not clear since the definition of a project was not set forth.
- By 2005, two respected scientists had led STAS; but there was no specified term for the job. There should be a more thorough, transparent, and efficacious process for finding and appointing suitable candidates for this prestigious and visible position. The
term is now for two years with the possibility of extension for one additional year. The turnover of the position has brought into the department expertise in important areas on the frontiers of science and technology along with fresh ideas on improving the effectiveness of international collaboration although there have been long delays in filling the position after the departures of three of the incumbents. The department has traditionally considered nominees for the position that are suggested by a number of S&T-oriented organizations, as well as internal candidates who step forward.
- Many department officials, leaders of science-oriented agencies, and representatives of the S&T community consider that despite establishment of STAS, the department had not made fundamental changes regarding increased attention to science. This report reviews the progress that has been made in spreading S&T awareness and activities throughout the department. Limited progress has been made, and this report recommends additional steps.
- It is important that the S&T Adviser’s access to the Secretary and other senior policy makers be preserved. The S&T Adviser has had little access to the Secretary but has had access to appropriate undersecretaries and other senior officials when needed. This committee recommends below that the status of the S&T Adviser be enhanced to improve such access both to the leadership of the department and to the flow of policy papers with significant S&T content.
- For a subject so interwoven in the department’s work and seen as a national core strength, science receives little mention in the department’s basic priority-setting documents. The first QDDR and the FY 2014-2017 Department of State and USAID Strategic Plan give considerable attention to the role of S&T in diplomacy. However, the policy pronouncements will be meaningful only if backed by commitments of resources that will enable implementation.
Given the foregoing, STAS has much greater potential to be a catalyst for bringing S&T considerations into the mainstream of foreign policy formulation and implementation. Recommendations in that regard are offered throughout this report and consolidated in Chapter 6.
STAS policy priorities for 2014-2015 have been as follows:
- Incorporate Science, Technology, and Innovation in Global Economic Growth Dialogues through Second-Track Diplomacy. STAS advocates the integration of science, technology, and
innovation (STI) as a tool for global economic growth and poverty alleviation in diplomatic dialogues. STAS uses existing or establishes new connections and partnerships with non-traditional diplomatic partners—universities, professional societies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)—to deepen global dialogues by including topics on entrepreneurship and risk-taking in STI as a catalyst for prosperity. By highlighting important emerging or lesser noticed perspectives or issues in STI—such as inclusion of women and minorities in technology activities—STAS raises their visibility to the diplomatic corps and the broader economic development community.
- Enhance Scientific Capacity in the Department. In partnership with several professional societies, STAS facilitates entry of about 30 Ph.D.-level scientists and engineers each year into the department through fellowship programs. Approximately 70 former Fellows have transitioned into positions at the department during the past three decades, which has greatly expanded scientific expertise at the department.
- Build Effective Public-Private STI Partnerships. STAS leverages science diplomacy and extensive connections across technical networks to assist regional and functional bureaus and to build flexible partnerships that harness STI capacity at home and abroad. Since many aspects of U.S. S&T capabilities exist in nongovernmental institutions, expanding cooperation requires close coordination with these organizations.
- Translate Impact of Emerging Scientific Trends and Transformational Technologies for Better Long-Term Decision making. Emerging technologies and trends can have significant global, political, and economic impacts that require thoughtful integration into present-day decisions. STAS monitors scientific advances and emerging technologies to translate their impact on U.S. foreign policy for decision makers (Department of State, 2014b).
In December 2014 the staffing of STAS to address these issues included 10 positions: three Schedule B limited-term civil service positions (S&T Adviser and two Policy Advisers), two civil service positions (Deputy S&T Adviser and Administrative Specialist), one FSO, two AAAS Fellows, one Franklin Fellow, and one paid graduate student intern. Each of the four program priorities of STAS are interesting and far-reaching; but given staff limitations there should be a focus on selected outcomes, while not ruling out activities beyond the four priorities.
This report recommends several additional activities wherein the new S&T Adviser should participate, including leading foresight activities (Chapter 2),
serving as co-chair of the S&T Advisory Board (Chapter 2), increasing contacts with S&T global networks (Chapter 2), and improving the department’s awareness of international S&T interests within the Executive Office of the President (Chapter 3). These important new activities will require additional staff and budgetary support.
