Public Diplomacy

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 Public Diplomacy Cone.

Part of me believes that Public Diplomacy is the future of the State Department. In a world where the vast majority of countries are democracies, the opinion of the average citizen becomes much more important. Indeed, if the people are sovereign, the U.S. must now convince several million sovereigns to agree instead of just one. Public Diplomacy officers take the lead in getting America’s message out. They serve as embassy spokesmen, work with the press, manage cultural exchanges, and serve in other capacities to combat anti-Americanism and correct misinformation. Public diplomacy officers are increasingly being asked to develop policy, rather than just explain it. It seems Edward R. Murrow’s famous advice that public diplomacy officers, “need to be in on the takeoffs, not just the crash landings” is finally being taken to heart.

Honestly, I’m struggling to come up with a negative to this cone. I can’t. If some perceptive reader has one, please put it in the comments to enrich other readers’ lives. PD is a solid cone.

Entry Level. Entry level officers generally work as assistant cultural affairs officers. The coordinate the Fulbright exchange program and are responsible for the sort of traditional dance and music troupe exchanges. A PD officer on his way to a jazz festival once remarked to me that he had the best job in the world. At that moment I agreed. I’ve heard that a lot of posts are using young, technologically savvy officers to head up their internet outreach programs as well.

After Tenure. Tenured officers have a wide variety of jobs open to them. Public affairs officers meet frequently with the press. Information officers serve as embassy spokesmen. I’ve known PD officers who served as speechwriters. Presence posts, one person posts in large cities with no other American presence, are often staffed by PD officers.

The Exam. The written portion of this exam generally tests you on interpersonal skills and an understanding of diplomatic and democratic principles. This cone is becoming very popular, so barely passing the oral exam isn’t going to guarantee you a spot.

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From The Hegemonist

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