Political Cone

The first step to becoming a Foreign Service Officer is choosing a cone, or career track. While every officer is a generalist and free to bid on any job in the world, doing jobs within your cone is vital to being promoted within the Foreign Service. The five cones are Consular, Management, Public Diplomacy, Economic, and Political. The first step toward getting a job as a Foreign Service Officer is choosing one of these cones. Here I’m looking at the Political Cone.

Traditionally, the political cone was the crème de la crème of the Foreign Service. In the olden days of diplomacy, state department political officers held a near monopoly on foreign policy. It was the cone if you hoped to become an ambassador. Now a day, things have changed quite a bit. The political cone is still the most sought after cone by outsiders, but among the Foreign Service they’re often just the guys who write cables that nobody reads. Don’t get me wrong; it’s my cone, I love it, but I believe in disclosure.

Political officers manage the U.S. bilateral political relationship. They maintain contacts among members of the host government, opposition parties, and civil society. They report back to Washington on the various goings on in the host government. Political officers are at the forefront in issues like democratization, national security, political-military affairs, women’s rights, and the day-to-day machinations of governments all over the world. As the State Department continues to become just one of a number of government agencies at embassies, political officers have also become facilitators and continue to serve as resident experts on governmental workings.

Entry Level. Entry level political officers generally write congressionally-mandated reports. You see, congress requires the state department to report on things like human rights and trafficking in persons from each country in the world. In the vast majority of countries, these issues aren’t the most important bilateral issue, and they’re assigned to the new guy. Most new officers will also have a minor reporting area in their portfolios.

After Tenure. Tenured officers are generally assigned portfolios in internal politics, international relations, or other areas. The ideal Washington job for a political officer is serving on a country
desk, State’s basic unit of policy formulation.

The Exam. This is still the most popular cone among test-takers, so you’ll need to do very well on the oral exam to get off the waiting list.

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From The Hegemonist

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