The State Department and Operation Yellow Elephant II
You may recall our first posting last month about the State Department filling its jobs in Iraq. Well, the State Department has finally responded to a pretty comprehensive article from December 18. [Or, the LA Times just got around to printing the response.]
No empty desks at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq - January 11, 2006
Re "State Department Considers Mandatory Iraq Tours," Dec. 18. Your article gave the false impression that the Department of State is having difficulty staffing our embassy in Baghdad. In fact, the department has been — and continues to be — very successful in staffing our mission in Iraq.
To date, the department has filled all of its positions in Iraq with volunteers. In the new assignment cycle for summer 2006, more than two-thirds of the open positions already have volunteers who have requested to fill these jobs. This is a higher percentage at this point in the assignment cycle than was true at this time last year.
We do not believe that there is a diminishing pool of available people with the skills and talents to serve. There are 11,000 men and women in the foreign service and 8,000 members of the civil service in the department. From this pool, we fill about 200 positions in Iraq each year. Outstanding employees of the State Department continue to volunteer for Iraq. It is true that we are still recovering from the impact of less-than-attrition hiring of the 1990s, but we do not lack for able volunteers willing to answer the nation's call to service. They are doing a tough job in a dangerous place.
W. ROBERT PEARSON
U.S. Department of State
Comment: As with military recruiting (into the Armed Forces), as long as you continue to deny that there's any kind of a problem [no matter what you call it, e.g., a "challenging situation"], that type of attitude lets everyone off the hook. I guess I'll join the College Republicans and the Young Republicans and let the "other people," in whom Ambassador Pearson (who hasn't served at a difficult or "hardship" post in over twenty years) has such confidence, keep doing the difficult work. Good leadership anywhere is all about setting an example. End comment.