First on Fox: Calls for State Department to abandon 'obsession' with DEI and 'depoliticize,' new report says


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The State Department’s practices of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) hiring has led to potential inefficiencies in hiring and concerns about the quality of employees in the foreign service, according to a report from The Heritage Foundation. 

“Ideologically driven bureaucrats at the State Department are severely undermining U.S. diplomacy by artificially engineering equal outcomes in hiring and personnel decisions, through overriding objective criteria,” Simon Hankinson, senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Border Security and Immigration Center and author of the report, told Fox News Digital. 

“The world is on fire right now — as seen by the conflicts in Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. Yet, the State Department is wasting limited resources on an agenda that does not advance American interests and is not supported by data,” Hankinson, who also served as a foreign service officer, said.

“My report lays out how the State Department can return to core American values and implement processes that prioritize merit-based principles. The American people deserve better.” 

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken discusses Russia’s invasion of Ukraine during a news conference at the State Department in Washington March 2, 2022. (Reuters/Elizabeth Frantz/Pool/File Photo)

The report focuses on the hiring practices of the Foreign Service, which provides personnel to the U.S. diplomatic services and consists of over 13,000 professionals, insisting that the service must select its employees through “objective, meritocratic criteria and are accountable to the president.” 

“We haven’t seen the report, but we welcome a diversity of viewpoints,” a State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital.

State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel argued during a press conference Thursday that the department welcomes “diverse points of view and believes it makes us a stronger department, and it makes and leads to a stronger policymaking process.”

“The secretary and department leadership will continue to seek out a wide range of views because we think it improves our policymaking process,” he said in response to reports a career State Department official had quit over disagreements with a recently published report claiming Israel was not impeding humanitarian aid in Gaza. 

Patel at State Department press briefing

Vedant Patel, principal deputy spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, speaks to the press during a press briefing in Washington April 23, 2024.  (Yasin Oztürk/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Hankinson lays out what he determines are a few myths about hiring and staffing in the State Department, namely that there’s a lack of racial and gender diversity, which the department resists; that “structural barriers” prevent minorities from entering the Foreign Service; that promotions are biased; that the department has a “hostile” work environment for minorities at State and they leave because of that hostile climate. 

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Another career official who quit over the Israel-Gaza internal disputes noted that while she found discussion on this topic unwelcome, it ran counter to the open discussion and welcome dissent on virtually every other topic over her 18 years with State, according to The Washington Post.

The report argues that “by separating the department’s 25,000 employees into their various “intersectional” components, the DEIA baseline seems intended to serve efforts by the department to achieve “equity” through race and sex-based preferences.” (The “A” stands for accessibility.)

State Department seal

A view of the United States Department of State logo in Washington D.C., Jan. 9, 2023.  (Celal Gunes/Anadolu Agency)

According to the report, 35% of the current 26,000 civil service and foreign service employees are identified as “minority,” citing the State Department’s permanent workforce diversity data as of Sept. 30, 2023. Additionally, the report claims racial percentages within the workforce are “within 10% of the national levels.” 

The report quotes former State Department Director of Recruitment Woody Staeben as arguing eight years ago that the number of White officers among new hires had dropped by 30%, but that “it will take much longer for the overall figure to change because the average Foreign Service career spans 27 years,” meaning that issues with the makeup of the workforce reflect a delayed reaction to the makeup from years prior. 

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The report’s most striking point — that the department stresses employees are held accountable to the president — derives from perceived resistance within the State Department to former President Trump’s policies, such as efforts to control illegal immigration, leading the report to accuse the State Department of having an increasingly left-leaning bias and arguing the bias derives from universities. 

Demonstrators gather outside an entrance to Columbia University as students rally on the campus at a protest encampment in support of Palestinians

Demonstrators gather outside an entrance to Columbia University as students rally on the campus at a protest encampment in support of Palestinians in New York City April 29, 2024.  (REUTERS/David Dee Delgado)

“Although there are approximately 65 appointees at State, (not including ambassadors), they are often unable to change policy in line with the vision of the President, due to bureaucratic inertia, ignorance of how things are done, and resistance from entrenched career officials,” the report says. “This systemic paralysis is a fundamental challenge to the principle that elections should result in policy changes.” 

The most significant issue the report finds is the lack of emphasis on the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT), which former Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley dismissed as having “zero correlation to being a successful diplomat” while more subjective oral exams helped test for “racists, or sexists, or homophobes or ableists,” which she determined as “things that we need to be screening for.” 

Anti-Israel protesters rally outside of New York University’s campus

Anti-Israel protesters rally outside New York University’s campus in New York May 3, 2024. (Rashid Umar Abbasi for Fox News Digital)

“Those who have the vast majority of senior [foreign service] positions are primarily European American men. … You don’t get to 87% of one group that is not 87% of the population and feel confident that all of those selections were made on the basis of merit,” Abercrombie-Winstanley said during her 2023 testimony on diversity practices at the State Department. 

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The report stressed the value of standardized tests, such as the SAT for college, the MCAT for medical school and the LSAT for law school, as indicators for success throughout a career in the given field. 

“It stands to reason that accepting applicants with lower FSOT scores will lead to lower performance as those officers move through their careers, both to their own and to the service’s detriment,” according to the report. “The State Department’s Board of Examiners reportedly did not conduct any empirical research to determine whether higher FSOT scores correlated with career performance before deciding to de-emphasize the test.”

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Therefore, the report concluded that Congress should pass a new Foreign Service Act to restore the FSOT as a required entrance exam for the service, limit total annual recruitment into the service via fellowship and other channels that avoid the test, make promotion blind to race, sex and other “immutable and irrelevant characteristics” and require comprehensive annual reports from the State Department on the written and oral exams. 

The annual reports would include demographic breakdown, educational attainment, pass rates, language skills, state of origin and number of attempts of all test-takers. Additionally, the State Department should seek to eliminate “duplicative and unvaluable” positions and effectively dismantle the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. 



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