A group of minority employees in government have come out against a House bill to increase diversity in the State Department by recruiting from outside the foreign service sector for mid-level positions, according to internal correspondence obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
In a letter sent earlier this month to the American Foreign Service Association, the Pickering and Rangel Fellows Association said that it has “deep concerns regarding H.R. 1096, the Represent America Abroad Act of 2021” sponsored by Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., and about 70 co-sponsors, saying the bill “could further impede the career advancement of current mid-level [foreign service officers] from underrepresented groups that already face significant barriers to advancement. These include hundreds of alumni of the Pickering and Rangel fellowships.”
The group notes that while they support efforts to increase diversity, the bill would allow outside hires to skip the usual career path for foreign service officers, who typically have to start in an entry-level position.
The AFSA previously argued that “aspects of this legislation would be detrimental to the effectiveness, morale, and cohesion of the Foreign Service at State.”
“The U.S. military does not appoint someone from the outside at the rank of major or lieutenant colonel for a reason – they do not have the requisite experience and training,” the AFSA said in a letter that was obtained by the Free Beacon. “We do not have a shortage of a mid-level officers. We do have a shortage of overseas mid-level positions that is already causing serious morale and retention problems. We do, of course, have a serious problem with diversity in the middle ranks of the Foreign Service, which, in part, is tied to retention and attrition.”
Another State Department group that advocates on behalf of minority employees said in an email that “many feel the Department currently does a decent job recruiting new officers, but the bigger problem is how to fully utilize the people we already have and not drive them out due to bad managers. Ultimately, people are worried people entering laterally will be mid-management but will be less effective at navigating the building/offices/relationships and ultimately make the Department’s policy work less effective.”
The employee group Balancing Act at State, which advocates for increasing access to child care for the department’s workers, said that a recent survey found that “a strong majority” of employees at State were “opposed” to the legislation, saying it “would have a minimal [positive] long-term impact and may even negatively impact diversity and morale.”
Another group, Working in Tandem, which is made up of spouses who are both employed in the foreign service sector, also voiced their opposition to the bill.
“The Foreign Service already hires a diverse workforce — what we have proven unable to do is retain and promote that workforce. Efforts to hire more officers will do little to improve our diversity until a serious effort is made to retain the diverse workforce we already have,” the group said in a recent letter to the American Foreign Service Association.