In 2010, the first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review called for consolidation of STAS, the Office of the Economic Adviser to the Secretary, OES, a new Bureau of Energy Resources, and the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs under the broadened responsibilities of the Undersecretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment. The bureaus and offices that are now under the purview of the Undersecretary are set forth in Figure 5-1. Unfortunately, STAS lacks sufficient status to appear on the formal organization chart; and this report recommends steps to correct this deficiency.
Of special relevance for this report has been the continued increase in the responsibilities of OES, which now has a staff of 200 positions and a core budget of $34 million. In addition, the bureau receives funds to support activities of international fisheries commissions, climate change negotiations, and several other important activities. OES now has a formidable array of S&T experts in a variety of fields and has gained a very prominent position in the department in developing and managing significant programs of broad interest. The current structure of OES is set forth in Figure 5-2.
While OES manages a large number of program activities, STAS has a broader writ to stimulate and facilitate S&T activities throughout the department when such intervention can be helpful. The most recent S&T Adviser and the Assistant Secretary for OES made excellent progress in reducing lingering animosities between OES and STAS through weekly meetings to discuss complementarity of activities and general divisions of labor. It would also be useful for OES and STAS to jointly review the OES responsibilities set forth in a 1974 Circular of the department together and the work plan of STAS and to modify these documents as appropriate. They should then have a better framework for working together.
After the release of the 1999 report, most regional bureaus of the department designated a Deputy Assistant Secretary to serve as a focal point for consideration of S&T issues in addition to other assigned duties. At times, a bureau has designated another official to handle S&T-related issues; but in general, coordination is maintained at a high-level. The designated officials have usually effectively coordinated S&T interests within their bureaus and reached out to STAS and OES as appropriate. The designees often have a primary responsibility for coordination of all public diplomacy activities throughout the regional bureaus, and public diplomacy activities frequently have important S&T dimensions.
FIGURE 5-1 Units reporting to the Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment. The Office of Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State were added to this figure to reflect the recommendation of the committee to provide the S&T Adviser with status equivalent to an Assistant Secretary.
SOURCE: Department of State, 2014a.
FIGURE 5-2 Organization of the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES).
The foregoing organizational changes, together with personnel adjustments that are discussed below, have increased the department’s capacity to engage with organizations in the United States and abroad on security, economic, foreign assistance, and political issues that have important S&T components. Of special importance for this report has been the involvement of the S&T Adviser in bilateral economic dialogues with a number of countries, which usually involve discussions of S&T-related topics, and particularly the role of innovation in economic development.
In short, the current organizational structure within the department consolidates selected types of technical expertise in functional bureaus and helps ensure that the country-oriented bureaus have access to S&T expertise when needed. This report offers four organizational recommendations for continuing to strengthen the department’s capabilities for drawing on S&T capabilities from within and outside the government on a regular basis. First, a recommendation to establish a Science and Technology Advisory Board was discussed in Chapter 2. The second, recommending annual conferences for all interested parties within and outside the government, is set forth as a recommendation in Chapter 3. The third and fourth organizational recommendations follow.
The department should provide the S&T Adviser with organizational status equivalent to that of an Assistant Secretary.
This status would improve the S&T Adviser’s ability to participate in discussions involving issues with significant S&T content, and policy papers on such issues en route to senior officials of the department would routinely be available to the S&T Adviser for comment when appropriate. This is not now the case. Such status would also increase the visibility and accessibility of the S&T Adviser to colleagues and other interested persons within and outside the department, not only by inclusion of STAS on the organization chart of the department, but also signaling that the S&T Adviser is indeed a senior official of the department. Of relevance, the Chief Economist of the department has been given the status recommended for the S&T Adviser.
As previously noted, the S&T Adviser is appointed for a period of two years, with an option for a third year. The committee considers that this arrangement, which provides for a steady flow of fresh ideas into the department, is appropriate. However, the time delays between completion of service of an incumbent and arrival of a replacement have reached unacceptable durations of many months, which degrade the effectiveness of STAS in addition to depriving the department’s leadership of expert advice on important issues that cannot await attention. At the same time, however, the process that has been used in selecting recent S&T Advisers has been commendatory. Inviting leading American S&T organizations to nominate candidates, together with considerations of internal candidates, has led to excellent appointments. They
have met the criteria of having up-to-date S&T expertise, broad knowledge of the U.S. S&T enterprise, experience in managing and operating in a complex organizational environment, and deep appreciation of the intersections of S&T and diplomacy. While there have at times been suggestions of linking the appointment to the tenure of each Secretary of State, the committee rejects this suggestion which would be viewed as placing biased politics ahead of objective S&T advice that is based on the evidence emerging from well-established analytical and transparent processes
STAS should have (a) an increase in staff positions, and (b) access to support funds.
