Talk:Foreign Service Officer

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FSOs can also be from the Department Commerce and the Dept of Agriculture Mikebar (talk) 06:18, 25 February 2008 (UTC)

FSOs can be from Commerce, Agriculture and USAID as well as State, per the FS Act of 1980. This is a very State-centric article and should be edited to reflect the fact that State is not the only employer of FSOs in the U.S. Government. Amustard (talk) 01:24, 6 May 2009 (UTC)

Merge with Foreign Service?[edit]

As is this article is of dubious value and looks like a good candidate to merge with the Foreign Service article. That article covers the role of "Foreign Service Officers" as well as Specialists and others who serve in the Foreign Service. Also, I see no need for commentary about a labor union here, and as labor unions go, AFSA is hardly "powerful", given that membership is optional (open shop) and the organization lacks the right to strike.SONORAMA (talk) 12:42, 29 February 2008 (UTC)

No, this article needs to stand alone. There is a hierarchy that needs to be respected. Within the Foreign Service, you have Foreign Service Officers at the top, followed by specialists and FSNs. Under that there are civil servants whose job is to support FSOs in the work of diplomacy. Merging the articles would confuse readers about the unique and special role of FSOs.Poloff (talk) 08:14, 22 May 2009 (UTC)

Foreign Service Generalists (not "Officers", which is a colloquial term for any member of the Foreign Service) are NOT "at the top," nor are they above the Specialists or Civil Service. Each group has a role to play, and no one group can do its job without the other two.Kmhseo (talk) 21:03, 20 July 2010 (UTC)

There is a bit of duplicative information in the two articles. Perhaps the wiser course would be to move the career-track specific info from the U.S. Foreign Service article to this one? Meanwhile, since they're currently separate, I've added a bit of USAID detail to this one.Jctakoma (talk) 05:54, 12 August 2011 (UTC)


Yes, and this article left out the FSOs of other foreign affairs agencies, so I have added some text about the FSOs of Commerce, USAID, and Agriculture. Also corrected the bit about FSOs being commissioned by the Senate -- my commission certificate is signed by the President and Secretary of State, not by the Speaker of the House, and the Constitution says commissioned officers of the United States (including us) shall be commissioned by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. As for the article standing alone, I think it stands alone well, but should be cross-referenced with wiki links to other Foreign Service- and foreign affairs-related articles. Amustard (talk) 04:04, 24 May 2009 (UTC)

Citing Sources[edit]


The references for the size of the FS workforce seem inadequate. I looked briefly and could not find better ones. In my edit of details regarding USAID Foreign Service positions, I did point the article to the more general US Foreign Service article for the reference to the size of the State workforce, but the reference there is no better. Any help? Jctakoma (talk) 05:51, 12 August 2011 (UTC)

='the top tier'[edit]

This assertion is disputed by other categories of diplomats. They may consider themselves the 'top tier', but that view does not represent a consensus among U.S. diplomats. I added the term 'sometimes' to soften the assertion, but recommend that it be deleted.Dazibao (talk) 08:33, 11 September 2009 (UTC)

  • FSOs are commisioned by the President and have a signed certificate stating such, Specialists do not. FSO have a chance of rising to be DCM and possibly Ambassador, Specialists very much less of a chance for either. I do not think it is a matter of opinion or how people feel, it is just a fact that FSOs are the top tier.Rockford1963 (talk) 07:51, 12 September 2009 (UTC)
  • Many Specialists do not aspire to become an Ambassador or a DCM. I do not see why this is a valid argument- there are several important organizations and bureaus in the State Department that Generalists will never rise to lead (Diplomatic Security, for example).Kmhseo (talk) 01:18, 24 August 2010 (UTC)

'Generalist vs. "FSO" vs. Specialist'[edit]

Stop editing the article to exclude the Specialist ranks. Specialists are "FSOs" and are "diplomats"[1] just like the Generalists, as evinced by the "officer"[2] in many of their titles and pounded home in orientation (One team, anyone?). Depending on the post, they are afforded the exact same diplomatic immunities and privileges as Foreign Service Generalists; and in the cases where they are not it is due to the requirements of the host government, not the Foreign Service. There are certainly differences in commissioning authority and role, but all fall under the colloquialism of "Foreign Service Officers". If you want to make the distinction between Generalists and Specialists, perhaps you should split the pages- but the FSO page should include both. Kmhseo (talk) 01:17, 24 August 2010 (UTC)

