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This bill is aptly described in its title as a bill for the reorganization and improvement of the foreign service of the United States.
The reorganization is sought to be accomplished by a reclassification of diplomatic and consular officers, and this reclassification and the other provisions of the bill are in the interests of the higher efficiency of the entire foreign service of the United States, which is under the direction of the Department of State. That improvement is sought by obtaining a greater flexibility in administration through an improved classification and by also obtaining a better basis and a broader basis for the selection of representatives.
The second section of the bill provides for the classification, you will observe, of the officers in the foreign service below the grade of ministers into nine classes with salaries ranging from $3,000 to $9,000, and unclassified officers with salaries ranging from $1,500 to $3,000. This puts the entire service, Diplomatic Service, below the grade of ministers, and the consular service into one foreign service, the persons now in the respective services being designated or assigned to classes as provided in section 7 of the bill. The first point is to note the change from the present arrangement. At present we have 520 consular officers who are divided into classes as consuls general, consuls, and vice consuls, with a subordinate classification of interpreters, student interpreters, and consular assistants.
The salaries of these 520 consular officers range from the highest salaries paid to consuls general of class 1, of whom there are at present two, the salaries in these cases being $12,000 a year. The consuls general of class 2, 14 in number, get $8,000 a year, and so on down to the lowest class of consuls general, who get $4,500 a year. The consuls range from $8,000 to $2,000, and then there are vice consuls, interpreters, student interpreters, and consular assistants, ranging in salary from $3,000 to $1,500 a year. So
will observe that at present the only salaries that are paid that are higher than the highest class provided for in the proposed bill are the salaries of consuls general of class 1, $12,000 a year, of whom there are two, Mr. Skinner at London, and Mr. Thackara at Paris. The bill provides that the existing incumbents shall not be disturbed in their salaries, so that Mr. Skinner will continue at the salary of $12,000, while he remains in office. Mr. Thackara is about at the point of retirement, so that under this bill there will be one person continued who is now in office at the salary of $12,000. We have, therefore, with the exception of a single salary of $12,000, consular officers with salaries now ranging from the lowest in the case of consular assistants, at $1,500, to the highest in class 2 of $8,000, and these would be distributed among those classes provided for in class 1, with salaries ranging from $1,500 to $9,000.
In the present diplomatic service, below the grade of minister, we have 121 diplomatic secretaries. They are divided into four classes. There are 18 with a salary of $4,000 in class 1; there are 36 in class 2, with a salary of $3,625; there are 34 in class 3, with a salary of $3,000; there are 33 in class 4, with a salary of $2,500 each. So we have 121 diplomatic officers at present with salaries ranging from $2,500 to $4,000, who will be thrown into these nine classes provided for in section 2 of the proposed bill. In other words, we have carried into the general foreign service with a single classification, for which this bill provides, 641 consular and diplomatic officers.
Now, what is the reason for that reclassification, and how will it promote the efficiency of the service. In the first place, this bill provides a basis of interchangeability, that is to say, instead of maintaining officers in separate classes as consular officers on the one hand and diplomatic officers on the other hand, both sorts of officers will be in one classification. The result is that there can be assigned from one class to another one who may have entered the consular service or one who may have entered the diplomatic service. This is a very important and fundamental change, and I believe will have a farreaching effect upon the efficiency of the service. Of course, there is no intention to change the duties of diplomatic and consular officers. There is no intention to confuse either their prerogatives, their privileges, their functions, or their status under the Department of State.
It is very important that the distinction between diplomatic officers and consular officers should be maintained. It is a distinction which is well grounded in international law. It is a distinction that is observed by the Governments, and it would be futile to attempt to obscure it, and certainly by any municipal legislation to attempt to alter the essential differences. Diplomatic officers are accredited to Governments as those concerned in transactions with Governments and in negotiations with Governments. Consular officers, on the other hand, attend to a great variety of the interests of nations, which may be attended to without any impairment of the foreign jurisdiction and historically has been acquiesced in by nations within their own territory. They have to do with a great many matters of interest to American citizens which do not involve the intercourse between Governments which is the concern of diplomatic representatives. You are probably aware that we have had our consular and Diplomatic Service-I speak now of the Diplomatic Service as it is spoken of in the bill, i. e., below the grade of minister-upon a merit basis. Some years ago, I believe, in 1906, it was provided by Executive order that consuls should be selected after examination under regulations. Those examinations are held periodically in the Department of State. Attention is given to particular qualifications for consular duties by those most expert in the knowledge of what those duties involve. They are not abstract tests; they are not simply intellectual tests. They are tests which deal with the availability of candidates for the particular duties.
