On April 3, ISD held a special screening and panel discussion on “The State of the State Department,” part of the Foreign Policy Association’s Great Decisions series on world affairs. After the screening, Ambassador (ret.) John Feeley, a Georgetown Fellow, moderated a panel discussion with Ambassador (ret.) Jeffrey DeLaurentis, SFS Centennial Fellow and ISD Distinguished Resident Fellow in Latin American Studies; Ambassador (Ret.) Nancy McEldowney, Director of the MSFS program at Georgetown; SFS Centennial Fellow Catherine A. Novelli, former Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment – and president of Listening for America; and Anne Gearan, White House and foreign affairs reporter for The Washington Post.
Participants in the panel discussion felt that the video portrayed a number of short- and long-term challenges to the US Department of State. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pledged sweeping changes, and the result was substantial disarray within the State Department and the loss of a large number of senior career Foreign Service officers. Under the leadership of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, there is renewed emphasis on ways to strengthen the State Department, and a stronger appreciation for the contributions of career civil service and Foreign Service officers who conduct US foreign policy. Several members of the panel believed the criticism of the State Department under the Trump administration created new opportunities to articulate to the American public the value of diplomacy and the importance of US engagement around the world, on trade as well as other foreign policy issues. The panelists also welcomed student questions on careers in the Foreign Service.