How I Would Prepare for the Foreign Service Exam Today – Project Management

The State Department loves Project Management, as I guess most large organizations do.  The outcomes from Project Management —  precise list of achievements, timeline and performance benchmarks – that enable the 7th Floor (where C-level folks work at Main State) principals and more importantly Congress budget watchdog to track multimillion-dollar programs.

Huge Project — New Embassy Construction

New Embassy construction is a program that lends itself to project management.  Based on the findings of the 1985 Inman Report (aka Report of the Secretary of State’s Advisory Panel on Overseas Security) and later security reviews, the State Department need to build or renovate embassies that didn’t meet the new security standards – more space between Embassies and the street (setback), bringing all the disparate agencies (e.g. USAID, Foreign Agriculture Service, FBI, etc) into the Embassy, moving out of congested city centers to more open land (to defeat new spying technologies.

Where’s the Money, Congress?

Regrettably, State did not act on the Inman Report until it was hastened by the 1997 Embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, and even then the schedule was woefully slow.  The September 11 attacks helped accelerate the process again, but now 11 years later, it appears that protecting our diplomats – the U.S. first line – has diminished in importance.   It comes down to the huge capital cost to replace or fortify the Department’s 260+ chanceries and principal offices overseas.   Ultimately, it is Congress that has balked at spending the money that the State Department needs for protection and security.  I served in a number of embassies going through chancery construction and everything and everyone had to obey the project management calendar.  But it’s not just big projects, but also small ones in HR, Budget & Finance and Consular, among others, that rely on project management programs and now software.

I’ll insert some of the pertinent Wikipedia articles to help you get the gist of Project Management, if you don’t have the knowledge already:

Project Management (

To be honest, I don’t know if the State Department is using proprietary software to manage the really huge programs.  I certainly hope not.  State (and USAID) has a terrible record when it comes to developing software to meet specific needs.  If you doubt me, as any Foreign Service Officer or civil servant how they feel about e-Performance.  A disaster…

Next Lesson – My Crush on Grammar Girl

Anyway, your reading is light tonight, in part because project management should not/not take up a lot of your exam and also because we’re moving onto English Grammar and Style tomorrow.  In fact, it may take two days to get through how you should write for the State Department.  (Note: if you’re the bookish sort, you can always jump ahead to the Grammar Girl, Mignon Fogarty’s blog and podcast on all things grammar.  Trust me, she’s one hot grammarian).


  1. Bethany Flaherty says

    Thank you for putting these articles up. I will be following these links and finding these books.

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