Several recommendations set forth in this report call for strengthening and expansion of activities of STAS. Such broadening of responsibilities will require additional resources for STAS. As noted, the office currently has positions for five civil service employees and one FSO, supplemented by several fellows. STAS has no financial resources other than limited funds for official travel by its staff. Funding for occasional consultant services would be quite beneficial in supporting activities that are of interest both to STAS and to other components of the department.
While the department is suffering from a four percent budget decline in Fiscal Year 2015, the leadership has been optimistic that the department’s request for an increase during Fiscal Year 2016 will receive favorable consideration by the Office of Management and Budget and by Congress (Kennedy, 2015). Although budget pressures within the department are omnipresent, increases in the resources for STAS need not be large to have significant impacts by drawing on one of the strongest assets of the country in supporting diplomatic endeavors.
The number and types of positions and the budget for STAS and other units of the department should be determined through the usual process of requesting and justifying additional resources. As to support funds, contract arrangements with one or more appropriate U.S. organizations could assist STAS and other collaborating entities of the department in developing the basis for departmental initiatives on S&T topics of emerging importance.
At times there have been frustrations within and outside the department concerning the lack of authority and impact of the S&T Adviser, leading to occasional recommendations for alternative approaches, including (a) establishing the position of a senior science adviser and organizational entity with direct responsibility for all aspects of S&T carried out throughout the department, or (b) combining OES and STAS. As to a senior science adviser with responsibility for all S&T activities, there are so many bureaus and offices with deeply rooted S&T activities—based on legislative authorities and/or on well-proven departmental practices—that funneling all S&T related issues
through a single channel to the top levels of the department is neither advisable or feasible. Second, combining OES with STAS is unrealistic since OES is focused on a wide range of program activities and needs a full-time Assistant Secretary to manage these activities with direct access to the Secretary when necessary. STAS has a broader mandate to provide leadership, advice, and outreach in addressing selected S&T issues of interest to many components of the department, with access to the Secretary as needed. The realistic approach to reduce the concerns over lack of impact of the S&T Adviser is (a) to strengthen the department-wide S&T leadership role of the S&T Adviser in addressing emerging S&T trends and related foreign policy issues and to increase the integration of the nation’s S&T capabilities into the mainstream of foreign policy considerations, and (b) to continue to strengthen the S&T capabilities of OES for developing and managing programs and to improve the S&T outreach and effectiveness of the U.S. embassies.
The department has taken a number of actions in recent years to upgrade S&T personnel strengths at several levels. The most significant steps have included frequent recruitments of civil servants with important technical skills to serve in functional bureaus throughout the department that acquired expanded requirements for special expertise. Also, the department has continued a number of arrangements for civil servants in other agencies with special skills to be loaned to the department for lengths of time ranging from several months to several years. In addition, functional bureaus and offices of the department have been drawing on a more frequent basis than in the past on technical personnel from private entities that are under contract with the department for support for specific activities requiring expertise that is not readily available within the department.
The bureaus of the department that have primary responsibility for defense-related issues have many experts addressing a wide range of S&T issues. More than 100 technically oriented staff members have STEM degrees. Many have decades of experience in dealing with issues concerning weapons of mass destruction, international arms trafficking, treaty verification, and biological and chemical terrorism threats, for example.
An issue facing this component of the department relates to the eligibility for retirement of many technical experts who joined the department at the time the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and its staff of technical experts were folded into the department. While retirement losses will reduce the extensive experience base of the department for addressing the defense dimension of national security issues, the personnel turnover will also open opportunities to recruit early-career talent that is also up-to-date on new challenges and on modern tools available to help reduce the threats of armed conflict. However, the rigid civil service employment procedures complicate
efforts to recruit specialists with needed skills who do not qualify for priority hiring status, and planning efforts that take this reality into account are needed.
