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Former senior State Department officials call for more diversity among ranks

Former senior State Department officials call for more diversity among ranks
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An organization of former U.S. diplomats and retired senior officials is calling on the State Department to increase diversity among its ranks amid the nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd.

The American Academy of Diplomacy (AAD), a nonpartisan and nongovernmental organization of retired State Department officials, issued a statement Tuesday to put their support behind the widespread protests over racial injustice engulfing the U.S.

“The Academy strongly supports the peaceful demonstrators in their tens of thousands across America who demand that the callous murder of George Floyd be the last of these racially motivated crimes,” said the statement signed by AAD Chairman Thomas Pickering and AAD President Ronald Neumann.

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Pickering, who held six overseas ambassadorships and served as the under secretary of State for Political Affairs between 1997 and 2000, is the namesake behind a State Department fellowship program established in 1992 to promote more diversity among employees in the agency.

“The demonstrators and those who have spoken out remind us that America cannot lead the world unless at home we live up to the values we so proudly defend abroad,” the men wrote in the statement.

The AAD also called out the State Department for the lack of diversity among its senior staff.

“Women and minorities continue to be significantly underrepresented in the Department of State, most glaringly in the senior ranks. Out of 189 U.S. Ambassadors serving abroad today, there are three African American and four Hispanic career diplomats,” the statement read.

The AAD outlined five steps the agency can begin to take “immediately,” including issuing public commitments to establishing a culture of diversity and inclusion; taking meaningful action to increase the recruitment of minorities and women; strengthening mentorship programs for these groups; increasing the assignment and promotion of minorities and women to senior ranks and positions in the foreign service; and setting up "a culture of accountability” to make sure diversity goals are met.

“We believe that a diplomatic service and other representatives of US foreign policy need to look like America, an essential part of representing our country abroad,” the statement read.

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Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo warns any arms sales to Iran will result in sanctions as embargo expires Trump turns his ire toward Cabinet members Azerbaijan accuses Armenia of missile strike that killed at least 13 MORE has called “abhorrent” the actions by police officers involved in Floyd’s death, but he has been criticized for not talking more forcefully in support of the right to protest, which some former diplomats believe is hurting America's credibility abroad.

A State Department spokesperson said that the secretary is "committed to building a more diverse and inclusive Department of State workforce. This commitment to diversity and inclusion reflects the Department’s professional ethos."

The spokesperson added that the State Department has established an agency-wide task force to provide input for recruiting and retaining diverse staff as part of the 2020-2024 Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan.

The spokesperson pointed to the Pickering fellowship and an additional program, the Rangel Fellowship, as legacy programs promoting diversity within the State Department, with at least 900 participants since 1992. 

“Several Fellows have crossed the threshold into the Senior Foreign Service, and/or are in leadership positions serving as Ambassadors, Deputy Chiefs of Mission, and Deputy Assistant Secretaries,” they said.

“We are always looking for ways to strengthen our commitment. The Department has taken — and continues to take — many concrete steps to increase the diversity of our workforce and foster a more inclusive organization.”

—Updated at 10:55 p.m.