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United States Foreign Service

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The United States Foreign Service is a component of the United States federal government under the aegis of the United States Department of State
United States Department of State
The United States Department of State , is the United States federal executive department responsible for international relations of the United States, equivalent to the foreign ministries of other countries...

. It consists of approximately 11,500 professionals carrying out the foreign policy of the United States and aiding U.S. citizens abroad.

Created in 1924 by the Rogers Act
Rogers Act
The Rogers Act of 1924, often referred to as the Foreign Service Act of 1924, is the legislation that merged the United States diplomatic and consular services into the United States Foreign Service. It defined a personnel system under which the United States Secretary of State is authorized to...

, the Foreign Service combined all consular and diplomatic services of the U.S. government into one administrative unit. In addition to the unit's function, the Rogers Act defined a personnel system under which the United States Secretary of State
United States Secretary of State
The United States Secretary of State is the head of the United States Department of State, concerned with foreign affairs. The Secretary is a member of the Cabinet and the highest-ranking cabinet secretary both in line of succession and order of precedence...

 is authorized to assign diplomat
Diplomat
A diplomat is a person appointed by a state to conduct diplomacy with another state or international organization. The main functions of diplomats revolve around the representation and protection of the interests and nationals of the sending state, as well as the promotion of information and...

s abroad.

Members of the Foreign Service are selected through a series of written and oral examinations. They serve at any of the 265 United States diplomatic missions around the world, including embassies, consulates, and other facilities. Members of the Foreign Service also staff the headquarters of the four foreign affairs agencies: The Department of State, headquartered at Harry S Truman Building
Harry S Truman Building
The Harry S. Truman Building is the headquarters of the United States Department of State. It is located in the national capital of Washington, D.C.....

 in the Foggy Bottom
Foggy Bottom
Foggy Bottom is one of the oldest late 18th and 19th-century neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. The area is thought to have received the name because its riverside location made it susceptible to concentrations of fog and industrial smoke, an atmospheric trait that did not prevent the neighborhood...

 neighborhood of Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

; the Department of Agriculture
United States Department of Agriculture
The United States Department of Agriculture is the United States federal executive department responsible for developing and executing U.S. federal government policy on farming, agriculture, and food...

; the Department of Commerce
United States Department of Commerce
The United States Department of Commerce is the Cabinet department of the United States government concerned with promoting economic growth. It was originally created as the United States Department of Commerce and Labor on February 14, 1903...

; and the United States Agency for International Development
United States Agency for International Development
The United States Agency for International Development is the United States federal government agency primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid. President John F. Kennedy created USAID in 1961 by executive order to implement development assistance programs in the areas...

.

Historical background


On September 15, 1789, the 1st United States Congress
1st United States Congress
-House of Representatives:During this congress, five House seats were added for North Carolina and one House seat was added for Rhode Island when they ratified the Constitution.-Senate:* President: John Adams * President pro tempore: John Langdon...

 passed an Act creating the Department of State
United States Department of State
The United States Department of State , is the United States federal executive department responsible for international relations of the United States, equivalent to the foreign ministries of other countries...

 and appointing duties to it, including the keeping of the Great Seal of the United States
Great Seal of the United States
The Great Seal of the United States is used to authenticate certain documents issued by the United States federal government. The phrase is used both for the physical seal itself , and more generally for the design impressed upon it...

. Initially there were two services devoted to diplomatic and consular activity. The Diplomatic Service provided ambassador
Ambassador
An ambassador is the highest ranking diplomat who represents a nation and is usually accredited to a foreign sovereign or government, or to an international organization....

s and ministers to staff embassies overseas, while the Consular Service provided consuls to assist United States sailors and promote international trade
International trade
International trade is the exchange of capital, goods, and services across international borders or territories. In most countries, such trade represents a significant share of gross domestic product...

 and commerce
Commerce
While business refers to the value-creating activities of an organization for profit, commerce means the whole system of an economy that constitutes an environment for business. The system includes legal, economic, political, social, cultural, and technological systems that are in operation in any...

.

Throughout the 19th century, ambassadors, or ministers, as they were known prior to the 1890s, and consuls were appointed by the president, and until 1856, earned no salary. Many had commercial ties to the countries in which they would serve, and were expected to earn a living through private business or by collecting fees. In 1856, Congress provided a salary for consuls serving at certain posts; those who received a salary could not engage in private business, but could continue to collect fees for services performed.

