Cablegate: Mission Turkey: Fast Forward

Dianne Wampler 07/02/2007 07:03:07 PM From DB/Inbox: Dianne Wampler






DE RUEHAK #1686/01 1830555
R 020555Z JUL 07



STATE FOR HR/ELO from Mission Turkey FAST Officers

E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Mission Turkey: FAST Forward

1. (U) Mission Turkey's First and Second Tour (FAST) contingent is
comprised of twenty-four generalists and fifteen specialists,
assigned to Ankara, Istanbul, and Adana. The Mission's FAST program
of professional development culminates each year in a day-long
conference dedicated to discussion and debate of both policy and
personnel issues. This year's conference featured presentations by
the Director of the Turkish Diplomatic Training Institute, a
prominent Turkish columnist, and a DVC discussion with the Senior
Fellow coordinating SAIC's Embassy of the Future project.

2. (U) Mission Turkey's FAST officers are proud to serve in this
dynamic, fast-paced mission. We are honored to work in a place and
time where our jobs have a real impact on American foreign policy.
In the course of the conference and in on-going exchanges, several
professional concerns and programmatic suggestions have emerged.
These concerns and suggestions - not a consensus view but a general
snapshot - are outlined below. They are offered as constructive
input for Department decision-makers to consider as we proceed
together to improve the quality of life and work in today's Foreign

Personnel Practices: Greater Equity and Substantive Breadth

3. (U) We understand the premier role of the Foreign Service in
advancing the President's objectives in Iraq and Afghanistan. As
committed public servants, we understand that government service
requires personal sacrifice under difficult circumstances, and we
are prepared to play our part. However, as we do so, it is
essential that the personnel system operate in an equitable and
integral fashion. In this regard, we find the recent introduction
of retroactive measures on hardship criteria and length of domestic
assignments to be inconsistent and unfair. We suggest that the
retroactive component of this initiative be withdrawn.

4. (U) As entry level professionals, we face the dual demands of
acquiring specific expertise while also exploring the breadth of USG
foreign affairs activities. While short-term informal rotations are
a part of the Mission's FAST program, we believe a more structured
approach is necessary. We were troubled to learn that one of the
few formal rotational positions in Turkey (an Econ-Con rotation) was
recently eliminated by HR and we suggest that this position be
reinstated and others be created.

5. (U) We also believe that some consideration should be given to
first tours inside the Department. Some colleagues believe that
going directly into the field after A-100 left them ill-prepared for
the kind of policy work they faced at post. Gaining perspectives on
the culture and flow of information in Washington as a first tour
would make second-tour work in the field more effective.

Family Issues: Getting the Work/Life Balance Right

6. (U) Foreign Service life imposes unique and at times considerable
demands on families. In our judgment, the Department needs to give
additional consideration to employment opportunities for spouses and
adult family members. Other foreign affairs agencies appear to have
both greater flexibility and funding for this key concern. The
creation of a para-professional corps that maximizes spouses' skill
bases across geographic assignments would be a major step beyond the
limited consular assistant opportunities currently available.

7. (U) We also believe the Department needs to do more to address
the needs of non-traditional families, unmarried partners, and same
sex partners. The addition of partners to government travel orders,
with full EFM status, would bring the Department on a par with other
European Diplomatic Services.

8. (U) Additional training, on substantive issues, security matters,
and cultural adjustment, for family members would help create a more
cohesive overseas community. Our family members are too often
treated as an after thought, with training only being offered on a
space available basis at the last minute. This approach needs to
change if we are to remain a high morale and tightly knit foreign
service family.

Resources: World Class Diplomacy Requires Funding

9. (U) A consistent theme of our FAST discussion is the Department's
inadequate resource base. The Embassy's Chancery compound is
extremely old and woefully inadequate for the USG personnel it
currently houses. Cramped conditions, with double and sometime
triple occupancy in offices, degrade efficiency and productivity.

10. (U) Another substantial problem is the lack of adequate
communication and IT systems. We are a generation that understands
information technology, and we require systems that will maximize
our effectiveness. Firstly, this means faster internet connections
(especially on classified systems). The software used on these
systems (such as ACS Plus, Post EVDB, and Cable Express) is for the
most part functionally inferior, user unfriendly, and more expensive
to create and maintain than commercially produced products which
could easily be adapted to Department use at little cost. (The
adaptation of wiki software for use in Intellipedia is a good
example of this.) Providing remote devices that include
job-specific applications (such as consular applications) that allow
us to enter data on the move would be helpful.

11. (U) We also find the current vouchering system to be slow,
paperwork-heavy, and, financially burdensome on the individual. We
suggest that government credit cards be issued to all staff --
regardless of rank -- for use in professional travel, or that travel
advances be made available for all professional travel, both
international and in-country.

12. (U) We realize that resources are constrained throughout the
government. At the same time, we believe that trying to conduct
diplomacy on the cheap undermines our effectiveness and disserves
American foreign policy. In budget submissions to Congress, the
White House needs to make greater funding for diplomacy a priority
and our advocacy on the Hill needs to be intensive and sustained.

Training: Providing Skills Essential for Success

13. (U) While individual effort, tenacity and dedication can
compensate for much, we believe one of the most crucial factors in
professional success is adequate and targeted training. As a
general point, we believe that more and better quality training
should be offered. We also suggest consideration of an A-100 module
on the history of US foreign policy as well as the process or
component parts of effective policy execution.

14. (U) Many of us have watched colleagues "coast" through long-term
language training and we believe that disincentives for poor
performance should be considered.

15. (U) Specialist colleagues are particularly concerned about the
lack of opportunities for substantive and language training.
Specialist positions, including OMS and IMS, should be language
designated. The current policy of sending most specialists to post
without language training undercuts effectiveness.


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