Serious Training Needs Proposed for Foreign Service: Academy Report Identifies Critical Needs

February 22, 2011

The U.S. Diplomatic Service is in need of greater professional education and training, according to a new report issued today by the American Academy of Diplomacy and the Stimson Center.

The study, "Forging a 21st Century Diplomatic Service for the United States Through Professional Education and Training," addresses critical training Foreign Service Officers need to meet the changing requirements of the U.S. government in the conduct of its foreign and national security policies.

"The international environment is being transformed before our eyes.  Every tool of U.S. international action, including American diplomacy, must be fully up to the task. Our diplomatic service is falling behind in the professional education and training needed to meet our country's challenges," said Amb. Robert M. Beecroft, a 37-year veteran of the Foreign Service and manager of this project.

The study considers ways to ensure the right people with the right skills and educations are available for the evolving, complex requirements of U.S. foreign policy.

"On-the-job training alone is not a sufficient method to develop a U.S. diplomatic service," said Amb. Ronald E. Neumann, President of the American Academy of Diplomacy, who added, "Years of underfunding in diplomacy and development have left the Department of State without adequate resources."

The full report contains the following key recommendations:

  • Fully fund Department of State personnel needs.
  • Provide and sustain additional personnel positions for training equivalent to 15 percent above the staff level required for regular assignment.
  • Make a long-term commitment to investing in the professional education and training needed to build a 21st century diplomatic service capable of meeting future complex challenges.
  • Strengthen and expand the Department of State's professional development process
  • Establish temporary corps of roving counselors from a pool of recently retired officers, who can remain abroad to offer counseling, advice and career guidance focused on supervisions.
  • Department of State should contract a study to determine how on-the-job training can most effectively be conducted.
  • Require every FSO at the FS-01 and FS-02 levels to complete a year of advanced study related to his or her career track as part of promotion track to Senior Foreign Service.
  • New Chiefs of Mission should fully prepare for assignment by consulting relevant bureau and country team directorate personnel.

Also included in the report is a section that encourages Department of State to consider ways to revive the spirit, goals, and objectives of the Senior Seminar - a former program that provided a limited number of select Senior Foreign Service, Senior Executive Service, and military officers with a year-long professional development opportunity.

The report recommendations are largely compatible with the training related recommendations of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), which was released in December 2010, after this study was near completion.

The Academy recognizes the following organizations whose support made this study possible: American Foreign Service Association, the Delavan Foundation, and the Una Chapman Cox Foundation.


The American Academy of Diplomacy is a membership organization of former career and non-career ambassadors and senior-level diplomats dedicated to strengthening the institution of American diplomacy. Established in 1983, the organization has a history of providing public education and outreach to educate the public about the importance of diplomacy.

The Stimson Center is a Washington D.C.-based non-profit, non-partisan institution devoted to enhancing international peace and security. Founded in 1989, its work focuses on reducing weapons of mass destruction and transnational threats, building regional security, and strengthening institutions. Stimson's pragmatic approach seeks to understand and illuminate complex issues, develop new knowledge, and engage policymakers, policy implementers, and non-governmental institutions with recommendations that are actionable and effective.