Rogers Act


The Rogers Act of 1924
Rogers Act
The Rogers Act of 1924, often referred to as the Foreign Service Act of 1924, is the legislation that merged the United States diplomatic and consular services into the United States Foreign Service. It defined a personnel system under which the United States Secretary of State is authorized to...

 merged the diplomatic and consular services of the government into the Foreign Service. An extremely difficult Foreign Service examination was also implemented to recruit the most outstanding Americans, along with a merit-based system of promotions. Since the Rogers Act, about two-thirds of U.S. ambassadors appointed by the President of the United States
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 have come from within the ranks of the Foreign Service. The Rogers Act also created the Board of the Foreign Service and the Board of Examiners of the Foreign Service, the former to advise the Secretary of State on managing the Foreign Service, and the latter to manage the examination process.

In 1927 Congress passed legislation according diplomatic status to representatives abroad of the Department of Commerce (until then known as "trade commissioners
Trade Commissioner
Trade Commissioner is the title of a government official whose primary duties are to promote international trade agreements and export trade programs on behalf of a national or regional government authority. Such envoys are normally posted abroad, often being permanently resident in the country or...

"), creating the Foreign Commerce Service
United States Commercial Service
The United States Commercial Service is the trade promotion arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration, which helps U.S. companies succeed in markets around the world. Led by Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Director General Suresh Kumar and located across the...

. In 1930 Congress passed similar legislation for the Department of Agriculture, creating the Foreign Agricultural Service
Foreign Agricultural Service
The Foreign Agricultural Service is the foreign affairs agency with primary responsibility for the United States Department of Agriculture's overseas programs—market development, international trade agreements and negotiations, and the collection of statistics and market information...

. Though formally accorded diplomatic status
Diplomatic rank
Diplomatic rank is the system of professional and social rank used in the world of diplomacy and international relations. Over time it has been formalized on an international basis.-Ranks:...

, however, commercial and agricultural attaché
Agricultural attaché
An agricultural attaché is a diplomat who collects, analyzes, and acts on information on agriculture, agribusiness, food, and other related spheres in a foreign country or countries. Agricultural attachés may be directly employed by the sending country's agriculture ministry, or they may be...

s were civil servants
Civil service
The term civil service has two distinct meanings:* A branch of governmental service in which individuals are employed on the basis of professional merit as proven by competitive examinations....

 (not officers of the Foreign Service). In addition, the agricultural legislation stipulated that agricultural attachés would not be construed as public ministers. On July 1, 1939, however, both the commercial and agricultural attachés were transferred to the Department of State under Reorganization Plan No. II. The agricultural attachés remained in the Department of State until 1954, when they were returned by Act of Congress to the Department of Agriculture. Commercial attachés remained with State until 1980, when Reorganization Plan Number 3 of 1979 was implemented under terms of the Foreign Service Act of 1980.

Foreign Service Act of 1946


In the meantime, in 1946 Congress at the request of the Department of State passed a new Foreign Service Act creating six classes of employees: chiefs of mission
Head of Mission
In diplomatic usage, Head of Mission or Chief of Mission from the French "Chef de Mission Diplomatique" is the generic term used to refer to the head of a diplomatic representation, such as an Ambassador, High Commissioner, Nuncio, Chargé d'affaires, Permanent Representative, and sometimes to a...

, Foreign Service Officer
Foreign Service Officer
A Foreign Service Officer is a commissioned member of the United States Foreign Service. As diplomats, Foreign Service Officers formulate and implement the foreign policy of the United States. FSOs spend most of their careers overseas as members of U.S. embassies, consulates, and other diplomatic...

s, Foreign Service Reservists, Foreign Service Staff, "alien personnel" (subsequently renamed Foreign Service Nationals and later Locally Engaged staff), and consular agents. Officers were expected to spend the bulk of their careers abroad and were commissioned officers of the United States, available for worldwide service. Reserve officers often spent the bulk of their careers in Washington but were available for overseas service. Foreign Service Staff personnel included clerical and support positions. The intent of this system was to remove the distinction between Foreign Service and civil service staff, which had been a source of friction. The Foreign Service Act of 1946 also repealed as redundant the 1927 and 1930 laws granting USDA and Commerce representatives abroad diplomatic status, since at that point agricultural and commercial attachés were appointed by the Department of State.