    • I think I read somewhere that there is a technical difference inthe way it is spelled, i.e. Foreign Service Officer (Officer having a capital "O" meaning a Generalist) and Foreign Service officer, being in lower case (meaning a specialist).Rockford1963 (talk) 21:11, 24 August 2010 (UTC)
      • I work for the State Department and have never heard this distinction. "Officer" is capitalized in the specialist tracks with it in the title as well. In addition, "Foreign Service Officer" (capital "O") is nowhere defined in the Foreign Service Act in the first place. Unless you can point to a reference in the FAM or FSA that Foreign Service Officer <-> Foreign Service Generalist, there is certainly nothing that prevents a Specialist from being considered an "Officer" as well, especially when they are directly titled (Financial Management Officer). Kmhseo (talk) 21:23, 24 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Common Usage: In the State Department when someone says they are an FSO it is clearly understood that they are generalists and nothing else. This may or may not match what legislation or the FAM says, but it is the common parlance in the foreign service. Although the word "officer" may appear after various descriptors of specialist, you never hear a specialist proclaiming that they are an FSO.Rockford1963 (talk) 09:00, 25 August 2010 (UTC)
    • No, it clearly is not. I am a specialist and have been referred to as a Foreign Service Officer, a Foreign Service Specialist, an Officer, and an FSO. I've never been referred to as a Generalist. My position has "Officer" directly in its title. You can re-title the article (Foreign Service officer) in accordance with the FSA or produce some reference that makes the definition of "FSO <--> Generalist" or you can leave the article as it is now- i.e. accurate.Kmhseo (talk) 11:23, 25 August 2010 (UTC)
      • As a specialist you are not a generalist, so therefore it was correct, as you say, that you were not referred to as such. I have seen vacancy annoucnments and other similar HR documents that will attach the title officer to many different positions, that does not equal FSO. another example: DS agents, who are specialists, adn not FSOs, may be referred to as Foreign Service Diplomatic Security officers in different HR documents, but once past the hiring phase no one uses that phrase.
        • The issue is not about if I am a specialist or a generalist, its if I'm an "Officer" (i.e. "Foreign Service Officer") or not. Since I am directly titled as an "Officer," I am an FSO- not an FSG. Again, if you can produce a FAM reference that makes the proper distinction I'll be happy to relent.Kmhseo (talk) 16:59, 25 August 2010 (UTC)
          • If you are a specialist your are not a generalist, and if you are not a generalist you are not an FSO. Yes - as a specialist you are an officer within the Foreign Service, but not a "Foreign Service Officer" and you are without a commission from the President and are not atttested by the Senate. Look at sentence 4 - it states that FSO's are generalists. I'm not out to prove a negative, it is simply a fact - FSO is synonomous with generalist.Rockford1963 (talk) 19:45, 25 August 2010 (UTC)
            • Again, where is the proof of the direct equivalence of "FSO" to "Generalist" ? All I want to see is the proof rather than an interpretation that clearly is open to debate. You have presented zero direct evidence to support your claim. If it were simply a matter of being commissioned by the President, why are there "Security Engineering Officers", "Financial Management Officers", etc.Kmhseo (talk) 21:57, 25 August 2010 (UTC)
  • the proof is in the pudding - the term FSO is never used by members of the Foreign Service to refer to anything other than a generalist - that is your proof. Also, look at - - this page mentions that FSOs are generalists that fall into one five cones (this clearly excludes specilaists).Rockford1963 (talk) 11:46, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
    • Clearly it is, as positions exist with "Officer" in the title. The debate isn't over commissioning- Foreign Service officers (lower case "o") are clearly commissioned by the President. That's not in dispute, so I don't really know why you keep coming back to that. makes the FSO -> Generalist equivalence incorrectly as well, as it's not in the FSA or 3 FAM. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Kmhseo (talkcontribs) 02:46, 27 August 2010 (UTC)

