Reinventing the State Department

It was designed to meet twentieth-century challenges. Here’s the refresh it needs.

By Anne-Marie Slaughter

Tagged Foreign PolicyState Department

If the United States is to re-engage the world effectively in a post-Trump era, it will need a very different State Department to do it. Over the course of 2019, in what now seems like a different era, we saw career Foreign Service officers (FSOs)—like Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine until she got in the way of White House efforts to advance the President’s reelection campaign—act heroically in defense of the Constitution they are sworn to serve. We saw an inspector general do his best to investigate corruption by the Secretary of State. And we heard testimony from lower level State Department officials about their continuing efforts to work with U.S. allies to advance U.S. interests and solve global problems.

These men and women are public servants who deserve both honor and praise. But the institution they are a part of needs a radical overhaul. The State Department we have today was designed a century ago first to serve the needs of a nation coming of age and then of a dominant global power—a superpower—in the second half of the twentieth century. It was created and periodically reformed over the course of that century. The diplomats who staff that department are members of the Foreign Service, a body that was created in 1925 as a corps of lifelong career officials (with a cadre of mostly talented, often entertaining, yet sometimes disastrous political appointees serving as ambassadors to the nicest places and most prestigious international institutions as rewards for campaign donations). That conception of the Foreign Service deprives the United States of the talent, connections, and agility we need to advance national interests and address global challenges effectively in the twenty-first century.

The current conception of the Foreign Service deprives the U.S. of the talent, connections, and agility we need to advance national interests.

I write those words as a former political appointee to the State Department myself. I served as director of policy planning (the State Department’s in-house think tank) from 2009-2011 under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. I had the privilege of working with many dedicated and talented FSOs, women and men whom I continue to admire. But as a scholar and practitioner of global problem-solving, and as a patriot who is proud of the deep diversity of the United States as a country that is continually remaking itself in the world’s image, I believe that we could revolutionize the entire field of diplomacy. We could field a group of people to represent our interests in countries and institutions around the world who would have an unparalleled capacity to develop creative solutions to global problems, wherever and however they arise, and to mobilize resources behind them.

The twentieth-century State Department strove repeatedly to become a service based on merit rather than pedigree and to steadily broaden its ability to hire and train different kinds of specialists, versed not just in the language and culture of specific countries and regions, but in a wide range of functional subjects. In the last part of the century, the department also sought to do a better job of reflecting the country it purports to represent. It unquestionably made strides, at least compared to earlier generations, but in 2020 an African American ex-diplomat still excoriated his former service, arguing that the “State Department’s failure to attract Black applicants is not by chance,” but is rather the result of “a racist system designed to keep African Americans out.”

Today’s State Department will have to diversify in several different directions. We cannot meet the challenges we face simply by broadening whom we recruit and train for 30-year careers. We must instead change the terms of service themselves, by allowing talented Americans with global expertise to represent their country abroad for renewable five-year tours of duty.

The United States has an extraordinary well of talent to draw from, including millions of Americans who are already deeply competent in foreign languages and cultures and who already work abroad or on global issues in a wide range of capacities. It is time to transform the Foreign Service into the Global Service and play by a very different set of rules.

The Twentieth Century State Department

American diplomacy has had to evolve to meet the challenges of a more interconnected world before—a hundred years ago. At the dawn of the twentieth century, U.S. diplomats were ill-equipped to meet their foreign policy challenges. Before 1915, diplomatic and consular officers were nearly all men of independent means who worked for little to no salary. According to Harry W. Kopp and Charles A. Gillespie’s account of “life and work in the Foreign Service,” State Department officials testifying before Congress drew stark comparisons between the “efficient European professionals and untrained, ineffective” American representatives abroad.

World War I forced America’s hand. With the sinking of the Lusitania, the United States found itself a formidable world power with an inferior diplomatic establishment. Woodrow Wilson’s State Department was headed by a political rival within his own party and had little to no professional structure.

When originally founded in 1789, the State Department was largely run through a system of executive patronage. Rank and salary were attached to positions, which were appointed by the President, and often given to political allies. President Theodore Roosevelt condemned this patronage system and lack of professionalized service, stating:

“[T]he spoils system of making appointments to and removals from office is so wholly and unmixedly evil, is so emphatically un-American and undemocratic, and is so potent a force for degradation in our public life, that it is difficult to believe that any intelligent man of ordinary decency who has looked into the matter can be its advocate.

