Chairman Cardin, Ranking Member Hagerty, Members of the sub-Committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today.
As President Biden has emphasized, diplomacy must be the tool of first resort of American leadership in an interconnected and competitive world. In his October 27 speech at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), Secretary Blinken outlined his vision to modernize American diplomacy, stressing the need to further strengthen and institutionalize the Department of State’s expertise in the areas that will be increasingly at the forefront of global affairs. He identified climate change, public health, cyber issues, and emerging technologies as areas of particular focus. Training, of course, must be at the center of our efforts to build and strengthen expertise in all these areas.
In support of this modernization initiative, FSI will launch a new cyber diplomacy tradecraft course next year that will cover a range of international cyber issues affecting U.S. national security, human rights, and economic imperatives. To enhance U.S. diplomatic skills and abilities to engage on rapidly changing policy priorities such as climate change, sustainability, and emerging technologies, FSI is conducting full needs assessments of training options to develop a broad range of courses in these areas. Similarly, FSI is conducting a needs assessment to expand and strengthen its course offerings on commercial diplomacy, ensuring foreign and civil service officers, as well as locally employed staff, at all levels can effectively advocate on behalf of U.S. commercial interests. We also are developing a mid-level training course that will strengthen the analytical, communication, and advocacy skills of Foreign and Civil Service personnel and enhance their operational effectiveness in areas ranging from multilateral diplomacy to working collaboratively with Congress. We expect to offer that course next summer.
Thanks to strong support from Congress, the Department of State has invested heavily in recent years in improving both what we train and how we train. We are completing construction of a new building at the National Foreign Affairs Training Center that will provide state-of-the-art facilities for our School of Professional and Area Studies and Leadership and Management School and allow us to house the entire School of Language Studies once again on our main campus. The new facility also can double as much-needed space for major Department conferences and events. We would welcome your visit to tour the site.
Separately, we are working internally within FSI and collaborating with Department of State partners, such as the Chief Information Officer and the Acting Under Secretary for Public Affairs, to build “classrooms of the future.” We are purchasing and launching three new major educational management systems. One hosts online courses and educational content to provide the latest technological training and self-study development worldwide to our Foreign Service, Civil Service, and Locally Employed Staff. Another system allows FSI to gather and analyze student feedback about courses to constantly improve training. The final system manages student registrations and records and integrates them with personnel databases. These information technology upgrades–replacing badly obsolete systems–will improve both our internal administrative processes and the student experience, making for an all-around better learning environment.
FSI is equally focused on strengthening the substance and delivery of our training programs. In 2016, FSI developed and adopted new policies and standards to bring adult education best practices into our curriculum development, training evaluation, and educational technology work. As a result, FSI embraced a more experiential approach to training that has increased the effectiveness, relevance, reach, and impact of our programs. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated our use of technology in the classroom, as we shifted 575 of our 613 course offerings –94% – into the virtual world. We are assessing the lessons learned from our pivot to emergency virtual instruction, to determine which classes should remain virtual or hybrid and how we can further professionalize their content and delivery.
I’d like to highlight a few developments in our tradecraft, diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA), language, and leadership training. I note that FSI’s tradecraft, area studies, DEIA, and leadership courses are open to both civil service and foreign service employees, and we are working with the Global Talent Management Bureau to further increase training opportunities for civil service colleagues.
Starting in 2019, FSI completely revamped our flagship area studies program. In partnership with the U.S. Diplomatic Studies Foundation, we have developed entirely new curricula for our regional studies classes, launched thematic global studies courses, and re-integrated area studies with our long-term language training. We are developing additional global studies courses focused on propaganda and disinformation and social movements. Additionally, we’ve launched a global issues speakers series that brings leading academics, via virtual platforms, to engage the State Department workforce on topics ranging from making the case for democratic renewal to how change happens in societies. This hugely popular series, attracting an average of 150 participants per session, is an example of how our new initiatives bring information and training to people when and where they need it.
