SOMEWHERE along the road between Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima a fundamental schism in the American outlook on foreign affairs disappeared. The reference is not to the division of opinion which developed over, for example, a policy of "aid-to-Britain" versus one of "traditional neutrality," but to a difference in temper and judgment much deeper and not always in correspondence with the cleavage over a particular issue. The true "isolationist" was not necessarily identifiable in a debate on policy, because frequently he found himself (as did the so-called "internationalist") allied with a strange assortment of men whose motivations he detested. His essential characteristic was a conviction -- sometimes sophisticated, usually naïve -- that forces and events in other parts of the world were not, or need not be, of vital concern to the American national interest. Coupled with this was a faith that, come what may, the United States would through its own might and wisdom be able to direct its high destiny independently of the fate of the outside world.

The impact of events has so shattered this type of outlook that it no longer finds expression in any significant political grouping. Divisions in opinion have, it is true, developed as to whether this is or can or should be one world or two, but in the last Congress only a few scattered voices faintly sought to echo the isolationist pleas of yesteryear, and many of these were subsequently extinguished in the primaries or in the elections. In striking contrast to the political generation of 1919 and 1920, the overwhelming majorities of both parties stand together in the conviction that the welfare and security of the United States demand today an energetic and positive participation in world affairs, and an unshakable policy directed towards the achievement of world peace and justice through international cooperative action. Differences over this or that foreign issue may develop, even spiritedly, but if the temper of American political opinion over the past 18 months gives any clue to the future, they will manifest themselves on a common plane which assumes that -- in the words of a President a generation ago --"we are participants, whether we would or not, in the life of the world."

This public awareness of America's world-wide concerns has already produced its chain of repercussions on the principal governmental instruments charged with the conduct of our foreign relations, viz. the Department of State and the Foreign Service of the United States.[i] It was inevitable that a greater appreciation of the need for an active assertion of America's rôle in world affairs would result in an expansion in the functions which these agencies were called upon to perform. Commensurate with the new responsibilities which the Department of State must assume in Washington, the Foreign Service now faces tasks abroad more exacting, vast and various than any it has performed before. It constitutes the front line of America's world-wide peace organization, yet it is not equipped in human resources to hold this line effectively under the pressure of enlarged responsibilities. The first major step in expanding, strengthening and developing the Foreign Service was taken last summer when Congress passed the Foreign Service Act of 1946. It received the President's approval on August 13, and, in accordance with its provisions, came into force three months later, although a number of its provisions must depend on liberal and sustained appropriations to ensure that the intentions of Congress are properly executed. This was the most important legislative reform of the Foreign Service since the original Rogers Act of 1924. It is significant to note that while five postwar years elapsed before the passage of the Rogers Act, Congress and public opinion responded to the peacetime needs of the Foreign Service after the Second World War in less than one year. This is indicative of the greater swiftness with which the implications of America's new world position issuing from the second great war have been publicly perceived.

A picture of the Foreign Service in the 1930's would bear little resemblance, in dimensions or in scope of functions, to that of today, and still less to the Service projected for tomorrow. When Selden Chapin, the first Director General of the Foreign Service under the new Act, served as third secretary in Quito, Ecuador, in 1934, his only associates were the Minister and two clerks, and even this small staff sometimes found time hanging heavily on their hands. As of July 1, 1946, the Mission at Quito consisted of the Ambassador, a counselor of Embassy, 10 officers, and some 30 clerks, in addition to the staffs of the military and naval attachés. Practically every American diplomatic and consular establishment in the world would reveal a corresponding expansion. In 1939, the entire Service consisted of some 800 career officers, 2,000 clerks, and 1,250 miscellaneous employees -- a total of 4,000. As of today, the over-all strength is about 11,000 made up as follows: 58 Ambassadors and Ministers, 980 Foreign Service Officers, 3,800 other American officers and employees, and 6,200 aliens. Careful surveys conducted during the past year by the Division of Foreign Service Planning indicate that the Service is still badly hampered in the performance of its enlarged functions by staff shortages, in some cases critical. The Planning Division has estimated that satisfactory efficiency in 1948 could be obtained only if authorization is provided for a Service of over 16,000, of whom 1,400 would be career Foreign Service Officers, 600 Reserve Officers, 5,300 staff officers and employees, and some 9,000 alien employees (chiefly maintenance personnel and minor clerks).