The 1946 Act replaced the Board of Foreign Service Personnel, a body concerned solely with administering the system of promotions, with the Board of the Foreign Service, which was responsible more broadly for the personnel system as a whole, and created the position of Director-General of the Foreign Service. It also introduced the "up-or-out" system under which failure to gain promotion to higher rank within a specified time in class would lead to mandatory retirement, essentially borrowing the concept from the U.S. Navy. The 1946 Act also created the rank of Career Minister, accorded to the most senior officers of the service, and established mandatory retirement ages.

Foreign Service Act of 1980


The new personnel management approach was not wholly successful, which led to an effort in the late 1970s to overhaul the 1946 Act. During drafting of this Act, Congress chose to move the commercial attachés back to Commerce while preserving their status as Foreign Service Officer
Foreign Service Officer
A Foreign Service Officer is a commissioned member of the United States Foreign Service. As diplomats, Foreign Service Officers formulate and implement the foreign policy of the United States. FSOs spend most of their careers overseas as members of U.S. embassies, consulates, and other diplomatic...

s, and to include agricultural attaché
Agricultural attaché
An agricultural attaché is a diplomat who collects, analyzes, and acts on information on agriculture, agribusiness, food, and other related spheres in a foreign country or countries. Agricultural attachés may be directly employed by the sending country's agriculture ministry, or they may be...

s of the Department of Agriculture in addition to the existing FSOs of the Department of State, U.S. Information Agency, and U.S. Agency for International Development.

The Foreign Service Act of 1980 is the most recent major legislative reform to the Foreign Service. It abolished the Foreign Service Reserve category of officers, and reformed the personnel system for non-diplomatic locally employed staff of overseas missions (Foreign Service Nationals). It created a Senior Foreign Service
Senior Foreign Service
The Senior Foreign Service comprises the top four ranks of the United States Foreign Service. These ranks were created by the Foreign Service Act of 1980 and Executive Order 12293 in order to provide the Foreign Service with senior grades equivalent to general- and flag ranks in the military and...

 with a rank structure equivalent to general and flag officer
Flag Officer
A flag officer is a commissioned officer in a nation's armed forces senior enough to be entitled to fly a flag to mark where the officer exercises command. The term usually refers to the senior officers in an English-speaking nation's navy, specifically those who hold any of the admiral ranks; in...

s of the armed forces
United States armed forces
The United States Armed Forces are the military forces of the United States. They consist of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard.The United States has a strong tradition of civilian control of the military...

 and to the Senior Executive Service
Senior Executive Service
The Senior Executive Service is a paygrade in the civil service of the United States federal government, somewhat analogous to the ranks of general or admiral in the U.S. armed forces...

. It enacted danger pay for those diplomats who serve in dangerous and hostile surroundings along with other administrative changes. The 1980 Act also reauthorized the Board of the Foreign Service, which "shall include one or more representatives of the Department of State, the United States Information Agency
United States Information Agency
The United States Information Agency , which existed from 1953 to 1999, was a United States agency devoted to "public diplomacy". In 1999, USIA's broadcasting functions were moved to the newly created Broadcasting Board of Governors, and its exchange and non-broadcasting information functions were...

, the United States International Development Cooperation Agency
United States Agency for International Development
The United States Agency for International Development is the United States federal government agency primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid. President John F. Kennedy created USAID in 1961 by executive order to implement development assistance programs in the areas...

, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Labor, the Office of Personnel Management, the Office of Management and Budget, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and such other agencies as the President may designate."

This board is charged with advising "the Secretary of State on matters relating to the Service, including furtherance of the objectives of maximum compatibility among agencies authorized by law to utilize the Foreign Service personnel system and compatibility between the Foreign Service personnel system and the other personnel systems of the Government."

Members of the Foreign Service


The Foreign Service Act, et seq., defines the following members of the Foreign Service:
  • Chiefs of mission are appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate.
  • Ambassadors at large
    Ambassador-at-large
    An ambassador-at-large is a Diplomat of the highest rank or a Minister who is accredited to represent his country internationally.Unlike an ambassador-in-residence who is usually limited to a country and/or embassy, the ambassador-at-large is entrusted to operate in several usually neighboring...

     are appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate.
  • Senior Foreign Service
    Senior Foreign Service
    The Senior Foreign Service comprises the top four ranks of the United States Foreign Service. These ranks were created by the Foreign Service Act of 1980 and Executive Order 12293 in order to provide the Foreign Service with senior grades equivalent to general- and flag ranks in the military and...

