Written evidence from Sir David Logan
I was a member of the Diplomatic Service from 1965-2001.
For most of my career I specialised in east-west relations and
in defence policy. My postings in the FCO included appointments
as Assistant Under Secretary of State for Central and Eastern
European Affairs and Assistant Under Secretary of State for Defence
Policy. Abroad, I was Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassies
in Moscow and Washington in the 1990s and Ambassador to Turkey
from 1997-2001 (having previously served in the political section
of the Embassy there in the 60s). I retired early and became Director
of the Centre for Studies in Security and Diplomacy at Birmingham
University between 2002-07. I now chair the British Institute
at Ankara and retain other interests in Russia and Turkey.
- This evidence is narrowly confined to two issues.
What are the distinctive capabilities needed to give the Diplomatic
Service (DS) comparative advantage for the promotion of UK interests?
How should it sustain this advantage in an era of financial stringency?
- What distinguishes the DS both from its foreign
peers and from other UK government departments is superior expertise
in foreign countries and regions, and the resources to exploit
this effectively on behalf of British interests. "Abroad"
is the DS's USP.
- In an increasingly competitive world, the DS
must more than match the capacity of its peers (the French and
German diplomatic services for example) to operate on behalf of
the national interest.
- For its staff, this means the acquisition and
exploitation of regional and country expertise, high standard
language skills, and the familiarity and contacts needed to give
access and influence. The same standards are required for staffing
missions to multilateral institutions (eg the EU and UN).
- Cuts must not result in a weakening of the FCO's
USP. Institutionally, this means maintaining the resources and
structures which enable the DS to match its peers abroad, and
to be the authoritative voice on issues at home within its remit
in the policy framework established by the National Security Strategy.
For its staff, it means postings in the FCO and abroad which generate
real expertise, as well as language training. Career planning
should be undertaken and systematically implemented with the same
- Particularly in current economic circumstances,
the DS should maintain this focus rather than devote large resources
to generic expertise (the environment, human rights etc) where
it needs to be an informed interlocutor rather than a policy-maker.
- Maintenance of the FCO's capabilities also requires
that its Research Analysts continue to operate as an effective
but distinctive contributor to the FCO's product, and are not
reduced to becoming simply assistants to main-stream policy-makers.
- Budget cuts should not result in relentless salami
slicing, with a comprehensive array of posts maintained but at
wafer-thin level. Forced to choose, it is better to have effective
posts in places of importance to HMG than to keep the flag flying
1. The Committee's enquiry is far-ranging. However,
I focus on only two issues in this submission, namely the distinctive
role of the FCO in British policy-making (in contemporary jargon,
its USP) and how it should handle its human resources in an era
of financial retrenchment.
What the FCO is for
2. The exact role of the Diplomatic Service has
long been an issue. The Berrill Report of 1977 effectively concluded
that the diplomats provided no added value and that they should
be replaced by officials drawn from the Whitehall departments
who had relevant expertise on the range of international questions
(defence, economics, energy etc) on which the UK needed to deal
with foreign governments. This recommendation of the CPRS report
was not implemented. However, its challenge to the notion of a
distinctive role for diplomats focussed attention, and remains
the key question which any enquiry into the role of the FCO has
3. The DS's USP is its foreign policy professionalism.
The promotion of the UK's overseas interests require the government
to have available to it the best possible expertise on international
developments as well as on the interests and policies of other
nations. We need the capacity to respond to the former and to
influence the latter in an unpredictable and often threatening
international environment. In a highly competitive world in which
the UK enjoys few natural advantages, our diplomacy plays a key
role for the protection and promotion of a wide range of our interests
at extraordinarily modest cost.
4. The DS needs to make the most effective possible
use of finite resources by (a) concentrating on areas where it
can make a difference and where others cannot, and (b) ensuring
that diplomatic effort does not lose focus through too much attention
to non-core activity. On (a), globalisation has of course given
increased importance to trans-boundary issues such as the environment,
organised crime, human rights, weapons' proliferation etc. The
DS needs sufficient expertise to be able to give informed advice
in these areas and to play a part in policy formation and implementation
on them. But it must not tilt the balance of its effort towards
generic issues, on which the FCO is not the lead department, at
the expense of resources devoted to diplomacy sensu stricto.
5. On (b), Sir Edward Clay has rightly said in
his written submission to the Committee that the essential expertise
of the DS is to influence, argue, negotiate, and to report,
interpret and advise upon how international developments bear
on British interests, and vice-versa. These interests have always
included trade. Resources diverted to non-core activities (eg
unnecessarily burdensome and intrusive centrally-controlled management
systems) are resources lost to the DS's core role. A fund such
as the Global Opportunity Fund or the old Know How Fund is needed,
not as a cosmetic pot of money available to support a post's local
enthusiasms, but as a substantial tool to help achieve important
policy objectives. Finally, to be effective with foreign interlocutors,
the FCO must have, and be seen to have, the confidence of the
government of the day.
and what its staff needs to fulfil this
6. The DS's USP requires its staff to acquire
deep country and regional knowledge, and to establish useful relationships
and effective access among policy-makers and other significant
figures in foreign countries. These assets can only be gained
through well-targeted postings at home and abroad, and through
good training in often difficult foreign languages. Analogous
specialised expertise is needed for staff at missions to international
institutions such as the EU and the UN. These are the capabilities
which give the DS the edge over its competitors.