With regard to the two largest S&T-oriented fellows programs, the department has expanded recruitment of interested specialists from universities and other S&T-oriented organizations. These specialists include (a) postdoctoral fellows selected in a highly competitive program by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS Fellows) for assignments of two years within the department, and (b) fellows who are tenured professors or faculty members of comparable stature at U.S. universities and who are also selected on a competitive basis for assignments of one academic year (Jefferson Fellows). In 2014, 30 AAAS fellows were serving in the department. Each academic year, a new cadre of up to a dozen Jefferson Fellows arrives at the department for one-year assignments. Also, a few additional fellows selected through other programs bring S&T skills to the department for limited periods.
There are at times long-term as well as immediate payoffs from these programs. About 70 former AAAS Fellows have become civil servants within the department or entered the Foreign Service during the past 25 years. In 2014, the S&T Adviser to the Secretary, the S&T Adviser to the Administrator of USAID, the Assistant Secretary for OES, a Deputy Assistant Secretary for OES, and the Deputy Director of FSI were all former AAAS Fellows.
As to Jefferson Fellows, there are now more than 90 alumni of the program that began a decade ago, including a few who are actively engaged in follow-on programs in support of departmental activities. (See Box 5-2.) However, most Jefferson Fellows have limited involvement in activities of the department after completion of their one academic year of service in Washington even though they have committed to be on call for five years. It is not that the department has an overabundance of technical talent and could no longer benefit from availability of talented fellows. The incentives for department officials to stay in touch are often outweighed by the pressures within the department to address issues lying in inboxes. This issue deserves greater attention by the department.
Turning to specific personnel issues, the concerns of the committee responsible for this report are in many ways similar to the observations in the 1999 report. They include the importance of ensuring that policies and programs related to recruitment, training, employment, leadership, retention, and career development of foreign service and civil service personnel give appropriate weight to the department’s needs for special S&T skills. Also, there has been a widespread impression within the department that assignments of FSOs with S&T interests to functional bureaus may slow promotion opportunities in competition with colleagues working in regional bureaus, which control overseas assignments. Another common theme has been that the department needs to ensure that promotion boards include members who understand the importance of S&T. Finally, the 1999 report’s recommendation that all department personnel with substantive responsibilities should attain an appropriate level of S&T literacy, including awareness of important S&T
Examples of Jefferson Fellows' Post-Fellowship Engagement
- DAVID BRUCE CONN, Berry College.
Engaged with the Office of International Health and Biodefense for advising on the U.S. response to the 2013 Chikungunya fever incursion into the Western Hemisphere, the U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak of 2014, and humanitarian action to combat neglected tropical diseases.
- RAJ KHOSLA, Colorado State University.
Continues to work on Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) issues by establishing an APEC Scholarship Program to promote cross-border education in STEM fields between the United States and the countries of the APEC region.
- DEBORAH LAWRENCE, University of Virginia.
Consults on scientific and technical aspects of forest carbon measurements and monitoring for SilvaCarbon, an interagency program on forest carbon. SilvaCarbon is also involved in implementation of the U.S. contribution to the Global Forest Observations Initiative.
- DEVINDER MAHAJAN, Joint appointment at Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory.
Works with the Office of Intellectual Property Enforcement. Projects include: (a) developing an education module based on the Bayh-Dole Act, (b) participating in the United Nations Committee on Sustainable Development Goals; and (c) engaging China through the EcoPartnership program.
- BROOK MILLIGAN, New Mexico State University.
Advises OES on technical developments and policy aspects of genetics research and on emerging opportunities to develop genetic tools for combating illicit trade.
- KATHERINE SELEY-RADTKE, University of Maryland, Baltimore.
Has been “in residence” for 1-3 months for several years at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, addressing issues related to emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases (HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis), and has collaborated with Russian scientists while mentoring two students from Moscow in her laboratories.
developments remains important. Of course, policies governing the hiring, nurturing, and promoting S&T-oriented personnel must be consistent with the overall personnel policies of the department.
Accommodating both the department’s personnel requirements and the interests of FSOs is challenging for personnel planners in the department. The need to assign personnel on short notice to cover crises, such as the wars in Iraq
and Afghanistan, and the changes of priorities with the arrival of new Secretaries of State complicate advanced planning.