     (SFS) members are the senior leaders and experts for the management of the Foreign Service and the performance of its functions. They are appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate. SFS may come from the FSO or Specialist ranks and are the equivalent to flag or general officers in the military.
  • Foreign Service Officer
    Foreign Service Officer
    A Foreign Service Officer is a commissioned member of the United States Foreign Service. As diplomats, Foreign Service Officers formulate and implement the foreign policy of the United States. FSOs spend most of their careers overseas as members of U.S. embassies, consulates, and other diplomatic...

    s are appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate. These diplomat "generalists" have primary responsibility for carrying out the functions of the Foreign Service.
  • Foreign Service Specialist
    Foreign Service Specialist
    Foreign Service Specialists are employees of the United States Department of State and other foreign affairs agencies. They are members of the Foreign Service system who provide technical, administrative, or security support and services at embassies and consulates worldwide, in Washington, D.C...

    s provide special skills and services required for effective performance by the Service (e.g., Special Agents of the Diplomatic Security Service
    Diplomatic Security Service
    The U.S. Diplomatic Security Service is the federal law enforcement arm of the United States Department of State. The majority of its Special Agents are members of the Foreign Service and federal law enforcement agents at the same time, making them unique...

    ). They are appointed by the Secretary of State.
  • Foreign Service Nationals (FSNs), also known as LES (Locally Engaged Staff), are personnel who provide clerical, administrative, technical, fiscal, and other support at posts abroad. They may be native citizens of the host country or third-country citizens (the latter referred to in the past as Third Country Nationals or TCNs). In some cases LES are Americans living abroad as expatriates.
  • Consular agents provide consular and related services as authorized by the Secretary of State at specified locations abroad where no Foreign Service posts are situated.

Foreign affairs agencies


While employees of the Department of State make up the largest portion of the Foreign Service, the Foreign Service Act of 1980 authorizes other U.S. government agencies to use the personnel system for positions that require service abroad. These include the Department of Commerce (Foreign Commercial Service
United States Commercial Service
The United States Commercial Service is the trade promotion arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration, which helps U.S. companies succeed in markets around the world. Led by Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Director General Suresh Kumar and located across the...

), the Department of Agriculture (specifically the Foreign Agricultural Service
Foreign Agricultural Service
The Foreign Agricultural Service is the foreign affairs agency with primary responsibility for the United States Department of Agriculture's overseas programs—market development, international trade agreements and negotiations, and the collection of statistics and market information...

, though the Secretary of Agriculture has also authorized the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to use it as well), and the United States Agency for International Development
United States Agency for International Development
The United States Agency for International Development is the United States federal government agency primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid. President John F. Kennedy created USAID in 1961 by executive order to implement development assistance programs in the areas...

 (USAID). USAID, Commerce, and Agriculture senior career FSOs can be appointed to ambassadorships, although the ranks of career ambassadors are in the vast majority of cases drawn from the Department of State, with a far smaller sub-set drawn from the ranks of USAID Mission Directors.

Foreign Service size


The total number of Foreign Service members (excluding Foreign Service Nationals) from all Foreign Service agencies (State, USAID, etc.) is about 15,150.
  • State Department Foreign Service employees number approximately 13,000 which is a total of both Foreign Service Officers and Foreign Service Specialists.
  • The USAID Foreign Service currently numbers about 1,700.
  • Members from the other Foreign Service agencies number approximate 450: Foreign Commercial Service numbers about 250, Foreign Agriculture Service numbers about 175, and the International Broadcasting Bureau numbers about 25.


Employment


The process of being employed in the Foreign Service is different for those applying for Generalist positions and those applying for Specialist positions.

Generalist candidates take the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT), a written exam consisting of three sections (job knowledge, biographical information, English grammar and usage) and an essay. Those who pass the FSOT are invited to submit short essays called Personal Narrative Questions (PNQs) for review by the Qualifications Evaluation Panel (QEP). Approximately 25 to 30 percent of candidates pass both the FSOT and the PNQ/QEP phase of the process.. After the screening process, less than 10% of those that pass the FSOT are invited to an oral assessment, administered in person in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

 and other major cities throughout the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Approximately 3% of the original applicants at the written exam will ultimately pass the oral assessment.

Since the 1950s, Foreign Service Officer
Foreign Service Officer
A Foreign Service Officer is a commissioned member of the United States Foreign Service. As diplomats, Foreign Service Officers formulate and implement the foreign policy of the United States. FSOs spend most of their careers overseas as members of U.S. embassies, consulates, and other diplomatic...

 applicants who passed a full-day written exam were invited to an oral assessment. In mid-2007, the full-day written exam was shortened and the PNQs were added. The PNQs, along with the Qualifications Evaluation Panel (QEP) (which is composed of three current Foreign Service Officers), was one of the most significant changes to the Foreign Service hiring process in decades. To be invited to take the Oral Assessment an applicant must not only pass the FSOT but also the QEP review. The Department of State's Board of Examiners can find some candidacies unacceptable despite the fact that they passed the FSOT.

