The Corner

Law & the Courts

So Which State Department Rules Are Optional?

In response to Jen Psaki’s ludicrous claim that the State Department’s internal operating regulations, published in the Foreign Affairs Manual, are just recommendations, the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) has written to the Department of State seeking clarification as to whether career foreign-service officials can just start ignoring the rulebook. AFSA’s president writes:

On behalf of the American Foreign Service Association, I would like to request some information regarding the 3 FAM conduct and disciplinary standards.

AFSA has long looked with concern at the increasing numbers of non-career appointees at the State Department. One area in which we are seeking clarity is the current rules and practices dealing with 3 FAM conduct and disciplinary standards. We would be grateful if you could help us understand if there is, in practice or by law, any difference in how these standards apply to and are enforced for non-career appointees as opposed to career employees, both Foreign Service and Civil Service.

As background, in the March I 0 press briefing, Spokesperson Jen Psaki referred to 3 FAM as “guidelines” as distinguished from “law”. As the Foreign Service, we have always understood the F AM to consist of regulations to which we must adhere. AFSA would like to ask if non-career appointees are formally subject to all of the rules and regulations in 3 FAM.

We very much appreciate your help on this, and thank you and your staff in advance.

Shannen W. Coffin is a contributing editor to National Review. He practices appellate law in Washington, D.C.

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