The beginnings of change were seen in the 1915 Stone-Flood Act, passed by Congress to create a system of merit principles for hiring and promotions within the diplomatic service. Referred to as the “rank-in-person” system, it made advancement contingent on education, skills, and experience—rather than depending solely on presidential prerogative. The professed desire to create an American diplomatic corps that was more than just the sons of a narrow white East Coast elite informed multiple waves of reforms over the twentieth century, efforts aimed at rebutting the “male, pale, and Yale” stereotype once and for all. Yet African American, Latinx, and Asian Americans are still represented in the Service in far lower percentages than they exist in the American population, and the number of women falls off substantially in the upper ranks of the career service.

The next reform effort came roughly a decade later, when Republican Representative John Jacob Rogers of Massachusetts spearheaded the Foreign Service Act of 1924 (the Rogers Act), aiming for “a foreign service which will be flexible and democratic; which will attract and retain the best men we have.” The Rogers Act combined the U.S. consular and diplomatic services into a single professional career-based Foreign Service. It also mandated stringent examinations and merit-based promotion criteria for recruitment and advancement. Officers were commissioned into staggered ranks with respectively scaled pay, standardized across the service.

In addition, the following year the Foreign Service School was established to provide specialized training in languages and other professional skills. As American interests moved further afield, increasingly enmeshed within dynamics beyond its borders, Congress worked with prominent diplomats to fashion a service commensurately suited to this new age. Wilbur J. Carr, assistant secretary of state at the time and an architect of the Rogers Act, noted that “the Foreign Service had finally attained the goal for which Presidents, Secretaries of State, and businessmen of the country had striven for years.”

Over the coming decades, Congress made two more reforms that would further update the service to meet the demands of a changing world order. The Foreign Service Act of 1946 responded to the perceived breadth and complexity of U.S. foreign interests in the wake of World War II by trying to improve inter-agency capacity and reinforcing the service’s merit-based principles. It created the director general of the Foreign Service to centralize and oversee inter-agency affairs, as well as the Board of Examiners to ensure the principle of competitive entry was maintained.

By the late 1970s, an entirely new set of domestic challenges to the ways in which the United States exercised its power abroad emerged. From the anti-Vietnam War movement to the post-Watergate efforts to rein in the war powers of the “Imperial Presidency” to the revelations of the Church Committee’s investigations into the clandestine activities of the CIA, the U.S. role in the world was increasingly contested. President Jimmy Carter was committed to the “reform, simplification, and improvement of personnel administration” in both the Civil and the Foreign Service. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance made the case for Foreign Service reform in light of the increasing complexity of global affairs, requiring a wider range of professional expertise on issues like nuclear non-proliferation, energy, environmental protection, and economic and business policy, along with a tighter link between promotion and performance.

In response, Congress passed the Foreign Service Act of 1980, which continues to provide the blueprint for the current Foreign Service. Once again, excellence, professionalism, and merit-based selection were to be the order of the day, with a new recognition of the value of diversity. The Act created a Senior Foreign Service class, as well as new generalists and topic specialists, and stated that “the members of the Foreign Service should be representative of the American people.” To open up the ranks to new hires, the Act also implemented an “up-or-out” system of either promotion or mandatory retirement within a set period, an approach first utilized by General George C. Marshall within the U.S. military services. In my personal experience, though, the “up-or-out” mandate mostly creates enormous pressures on all superiors never to say an ill word about a Foreign Service officer under review, as anything less than a superlative assessment could result in a failure to promote and hence a dismissal.

The Twenty-First Century World

The State Department we have was created to meet the needs of a century of great power transition and competition, from the end of World War I in 1919 to the end of the Cold War in 1989; from a country still trying to live by George Washington’s “no entangling alliances” dictum all the way to Madeleine Albright’s “indispensable nation.” Since the collapse of the Cold War, bipolar world, however, global problems that ignore borders have become just as or more urgent as traditional inter-state relations, no matter how engrossing and challenging rivalries between the United States and China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and others remain.

It is too tempting, however, for the foreign policy establishment to lock on to the simpler world of state-to-state relations that they know. Inter-state rivalries are certainly dangerous, but they can be reduced to strategy games, which is why game theory evolved to solve them. They are games with relatively few players and pieces—the national security and diplomacy establishments of a few key nations, playing with a combination of military, diplomatic, and economic tools. The stakes are high and the uncertainty about the other side’s response poses a continuing risk of failure, but the problem can be resolved as the result of specific decisions by identifiable human beings who can be influenced by a known set of tools and actions.

