Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Robert E. Barbour
BARBOUR: That's right. Having not long before spent a year in London, well, in fact, I found the British evaluation reports were very candid, and could criticize an officer without damaging him. I thought maybe it would be nice to introduce something like that into the Foreign Service system. As I said, it hasn't had a dramatic input, so to speak, but it's still there. The idea is that somebody will once in a while be honest, and say that this officer is an excellent officer with great potential, but he does need to improve his writing, or the way he deals with people, or timeliness, or something like that. Once in a while they do that, and once in a while it has the desired effect. The officer improves, and goes on about his business, and his career.
We also added the rebuttal invitation with a somewhat Machiavellian purpose on the one hand to give an officer who was criticized a chance to rebut the criticism if he chose to do so, and sometimes they do it very well. But we removed the length that the permitted statement, which meant that an officer who felt very strongly could write on page after page after page if he or she so chose, and such a response would be very revealing.
Q: In a way it's considered by many to be a trap.
BARBOUR: I don't want to use that word, but in fact a fervent rebuttal that goes on page after page after page, is not to the credit of the individual who engages in it. And that was the intent. If the rating officer said this individual has a problem getting along with people, and the rated officer then takes five pages to explain why that is not at all true, we've accomplished our purpose. That's still there. But it was not a great year, for me personally it was very good managerial experience. We did conclude the boards two months ahead of the previous year, got them back on schedule, and I did thereupon departed Personnel.
Q: So you then went to European Affairs where you served from '75 to '78. What were you doing?