FSI History

The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) was first proposed as an in-service, graduate-level training institute for State Department employees and others in the Foreign Service. In 1946, President Truman signed legislation that enabled Secretary of State George C. Marshall to establish the Institute on March 13, 1947. FSI’s first home was 2115 C Street NW in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington DC, in a building that was subsequently razed for the new State Department headquarters. FSI then moved to leased space in Rosslyn, Virginia until October 1993, when it relocated to its current home at the Shultz National Foreign Affairs Training Center in Arlington, Virginia.

The FSI of today would be unrecognizable to its founders. When it was first established, FSI offered instruction in 13 languages and about a dozen other professional and technology courses. Over the past seven decades, training has expanded and shifted to meet the needs of an ever-evolving, globally deployed workforce. This meant not only providing more space for classes and studying, but updating and refining the types of training we offer to reflect new global trends and the knowledge and skills required to practice effective diplomacy.

The original training divisions of FSI—New Officer Training, Advanced Officer Training, Language Studies, and Administrative and Management Studies—now represent only a few of the functions of our four schools and one center, and have been joined by new core training areas like applied information technology, diplomatic tradecraft, area studies, and leadership (see FSI Organization to learn more about FSI’s schools and centers and the different kinds of training they offer). FSI now provides instruction in about 70 languages and offers more than 800 courses, nearly 600 on campus and 275 via distance learning platforms to serve our globally-deployed workforce when and where they need it.

FSI Then and Now: A Look at 70 years of diplomatic training

Located at the site of Arlington Hall, the National Foreign Affairs Training Center campus has a unique history of its own. Several buildings remain from the original Arlington Hall Junior College, an all-female school founded in the 1920s. At the beginning of World War II, the junior college was repurposed to be used as a codebreaking facility by U.S. Army Intelligence and Security. The property remained in use by the Department of Defense until the late 1980s before being purchased by the Department of State to be repurposed yet again – this time, for the training of foreign affairs professionals. Today, the campus continues to be updated and modernized to support FSI’s cutting-edge approaches to training.

Here’s a look at some historical artifacts and images related to FSI, foreign affairs training, and the diplomatic history of the United States from the early 20th century to today.

Want more diplomatic history? Visit the U.S. Diplomacy Center, the first museum and education center dedicated to the history, practice, and challenges of American diplomacy.  The Office of the Historian also has extensive resources on the history of U.S. foreign policy.