The structure of the current State Department reflects the assumption that these inter-state problems are the most important ones. The core of the Department is the regional bureaus: Europe and Eurasia (50 countries), East Asia and the Pacific (31 countries), the Near East (18 countries), South and Central Asia (17 countries), Africa (47 countries), and the Western Hemisphere (34 countries). That is where the money is, along with most of the operational capacity of the State Department, controlled by ambassadors on the ground and assistant secretaries back in Washington. That is also where the most prestigious assistant secretaryships are.

The “functional bureaus” of the State Department have grown up around the regional bureaus, clustered together under various under-secretaries. They include: Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance; International Security and Non-Proliferation; Political Military Affairs; Conflict and Stabilization Operations; Counterterrorism; International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs; Energy Resources; Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs; Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights; Population, Refugees, and Migration; Economic and Business Affairs; Educational and Cultural Affairs; Global Public Affairs; and Global Engagement.

Alongside these bureaus are a host of smaller offices working on civil rights, partnerships, women’s issues, global health, trafficking in persons, and other issues, as well an entire set of bureaus reporting to the under-secretary for management. These units emerged out of necessity, because the world simply cannot be dealt with only on the basis of countries. But they are the poor stepchildren of U.S. diplomacy, with far less money or operational capacity on the ground, relying on relatively few officers posted to national embassies. By some measures, the regional bureaus have on average 10 times as many employees and 16 times as much funding as the functional bureaus.

And yet the existential problems of our era fall squarely within the domains of the functional departments: proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, climate change, pandemics, mass migration, and global economic meltdown, just for starters. Really, these are really problems less of national security than of global security. Unlike military aggression, phenomena such as terrorism, pandemics, global criminal networks, disinformation campaigns, unregulated migration, and shortages of food, water, and energy do not necessarily threaten the political independence or territorial integrity of a particular state—the classic definition of national security that is embedded in Article 2(4) of the UN Charter. But they do endanger the safety and wellbeing of the world’s people, and are a comparable or greater and more immediate threat than state-on-state war.

They are also extraordinarily complex issues. Indeed, they generally fall into the category of “wicked problems”: problems that are hard to formulate precisely, indeed that can be seen as symptoms of other problems; with multiple interrelated causes; with solutions that are hard if not impossible to test, measure, and evaluate; and with little margin for error on the part of would-be problem-solvers, as they can easily be responsible for making matters worse. Climate change, refugees, pandemics—all are issues where just knowing where to begin is difficult. Should we treat the symptoms or try to address underlying causes? Who should be around the table? What kind of tools do we have to change individual behavior? How do we respond to a crisis that is being exacerbated by natural as well as human factors, natural factors that may themselves be a result of human action?

To meet these challenges, we need far more than national governments. States remain important, indeed critically so in many instances. But to increase our collective capacity to actually address global challenges, we need coalitions that include business, philanthropy, civil society, mayors, governors, faith and education leaders, and other groups or organizations committed to tackling global or regional problems. And to assemble or participate in these networks, we need a very different set of people representing the United States.

Terrorism, pandemics, food and water shortages, and more don’t necessarily threaten a particular state, but the well- being of the world’s people.

Secretary Clinton frequently talked about the three-legged stool of government, business, and civil society—a metaphor that she sought to make real by creating an Office of Global Partnerships. If we actually want to bring together the energies, capabilities, and resources of all three sectors we need what business leaders call “‘tri-sector athletes’—leaders able to engage and collaborate across all three sectors.” But being locked into a 30-year career leaves little time before or after to work in other sectors; moreover, any work done after a State Department career cannot benefit the Department in terms of the contacts we need to help assemble multi-sector teams.

Imagine if we had a State Department that could draw on the very best talent that the country has to offer in all three sectors. Imagine if all the talented Americans working around the world for corporations, NGOs, universities, and faith groups could rotate into the department at some point in their careers. Just think of the ways in which they would be able to reach out to their former colleagues to be able to develop programs and initiatives that would represent the American people on the ground in so many countries and, equally important, be able to harness resources to contribute to global networks working on the climate, water and food scarcity, corruption, disease, and violence of various kinds. It will be necessary, however, to develop strict ethics codes to ensure that these rotations do not breed corruption, just as we have anti-revolving door lobbying rules.