Plenty of FAM references 3 FAM 3121.1-1 Foreign Service Officer Career Candidates 3 FAM 3121.1-2 Foreign Service Specialist Career Candidate 13 FAM 211.1-1 Foreign Service Officers (Generalists) 13 FAM 211.1-2 Foreign Service Specialists 3 FAH H-2240 Foreign Service Officer Career Candidate Program etc. etc. etc. Bevinbell 06:27, 27 August 2010 (UTC)

Edit warring[edit]

I have warned three users who appear to be involved in edit warring over an extended period in this article. Please take this as a warning before further steps to resolve the dispute. I would like to encourage everyone involved to come to a satisfactory compromise on the content of this article. The edit war is not conducive to creating a balanced article for the public to inform themselves. Kbrose (talk) 16:29, 1 September 2010 (UTC)

  • Thanks Kbrose - any chance you would like us to help mediate this? I have not been on my best behavior in response to the concerted efforts of a single editor and an anon, and am afraid that I am a bit tainted in reaching out for help. I have citations (legal, regulatory, primary source) for supporting edits listed above and left on talk pages, but I have not seen anything presented or included from the other party involved. Perhaps a moratorium on further edits that are not actually backed by citations would be a starting point. A similar, but slight more subtle edit war is happening on United States Foreign Service. The edits are actually on a fairly arcane, but important point - what constitutes a Foreign Service Officer under law, regulations, and common usage within the Department of State. Please help resolve this Bevinbell 17:15, 1 September 2010 (UTC)
    • I forgot to mention, on 8/30 I asked for temporary page protection so the edit war could be stopped, but was directed to try dispute resolution instead.Bevinbell 17:21, 1 September 2010 (UTC)
  • My thanks to Kbrose as well. I second Bevinbell's statements. I think the edits we have put forth are correct and we have plenty to back it up, as best as can be had. The other party can only make inferences and conjecture, which I think we have proved are incorrect.Rockford1963 (talk) 06:51, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
  • The Foreign Service Act and FAM are reduced to "conjecture" and "inference" status? It's spelled out for you in black and white. Foreign Service officer. If this page is discussing Foreign Service Generalists, then yes- I completely agree that specialist positions should not be included.Kmhseo (talk) 23:48, 2 September 2010 (UTC)


I have been asked on my talk page to help mediate this dispute, and will oblige to help. A first result of in my initial investigation, looking at the U.S. DoS website, it appears pretty clear that FS Specialists are not FS Officers, they are clearly separate ranks, FSO's are diplomats, whereas FSSs are technical, administrative etc. support posts. In article Foreign Service Officer I find that both sides of the dispute there should get some credit. I have included the statements that FSO are Generalists, as the added reference clearly states this information. I have excluded however the tracks for Specialists, as specialists do not appear to be FSOs and we have a separate article for Foreign Service Specialists. That article is very sparse on information and it would appear that all the knowledgeable editors here would spend their time much more productively adding content to that article, rather than fighting. Kbrose (talk) 15:05, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

Further note and observation: The dispute here seems to pivot around the issue of what constitutes a Foreign Service "Officer" (the job title) and what is merely an officer of the Foreign Service, a Foreign Service "officer". As is common in the English language, proper nouns are given names, specific classes, etc. and not just general terms or categories. Proper nouns are capitalized, common nouns are not. From the FS website it appears FSO and FSS are given names of job classes, not general categories. Therefore, a person with the title "Financial Management Officer" may be called a Foreign Service officer--understandably used in casual dialog to denote any rank in the FS--but it is not a member of the classification named "Foreign Service Officer", as that classification is given to a group of titles for diplomats and other high ranking "generalist" positions. Kbrose (talk) 16:23, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

