State Department to Order Diplomats to Iraq
Unable to find enough volunteers for hazardous duty, the State Department will start forcing Foreign Service Officers to take assignments in Iraq.
The State Department will order as many as 50 U.S. diplomats to take posts in Iraq next year because of expected shortfalls in filling openings there, the first such large-scale forced assignment since the Vietnam War.
On Monday, 200 to 300 employees will be notified of their selection as “prime candidates” for 50 open positions in Iraq, said Harry K. Thomas, director general of the Foreign Service. Some are expected to respond by volunteering, he said. However, if an insufficient number volunteers by Nov. 12, a department panel will determine which ones will be ordered to report to the Baghdad embassy next summer.
“If people say they want to go to Iraq, we will take them,” Thomas said in an interview. But “we have to move now, because we can’t hold up the process.” Those on the list were selected by factors including grade, specialty and language skill, as well as “people who have not had a recent hardship tour,” he said.
The Department has every right to do this; FSOs operate under many of the same strictures as commissioned military officers. The move will likely spark resignations and cause talented people to think again about joining the diplomatic corps. It seems to me that we’d be far better off offering stronger incentives for hazardous duty: Higher pay, enhanced chances for career advancement, priority assignment choices, and the like.