In the beginning of 2021, President Biden released the Memorandum on Revitalizing America’s Foreign Policy and National Security Workforce, Institutions, and Partnership, the third national security memorandum (NSM-3), with the goal of revitalizing American foreign policy.  In NSM-3, President Biden stated that strengthening the national security and foreign policy workforce would be crucial in addressing the challenges of the future, as well as accomplishing the foreign policy objectives of the Biden-Harris Administration.

NSM-3 established a National Security Workforce Working Group (NSM-3 Working Group) to carry out an ambitious agenda and directed the issuance of an annual progress report detailing how each NSM-3 department or agency was meeting the memorandum’s goals.

The NSM-3 Working Group is composed of the Principal Deputy National Security Advisor as the Chair; the Deputy Director for Management of OMB, the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Deputy Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) as the Vice Chairs; and designees of multiple departments and agencies, including the Department of State (DOS).


NSM-3 laid out five priority goals.

  1. Expand the pathways to recruit and hire new employees from all segments of our society.
  2. Retain and support current employees and their families.
  3. Improve professional development in order to close mission-critical gaps.
  4. Recruit and retain technical and other specialized talent.
  5. Remove barriers that inhibit Americans from serving their country.


Since beginning implementation in 2021, the Department of State has enacted many initiatives and changes to execute the goals of NSM-3.

Workforce Composition and Culture

Notably, the Department of State made significant progress expanding pathways to recruit and hire new employees from all segments of society, retain and support current employees and their families, and remove barriers that inhibit Americans from serving their country. Examples of these accomplishments are included below.

  • Implemented 79 milestones in the first DEIA Strategic Plan.  Since its development in 2022, the Department has created 279 DEIA milestones and metrics within its DEIA Strategic Plan around recruitment, retention, accountability policies, accessible and inclusive spaces, in which 79 milestones were completed impacting over 75,000 Foreign and Civil Service employees, Locally Employed Staff, and Eligible Family Members, as well as prospective candidates.
  • Collected and analyzed extensive data to better understand retention challenges across the workforce. Over 9,300 of U.S. direct hire workforce of 25,000 people shared feedback on the most impactful aspects of their work environment through a “stay survey.”   The qualitative and quantitative data collection is enabling the Department to make policy decisions informed by data-driven evidence of employee perspectives.
  • Established paid internship programs. In FY22, State brought in their first cohort of 126 paid interns, grew that to 546 interns in FY23, and plans to extend over 900 offers in FY24.
  • Reorganized the Diplomat in Residence program to maximize outreach to underserved groups and communities.  Participated in over 950 diversity specific recruitment events at over 350 Minority Serving Institutions, and with over 250 diverse professional and civic organizations.
  • Modernized recruitment outreach leveraging new strategic engagement capabilities.  Candidate sourcing targeted top talent for direct engagement, connecting 316 Office Management Specialists and 155 Information Resource Management candidates to recruiters hosting information sessions for these high priority specialist positions.
  • Consolidated support of the Foreign Service Recruitment Consortium (FSRC) and established a Civil Service Recruitment Consortium (CSRC). The FSRC negotiated a new marketing contract to better meet specific hiring interests. The CSRC supported recruitment outreach for shared certificate releases aimed at addressing major deficits in mission-critical Civil Service career categories.
  • Increased training and briefings on employees with disabilities. Informational tours and trainings at the Access Center increased over 40% from 2022 to 2023. A revised training course on Disability and Reasonable Accommodations is now mandatory for all supervisors and managers.
  • Piloted five overseas TalentCare Coordinator positions. More than 2,567 Foreign Service employees in Seoul, Frankfurt, Abuja, Astana, and Santo Domingo have improved access to resources and facilitated programming to support their well-being, community, safety, and workplace flexibilities.
  • Expanded DETO eligibility. The Department revised the FAM to expand DETO eligibility to include employees who are U.S.-based Personal Services Contractors (PSCs).

Critical Skills in the National Security Workforce

The Department of State improved professional development to close mission-critical gaps and worked to recruit and retain technical and other specialized talent. Some examples are included below.

  • Used Direct Hiring Authority to bolster critical skills.  In 2023 the Department of State was granted two new special hiring tools by OPM (called Direct Hire Authority) for Civil Service Mission Critical Skills—Foreign Affairs Officers, and Passport Specialists. These authorities will expedite the hiring and provide a wider more diverse pool of applicants for these critical jobs.
  • Launched a Civil Service Talent Development Network. The Talent Development Network promotes accessible professional development resources for all Civil Service employees. Held over 300 facilitated meetings, consultations, and network check-ins, giving employees access to a wide range of resources, such as training programs, mentorship, and career advancement opportunities.
  • Increased eligibility criteria for the Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) to include STEM. New criteria allow employees in any of 40 STEM positions to participate in the program.
  • Expanded the use of shared competitive hiring certificates. Modified recruitment policies expanded sharing of certificates across the Department and extended the timeframe permitted for selections from shared certificates from 60 to 240 days.
  • Increased virtual recruitment through virtual STEM career fairs. Reached 5,277 STEM professionals and students and strengthened the talent pool for STEM policy and deficit STEM-field Foreign Service Specialist positions.
  • Launched a paid STEM and Foreign Affairs Fellowship Program for Civil Service employees.  Successfully recruited Information Technology Management and Foreign Affairs Officer Civil Service Fellows.
  • Expanded the Talent Sourcing Unit. The Talent Sourcing Unit reaches diverse and specialized talent through social and professional networks. In FY 2023 the unit completed 27 projects and sourced over 2,931 individuals, with the highest response rate for a project reaching 74%.
  • Launched the Learning Policy. State announced its first-ever Learning Policy to promote a culture of life-long learning across the workforce. The Learning Policy redefines and elevates the Department’s approach to learning by encouraging up to 40 hours of learning annually beyond mandatory training, initiating a new mid-career core training curriculum, and strongly supporting the use of Individual Development Plans for Foreign Service and Civil Service employees.



U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future