The increase in officer personnel during the war was principally due to the appointment of temporary officers known as Foreign Service Auxiliaries, many of whom rendered distinguished wartime service, and who as a group made good a critical personnel deficiency arising from the suspended recruitment programs of regular Foreign Service Officers. As of this writing, the auxiliary service, which was intended only as a war-term emergency, is being disbanded, but selected individuals are being retained in other capacities. The necessity of recruiting large numbers of inexperienced personnel to supply emergency requirements during the war illustrates a certain lack of foresight in administration, and was one of the factors which led to the adoption in the new Act of the Reserve Officer class. A contributing circumstance to the personnel shortage in the early years of the war was the decision, now believed by many to have been unwise, to suspend the examinations for the career Foreign Service on the grounds that the military and naval services should have first claim on all good men.

As is generally known, the career Foreign Service Officer has been selected by a competitive examination system since 1924. Ambassadors and Ministers are, of course, appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, without examinations. Until 1942, from 20 to 40 new officers were admitted annually, with the exception of three years in the early thirties when recruitment was suspended due to insufficiency of funds. Thousands of young men and women became familiar with the pattern of these examinations during the prewar years. They consisted of four general examinations designed to test the general intelligence and fund of knowledge of the candidate, a language examination, and three special examinations in law, history, economics and government.[ii] Upon receiving a passing grade of 70, the candidate appeared personally before an examining board at the State Department for a half-hour or more, and if he survived this test was then admitted into the Service. Whether the examination process is well designed to attract and to select men of the high quality needed today is open to debate, but it should be noted that the Board of Examiners is undertaking an exhaustive inquiry to determine whether its methods are adequately devised to obtain the results desired today.

The spirit of the Foreign Service in 1947 is one of change to meet a new situation and new obligations in a changed world. A certain complacency and stodginess of which some in the Service were not entirely devoid were given a rude shock two years ago when, on an open invitation from the editors, the Foreign Service Journal began to receive, and to print, letters of searching self-criticism from Service officers. Out of this healthy ferment eventually developed some of the most constructive provisions of the 1946 Act. Outworn habits of administration, which groaned and creaked and nearly collapsed under the wartime and postwar inundation of hordes of new personnel and pressures of work, are being progressively overhauled in an effort to adapt the machine to the fast-moving requirements of the new enlarged Service. The composition of Service personnel is undergoing radical change. Over 300 new junior officers, mostly war veterans, are being commissioned in 1946 and 1947. In addition, authorization was given by the Manpower Act of 1946 to admit into the Foreign Service at higher classifications 250 war-service men over 31 years old. Budgetary appropriations will permit the appointment of 120 of these men this fiscal year. As a result, the Foreign Service Officer (projected) Corps of 1,400 in 1948 will be composed of 40 percent new personnel, most of whom will be war veterans. And these figures do not include an even larger number of reserve and staff officers authorized by the 1946 Act, who, for the most part, will represent an additional infusion of new blood, new energies and new ideas into the Service.

Expansion in the size of the Service is due to the more extensive and varied responsibilities imposed upon it, not only by the Department of State, but by other government departments in Washington. In turn, these Washington agencies act in response to requirements laid upon them by the President or by Congress, which, along with public opinion, have formulated a new and broader conception of American national interests abroad in the light of postwar situations. Moreover, as a result of America's new commitments arising from membership in the United Nations Organization and other bodies, and from participation in scores of international conferences, the Foreign Service must have at hand a reservoir of personnel, skilled and experienced in international negotiations.