The State Department has worked hard on increasing diversity in the Foreign Service, with decidedly mixed results despite some progress in the lower ranks. But as everywhere else in the American power structure, the top ranks become steadily whiter and more male. Yet just imagine the many second-generation immigrant Americans who grow up speaking English and at least one other foreign language being able to use both their linguistic skills and their cultural competence to represent their country at the beginning, middle, or end of their careers.

One of America’s greatest strengths as a country is that we reflect the world—that we are the place many people from many countries chose as their destination to remake their lives. The people we project back into the world to represent us should reflect that diversity. As for Indigenous Americans, and African Americans whose ancestors were carried here in chains, their willingness to serve should be honored as the deepest form of patriotism. Theodore Johnson, a 20-year Navy veteran and Senior Fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, calls African Americans “superlative citizens,” men and women who have been willing to fight for the idea of America even when they were continually denied its promised reality, such as African American veterans from the Jim Crow South who returned from World War II only to be barred from the GI Bill. These are Americans who will represent us superlatively abroad.

A Global Service

Professionalizing the Foreign Service was necessary in the twentieth century to ensure that our diplomats had the training and experience necessary to match their counterparts around the world and to substitute merit for patronage. In the twenty-first century, by contrast, we need to de-professionalize the Foreign Service, in the sense of opening it up to individuals from multiple professions. We need women and men who have pursued different careers who will bring their expertise and networks to the job of representing their country abroad and participating in the myriad public-private-civic efforts that the people of all countries need to address the problems we face as peoples of an endangered planet. We also need to allocate resources far more equally between country and functional expertise. We absolutely do need Americans who are versed in the language, culture, and politics of other nations, but we equally need Americans versed in the issues that all of those nations confront.

It is time to overhaul the Foreign Service and create a new entity called the Global Service—roughly a century after the Consular Service and the Diplomatic Service were merged to create the Foreign Service. The Global Service would tap talent far and wide to work not just on “inter-nation” problems, issues of tension or cooperation between specific states, but global problems that affect all human beings within states and that cannot be adequately addressed by state action alone. Those are the problems that the functional bureaus in the State Department work on today, together with officials in many other departments across the government. But a Global Service would ensure wide country and regional expertise, deep knowledge of specific global issues, and the ability to marshal talent and resources from the corporate, finance, NGO, social enterprise, educational, medical, scientific, religious, and other sectors that do globe-spanning work.

The Global Service would recruit members from any sector for five- to ten-year rotations at every level of seniority. A minimum term of service could be five years, renewable once or perhaps twice, to attract individuals interested in investing a decade or more of their careers in the Service. It would also break down the current walls between the Foreign Service and the Civil Service, drawing on civil servants from across the government—many working on foreign policy issues in the Justice Department, the Treasury, the EPA, Health and Human Services, as well as in State itself—and posting them abroad as necessary.

It would overhaul the deeply rigid hiring and promotion rules within the Foreign Service and change practices that prevent FSOs from staying longer than three years in a particular country or region to avoid “clientitis”: the alleged tendency of resident in-country staff of an organization to regard the officials and people of the host country as “clients.” And it would tap considerable reserves of foreign affairs talent in state and municipal governments, talent that is typically much more representative of the nation’s population than the federal government is.

Finally, the Global Service would be established on the assumption that the government is necessary but insufficient for global problem-solving. Global Service officers (GSOs) would be expected to have contacts across sectors and to be able to mobilize many different types of actors. Just as current FSOs are expected to learn the language and culture of many different countries to be able to bring together diverse national representatives, GSOs would be able to cross civic, corporate, and government boundaries with ease. Their training should include network design and management, partnership brokering, and lots of case studies on successful cross-sector efforts. State Department rules around public-private partnerships would also have to be streamlined and widely taught—it once took me nearly a year to push through the Partnership for a New Beginning, an effort to bring together the State Department, the Aspen Institute, and a number of CEOs all dedicated to making President Obama’s “new beginning with the Muslim world” a reality on the ground in majority Muslim countries.