In partnership with the State Department’s Center for Data Analytics, FSI developed a series of data literacy courses to support the Department’s efforts to bring data-driven decision-making into all aspects of our foreign policy and internal operations. Since 2017, 2,981 employees have taken these courses. This training supports implementation of the Department of State’s new Enterprise Data Strategy. As someone who has taken this training, I can attest that it is highly effective in empowering non-technical employees to tackle problems from an entirely new perspective.
Similarly, the rapidly changing information technology world requires us to equip our IT professionals with new knowledge, skills, and attitudes to better advance U.S. interests. To that end, FSI developed a new suite of courses, Solutions@State, that empowers IT professionals to contribute to whole-of-mission efforts to solve problems. For example, IT professionals overseas now work with political and economic officers to efficiently capture and track open-source information on issues such as trafficking in persons or sanctions violations. Given the critical importance of technology in national security, our training breaks down the barriers between IT experts and the generalists who need to advance technology policy issues. In 2019, FSI launched a new Tech in Focus lecture series that examines the relationship between emerging technology and foreign affairs. Past topics have included artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and the future of the internet. This year, Tech in Focus will tackle U.S. leadership in emerging technology, the malicious use of technology, and human rights. This lecture series is yet another example of FSI relaying information to people when and where they need it.
As Secretary Blinken underscored in his October 27 speech, the State Department needs a workforce that is representative of the United States of America and an organizational culture anchored in inclusiveness. In 2019, the Foreign Service Institute developed and launched Mitigating Unconscious Bias training, a foundational course that helps employees become aware of their own inherent biases and begin addressing them. More than 17,000 people have taken the course in-person or in the distance-learning format. It is so well regarded that three other federal agencies asked us to share the curriculum with them. Mitigating Unconscious Bias is a prerequisite for the State Department’s mandatory leadership courses and, in addition to longstanding mandatory EEO training, is the foundation for diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility modules in our orientation, consular, and executive-level leadership courses. Gender and LGBTQ awareness have long been part of our curriculum, with courses on “Promoting Gender Equality to Advance Foreign Policy” and “LGBT at State,” among others. We are launching a Department-wide assessment of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility training needs and, although we can’t predict the outcome at this point, expect that the assessment will point to the need for further training, such as an allyship or bystander training course. In support of both our training agenda and our own, internal DEIA needs – particularly with respect to recruitment, retention, and professional development – FSI established a new position, the Senior Advisor for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility, and strengthened and formalized our DEIA Council, which works with the Senior Advisor on programming for our staff and students.
To further promote a culture of inclusiveness, we have made significant changes to our orientation training. In 2019, FSI developed and launched a pilot course, One Team, to break down barriers among the Department’s multiple employment categories and instill values of respect and inclusion. One Team orientation training, which is open to civil service, foreign service, locally employed staff, political appointees, and contractors, has reached over 1,400 employees since its launch and is now part of our regular course offerings, including during the first week of mandatory Foreign Service orientation.
Since May 2020, we have conducted joint orientation programs for Foreign Service generalists and specialists. This initiative, driven by the exigencies of the pandemic, has created an environment in which all Foreign Service employees understand the value of their colleagues’ work and see each other as equals.
We also are strengthening the training provided to the State Department’s 50,000 locally employed staff (LE staff). FSI conducted a comprehensive review of local staff training in 2020, and we are now working with the State Department’s four regional training centers – which provide the bulk of our LE staff training – to implement the review’s recommendations and increase the quality and reach of LE Staff training. To that end, the Department has developed digital tools and training plans that help LE Staff identify appropriate training courses and meet professional development needs. FSI has leveraged virtual training to expand the numbers of LE Staff who can participate in training, overcoming the financial constraints that traditionally limited in-person training.
Foreign language instruction has long been at the heart of FSI’s mission. Experience has shown that addressing foreign publics in their own languages is highly effective in advancing America’s interests in all corners of the world. FSI provides instruction to an average of 5,000 students per year in more than 60 languages. The pandemic forced us to convert all our training to the virtual world, adapting new technologies and techniques to deliver our world-class training. As health conditions permit, we are gradually phasing in more in-person activities but plan to continue a hybrid model of instruction in the future. Blended instruction will allow us to optimize the most effective aspects of each mode of delivery, for example, by expanding opportunities to connect with native speakers globally via virtual platforms and completing hands-on and experiential task-based activities in-person.