Similarly, since 1909, examinations have been held in the Department of State and various tests applied in the selection of diplomatic secretaries. This method of control was approved by Congress in effect in its legislation of 1915, providing for the commissioning of diplomatic and consular appointees to a class. While this is an admirable system and reflects great credit upon the progress that has been made in the administration of government in the United States, when we think of the abuses that obtained before the merit system was introduced, still you can not fail to note the impossibility of absolutely defining for all time the aptitudes of the young men who take examination in either of these services. They may think they desire a diplomatic career. It may turn out that they are much better fitted for consular work. On the other hand, one may enter the consular service, and you may find later that he is especially fitted for diplomatic work. Now, while the duties are distinct, while in every case the actual appointment will be made to one service or the other, as provided in the bill, still to have an interchangeable service so that men can be assigned from time to time as may appear to be in accordance with their aptitudes and experience, is greatly in the interest of the efficient conduct of the business of the United States. There is no reason in the world in this time, in the twentieth century, why we should, in any case, be limited by artificialities. If there is anything at all which is significant of the progress of our day, it is that we are coming closer and closer in our dealings with realities. Here is a time honored distinction which must be maintained but not at the cost of being unable to get the right men in the right place. So we have, as I say, a greater flexibility provided by the arrangement for a new classification by which officers will belong to a class in the service, be promoted as their efficiency requires to a higher class in the service, and can be assigned to either diplomatic or consular work as it may seem to the best advantage of the Government.
The next reason for believing that this reclassification will improve the service is, as I have said, that it will give a better and a broader basis for selection. This will be accomplished by improving the rewards that are given for faithful service. I have already called your attention to the present condition of the Diplomatic Service. We have diplomatic secretaries who, if they get into class 4, receive $2,500 a year, and the highest salary they can ever get in the Diplomatic Service is $4,000 a year.
That is not much of an inducement to a young man who is contemplating a diplomatic career. I do not wish, however, to say a word which could be taken as being in disparagement of men who are now in our Diplomatic Service. I have à much higher appreciation of that service than I had before I was made Secretary of State. I knew about it in a general way; I had come in contact with it from time to time, but I knew little of the ability or the fidelity and loyalty of the men in the service. Therefore, when I say I want a better and broader basis of selection for men in the service, I am not in any way detracting from the splendid qualities of the young men who are devoting their lives to this service at the present time. It is entirely undemocratic, however, it is entirely opposed to the traditions of this country, at least to the traditions which we profess to be desirous of maintaining, to have a service which must, of necessity, be largely recruited, if not altogether recruited, from those of independent means. The British had a rule for a long time that no one could be appointed in the diplomatic service unless he had a competency of practically $1,900 a year. That has been abolished, but it was maintained, I think, until the time of the war.