Those candidates who receive official offers of employment must attend a 6-week training/orientation course known as A-100
A-100 Class
A-100 is the colloquial name given to the introductory/orientation training class for incoming Foreign Service Officers. These courses are taught in the Foreign Service Institute at the National Foreign Affairs Training Center in Arlington, Virginia...

 at the Foreign Service Institute
Foreign Service Institute
The Foreign Service Institute is the United States Federal Government's primary training institution for employees of the U.S. foreign affairs community, preparing American diplomats and other professionals to advance U.S. foreign affairs interests overseas and in Washington...

 (FSI) in Arlington, VA.

Foreign Service Specialist
Foreign Service Specialist
Foreign Service Specialists are employees of the United States Department of State and other foreign affairs agencies. They are members of the Foreign Service system who provide technical, administrative, or security support and services at embassies and consulates worldwide, in Washington, D.C...

 (FSS) candidates are evaluated by Subject Matter Experts for proven skills and recommended to the Board of Examiners for an oral assessment based on those skills. FSS positions are currently grouped into seven major categories: Administration, Construction Engineering, Information Technology, International Information and English Language Programs, Medical and Health, Office Management, and Security.

Even when a candidate passes all of the required examinations, several other conditions of employment must be met. Foreign Service candidates undergo a security background check for a TOP SECRET Security Clearance and must obtain a Class 1 (Worldwide Available) Medical Clearance. Failure to obtain a TS clearance or a Class 1 medical clearance can result in a candidate's eligibility being terminated. It can be difficult for a candidate to receive a TOP SECRET clearance if they have extensive foreign travel, dual citizenship, non-United States citizen family members, foreign spouses, drug use, financial problems or a poor record of financial practices, frequent gambling, and allegiance or de facto allegiance to a foreign state. Additionally, it can be difficult for anyone who has had a significant health problem to receive a Class 1 Medical Clearance.

Previously, the Foreign Service automatically rejected anyone with HIV
HIV
Human immunodeficiency virus is a lentivirus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome , a condition in humans in which progressive failure of the immune system allows life-threatening opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive...

. However, the landmark case of Taylor v. Rice mandated that the Foreign Service cannot discriminate against applicants who have stable chronic medical conditions. Taylor v. Rice allows HIV-Positive applicants to become Foreign Service Officers, provided they meet the other criteria required for employment.http://pacer.cadc.uscourts.gov/docs/common/opinions/200606/05-5257a.pdf Other conditions, such as mental illness and diabetes, are still considered severe enough to warrant rejection for the Foreign Service.http://pacer.cadc.uscourts.gov/docs/common/opinions/200606/05-5257a.pdf

Once an applicant passes the security and medical clearances, as well as the Final Review Panel, they are placed on the register of eligible hires, ranked according to the score that they received in the oral assessment. There are factors that can increase a candidate's score, such as foreign language proficiency, Veteran's Preference, and Peace Corps service. Once a candidate is put on the register, they can remain for 18 months. If they are not hired from the register within 18 months, their candidacy is terminated. Separate registers are maintained for each of the five Generalist career cones as well as the 23 Specialist career tracks.

All Foreign Service personnel must be worldwide available-that is, they may be deployed anywhere in the world based on the needs of the service. They also agree to publicly support the policies of the United States Government.

Service terms and conditions


Members of the Foreign Service are expected to serve most of their career abroad, working at embassies and consulates around the world. By internal regulation the maximum stretch of domestic assignments should last no more than five years before resigning or taking a foreign posting. By law Foreign Service personnel must go abroad after eight years of domestic service. The difficulties and the benefits associated with working abroad are many, especially in relation to family life.

Dependent family members usually accompany Foreign Service employees overseas. The children of Foreign Service members, sometimes called Foreign Service Brat
Foreign Service Brat
In the United States a Foreign Service brat is a person whose parent served full-time in with the forces in a posting abroad during that person's childhood. The term brat is often thought of as derogatory; however, for some who have experienced this background, the term has a neutral feel and is...

s, grow up in a unique world, one that separates them, willingly or unwillingly, from their counterparts living continuously in the states.

