For­eign Ser­vice of­fi­cers live large.

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK -

Ac­cord­ing to any num­ber of spy films, diplo­mats are al­ways go­ing to cock­tail par­ties in lux­u­ri­ous set­tings, where men are decked out in tuxe­dos and women in stun­ning evening wear.

Work­ing din­ners and re­cep­tions have al­ways been parts of a For­eign Ser­vice work­week. But to­day’s diplo­mats en­ter the job with the ex­pec­ta­tion that they will fre­quently serve in hard­ship posts and war zones. Out of 170 coun­tries with au­tho­rized For­eign Ser­vice posts, of­fi­cers serv­ing in 27 of them (al­most 16 per­cent) are el­i­gi­ble to re­ceive “dan­ger pay” be­cause of ac­tive hos­til­i­ties, civil con­flict, high lev­els of crim­i­nal vi­o­lence or the real pos­si­bil­ity of tar­geted kid­nap­pings, of­ten aimed at U.S. diplo­mats.

Since 1950, eight U.S. am­bas­sadors have died in the line of duty over­seas. Six were killed by mil­i­tants and two in plane crashes. The most re­cent ex­am­ple was Am­bas­sador Chris Stevens in Beng­hazi, Libya, in 2012, and let’s not for­get com­mu­ni­ca­tions spe­cial­ist Sean Smith, who died with Stevens, and pub­lic af­fairs of­fi­cer Anne Smed­inghoff, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2013. And re­call the 52 For­eign Ser­vice of­fi­cers and other em­bassy work­ers held in Tehran for 444 days from 1979 to 1981.

Apart from the more se­vere dan­gers in­her­ent in For­eign Ser­vice life, those serv­ing at no less than 67 per­cent of U.S. posts are also el­i­gi­ble for hard­ship dif­fer­en­tial, which can be based on chal­leng­ing health con­di­tions, ex­treme cli­mates, phys­i­cal iso­la­tion, dif­fi­cul­ties in main­tain­ing a healthy diet, and other con­di­tions that the State De­part­ment mon­i­tors and doc­u­ments reg­u­larly.

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