7. Language capabilities are a core component
of DS expertise. The abolition of the Diplomatic Language Centre
some years ago was controversial. Many thought that the outsourcing
of tuition would be less effective. An internal review about a
year ago concluded that the current arrangements deliver DS requirements
fully and effectively. Anecdotal evidence is less positive. For
example, the four ambassadors to Turkey till the end of 2001 were
Turkish language specialists. Their three successors, though very
able officers, have not been.
8. Besides effective teaching, adequate allowances
for language qualifications and for sustaining language expertise
are important if there is to be a useful long-term dividend from
the investment which adequate language training represents.
including career planning
9. There has been a steady degradation in the
FCO's capacity to deploy staff both in its own overall interests
and the career interests of its staff themselves. This reached
a point some years ago when the Administration invited staff "to
make their own careers". The FCO must not, of course, be
an authoritarian employer. However, if it is to get a commensurate
return on its investment in its staff, it must deploy them in
ways which serve the UK's interests and further develop and exploit
10. This entails career planning which ensures
the generation of regional, country, and international institutional
expertise. While career plans may inevitably be disrupted by unexpected
requirements, they should be adhered to as far as possible so
as to ensure that officers filling senior posts have developed
a high level of relevant knowledge.
11. The careers of policy-capable officers will
inevitably combine postings which relate to their specialist expertise
with ones which do not. However, the pressure to short-post officers,
in response to unforeseen requirements unrelated to their career
plans, should be resisted as far as possible. A postings merry-go-round
is undesirable for many reasons; its impact on the generation
of specialist expertise is one of them.
12. Economic pressures have led to the "localisation"
of some overseas jobs previously filled by DS officers, because
locally engaged staff are cheaper to employ than home-based ones.
There may be good reasons for employing locally-engaged staff.
For example, she/he can fill a job for many years, and thus become
the repository of a post's knowledge of some aspect of its work.
However, too many localised jobs limit the number of openings
at a post to which it is possible to deploy DS officers and enable
them to develop local expertise.
Reductions in the Research Analysts have also
impaired the FCO's effectiveness
13. Another development which threatens the FCO's
expertise on foreign policy issues is the steady weakening of
the Research Analysts' cadre. Till the late twentieth century,
there existed a Research Department which provided high grade
research and analysis for operational FCO departments. This central
research institution no longer exists. The result has been the
loss not only of a unique capability but also of the FCO's institutional
memory, lack of which is now a significant weakness in FCO policy-making.
The remaining RAs are all integrated into operational directorates
and there is a strong temptation, not always resisted, to use
the RAs as an alternative to main stream DS officers in political
directorates as cuts bear down on these.
14. There can be advantages in analysts being
co-located with the directorates relevant to their work. But the
temptation to use them as a back-up policy-making capability as
a consequence of decreasing mainstream resources should be resisted.
On the contrary, recruitment policies and a career structure for
Analysts which attracts candidates of a sufficiently high calibre
properly to fulfil the FCO's research requirements should be retained.
Reductions in the RA resulting from budget cuts should not be
bigger proportionately than those suffered by the policy-making
In the face of budget cuts, resources should be
sustained where UK interests are most significant, and lower priorities
15. Cuts in the FCO budget require relentless
focus on the FCO's core tasks both thematically (a DS officer
must be able to make a career by specialising in China or trade
promotion, but not in climate change) and functionally (he needs
to be an outstanding negotiator and lobbyist, not an expert service
provider). This emphasis on focus contradicts submissions to this
enquiry to the effect that, in a period of budget cuts, it remains
essential to retain the existing network of overseas posts as
far as possible. On the contrary, comprehensive but in some places
wafer-thin representation gives little added value. It also risks
the mis-deployment of qualified staff from where they are really
needed to promote serious British interests simply in order to
fly the flag. It is true that in the 21st century a crisis can
erupt anywhere and unexpectedly and that we should if possible
have posts ready to handle every contingency. But we cannot insure
against every risk; focus requires us to place posts where we
know they can further core UK interests, and to accept that in
some unexpected circumstances this may leave us exposed. After
all, the 21st century phenomenon of unexpected crises has been
accompanied by a capacity to redeploy the resources needed to
confront these far more quickly than ever before.
8 January 2011
21 Unique Selling Point. Back