  • Thanks for the edits. I think that many Foreign Service Specialists feel that they are diplomats as well (serve overseas, some have job duties that involve interaction with host governments, all would have diplomatic passports, etc.) and I think it would be hard to argue that they are not in some capacity serving as diplomats. I think that in addition to the Department's own website terminology, what you say above regarding the difference between an "Officer" and a "Specialist" is consistent with implementing regulations of the department, which are codified through the FAM and FAH (Foreign Affairs Manual and Foreign Affairs Handbook). On a more informal level, I think few Department of State employees working overseas (or domestically) use the term Foreign Service Officer or FSO to refer to anyone but generalists unless they are under the mistaken impression that a specialist is a commissioned officer. Nobody in the navy would confuse a Petty Officer with a Commander, nor would a NCO in the army be confused with a Colonel. I suspect that the editor will simply reverse you in short order, with no discussion or response to your comments here or the multiple comments left on their talk page. Bevinbell 16:31, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
  • Kbrose- good edits, for the most part. However, I will continue to change all instances of "Foreign Service officer" as it is not defined (capitalized) in the Foreign Service Act, FAM, or FAH. It is acceptable to remove the list of specialist positions if the uncapitalized, legally defined "Foreign Service officer" remains. As for Bevinbell's continued reliance on military comparisons (as well as the undoubtedly negative and self-absorbed comments left on my talk page, which I have not checked since sending my first response), the State Department is not the military. Get over yourself.Kmhseo (talk) 23:47, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
I have already examined the FSA and found that it does not distinguish the job classifications of FS Officer, FS Generalist, and FS Specialist, and frankly I did not expect that it would. The act only talks in general terms of FS officers, and leaves it open what that encompasses. It consistently refers to powers of the Secretary and determining these classification apparently falls within those powers, which makes perfect sense. This is completely in line with my earlier descriptions of proper nouns vs. common nouns.
The official website of the Department is a sufficient description of the service classifications and this is referenced. You have not provided any evidence that I can see for your assertions. If you continue to revert those sourced statements you will be blocked from editing. Kbrose (talk) 00:13, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
Wait, you're kidding, right? Directly from the FSA:
The following are the members of the Service.
(1) Chiefs of mission, appointed under section 302(a)(1) or assigned under section 502(c).
(2) Ambassadors at large, appointed under section 302(a)(1).
(3) Members of the Senior Foreign Service, appointed under section 302(a)(1) or 303, who are the corps of leaders and experts for the management of the Service and the performance of its functions.
(4) Foreign Service officers, appointed under section 302(a)(1), who have general responsibility for carrying out the functions of the Service.
(5) Foreign Service personnel, United States citizens appointed under section 303, who provide skills and services required for effective performance by the Service.
(6) Foreign national employees, foreign nationals appointed under section 303, who provide clerical, administrative, technical, fiscal, and other support at Foreign Service posts abroad.
(7) Consular agents, appointed under section 303 by the Secretary of State, who provide consular and related services as authorized by the Secretary of State at specified locations abroad where no Foreign Service posts are situated.
(a)(1) The President may, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoint an individual as a chief of mission, as an ambassador at large, as an ambassador, as a minister, as a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, or as a Foreign Service officer.
Clearly the President does not commission Foreign Service Officers, he commissions Foreign Service officers. I am honestly not sure how this can be confused.Kmhseo (talk) 00:17, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
      • Additionally, what you wrote above about distinguishing between officers and specialists gets back to the root of the problem. It's perfectly fine if this article is referring to Foreign Service Generalists. If it is to refer to the colloquial "Foreign Service Officer," specialists- especially those directly titled as "Officer"- should be included. The fact that the article discusses commissioning by the President and the fact that Specialists are not commissioned by the President leads me to believe that the former is the case. According to your statement, the first sentence as it stands now refers to Specialists as well as Generalists ("A Foreign Service Officer (FSO) is a commissioned member of the United States Foreign Service." - mentions nothing about commissioning authority). So, I ask again0 is this page about Foreign Service Generalists, or Foreign Service Officers? If it's about Officers you need to include Specialists as well if we're going to use a very loose interpretation of the law. Kmhseo (talk) 00:24, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
      • Kbrose asked me to comment. I must admit I don't really want to investigate this myself from scratch. It seems to me, though, that the term is used in both an exact sense and a broader sense. I'd suggest simply saying so, and explain what each of them mean & who would be included. (In other words, perhaps everybody is right.) DGG ( talk ) 01:27, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
        • If "everyone" is right, then I suggest turning this into a landing page that in turn leads to Foreign Service Generalist and Foreign Service Specialist. Specialist positions should be included on this page, or Generalist positions should not be included on this page. Yes- it is used in the legal sense (FSo) and the colloquial sense (FSO) somewhat liberally. Thus, the confusion. Bevinbell and Rockford1963 are arguing that it is only used in the colloquial sense that FSO --> Generalist, and that there should be no distinction. I am arguing that this is not the case, and the Wikipedia page should reflect or at least fairly acknowledge the distinction (or lack thereof). Kmhseo (talk) 01:36, 3 September 2010 (UTC)

