Despite launching an office devoted to science and technology more than 15 years ago, these topics remain undervalued at the State Department.
Science and technology remain undervalued in the State Department despite their increasingly important role in diplomacy, according to a National Research Council report released Tuesday.
The two disciplines have a growing influence on everything from international economic development to combating hostile governments, so they should also play a key role in U.S. foreign policy decisions, according to the report.
The State Department needs a cultural tune up, according to the report. Knowledge of science and technology should be considered just as important as language fluency and area knowledge.
"The department should accelerate its efforts to engrain within the Foreign Service an appreciation of the significance of the S&T advances taking place at home and abroad," the report stated.
The report included 27 recommendations for the State Department, including creating a science and technology advisory board of independent field experts and increasing staff. Also among the recommendations: Placing special tech counselors at those embassies where science and technology play especially important roles in diplomacy, and expanding and assessing the department's social media presence.
More than a dozen former diplomats and specialists from the private sector conducted the study.
About 15 years ago, the State Department established a science and technology office to help it deal with the ever-evolving technology landscape.
While the department has made improvements to its science and technology capabilities in Washington, it hasn’t made the same headway in its embassies abroad, according to the report.
“Progress at the embassies in embracing S&T as a key component of diplomacy has lagged seriously behind,” the report stated.
The report suggested diplomats be supported by a staff well-versed in science and technology. The State Department should also have more S&T education programs in place to train foreign service officers.
(Image via Mark Van Scyoc/ Shutterstock.com)
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