At the same time, the department's approach to personnel management is sufficiently flexible to accommodate to a considerable degree the interests and career ambitions of S&T-oriented personnel. While career planning is the responsibility of individual FSOs, the department has 60 full-time career counselors who are prepared to work with interested FSOs in charting desired and feasible career patterns. But the department’s Bureau of Human Resources notes that important advice for early and mid-career FSOs seeking to combine their interests in S&T and foreign policy can often be provided by more senior FSOs who have succeeded in this regard. That said, the Bureau of Human Resources has many challenges in helping shape careers that effectively mesh S&T talents and interests of FSOs with the opportunities for assignments that maximize benefits to individuals and units of the department as well as to the department more broadly.
All the while, the department needs to recognize the changes in career ambitions of current and future generations of university graduates and early-career professionals. Increasingly, the best and the brightest are adjusting career directions a number of times during their most productive years. The department should take into account the dropout rate of early-career FSOs who may be seeking more diversified careers. Similarly the department should take into account that more mid-career high performers may be seeking entry into the Foreign Service (with the average age at intake having risen to 32 years old by 2014).
Historically, members of the department’s cadre of civil servants have been assigned to embassies only in exceptional cases. As to such stretch assignments, in 2014 the department revived a dormant program of stationing a few civil servants to U.S. embassies for one or two years to improve their understanding of conditions on the ground. This type of initiative requires capabilities of the department to backfill their positions in Washington during these periods with others who have the required skills and interests. While backfilling positions through temporary assignments may at times be difficult, overseas assignments of civil service personal can also lead to career advancements.
A growing requirement is stronger S&T capabilities of teams of department officials during interagency consultations and coordination concerning S&T-driven foreign policies and international cooperative programs. In many areas, other departments and agencies with deep technical capabilities play critical roles. But in all areas that have significant foreign policy dimensions, the department should be able to field fully capable teams that consist of not only experts on the foreign policy dimensions of various approaches but also well quailed specialists who understand the technical underpinnings that are being considered and the impacts on policies as technology continues to evolve. This need is particularly important in dealing with many complex cyber issues, for example, that will continue to expand in scope and importance.
In summary, the intake of FSOs with groundings in S&T should increase, the hiring and retaining of appropriate S&T-oriented civil servants in highly competitive employment markets should be addressed, and the S&T-related updating of many members of the current workforce is essential. Specialists on detail from other agencies, limited-term hires, and short-term fellows will continue to play important roles; but the need for a strong permanent cadre of S&T-trained foreign policy experts is clear.
Against this background the following steps are recommended.
The department should continue its efforts to increase its staff so that time available for training and professional development of both Foreign Service and Civil Service officers can increase from the current level of 5 to 7 percent of total available time (the float), with the goal of reaching as soon as possible 15 percent.
The float, often called a training float, is the time each employee should expect to spend on training and educational activities over the course of a career. Such training floats require managers to maintain staffing levels over and above the in-place staffing levels. For the purposes of this report, the float includes (a) full-time assignments to positions that do not have operational responsibilities, such as intensive language training, assignments to military war colleges, and experiences at universities or private companies, and (b) part-time activities away from the job—perhaps several hours per week—that are devoted to attendance at academic or practical courses at nearby institutions at home or abroad or participation on-line educational activities. At the same time, FSI should continue to broaden the scope and number of its classes and on-line offerings with significant S&T content to help achieve the goal of providing opportunities for continuing education for every employee of the department wherever located.
The department should (a) evaluate the adequacy of the number of AAAS fellows in its workforce and increase the number if warranted, while broadening their opportunities for career appointments; (b) encourage Presidential Management Fellows with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) backgrounds, interests in foreign affairs, and hiring preferences in competitions for civil service positions to seek permanent employment opportunities at the department; and (c) create new pathways for Jefferson Fellows to continue to respond to the department’s needs for their S&T skills after they complete their commitments of permanent assignments in Washington of one academic year.
A number of offices throughout the department value the availability and temporary placements of AAAS Fellows. At times, AAAS Fellows express interest in obtaining permanent positions within the department, and frequently offices want to hire them. However, a number of the positions that become available are classified as Foreign Affairs positions. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) does not recognize STEM degrees as adequate educational preparation for these positions. The department has considered the importance of a change in the standards but has not taken action in this regard. As the need for more S&T-trained FSOs and Civil Servants continues to increase, the department should conduct an in-depth evaluation of the AAAS program, as previously noted, which might provide a persuasive basis for expanding the program.