While many children of Foreign Service members become very well developed, are able to form friendships easily, are skilled at moving frequently and enjoy international travel, other children have extreme difficulty adapting to the Foreign Service lifestyle. For both employees and their families, the opportunity to see the world, experience foreign cultures firsthand for a prolonged period, and the camaraderie amongst the Foreign Service and expatriate
Expatriate
An expatriate is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person's upbringing...

 communities in general are considered some of the benefits of Foreign Service life.

Some of the downsides of Foreign Service work include exposure to tropical diseases and the assignment to countries with inadequate health care systems, unaccompanied tours of duty, and potential exposure to violence, civil unrest and warfare.

Attacks on US embassies around the world—Beirut, Islamabad, Belgrade, Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, and Baghdad, among others—underscore the considerable danger these public servants face. FSOs stationed in nations with inadequate infrastructure risk injury or death due to natural disasters that would be relatively minor in the U.S.; for instance, an FSO was one of the first identified victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake
2010 Haiti earthquake
The 2010 Haiti earthquake was a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 Mw earthquake, with an epicentre near the town of Léogâne, approximately west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital. The earthquake occurred at 16:53 local time on Tuesday, 12 January 2010.By 24 January, at least 52 aftershocks...

.

For members of the Foreign Service, a personal life outside of the U.S. Foreign Service can be exceptionally difficult, especially when it comes to friends or relations that qualify as Foreign Contacts. Personal relationships with foreign nationals in countries that are considered high-level Human Intelligence threat posts are even more rigorously enforced by Diplomatic Security. In addition to espionage, there is also the danger of personnel that use their position illegally for financial gain. The most frequent kind of illegal abuse of an official position concerns Consular Officers. There have been a handful of cases of FSOs on Consular Assignments selling visas for a price.

Members of the Foreign Service must agree to worldwide availability. In practice, they generally have significant input as to where they will work, although issues such as rank, language ability, and previous assignments will affect one's possible onward assignments. All assignments are based on the needs of the Service, and historically it has occasionally been necessary for the Department to make directed assignments to a particular post in order to fulfill the Government's diplomatic requirements. This is not the norm, however, as many Foreign Service employees have volunteered to serve even at extreme hardship posts, including, most recently, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The State Department maintains a Family Liaison Office to assist diplomats, including members of the Foreign Service and their families, in dealing with the unique issues of life as a U.S. diplomat, including the extended family separations that are usually required when an employee is sent to a danger post.

Foreign Service career system


The Foreign Service personnel system is part of the Excepted Service
Excepted service
Most civilian positions in the federal government of the United States are part of the competitive service, where applicants must compete with other applicants in open competition under the merit system administered by the Office of Personnel Management. However, some agencies are excluded from...

 and both generalist and specialist positions are competitively promoted through comparison of performance in annual sessions of Selection Boards. Each foreign affairs agency establishes time-in-class (TIC) and time-in-service (TIS) rules for certain categories of personnel in accordance with the provisions of the Foreign Service Act. This may include a maximum of 27 years of commissioned service if a member is not promoted into the Senior Foreign Service, and a maximum of 15 years of service in any single grade prior to promotion into the Senior Foreign Service. Furthermore, Selection Boards may recommend members not only for promotions, but for selection out of the service due to failure to perform at the standard set by those members' peers in the same grade. The TIC rules do not apply to office management specialists, medical specialists, and several other categories but most members of the Foreign Service are subject to an "up or out" system similar to that of military officers.

This system stimulates members to perform well, and to accept difficult and hazardous assignments.

Directors General of the United States Foreign Service

Name Assumed Office Left Office President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 served under
Selden Chapin
Selden Chapin
Selden Chapin was a career foreign service officer and United States diplomat.-Biography:Selden Chapin was born at Erie, Pennsylvania. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1919 and served in the U.S. Navy from 1919 to 1925. He married Mary Paul Noyes, March 30, 1927.He was...

November 13, 1946 April 30, 1947 Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...

Christian M. Ravndal May 1, 1947 June 23, 1949 Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...

Richard P. Butrick September 7, 1949 April 1, 1952 Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...

Gerald A. Drew
Gerald A. Drew
Gerald Augustin Drew was a career Foreign Service Officer.-Biography:Born in San Francisco, California, Drew was a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley where he was a member of Phi Kappa Tau. He served as U.S. Vice Consul in Pará, 1929; Envoy to Jordan, 1950–52; Ambassador to...