With us it has been practically impossible to get men to enter the service unless they or their families had independent means, or unless they were fortunate enough by marriage to find a basis for the support of a family through the means acquired in that way. That is altogether wrong. We have in our colleges and universities, young men who are specially adapted for this work, students of history, students of politics in the broad sense, men who have traveled, men who are interested in the culture of foreign peoples and are well versed in our own history and thoroughly American in their spirit, who find themselves debarred from considering one of the greatest avenues of distinction that the country offers, namely, its service in connection with its foreign relations. I am not one of those who has the delusion that you can by any salaries that the Government will provide compete with the opportunities of professional life, or the opportunities that are offered in many of the lucrative callings. That is out of the question. Men who can have great opportunities in engineering can never find them duplicated in the War Department or the Interior Department under any system that Congress may set up. Men who have great aptitude for legal work can never find in Government service any pecuniary rewards at all commensurate with the time and effort and ability they put into their work, or at all equal to the compensation which they could readily obtain even in the earlier years outside. But it is a mistake to suppose that because the Government can not compete with the opportunities of private life that, therefore, it can not hold out a reasonable inducement to the men who think of higher ends than those associated with the mere making of money, and who ought to be put beyond the strain of being confined within unnecessarily narrow limits so that they feel they are the victims of injustice and must look ahead to a life deprived of those resources and opportunities which their classmates in college and their associates in the community are readily able to enjoy:
There is a great difference between attempting to compete with the opportunities of private professional life and providing a reasonable compensation, which makes one feel that he can, at least, meet his expenses, raise a family, and enjoy a position which, considering the distinction of his services, is agreeable to his self-respect. Fortunately, in our colleges, in many professions, which give very little reward from the pecuniary standpoint, we have always been able to draw upon our very best youth for the reenforcement of important positions, because so many of our young men are not intent upon mere money gain, but prize other rewards which lie along the line of distinguished public service. It is absurd at this time--I use a strong expression as I think it is justified-to have diplomatic secretaries who have served many years with the utmost fidelity and conspicuous ability, see a limit of $4,000 for their work. You know what salaries are now paid in our law offices. You know how soon it is that a young man is able to command that amount, if he is worth anything at all, and yet that is the maximum which the Government provides. It is unjust and we ought to open up a more satisfactory career. I have spoken of this from the standpoint of the desire to get the right kind of men into the service and to have a broader basis for that service, and I have spoken of the immunity from some petty annoyances, from some of the extreme difficulties, which should be provided by an increased salary scale. There should be also the inducement of a career, so that men can look forward to proper promotion. They can see ahead of them a reasonable recognition for work well done. All our promotions in the State Department are on a merit basis. Efficiency records are kept and men know that they are going to be judged by their records.
I have not spoken at all of the grade of minister, to which the bill does not apply. It is true that every once in a while someone is promoted from the Diplomatic Service to the post of minister. I am gratified at that. It has been exteremely agreeable to me to have had the opportunity while I have been in office, occasionally to secure such an appointment. We have a man present here--Mr. Hugh Gibson, our Minister to Poland-who represents one of the best records that has been made on the Diplomatic Service. Now, unfortunately, I would say, those cases are rare, because, as you know, the political pressure for appointments of the grade of minister and ambassador is strong, and from the standpoint of the Department of State if one can secure a few representatives of the service in the higher diplomatic posts he must be well satisfied with the achievement. That pressure and demand are not entirely unjustified. The reason is that this country must always be able to call upon men for its higher diplomatic work, who have had the great advantage of contact with the experience of American life and who come out of other callings with a ripened judgment which, perhaps, could never be obtained in a more limited career in the Diplomatic Service. We illustrate that frequently in the highest diplomatic posts, calling to them the best men that can be found in the country. I do not disparage that course. I think it is all that we can expect, that there should be a recognition of the service to a reasonable extent, in order that men in the service should not feel that they could never aspire to the higher posts, and at the same time it would not be expected that the higher posts should be entirely filled by men of career. That would be to deprive the country of the benefit of the services of other men conspicuously fitted for such work, although they have not from the start engaged in diplomatic work.
We need in the United States the very best representation abroad that we can get. Instead of getting out of difficulties, I mean, international difficulties, they multiply. Whatever the future may be, the present shows a constant increase of important situations, of new interests, of new problems, to which we must address ourselves with all the ability that we have at our command. It is perfectly idle to believe that we can get along without diplomatic representatives, because we have increased facility in communication. We need the man. We can not rely on paper; we can not rely on direct messages. We need the man in the personal contact with other men, transacting the business of their Government. That is the way business houses get along. In important matters they never send a message without à man if they can send both. The United States Government is entitled to the very best representation it can have. But if we could have in our posts as diplomatic representatives, ambassadors, and ministers, the ablest men the country provided, still they would go to their posts under the absolute necessity of depending upon a trained staff. You can not get along without a staff in any line of important work. It is not that the members of the staff can supply the exact experience, the judgment, or wide vision, or personal acquaintance that the head of the mission may have, but it is that the head of the mission, if he is to do his work, must have men at his call who are fully equipped with information, able to take his instructions and transmute them into actual contacts with others in foreign offices, able to give his energy, his force, his point of view, a trained and expert presentation. It is hardly necessary to talk to men of affairs as to the necessity of a staff, or to explain that the efficiency of the diplomatic service depends upon building up the staff of our embassies and legations.