Now, we're beginning to learn what that entails, as reports show that disadvantaged and minority students may not get the jobs they were promised as a result.
To Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Delaware), this shift has “a genuine negative effect on morale and on our operating capacity.” But as he and others fear we're “going to lose the very best of our Foreign Service,” members of Congress are fighting back.
Graduates of the most recent class of the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Program, an effort carried out by Howard University and the State Department that gives young individuals from different backgrounds the opportunity to obtain careers as diplomats, have just been told that positions promised to them won't be available any longer. Instead, The Independent reports, the only positions available are temporary and non-career spots.
Instead of making use of the skills and hard work they put into their education, they will be given temporary consular positions, which entail processing visas and offering Americans support abroad.
Rangel and Pickering fellows have to go on a long journey before being offered careers as diplomats in the Foreign Service of the State Department.
At first, they must complete a two-year master's degree then spend some time in the State Department as interns before being subject to a rigorous hiring process that includes a background check. If accepted, they then take on roles as foreign service officers for at least five years.
Now, instead of being given the opportunity to become foreign officers and do more while part of the foreign service, these fellows will be taking on tasks that officers only take part in for the first two years. Instead of growing and taking on more responsibilities, they will remain on an "entry level" position throughout their five-year tenure.
During a hearing before Congress last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson defended the cuts responsible for this shift in policy, saying that he never thought that “the level of funding devoted to a goal is the most important factor in achieving it.” Still, 31 Congress members signed a letter asking Tillerson to allow this year's Rangel and Pickering fellows to take the roles they were promised as the positions these graduates are now being offered aren't what Congress intended when they set the minority requirement rule in 2002.
Despite their request, the State Department maintains that it's keeping its commitment.
According to spokesperson Heather Nauert, fellows are being given the opportunity to perform many tasks that first-tour general officers perform. Once the freeze is lifted, Nauert added, these fellows could work as foreign officers.
Still, it's heartbreaking to see these kids losing the years and dedication they put into this process only to know their careers may suffer as a result.