As of October 1, three hundred embassies, legations, consulates-general, consulates, vice-consulates and consular agencies were being operated abroad. The functions performed in these establishments may be conveniently divided into six basic categories: political, economic, commercial, consular, informational and cultural, and administrative. Of these six, the informational and cultural represents a phase of activity which has only recently been accepted officially as a definite and clearly defined function, but most of the others have expanded in scope and dimensions. In addition to his responsibility for all these activities in his sphere of jurisdiction, the chief of mission has an additional duty -- that of being the chief representative of the United States, and the spokesman for the government, in the country or area to which he is assigned.

Of the 2,000 officers (including reserve officers and top staff personnel) presently in the Service, some 18 percent are employed in political work, i.e. as diplomatic secretaries or counselors. That means they are engaged, under the Ambassador's direction, in handling diplomatic relations with the local Foreign Office, ranging from minute day-to-day matters to large-scale agreements. They are also responsible for the preparation and transmission of reports on the political situation in the country. In an earlier day, the drafting of political reports was too frequently a routine and leisurely performance consisting of culling items from a morning newspaper or relating gossip from the previous evening's cocktail party. This practice has not been wholly abandoned, but the trend to a new order of political reporting is now so pronounced that tomorrow's Foreign Service Officer will not dare, if he values his career, regard it as more than a superficial minimum exercise. The man sitting at a desk in the State Department requires a living, continuous and comprehensive picture of all the significant political forces and ferments (in their larger social, economic and psychological contexts) operating in the country with which he must deal. Today the reporter must know the foreign government with which he is dealing, but he must also reach below to the man in the street, to representatives of the opposition parties, the labor unions, etc., in order to gauge political currents and "foresee" developments. He must supply judicious appraisals, analyses and interpretations of the facts he is reporting. On the basis of his reports, action recommendations are formulated in the "geographical" divisions of the State Department for the consideration of the Secretary of State. The career officer plays an additional rôle from time to time when he is called to serve a tour of duty in the State Department as an expert on a given region. In this capacity, he is immediately responsible for recommending policy decisions to the Secretary of State. Of the fifty-odd officers in the political-geographic offices of the State Department, approximately 80 percent are, or once were, in the Foreign Service.

The economic functions of the Service are no less important; and in the performance of them 22 percent of officer manpower is engaged. Economic and financial analysts of a caliber equal to that produced by the best university graduate schools need to be developed in greater numbers, along with specialists in agriculture, mining, petroleum, aviation, shipping, labor and telecommunications. In these specialized fields service is rendered to other government agencies in Washington; but the vast new structure of economic offices and divisions in the Department of State is also closely concerned with broader as well as technical aspects of our economic foreign relations. Closely associated with the economic function is the commercial function, largely in the way of trade promotion and market reporting. Thirteen percent of Foreign Service officers are engaged in these duties and, for the most part, their service is rendered to the Department of Commerce for the benefit of the industrial and business community. Private foreign trading, generally suspended during the war, is beginning to revive, which means that the commercial responsibilities of the Foreign Service are expanding rapidly. The same may be said of consular duties, in which nearly one-fourth (24 percent) of the Service is engaged. With the return of peace, old consulates are being reopened, and consular staffs the world over are deluged with an accumulation of work, much of which was in suspense during the war. This includes the handling of American citizenship cases, applications for visas, shipping services, assistance to displaced persons, and tens of thousands of requests from American citizens for aid in locating relatives, in identifying and recovering property, and similar services.

The informational and cultural program, under the general direction of Assistant Secretary of State Benton, represents a new type of specialization in which at the present time 12 percent of officer personnel are engaged. Many of these officials, like their functions, were inherited from the wartime Office of War Information and the Office of Inter-American Affairs. The assumptions underlying this program are that America must undertake positively and energetically to make its way of life known to peoples the world over, both in order to foster a better understanding of America as a step toward better international understanding, and to assist in the cultural, economic and technological development of less advanced countries. Through the informational media of motion pictures, press releases and the radio, and the cultural services afforded by the exchange of students and scholars and the operation of libraries and institutes, the Foreign Service brings the life of America into the lives of other peoples. The obvious corollary is that Foreign Service Officers must develop a commensurately keen and sympathetic appreciation of foreign cultures.

