February 5, 2006

Want To Be An FSO?

Filed under: — Chap @ 1:27 am

The State Department’s got a ritual much like that which existed on the classical Chinese court: a big examination to see who can be In The Club.

Consul-At-Arms has the details on this year’s exam here.

7 Responses to “Want To Be An FSO?”

  1. Consul-At-Arms Says:

    Thanks for the referal. I usually draw the comparison to the Mandarin class myself when explaining how the FSWE system is designed to work.

    It’s a meritocracy, most especially in its earliest stage. Even the military and naval academies are not quite so meritocratic in their adminission policy, since a political nomination is required for most acaemy candidates.

  2. badbob Says:

    I took this test as a senior back in the mid-70’s. I had an idea of becoming a political officer (you had to select what kind of FSO you wanted to be) without any idea what it really was. It was the tailend of “Nam and all that JFK- “ask not what…” attitude prevailed. Hard test- I passed with an “80” I think. Lots of American art and culture stuff in addition to the usual American government and aptitude stuff. Real hard, sort of like that dam TAO school tests- no gouge! Maybe it’s still the same? A lot of the folks taking it with me were Ivy/Little Ivy of course and I was a state-U grad. I was proud just to pass. and be placed on a list.

    After entering AOCS in Pensacola and about 10 weeks into it, marine D.I.s and all, I got a letter from State inviting me to an interview in NYC.

    Too late Jack, I had the bug for Naval Air and a buzz cut, but I often wonder how I would have done as an FSO. I know my handle I got in the Navy would have hampered my being a diplomat! On the other hand I could have ended up one of those overweight sweat hogs in a tropical suit stamping passports in Madagascar….Nah- I made the right choice.

    Either way the US GOVMINT got me to spend five years off-CONUS on deployments!


  3. Consul-At-Arms Says:

    BadBob: Have you taken a look at the age limit for FSOs? Perhaps you can still make it!

  4. badbob Says:


    I did look at it back in 2001 when C. Powell was re-organizing. He was even looking for ret/ex mil like myself to boot! But when I started breaking down the realities- more sea duty (well sort of), working as a GS (paycut with the offset in effect) , and having to learn a second language (I’m dumb & old), I briefed CINC-wife and she said “no more wander-lust and adventures”. Slam.

    Window closed for me. Still think it opens the window for something really different though and would encourage it for all young Americans. Travel overseas and get paid for it! Can’t beat that combo.


  5. Consul-At-Arms Says:

    So CINC-wife didn’t want to be a nomad at 2-3 year intervals anymore? That’s understandable.

    I think ex-military families, both the FSO and the “trailing spouse” bring a lot to the table. They are not shocked, for instance, at the living conditions and the notion of living overseas.

  6. badbob Says:


    When the kids are gone I’d love to do it and I’m sure the wife would acqiesce (sic) but would y’all want a 58 year old who doesn’;t really know a foreign language, but does know how to order beer around the world? My only hope of getting in the foreign service would be to win powerball and buy my way in as an Ambassador!

    Plenty of young folks-good folks out there with mil experience. I’d focus on those officers getting out after one tour in the Nav or the AF right now. Downsizing affects both the unsuited and the best. Another good source would be those senior enlisted retiring at 20 and have requisite skills. They’re often young enough (38-40) and skilled to really round out the department.


  7. jon a Says:

    Interesting article about The Mystery Mandarin guys at State

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