Presidential Management Fellows
The government-wide program that sponsors an annual cadre of about 400 Presidential Management Fellows for service in a variety of departments and agencies has received approval for a pilot effort that will include in the cadre 50 Fellows with STEM degrees who are interested in government service. This group of highly talented young professionals with preferential civil service employment status is a fruitful recruiting grounds for department offices seeking applicants for positions that become available. The functional bureaus, in particular, should become aware of the opportunities to hire Presidential Management Fellows with strong S&T backgrounds.
When Jefferson Fellows are selected, they agree to serve in the department for one academic year and then remain available to assist the department for five additional years after they return to their home universities. Frequently Fellows express disappointment that they are not asked by the department for assistance during the five-year period. On the other hand, others retain close connections with the offices of the department where they served and take the initiative to remain involved.
As the conclusion of the academic year that Jefferson Fellows serve in the department approaches, STAS should consult with the Jefferson Fellows concerning different routes that they can consider to remain involved in department activities and should encourage them to take the initiative in seeking further involvement. The fellows should be aware of opportunities through grants programs sponsored by the department (see Grants.gov for example), through newly established partnership programs, and through public diplomacy activities.
The department should formally request a change in the Office of Personnel Management Civil Service qualification standards throughout the Foreign Affairs series that will recognize that STEM degrees are appropriate in satisfying education requirement for positions in this series.
The arguments presented throughout this report concerning the increasingly important role of S&T in foreign affairs should easily provide a persuasive case that personnel standards should keep pace with the changes in the world that new personnel will encounter. This change would not affect only the department but also other agencies that recruit under the Foreign Affairs series.
A few comments by representatives of the Bureau of Human Resources that shed additional light on S&T-related personnel issues are set forth in Box 5-3. Also relevant comments by representatives of OES are included in Box 5-4. These comments challenge the long-time assertions among a number of FSOs that S&T assignments are backwater positions with reduced potential for recognition and promotion. In short, broad generalizations in this area are no longer authoritative, if they ever were.
Beginning with the recruitment of new FSOs and civil servants, the department should take advantage of the many opportunities to help them appreciate the integral role of S&T in the development and implementation of foreign policy and international programs of growing importance.
The introductory training programs for FSOs and civil servants at FSI should highlight the importance of staying abreast of developments in fields that have priority within the department such as climate change, cyber challenges, biotechnology, and spread of contagious diseases. Specialized training in economics and environment and preparatory courses for ambassadorships should include consideration of these and other S&T developments.
For decades, FSI has conducted a two-week training course to upgrade S&T awareness of department-based and embassy-based officials whose assignments include responsibilities for S&T issues. As discussed in Chapter 4, preparation for overseas assignments as ESTH officers has been an important driver for such training opportunities. Also, S&T developments are increasingly being
Observations on S&T-related Personnel Issues
- We had three exceptionally well-trained scientists in the latest A-100 introduction class for new FSOs.
- New FSOs choose their own personnel cones wherein they compete for positions and promotions. Most S&T-oriented FSOs now select the economics cone.
- We can give increased emphasis to S&T skills in selection of new FSOs if the department decides to award points for these skills in determining the priority of highly qualified candidates on the selection registers, who are awaiting selection. Such priority is currently given to Arabic linguists, for example.
- We are sensitive to the importance of IT skills, as reflected by the large number of e-diplomacy-savvy officers within the department.
- FSOs who have not served in the Middle East or Afghanistan are at a disadvantage for promotion, and there are not many S&T-related positions in that region.
SOURCES: Representatives of the Bureau of Human Resources, April 2014.
Comments on Assignments and Training
- Bidding is heavy for assignments of FSOs to HUB positions within embassies, reaching 50 applications for a single slot (in Bangkok).
- Bidding for assignments of FSOs as ESTH officers is also heavy, always resulting in more than one well-qualified candidate for each available position.
- The importance to host governments of the rank and scientific credentials of ESTH officers varies, with some governments interested primarily in the bureaucratic clout of the officer in Washington, others concerned as to whether the officer represents all agencies of government, and others interested in the personal prestige of the officer.
- Briefings of new ESTH officers at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) by OES staff members often emphasize what OES is doing rather than focusing on what ESTH officers should be doing.
- FSI is prepared to prepare on-line courses on S&T issues, but OES must prepare the content and does not have resources for this task.
- Often OES assigns civil service staff members to cover ESTH positions at embassies for several months when there are vacancies due to timing of arrival of replacement FSOs. This tour is very valuable for the staffer.
