Army Officer Assignments
For a tenured FS-4 or new FS-3 (the rank equivalents of an Army captain and major) this entails many cone-specific tasks and may include supervising locally employed staff and direct-hire employees, or managing a small section.
It goes without saying that in an ideal world officers would first gain exposure to their cone prior to entering a management position.
There is an obvious parallel between the view that the combat arms are central to the Army’s mission and that consular work lies at the heart of ours.
In extremis all Foreign Service officers become American Citizen Services officers, and a strong argument can be made that an out-of-cone consular tour is the best way of satisfying visa demand, introducing new officers to the Service and building esprit de corps.
In fact, if there is to be a prerequisite in our current model of officer development, this should be it.
By denying officers a chance to learn their trade at the entry-level we retard their professional development and undermine the distinction between the entry and mid-level ranks.
Both programs were developed to address a staffing challenge and not primarily as a professional development tool.
The important role a consular tour plays in the last two points is of particular importance given our Service’s dearth of lengthy professional training.
However, in the same way that some Army officers think the branch detail program exists because infantrymen make better intelligence officers, some in the Foreign Service consider the consular requirement a policy that was adopted because it makes for better officers in the other cones.
It is the human resources equivalent of eating our seed corn. The Director General has called for ELOs to serve one tour in cone.
As an interim measure, have the Bureau of Human Resources adopt the stated goal that every ELO will serve at least one year in an in-cone position over the course of their first two tours or five years of service.
Skyrocketing demand for consular adjudicators has led to officers entering the mid-level ranks without in-cone experience, something our assignment process (and arguably our promotion process) penalizes.