Last but not least in the order of Foreign Service functions is that of administration, which occupies 11 percent of the officer personnel. Efficient administration has never been the strongest feature of the Foreign Service, but the phenomenal expansion in numerical strength and functions of the past few years has rendered it indispensable. Men engaged in an executive or administrative capacity in a foreign post, and also the chief of mission, must have a firm grasp of the purposes and operations of every phase of Foreign Service work and, at the same time, an understanding of mechanisms for the management and coördination of complex activities. Challenges on the score of purposefulness, ingenuity and imagination face the Foreign Service in many fields, but in few if any fields of more importance.

The searching inquiry made over the past two years into the adequacy of the Foreign Service to meet America's new worldwide responsibilities and interests was made on the basis of four general assumptions: that there was a need for new legislation, more men (and the best available), more money, and better administration. A new basic statute was provided, as mentioned above, in the Foreign Service Act of 1946. It remains only an instrument, which, if it is to be employed effectively, will need additional legislative authority for an increase in manpower and substantially enlarged appropriations.

The new Foreign Service Act (Public Law 724 - 79th Congress) retains the Rogers Act principle of a professional career Foreign Service, with appointments and promotions dependent on merit, with political influence rigidly excluded, and with sufficient compensation to attract able men regardless of their private means. The Foreign Service is placed under the administrative control of the newly-authorized Director General, subject to the supervision of the Secretary of State, but with the assistance of administrative policy recommendations from a new statutory Board of the Foreign Service, comprised of three Assistant Secretaries of State, the Director General, appropriate representatives designated by the Secretaries of Commerce, Agriculture and Labor, as well as ad hoc representatives of other departments when their interests are concerned. This Board replaces a predecessor of more limited representation and authority; its creation serves to emphasize the legitimate concern of government agencies, other than State, in the Foreign Service.

Steps have been taken towards sounder administration by establishing a more systematic classification of the Foreign Service into five principal categories: Ambassadors and Ministers, Foreign Service Officers, Foreign Service Reserve Officers, Foreign Service staff personnel, and alien personnel. Adjustments have been, or will be made, in the salaries of most of these personnel, but none more deservedly than in the case of Ambassadors and Ministers. For nearly a century -- from 1855 until 1946 -- the maximum salaries of Ambassadors and Ministers remained fixed at $17,500 and $10,000 respectively. Even with official allowances, modest enough (in London, about $12,500), no man has been able to accept an appointment as Ambassador to a large capital such as London or Paris unless he enjoyed a substantial independent income. In its report on the Bill, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs pointed out that, in sharp and humiliating comparison, the British Government furnished its Ambassador in Washington with an annual compensation of $70,000, tax free. The new Act provides that embassies and legations shall be grouped into four classes according to their importance, with salaries for the chiefs of missions, respectively, of $25,000, $20,000, $17,500, and $15,000. Moreover, an "establishment allowance" is authorized to enable a representative to maintain a residence worthy of his official position.

The salary of the entering Foreign Service Officer has been fixed at $3,300, ranging upward through six classes (replacing 11 at present) to the seventh class of "career minister" who receives $13,500. The allowance system has been improved and strengthened by an attempt to establish the principle that expenses incurred, directly or incidentally, in the performance of official duty should not be a burden on the private pocketbook. Furthermore, retirement provisions have been altered to permit an officer to retire between the ages of 50 and 60 with a more advantageous annuity than heretofore. On the other hand, as a safeguard against the risk that career security may develop a cult of humdrum mediocrity, the Navy system of "promotion-up or selection-out" has been adopted so that officers who fail to receive a promotion during a prescribed number of years will be separated from the Service.

