By William A. Rugh
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Additional resources for Front Line Public Diplomacy: How US Embassies Communicate with Foreign Publics
5 Public Diplomacy professionals are in many respects like all Foreign Service Officers, although they also have some different functions that require different skills. All Foreign Service Officers including public diplomacy officers enter the Service through the same process. 6 Approximately 2 percent of all applicants to the Foreign Service are successful in this process. )7 The entire career of an FSO is highly competitive. Upon entry, a new FSO is considered untenured and tenure must occur within five years of the initial hire.
There is a different view, however, that FSOs should be generally aware of the work of FSOs in other tracks, but it is not necessary, nor is it practical for them to have all the skills required at the embassy. That view says that specialization is vitally important in developing competence and effectiveness, and that some of the best PD officers are those who have come up through the ranks doing increasingly responsible PD assignments under experienced PD professionals. President George W. Bush’s Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes recognized during her tenure that public diplomacy professionals were still being discriminated against, despite the USIA-State merger that was supposed to end that.
They are assigned either to information or cultural work, depending on their expertise, or to the PAO’s office, and they maintain their own contacts as well. American officers always depend heavily on local employees for several types of support, since they are bilingual in English and the local language so they serve as translators and interpreters as needed—and they may have proficiency in additional languages. They know in detail about local political, economic and social conditions so they keep the American officers up to date on trends in local policies and thinking.