What is the foreign service?

What is the foreign service?

The U.S. Foreign Service is having a moment.

     Men and women of the Foreign Service, who tackle tough and sometimes thankless jobs, are suddenly in the spotlight thanks to the ongoing impeachment inquiry. The focus is a phone call on July 25, during which President Donald Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate a theory involving 2016 election interference -- and also to probe into the activities of Hunter Biden, a onetime board member of a Ukrainian energy company and son of 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. 
     Foreign service officers, charged with putting American policy into action overseas, have testified that they became alarmed. As summed up in a letter by a whistleblower -- an anonymous government official -- these public servants feared Trump's actions could pose national security risks and undermine efforts to deter foreign interference in U.S. elections.
    So, what is the foreign service? Here is the rundown, along with links and resources for further study.

The history: Diplomacy has a long history. In monarchies, diplomatic officials were "members of royal or noble families and served as the personal representatives of sovereign rulers," explains Encyclopedia Britannica. "When governmental authority came to reside in institutions other than monarchs, diplomats became the representatives of the government in power."

Did the American colonies need diplomats? Before Americans won independence from England, the rebellious colonies saw the need to form relationships with European countries. Benjamin Franklin was appointed minister to France in 1778, according to the Benjamin Franklin Historical Society.
     Later, as the United States was forming its government, the need for diplomats was acknowledged by the framers of the U.S. Constitution. Article 2, Section 2, authorizes the president to appoint, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, "ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States."

How did the foreign service form? From 1789 until 1924, two distinct aspects of foreign policy took root, according to the U.S. Department of State's Office of the Historian. "The Diplomatic Service, which staffed U.S. legations and embassies, and the Consular Service, which was primarily responsible for promoting American commerce and assisting distressed American sailors, developed separately."
     The Consular Service was established in 1792 by an Act of Congress. Consuls didn't have to be U.S. citizens then, according to the State Department, and they didn't get a salary. They earned a living by "private trade or from fees charged for official services. It was not uncommon for consuls to have been merchants with business connections in the cities to which they had been appointed."
     That changed in 1856, with legislation that set up a pay scale for consuls. Later, in 1924, the Rogers Act, named for Rep. John Jacob Rogers of Massachusetts, unified the diplomatic and consular services.   

What's the difference between a diplomat and a consul? A diplomat, according to Merriam-Webster, is, "one employed or skilled in diplomacy (the art and practice of conducting negotiations between nations)."
     A consul, by definition is "an official appointed by a government to reside in a foreign country to represent the commercial interests of citizens of the appointing country."

What is the foreign service's mission? According to the U.S. State Department, the foreign service officer's mission is to "promote peace, support prosperity, and protect American citizens while advancing the interests of the U.S. abroad."
   The Foreign Service Act of 1980 describes members as "representative of the American people, aware of the principles and history of the United States and informed of current concerns and trends in American life, knowledgeable of the affairs, cultures, and languages of other countries, and available to serve in assignments throughout the world."



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