Thanks for getting some actual discussion going and the engagement of Kmhseo. I had previously been focused on the primary source of the FAM the FAH, and the department's website. I have not previously focused on the underlying Foriegn Service Act. There is the following in the act that makes a very distinct legal definition between officers and other personnel. See - it makes the legal statement -

The following are the members of the Service.
(4) Foreign Service officers, appointed under section 302(a)(1), who have general responsibility for carrying out the functions of the Service.
(5) Foreign Service personnel, United States citizens appointed under section 303, who provide skills and services required for effective performance by the Service

It is simple - Foreign Service Officers (per the act) are commissioned officers under the president and senate and are referred to within the FAM, FAH, and department website (and common venacular within the department) as Foreign Service Officers, FSOs, and Generalists. Even our barganing unit - AFSA - uses this language.

Foreign Service personnel (per the act) are commissioned staff under the Secretary of State, and are referred to within the FAM, FAH, and department website (and common venacular within the department) as Foreign Service Specialists. Even our barganing unit - AFSA - uses this language.

So, for the Foriegn Service Officer page, I see no connection to specialists (other than a related link to that page from the bottom) nor support for the various edits made by Kmhseo. Bevinbell 02:37, 3 September 2010 (UTC)

I am not disagreeing with you on this. I fully acknowledge that Foreign Service officers (lower case, Generalists) are appointed by the President. If this is indeed what the article refers to, "Foreign Service Officer"- the colloquial usage- needs to be changed. If the proper noun "Officer" only refers to Generalists, Why Are Some Specialists Directly Titled As Officers? Kmhseo (talk) 12:27, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
It is rather amazing that this could be misunderstood. Haven't you read my explanations? The titles are XXX Officer, but they don't fall into the class Foreign Service Officer. You cannot extract the noun "officer" from the titles, make it a proper noun and infer that therefore they belong to the clearly defined class of "Foreign Service Officer". It is abundantly clear that those kind of officers fall in the group of Foreign Service Specialist. Every branch of service in any government or even company has all kinds of officers in various ranks and classifications, to infer from components of a title how they are ranked in overall schemes is absurd. Kbrose (talk) 14:12, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
You are not reading the discussion page or the article edits, then. (talk) 12:25, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
Yes, this is pretty much the situation as I also interpreted the sources, in fact it is all rather clear when one looks at the bulk of all documents together, rather than just narrowly focusing on the term "FS officer" as written in the act. All the supporting documents point to this, such as the FSO Selection Process. This is what should be reflected in these articles, as this is clearly the presentation sought originally in our articles about FSO and FSS. Kbrose (talk) 04:48, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
All of the documents... except the Foreign Service Act? So we're just discounting the law entirely then? I'm fine with that, as long as that's what Wikipedia's moderators and editors are looking to achieve.Kmhseo (talk) 12:27, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
Yes, ALL of the documents, including the act. In fact, that was one of the first documents I read when I got involved in this. The act provides the overall guidelines in general terms. All other documents provide more specificity w/r/t job classifications, duties, etc. The representation as it stood after my edits was within all definitions, and I outlined the difference between FSo as used in the act, and FSO as used in all the more specific documents published by the Department. You continue to ignore other documents that speak against your point of view. Do you really dispute the correctness of official hiring guidelines, procedures, and job classifications that are publicly promulgated by the Secretary of State? Kbrose (talk) 14:02, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
  • "Foreign Service Officer" is not a colloquial term by any stretch of the imagination. It is clearly understood who and what they are within the Foreign Service: Generalists, and only Generalists. I like the suggestion of expanding the Specialist article. my thanks for the intervention of Kbrose..Rockford1963 (talk) 07:28, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