Above all, the Global Service would not assume that the goal of U.S. foreign policy is only to advance U.S. interests relative to the interests of other nations. That kind of zero-sum politics may or may not put us atop the global league standings: biggest army, biggest economy, most allies, most influence, most “power” in the sense of being able to compel or attract others to do our will. That is the traditional game of thrones, played out in the shadow of approaching planetary disaster. The Global Service would look at the global dimension of the problems that directly affect the quality of American lives and seek to mobilize and drive global solutions.

Getting It Done

The playbook for making major change in Washington is well-established: appoint a commission. Commissions with the most impact are those appointed by Congress, such as the 9/11 Commission, an independent, bipartisan commission created by an act of Congress and approved by President George W. Bush with the authority both to investigate the circumstances that led to 9/11 and to make recommendations for reforms. Another model, messier but ultimately reliant on a combination of executive and legislative pressure, was the process that resulted in the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986. This act reorganized the Department of Defense (DoD) in ways that strengthened civilian control over the military and substantially reduced inter-service rivalry. GOP Senator Barry Goldwater said that defense reorganization “may be the most important thing that Congress does in my lifetime.”

In fact, however, Goldwater-Nichols was the product of a welter of reform efforts driven by both the executive and Congress. In 1985 the Reagan Administration appointed a blue-ribbon commission led by former Deputy Secretary of Defense David Packard to investigate DoD procurement and other managerial practices. Years earlier, however, members of Congress serving on both the House and the Senate Armed Services Committees had become concerned by a pattern of botched or mismanaged military operations and responses in the early 1980s: Desert One, the invasion of Grenada, and the Beirut Marine Barracks bombings. Both committees launched multi-year reviews, supported by work that Democratic Senator Sam Nunn commissioned from the Center for Strategic and International Studies. These processes ultimately converged in the set of reforms that were passed in the Goldwater-Nichols Act.

The best path to major Foreign Service reforms will thus run through Congress, whether through the appointment of an independent commission or through a bipartisan review conducted by House and Senate committee staff. Changes to Foreign Service rules will be fiercely fought by the American Foreign Service Association, as Secretary Clinton found out when we tried to make relatively minor changes allowing civil servants to be posted abroad during the first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review in 2010. The recommended changes must be tied to the overall funding of the State Department and, more generally, the funding for the conduct of foreign and global affairs, to have any hope of success.

It is time to overhaul the Foreign Service and create a new entity called the Global Service, which would address global problems that affect all.

Alternatively, Congress could pioneer a new Global Service by transforming USAID into a new Cabinet department staffed by a new cadre of global development officers. USAID already has a cadre of FSOs, although they are trained differently and subjected to different requirements than the FSOs at State. Development experts and organizations supporting the modernization of foreign assistance (we are still anchored to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961) have argued for a Cabinet-level department of development for well over a decade. When I served as director of policy planning, I pushed hard against this idea, on the grounds that our development policy would be more strongly supported by Congress and the country if it were backed directly by the Secretary of State (USAID reports to the Secretary). I am now convinced that I was wrong; that the United States would be better served by three strong departments: diplomacy, defense, and development. Development will never get its full due without an independent budget and seat at the Cabinet table.

This new Department of Global Development (DGD) could be set up as a new kind of government department, one that was explicitly designed to cooperate across sectors. It would be smaller and leaner and legally empowered to create public-private-civic networks and coalitions at every turn. Indeed, it could undertake the methodology of “mission-oriented innovation policy” being developed by Mariana Mazzucato at the University of London and applied in the European Union—an approach that she described as “focused on concrete problems that require system-wide transformation across different types of sectors, and involves partnerships between different actors (private, public, third sector, civil society).”

The staff of this new department would be a new Global Development Service, which would be designed to rotate Americans in and out for five- to ten-year tours of duty from every sector and at every level of authority, as described above. “Global Development” is a useful frame because it abandons the notion that “development” is something that needs to happen in countries “out there” rather than in counties and cities across the United States as well. Issues of poverty, poor education, corruption, housing, environmental degradation, and violence—whether perpetrated by the state on its own citizens or by criminals—are less prevalent in the developed than the developing world, but as a matter of degree, not of kind. Similarly, questions of how to generate jobs and support entrepreneurs, how to ensure universal access to technology, how to build resilience against natural and manmade disasters, all transcend borders and are all issues that require the participation and cooperation of the private and civic sectors.

