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Career Diplomacy

Life and Work in the U.S. Foreign Service

Harry W. Kopp and Charles A. Gillespie

Publication Year: 2011

Career Diplomacy -- now in its second edition -- is an insider's guide that examines the foreign service as an institution, a profession, and a career. Harry W. Kopp and Charles A. Gillespie, both of whom had long and distinguished careers in the foreign service, provide a full and well-rounded picture of the organization, its place in history, its strengths and weaknesses, and its role in American foreign affairs. Based on their own experiences and through interviews with over 100 current and former foreign service officers and specialists, the authors lay out what to expect in a foreign service career, from the entrance exam through midcareer and into the senior service -- how the service works on paper, and in practice.

The second edition addresses major changes that have occurred since 2007: the controversial effort to build an expeditionary foreign service to lead the work of stabilization and reconstruction in fragile states; deepening cooperation with the U.S. military and the changing role of the service in Iraq and Afghanistan; the ongoing surge in foreign service recruitment and hiring at the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development; and the growing integration of USAID's budget and mission with those of the Department of State.

Published by: Georgetown University Press


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p. vii


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p. ix

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pp. xi-xii

Career Diplomacy: Life and Work in the US Foreign Service began as a gleam in a general’s eye. In 2005 retired US Army General John R. Galvin joined the policy committee of the Una Chapman Cox Foundation, a private foundation dedicated to a strong, professional foreign service. General Galvin, a soldier-diplomat who commanded allied forces in Europe and was dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, wondered out loud whether the foreign service had a book that would guide him through the basics. There is no such book, he was told. “Well, there should be,” he said, and Tony Gillespie, another member of the committee, agreed. Tony, the Charles A. Gillespie whose name is on the cover, recruited former foreign service officer Harry Kopp to work with him on the project, and the Cox Foundation...


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p. xiii

Part I: The Institution

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1. What Is the Foreign Service?

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pp. 3-9

“Look,” he said. “What do we need them for? Especially so many of them.” He was talking about members of the US Foreign Service. “What we need to know,” he said, “is mostly in the news. What we need to say should come from people in tune with the president, not from diplomats in tune with each...

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2. History

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pp. 10-38

Like the US Congress, the US Foreign Service has rarely enjoyed the es- teem as an institution that its members have enjoyed as individuals. Foreign service personnel are widely respected for their intellect, honesty, energy, courage, and patriotism. The service itself, and the Department of State with which it is so closely identified, have often been held in what the late...

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3. The Foreign Service Today

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pp. 39-61

This book opened with a question: “What do we need them for?” The answer in the Foreign Service Act of 1980 is dry but clear. The foreign service, it says, exists to “represent the interests of the United States in relation to foreign countries and international organizations,” to “provide guidance for the formulation and conduct of programs and activities of the Department [of State] and other agencies,” and to “perform functions on behalf of any agency or other Government establishment (including any establishment in...

Part II: The Profession

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4. Form and Content

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pp. 63-92

Members of the foreign service like to say that they are professionals, and not just in the sense that they are paid for their work. They see diplomacy as a profession—a set of skills to be mastered through apprenticeship and training, with restrictions on entry, advancement by merit, and codes of behavior...

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5. The Foreign Service at War

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pp. 93-117

The work that Carlucci, Mann, Kolker, and Tracy did was what American diplomats have been doing for many years, at least since the 1960s. Their purpose was to enhance American security and prosperity by achieving objectives that were primarily political (Carlucci), politico-military (Tracy), economic (Mann), or humanitarian (Kolker). Although none of them would have used terms like transformational diplomacy or smart power, their diplomacy was intended to change behavior within states as much as between them...

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6. Politics and Professionalism

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pp. 118-160

Tension between the professional foreign service and its political masters is inevitable. It can be invigorating or corrosive. The professionals are proud of their knowledge, skill, and experience, but it’s the elected officials and those they appoint who set the policies and vote the taxes and budgets to carry them out. Foreign service professionals must give effect to the policies of the administration and the laws of the land, even as the policies change and the laws are revised. To maintain the flexibility they need, many...

Part III: The Career

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7. Stability and Change

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pp. 163-186

Ask a member of the foreign service about the work, and it won’t be long before you hear something like this: “Where else can you reinvent yourself every two or three years? There’s always a different job, boss, country, or culture just ahead. You change posts, and you walk into the middle of a new...

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8. Foreign Service Functions—Five Tracks

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pp. 187-206

FSOs are career candidates until approved for tenure by a commissioning and tenure board. New FSOs, whether they start at the entry level or (as some do) in the middle grades, have five years to make the cut. The first two tours, normally two years each, are critical. In most cases, the first tour is overseas, and the great majority of second tours as well. These first two tours give the candidates a chance to size up the service, and vice versa...

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9. Assignments and Promotions

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pp. 207-221

Three great mysteries of the foreign service are who gets in, who goes where, and who gets ahead. Who gets in and who gets ahead are vital to insiders, but who goes where is the hinge of the system. Whether the service can pass the day-to-day test of performing its mission depends on getting the right people to the right place at the right...

Part IV: The Future Foreign Service

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10. Tomorrow’s Diplomats

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pp. 225-236

“Who needs the State Department?” a senior administration official said in 2004, echoing the speaker at the beginning of this book. He was speaking of reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. “The military does a better job.” But, paradoxically, the widespread dissatisfaction with the performance of the foreign service in Iraq and Afghanistan led to a rare moment when the ad- ministration—two successive administrations, in fact—resolved to rebuild the foreign service and equip it to perform its mission: to make America’s way in the world...


Appendix A. Department of State Organization Chart

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pp. 237-239

Appendix B. Foreign Service Core Precepts

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p. 240

C. Interviews

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pp. 241-243

D. Websites and Blogs

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pp. 244-245


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pp. 247-269


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pp. 271-277


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pp. 279-288


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pp. 289-301

About the Authors

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p. 303

E-ISBN-13: 9781589017542
E-ISBN-10: 1589017544
Print-ISBN-13: 9781589017405
Print-ISBN-10: 1589017404

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 2 figures, 15 tables
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 714568481
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Career Diplomacy

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Subject Headings

  • Diplomatic and consular service, American.
  • United States -- Foreign relations administration.
  • United States. Foreign Service.
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