March 30, 1952 October 18, 1954 Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

Raymond A. Hare
Raymond A. Hare
Raymond Arthur Hare was a United States diplomat, who was Director General of the United States Foreign Service from 1954 to 1956 and Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs from 1965 to 1966.-Early years, 1901—1939:...

October 19, 1954 August 29, 1956 Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

Joseph C. Satterthwaite
Joseph C. Satterthwaite
Joseph Charles Satterthwaite of Michigan was a career diplomat who served as United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Head of the U.S. Legation at Tangier from 1953 to 1955, and as United States Ambassador to Burma from April 1955 to April 1957. He then served as the first Assistant Secretary of...

May 6, 1957 September 1, 1958 Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

Waldemar J. Gallman November 17, 1958 January 31, 1961 Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

Tyler Thompson
Tyler Thompson
Tyler Thompson is a Canadian actor, credited to roles from 1994 to 2001. He appeared in several movies , and has guest starred on the television shows: The X-Files, Millennium, Harsh Realm, and Cold Squad. In 1996, he appeared regularly for five episodes of Madison.-External links:...

May 14, 1961 February 15, 1964 John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

 and Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon Baines Johnson , often referred to as LBJ, was the 36th President of the United States after his service as the 37th Vice President of the United States...

Joseph Palmer II
Joseph Palmer II
Joseph Palmer II was an American diplomat and State Department official whose career focused on U.S. relations with Africa....

February 16, 1964 April 10, 1966 Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon Baines Johnson , often referred to as LBJ, was the 36th President of the United States after his service as the 37th Vice President of the United States...

John M. Steeves August 1, 1966 July 31, 1969 Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon Baines Johnson , often referred to as LBJ, was the 36th President of the United States after his service as the 37th Vice President of the United States...

John H. Burns August 1, 1969 June 15, 1971 Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon
Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. The only president to resign the office, Nixon had previously served as a US representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961 under...

William O. Hall
William O. Hall
William O. Hall was the U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia from 1967 to 1971, during the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie I.William O. Hall was born May 22, 1914, in Roswell, New Mexico. He moved with his family to Prineville, Oregon when he was seven years old...

July 5, 1971 September 30, 1973 Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon
Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. The only president to resign the office, Nixon had previously served as a US representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961 under...

Nathaniel Davis
Nathaniel Davis
Nathaniel Davis A well known career diplomat who served in the United States Foreign Service and the Peace Corps for 36 years. His final years were spent teaching.-Early years:...

November 13, 1973 March 17, 1975 Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon
Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. The only president to resign the office, Nixon had previously served as a US representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961 under...

Carol C. Laise April 11, 1975 December 26, 1977 Gerald Ford
Gerald Ford
Gerald Rudolph "Jerry" Ford, Jr. was the 38th President of the United States, serving from 1974 to 1977, and the 40th Vice President of the United States serving from 1973 to 1974...

Harry G. Barnes, Jr.
Harry G. Barnes, Jr.
Harry G. Barnes, Jr. in St. Paul, Minnesota, is an American diplomat, a former Foreign Service Officer who served as US ambassador to Romania , India and Chile...

December 22, 1977 February 8, 1981 Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter
James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr. is an American politician who served as the 39th President of the United States and was the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, the only U.S. President to have received the Prize after leaving office...

Joan M. Clark
Joan M. Clark
Joan Margaret Clark was a former United States Ambassador to Malta . She is a member of the American Academy of Diplomacy.-References:...

July 27, 1981 October 24, 1983 Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

Alfred Atherton
Alfred Atherton
Alfred Leroy "Roy" Atherton Jr. was a United States Foreign Service Officer and diplomat. He served as United States Ambassador to Egypt in 1979–1983.-Early life:...

December 2, 1983 December 28, 1984 Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

George S. Vest
George S. Vest
George Southall Vest is a former United States diplomat and State Department official.-Biography:George S. Vest was born in Columbia, Virginia, and educated at the University of Virginia, graduating with a B.A. in 1941. Upon leaving college, Vest joined the United States Army to serve as a...

June 8, 1985 May 3, 1989 Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

Edward J. Perkins
Edward J. Perkins
Edward Joseph Perkins is a former American diplomat. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Liberia, South Africa, and the United Nations 1992-1993. He was later Director of the US State Department's Diplomatic Corps....

September 22, 1989 May 7, 1992 George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 41st President of the United States . He had previously served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States , a congressman, an ambassador, and Director of Central Intelligence.Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, to...

Genta H. Holmes
Genta H. Holmes
Genta Hawkins Holmes is an American professor in diplomacy and former American foreign service officer and ambassador. She is currently teaching A Practicum in Diplomacy at the University of California, Davis....

