State Department launches aggressive hiring effort

The State Department plans to hire more than 1,400 men and women annually for the next three years under an aggressive new recruitment effort. The agency's newly created Diplomatic Readiness Task Force will lead the hiring effort. The task force has been authorized to make a stronger effort to recruit minorities and former military personnel, among other groups. "It's a big increase, but we have good support from both Congress and the administration," task force Director Niels Marquardt said. "We're trying to build the State Department back up and reaching out to people who otherwise might not think about us." In February, a task force of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, led by former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci, reported that the State Department's recruitment process failed to bring in enough people with the right skills. The agency fell short of its goals by 700 foreign service officers, or 15 percent of its staffing requirements. The new recruitment effort will focus on bringing in people for foreign service and civil service positions. Military personnel are a natural fit for such jobs because "the taxpayer has invested in them already and they are accustomed to the international lifestyle," Marquardt said. "We have no trouble attracting people who want to be political officers, people who sort of stereotypically imagine the job to involve political analysis, but we've tried to reach out to people who want to be managers and administrative assistants, because those are groups that don't gravitate to us with ease," Marquardt explained. While the State Department's workforce has been downsized in the past few years, the agency's expectations have not, Marquardt said. "All the things that we are asked to do, we're having to do in larger quantities," he said. "There are a number of different embassies that we've opened that didn't exist before, so our needs are greater, not smaller, in a post-Cold War era." Recent ads placed in national newspapers, as well as Hispanic and African-American media outlets, have netted the best response from foreign service exam applicants in 10 years, Marquardt said. "We can tell that our ad campaign has had a big impact because we can track responses in the time frame that the ads have gone out," Marquardt said. "We have a very attractive Secretary…he's sort of a rock star celebrity type and people are interested in him."
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