The Reserve Officer class is a new creation. It is designed to provide a flexible means for the temporary employment (up to four years) of specialists from any government agency or from private life. By this means, the Service will obtain the benefit of periodic infusions of new talent and energies to perform specialized tasks and, it is hoped, such officers would constitute a recruiting nucleus in the event of an emergency. The Reserve Officer occupies a position of rank among Foreign Service Officers appropriate to his age, experience, and responsibility.

All other American employees -- specialists, technicians, administrators, clerks, etc. -- constitute the staff corps, appointment to which is made on the basis of technical qualifications similar to those in the Civil Service. There are 22 classes ranging from the lowest employee to a high-ranking staff officer receiving up to $10,000. Corresponding to the "CAF" classification in the Civil Service, capable employees will be able to rise from lower classifications to the upper brackets where they may discharge responsible duties of a consular, administrative or technical character.

An important provision of the Act is the authorization of the Foreign Service Institute, which, however, cannot be actually established until Congress appropriates the necessary funds. The Institute, which will succeed the present Division of Training Services in the State Department, will have the responsibility for providing comprehensive as well as specialized in-service training for personnel of the Foreign Service and of the Department of State at successive stages throughout their careers. The programs will be designed to enrich the knowledge, deepen the insight and sharpen the skills of men and women of all classifications. For instance, a Foreign Service Officer will, upon successfully completing the examinations set by the Board of Examiners, receive a three-months period of instruction to prepare him for the performance of his duties. At subsequent intervals in his career (provided that he survives the basic period of probation in the field), he will be assigned to the Institute for a program of instruction in such subjects as diplomacy, economics, area studies, principles of staff work (as in the Army and Navy staff colleges), or in any one of the 30 languages offered at present. The Institute will not attempt to establish a complete curriculum but will, in many cases, send officers to an appropriate university graduate school.

In the past, instances have been known of an officer remaining abroad for a stretch of a dozen years because funds were not available to bring him back to the United States. The disadvantage of this is obvious. If the Foreign Service Officer is to be a representative spokesman for his country abroad he must keep in touch with it through periodic revisits. The new Act makes it mandatory (subject, of course, to funds appropriated) for officers and employees to be returned to the United States for leave every two years at government expense, and to receive assignments in this country for a total of three out of his first 15 years. The Institute will be responsible for developing an "American reorientation" program, both in the form of conferences in Washington and through systematic tours of inspection of American business, industry, agriculture, technology, etc. Such a program will bring the officer into direct contact with citizens and currents of life throughout the country, and thus give him fresh insights into the America he represents.

The legislation of 1946 provides only a framework for Foreign Service reform. To become the living organism envisaged by its creators, the skeleton will require the flesh and blood of firm and diligent administration, of adequate annual appropriations (which need not, however, exceed the construction cost of a single battleship), and of more and better-trained manpower. Only then will the Foreign Service be suitably equipped to perform its rôle as an efficient instrument of America's postwar determination to "wage" a vigorous and constructive peace. Only then will a small and good organization -- but good enough only for a semi-isolationist age -- have effected its full transition to the high-powered Foreign Service demanded today.

[i] The distinction between these two organizations is not always clearly understood. The Department of State directs and controls our foreign relations in, or from, Washington. The Foreign Service (as its name implies) serves abroad. Primarily, it is the foreign instrument of the Department but it performs functions for other government agencies as well. The Foreign Service retains a legal and administrative status separate from the Department, even when its personnel serve therein for temporary assignments.

[ii] It should be added that when the examinations were resumed in 1945 and 1946 for ex-service men, the special subjects were omitted, but they will be restored in the first postwar examinations open to all in September 1947.

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  • WILLIAM P. MADDOX, Chief of the Division of Training Services, Office of the Foreign Service, Department of State; formerly on the faculties of Harvard, Princeton and Pennsylvania Universities
  • More By William P. Maddox