Secretary Powell’s commitment to leadership training inspired generations of U.S. diplomats, and FSI strives to live up to his legacy. In this area, too, we have made important changes in recent years. In October 2020, FSI launched the Department’s redesigned mandatory leadership courses. These redesigned courses provide employees with a learning experience that is linked closer to the real-world challenges they face on the job; address current and long-standing leadership challenges; enhance feedback through a new leadership 360 assessment; and provide progressive skill building and continuity across the courses. Separately, with support from a private philanthropist and in partnership with the Harvard Business School (HBS), we launched a new mid-level professional development program in 2020, The Secretary’s Leadership Seminar. The Seminar, which reaches 50 mid-level employees per year –divided equally between foreign service and civil service –aims to develop a diverse group of emerging enterprise leaders who will advance the mission of the Department by taking innovative approaches to enterprise-wide challenges in an inclusive and collaborative culture. The program provides these employees with an opportunity to explore leadership though a private sector lens and work with senior Department leaders and HBS to provide innovative and creative solutions to Department challenges.
Partnerships with external organizations have been central to many of our new programs and approaches. In addition to the work with the U.S. Diplomatic Studies Foundation and the Harvard Business School that I highlighted earlier, we have a long-standing partnership with the Una Chapman Cox Foundation, which among other activities, provides funding to FSI to assess emerging needs and develop pilot courses. Much of our work on commercial diplomacy training, for example, is funded by the Una Chapman Cox Foundation. We have further integrated export promotion and commercial advocacy into training for our senior leaders, up to and including Ambassadors. Separately, the American Academy of Diplomacy funded the creation of a new risk mitigation exercise that FSI now uses for the Ambassadorial Seminar, to create an immersive environment for prospective ambassadors to demonstrate and practice pre-crisis decision making, including how to consider and draw upon resources available at their Embassy and in Washington. We are planning on introducing a version of this exercise for the deputy chief of mission/principal officer seminar.
Finally, I’d like to highlight that, as part of the Department of State’s reorganization of its public affairs functions, the Office of the Historian became part of the Foreign Service Institute in 2019. This move increased FSI’s capacity to include historical context and lessons learned in training at every level and in every school. In addition to its Congressional mandate to produce and publish the Foreign Relations of the United States series, the Office of the Historian recently created a new position for a senior historian and project manager who will oversee development of training curricula for a wide range of U.S. diplomatic history, foreign policy, and institutional history courses and sessions to be delivered to FSI students. This new position, along with FSI’s Center for the Study of the Conduct of Diplomacy, helps bring real world examples and case studies – a critical component of experiential learning – to FSI classrooms.
Underlying all these activities is a renewed focus on resilience and taking care of our people. As Secretary Blinken recently remarked, “We must take care of our people and their families – because the bottom line is that it doesn’t matter how much we invest or how much we innovate if we can’t retain, develop, and fully empower and utilize the incredible talent and expertise we already have.” FSI’s Center of Excellence for Foreign Affairs Resilience works to support employees and their family members who are dealing with the trauma and stress of a foreign affairs lifestyle. During the pandemic, we’ve increased our enrollment in resilience and related workforce support offerings by 80% in one year (that includes an increase of over 10,000 participants) and shifted 95% of our services to the virtual environment. We intend to keep the majority of our resilience offerings virtual even as pandemic conditions improve, as it’s clear this is a more effective way to equip the workforce with tools where and when they need it.
As you can see from this broad range of activities, preparing U.S. diplomats for the challenges of 21st century diplomacy is a broad based effort to which FSI is deeply committed and which has the support of the Department’s senior leadership. We are very grateful for the ongoing interest and support of the U.S. Congress and of FSI’s many partners for this effort. Thank you for the opportunity to highlight some examples of how FSI has adapted its programs and platforms to better meet the needs of 21st century diplomacy. I look forward to your questions.