September 7, 1992 August 18, 1995 George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 41st President of the United States . He had previously served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States , a congressman, an ambassador, and Director of Central Intelligence.Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, to...

 and Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

Anthony C. E. Quainton
Anthony C. E. Quainton
Anthony Cecil Eden Quainton is a former United States diplomat. He was born in Seattle on April 4, 1934 and was educated at Princeton University, where he received a B.A. in 1955, and Oxford University, England as a Marshall Scholar, where he received a B.Litt. in 1958. While in England, he...

December 29, 1995 August 22, 1997 Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

Edward Gnehm
Edward Gnehm
Edward William Gnehm, Jr., also known as Skip Gnehm was most recently the U.S. ambassador to Jordan and is now a faculty member at George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs....

August 25, 1997 June 14, 2000 Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

Marc Grossman
Marc Grossman
Marc Grossman is the United States Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. He served as United States Ambassador to Turkey, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs....

June 19, 2000 Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

Ruth A. Davis
Ruth A. Davis
Ruth A. Davis, . Ambassador Davis is the 24th Director General of the United States Foreign Service. She holds the distinction of being the first woman of color to be appointed as Director General of the Foreign Service and the first African-American Director of the Foreign Service Institute...

June 15, 2001 June 30, 2003 George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

W. Robert Pearson
W. Robert Pearson
W. Robert Pearson is a former Foreign Service Officer who served as United States Ambassador to Turkey and later as Director of Human Resources in the Foreign Service until his retirement in 2006...

October 7, 2003 February 27, 2006 George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

George McDade Staples May 25, 2006 June 27, 2007 George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

Harry K. Thomas, Jr.
Harry K. Thomas, Jr.
Harry K. Thomas, Jr. is the United States Ambassador to the Philippines. A former United States Ambassador to Bangladesh and Director General of the United States Foreign Service , Thomas was designated by US President Barack Obama on November 19, 2009 to replace Kristie Kenney...

September 21, 2007 August 2, 2009 George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 and Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

Nancy Jo Powell
Nancy Jo Powell
Nancy Jo Powell assumed the position of Director General of the United States Foreign Service on August 3, 2009 after serving as the American ambassador for Nepal. Powell is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service...

August 3, 2009 Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...


See also

  • A-100 Class
    A-100 Class
    A-100 is the colloquial name given to the introductory/orientation training class for incoming Foreign Service Officers. These courses are taught in the Foreign Service Institute at the National Foreign Affairs Training Center in Arlington, Virginia...

  • Cookie pusher
    Cookie Pusher
    The term Cookie Pusher has been applied as a reference to diplomats in general and members of the United States Foreign Service specifically.-Origin:The Listserv of the American Dialect Society documents "cookie pusher" as being coined by US diplomat Hugh S...

  • Diplomatic Security Service
    Diplomatic Security Service
    The U.S. Diplomatic Security Service is the federal law enforcement arm of the United States Department of State. The majority of its Special Agents are members of the Foreign Service and federal law enforcement agents at the same time, making them unique...

  • Foreign Agricultural Service
    Foreign Agricultural Service
    The Foreign Agricultural Service is the foreign affairs agency with primary responsibility for the United States Department of Agriculture's overseas programs—market development, international trade agreements and negotiations, and the collection of statistics and market information...

  • Foreign Relations of the United States
  • Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies
    Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies
    Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies is the officially recognized organization representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender personnel and their families in the United States Department of State, U.S...

     (GLIFAA)
  • Senior Foreign Service
    Senior Foreign Service
    The Senior Foreign Service comprises the top four ranks of the United States Foreign Service. These ranks were created by the Foreign Service Act of 1980 and Executive Order 12293 in order to provide the Foreign Service with senior grades equivalent to general- and flag ranks in the military and...

  • United States Agency for International Development
    United States Agency for International Development
    The United States Agency for International Development is the United States federal government agency primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid. President John F. Kennedy created USAID in 1961 by executive order to implement development assistance programs in the areas...

  • United States Commercial Service
    United States Commercial Service
    The United States Commercial Service is the trade promotion arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration, which helps U.S. companies succeed in markets around the world. Led by Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Director General Suresh Kumar and located across the...

  • United States Department of State
    United States Department of State
    The United States Department of State , is the United States federal executive department responsible for international relations of the United States, equivalent to the foreign ministries of other countries...

  • Foreign Service Military Rank Equivalency

External links