State Department's Foster Fellows Program

Message from Peter Zimmerman about the State Department's Foster Fellows Program

Each year since 1984 the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency offered four "William C. Foster Fellowships" (named for ACDA's first director who died in 1984) to tenured or tenure-track academics. With the merger of ACDA into the State Department, the department continues to offer these fellowships. From my point of view as the recently-departed Science Adviser for Arms Control, they were the best possible tool for recruiting new blood and fresh eyes to look at the department's problems in the national security area. Foster Fellows work in one of the four national security/arms control bureaus, Arms Control (AC), Politico-Military Affairs (PM), Non-Proliferation (NP) and Verification and Compliance (VC) and generally can choose which bureau most interests them and which projects to work on. Most Foster Fellows have chosen to work primarily as action officers engaging directly in treaty negotiations or support for those negotiations, and the work is incredibly fascinating; some have chosen to take a step backward from the action and have studied more general issues in national security and the organization of the foreign policy apparatus. A fair number of Foster Fellows have jumped from academia into government or into the work of non-governmental organizations in Washington, but the award is not intended to serve as a springboard to a DC job.

Sadly, for the past few years few if any physicists have applied for these positions. I hope some FPS members will choose to compete this year because physics expertise is badly needed. For those who don't remember, I was a member of the first class of Fellows in fall, 1984 -- and have been stuck in D.C. ever since. I consider the Foster Fellowship to be the best thing that's happened in my professional life up to the point where President Clinton named me as ACDA's last chief scientist. To my last day in office my boss identified me as a Foster Fellow as a way of illustrating the good work of the program.

Foster Fellowships do not work in the same way as Congressional fellowships. A Foster Fellow receives his full academic salary, annualized to 12 months (up to about $130,000), as well as a per diem payment or relocation expenses. The appointment is under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act, and your benefits and seniority at your home institution remain intact. The award is not a sabbatical position, although many Fellows have combined it with a sabbatical.

Please apply! It's a great opportunity to do something for arms control, as well as to learn how government works from the inside.

--Peter Zimmerman