This introductory chapter presents an overview of the evolution of the diplomatic establishment in the State Department in the United States. The last sixty years has seen the history of the State Department threaded with the frustrations of diplomats who felt ignored and undervalued. High posts have typically been filled by political cronies who lacked professional expertise in foreign affairs. Thus, the American diplomatic establishment has remained extremely small and dysfunctional. Reforms began in the 1880s with the passage of Civil Service Reform, or Pendleton Act, which sought to transform the federal government into a modern merit-based bureaucracy. However, these initiatives were only partially successful, as evidenced by problems that plagued diplomatic corps in the late 1920s and 1930s—presidential antagonism, congressional isolationism, and economic disaster—which reflected the structure and culture of the institution in the ensuing decades.
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