    • Clearly it is not- you are just basing this POV off of two opinions and inconsistent FAM entries (the FAM itself seems to be inconsistent in its references to Officers and officers). Again, if the article is to refer to "FSO" as the colloquial use, why should it not include Financial Management Officers, Security Engineering Officers, General Services Officers, etc? According to the first sentence of the article, specialists should be included in the discussion as well- as they are commissioned. Perhaps you should change the language to reflect that this is actually a page about Foreign Service officers i.e. Generalists and NOT Foreign Service Officers i.e. "Foreign Service Employees"- all of which have commissions and some who are directly titled as "Officer." Why are you not even addressing this obvious inconsistency with what you are arguing and what you are intending to say? Kmhseo (talk) 12:27, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
With this insistence on citing the term 'Officer' in these tracks and inferring that they are therefore FSOs, you are not only ignoring my explanations of this earlier, but you are also showing ignorance of English language construction and lack of reading comprehension. These articles were clearly written according to the terminology used in more specific guidelines and hiring documents available from DoS website, it is not appropriate to rework them according to your personal view. Kbrose (talk) 14:02, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
I don't think that this is an issue of comprehension or anything like that. This is pure and simple POV pushing. There is a small subset of Foreign Service Specialists that have a huge chip on their shoulders with regards to their relative status within the Department and Embassies. They often have a lot harder time getting promoted, have limited diplomatic benefits due to their general non-inclusion in diplomatic lists under the Geneva Convention (e.g. don't get same tax-exempt and immunity benefits), and generally do not get the same respect. Some of these are not fair in my opinion, but it does not warrant a "revisionist" attempt of changing what the law, regulations, departmental public information, and common usage dictate.
One quirk/factoid to add that might not be apparent to those on the outside - Commissioned by the President FSO's (like myself) actually do some of the same jobs that specialists hold. For instance, for my current tour I am both a GSO (General Service Officer) and a FSO (Foreign Service Officer) commissioned by the President. Some of the specialist tracks were created (HRO, GSO, and FMO) are actually FSO Generalist Management coned jobs in which a shortage existed that was supplemented by specialists. The history of the position names are that they were first (and continue) to be held by Generalists that were subsequently supplemented by specialists. I will move on and be promoted or do work in a different cone, while my specialist colleagues will continue to do the same work their whole career. I think community consensus is reflecting a POV opposed to Kmhseo and have therefore reverted his last edits back to the version put forth by Kbrose. I think a block would be an appropriate action if he continues his edits without factual support.Bevinbell 14:36, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
I am a Foreign Service Specialist and I concede that the comments made above, about the relative negatives in being a Specialist, are essentially correct. Myself, I don't think I have a chip on my shoulder about the matter, and I readily accept as a natural fact that FSOs (i.e. of course, Generalists) are the higher end of the FS. They are commissioned by the President and have certificates with the President's signature on it - something that I do not have. What us Specialists are only now getting is a certificate regarding our appointment into the FS, signed by the Secretary of State - a new innovation. These appointment certificates actually state 'appointed as career members of the FS'. I think that FSO commissioning certificates read 'commissioned as an officer in the FS', but I am not sure. By the way, I am happy to be a Specialist - what FSOs have to go through is too much for me and I think not worth it. (talk) 15:10, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
    Not to re-ignite an old argument but there is another angle to this discussion that needs to be brought to light - as a former specialist, I concur that the term FSO really does refer, normally, to a generalist despite the stubborn earlier argument above. However, to state that FSO exclusively refers to generalists would be incorrect. Foreign Service Specialists who cross the senior threshold are in fact commissioned as FSOs yet remain specialists. I am new at editing Wikipedia so I won't attempt to edit the article for fear of blowing up the Internet but I would appreciate someone adding this fact to the article. Thanks. Pen65000 (talk) 18:34, 19 March 2016 (UTC)

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