Imagine further if a new DGD could avoid bureaus altogether, an oxymoron in a bureaucracy. Suppose that it could not only hire staff with a wide range of different backgrounds for a limited number of years, but it could also pull together staff from many other government departments with overlapping expertise on a particular problem. On economic issues, for instance, Treasury, Commerce, the U.S. Trade Representative, the State Department Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the Export Import Bank, among others, all have officials working on related dimensions of international economic issues. On international law enforcement, the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement does similar work to the Office of International Affairs at the Department of Justice and Office of Foreign Assets Control at Treasury. These bureaucratic overlaps create continual headaches for the relevant departments and the National Security Council, leading to perennial calls of “whole-of-government” approaches. But suppose DGD operated more like a consulting firm than a corporation, with flexible teams that could form and reform as needed?

Just imagine. While I was at State, I would often fantasize about having a “Google for Government,” whereby when I was tasked with working on a particular problem—earthquake response, food security, women’s rights, nuclear proliferation, state-sponsored terrorism, anti-corruption sanctions—I could just run a search to find everyone in the federal government who had expertise in that issue and be able to call them to tackle the issue at hand all together. Given government software challenges (every department runs its own system), it is impossible even to find these people, much less assemble them. Creating a new, deliberately lean and flexible department with a broad mandate to cooperate could pioneer a new way forward.

A new DGD would have to collaborate closely with State and DoD on a range of global problems, preferably under the eye of a reformed National Security Council committed not just to being an honest broker to funnel opinions and decisions up to the President but also to incentivizing actual cooperation. What would be significant, however, is that a DGD and a State Department with a reformed Foreign Service would also be working much more routinely with a range of non-governmental actors. The entire national security process would need to become more open and participatory, while still recognizing the need for speed and secrecy in crises. The result is that the United States would be able to tap far more of its talent and marshal far more of its resources to tackle global problems.

Diplomacy is important. Diplomats are specially skilled conflict-resolvers, steeped in time-honored protocols and practices of maximizing agreement and avoiding offense. They learn languages (although not nearly as well as they should) and study cultural nuance and local politics. We need them; we need much more talking and far less shooting, although the most successful talking is generally backed by a credible threat of compulsion. Many Foreign Service officers also take on truly risky, uncomfortable assignments in tough countries, representing a country they honor and love.

Madeleine Albright often says: “The people are talking to the government on twenty-first century technology [while] the government is listening on twentieth century technology and providing nineteenth century solutions.” I would paraphrase her to say that the government is tackling twenty-first century global problems with a twentieth century diplomatic corps trained for a nineteenth century world. The problems we face as citizens of states and residents of a common planet require far more than negotiating an agreement—whether a formal treaty or a memorandum of understanding—or launching an initiative that binds only states. Whatever states do—whatever international or regional organizations do—must be part of a much wider and deeper web of activity, one that extends horizontally to all actors who have the capacity to act globally and vertically down to the level of individual behavior.

At the same time, we cannot tackle global issues only through massive UN conferences that bring tens of thousands of people together for weeks of meetings and speeches. We must be able to mobilize many different categories of actors without actually having them participate everywhere, all the time. For that we need a different set of government actors, people who are very definitely not career diplomats. We need individuals who have been trained in the speed and focus on results of the corporate sector; the commitment, focus, and reach of the civic sector; and the pragmatism and horse-trading necessary to succeed in municipal politics. We need all this talent representing the United States and bringing their networks with them.

President Trump hired a first Secretary of State who immediately implemented a hiring freeze and showed his disdain for the Department at every turn. Morale plummeted, and the department’s work force shrank by more than 1,200 positions between December 2016 and March 2018. Even now, many bureaus are represented by “acting” officials. Yet as badly as many committed, talented, and patriotic diplomats have been treated, the goal should not be to return to a pre-Trump status quo.

It is time for sweeping reform—indeed, reinvention. If a Biden Administration is elected in November, the United States will return to the international stage with a new appreciation of its allies and of the necessity of regional and global cooperation on a host of issues. We will quickly find that we must develop new ways to lead in the world: not from behind, not from the front, but from the center. We need to be able to mobilize talent and resources from all parts of American and global society. We need a new Global Service.

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Anne-Marie Slaughter is the CEO of New America and the Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 University Professor Emerita of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University. From 2009-2011 she served as the Director of Policy Planning for the United States Department of State, the first woman to hold that position. She is a member of the Aspen Strategy Group.

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