SOURCE: OES representatives, April 2014.
introduced into economics-oriented training programs; and new environment-oriented training programs are now in place (Box 5-5).
Examples of FSI Courses that Have Been Offered In Recent Years
- Biotechnology and Global Challenges: Trade, Food Security
- Energy, and Climate Change
- Coal and Power
- Environment, Science, Technology and Health for Foreign Service Nationals
- Environment, Science, Technology and Health Tradecraft
- Extractive Industries Seminar
- Global Health Diplomacy
- Intellectual Property Rights
- Petroleum and Gas Industry
- Washington Energy Seminar
- Hub Officer Orientation
- National Security Executive Leadership Seminar
- Understanding the Interagency A Primer for National Security Professionals.
SOURCES: Department of State (2012). Also http://www.state.gov/m/fsi/.
FSI has the potential to become much more than simply a training institute. Like most education institutions, it would benefit considerably from having an analytical research capability—starting small but eventually becoming an important adjunct to the many substantive offices of the department, and particularly offices with long-range S&T concerns.
A byproduct of a successful pilot project that reached out to the broad analytical community could be increased recognition of the importance of the linkages of educational, research, and operational activities. An example of a successful approach in linking analytical research and pedagogy is the activity at the Combating Terrorism Center, co-located with the Department of Social Sciences at West Point. Both the Center and the Department have close ties to operational organizations throughout the Department of Defense and other entities within the government. The Center has an ambitious research agenda that draws on a wide range of specialists while also providing opportunities for participation of cadets interested in specific topics.
An area of growing importance to FSI is a series of topics addressed in trade negotiations that have implications related to U.S leadership in S&T, particularly issues that impact on high-tech U.S. companies. They include, for example, the Information Technology Agreement, government procurement codes and competition arrangements, rules of origin for global supply chains, rules concerning privileges of state-owned enterprises, and currency manipulations. While trade negotiations are often led by the Office of the Trade Representative and the Department of Commerce, the department plays a critical role. Also, as previously noted there is rapidly growing world-wide interest in
innovation and economic entrepreneurship. Thus, FSI should highlight relevant course offerings at FSI and elsewhere, with particular attention to the importance of recurrent and emerging S&T-driven issues that of broad interest throughout the department and other departments as well. Training opportunities should be widely announced.
FSI should continue its expansion of educational and training offerings through online courses—including both courses in preparation for specific assignments and broader overview offerings for more general educational and professional advancement.
With tens of thousands of employees dispersed around the globe, the department has both challenges and opportunities to transform the remarkable advances in internet-based education into practical opportunities for education of unparalleled reach and impact. Given the frequent and often complicated research achievements of global interest, S&T developments are a prime area for attention. Eventually on-line training courses and general educational offering should be available to the department’s entire workforce.
Budget limitations have stymied past efforts, and it is important to capitalize on the many related efforts in this field underway at other institutions. Relevant activities of others will probably increase, particularly as universities expand on-line course offerings. Also the Department of Defense will probably continue its pioneering efforts in this field, both in Washington and other locations. By taking advantage of such efforts in developing programs of the department, a realistic goal should be professional development opportunities for every department employee wherever located.
Department of State. 2014. FSI Course Catalogue. Online. Available at http://fsitraining.state.gov/catalog/FY14-15_CourseCatalog.pdf. Accessed April 1, 2014.
____________. 2014a, March. Department Organization Chart. Online. Available at http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/rls/dos/99494.htm. Accessed October 6, 2014.
____________. 2014b. Fact Sheet: Office of the Science and Technology Adviser. Online. Available at http://www.state.gov/e/stas/226998.htm.
____________. 2015. Congressional Budget Justification. Online. Available at http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/223495.pdf. Accessed March 23, 2015.
Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors Office of Inspector General. 2005, September. Report of Inspection: Office of the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary. Report Number ISP-
I-05-42. Online. Available at http://oig.state.gov/system/files/124796.pdf.
Kennedy, Patrick, Undersecretary for Management of the Department, May 1, 2015, Public Comments to Retirees on Foreign Affairs Day, May 1, 2015.
Public Law 106-113. Making consolidated appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2000, and for other purposes, U.S. Statutes at Large 113 (1999): 1501-1537.
Stimson Center. 2014, April. Exploration of the civil service. Washington, DC.