Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday announced a new public-private partnership intended to advance career opportunities for veterans interested in foreign affairs.
Kerry offered no real details on how the Veterans Innovation Partnership -- or VIP -- will operate, but a statement released by the White House later in the day said the program will focus on education, fellowships and employment.
Kerry identified one university, one technology company, and four federal agencies, including State, that are signed onto the program.
"The bottom line is pretty simple," Kerry said, "I believe that those who have worn the uniform have shown that they know how to serve in one capacity and through that capacity have now developed new capacity to be able to serve yet again at the front [for the United States]."
Kerry was joined at the announcement by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hi., who served two combat tours as a member of the Hawaii Army National Guard, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, and Department of Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Tommy Sowers.
The State's VIP program will assist with educational opportunities for veterans to study international relations, establish one-year fellowships for veterans at U.S. government foreign affairs agencies and facilitate career opportunism for vets in the international public and private sectors.
The fellowships will be open to vets who have completed a master's degree in international business or international relations. Applicants also must apply within two years of completing the graduate degree program, unless the delay is owed to military service obligations, the White House said.
In such cases a veteran has up to six years to apply for the fellowship.
All fellowships will be in the Washington, D.C., area.
Though the fellowships offer increased opportunities for veterans to make a career in the international arena, they are not designed to lead to permanent federal employment, the White House said. The fellowships also not convey employment preference or the ability to convert non-competitively to a completive service federal job.
In addition to the State Department, the partnership also includes the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and Millennium Challenge Corporation.
Outside government, the University of Massachusetts-Boston and iRobot Corp., a maker of robots for the consumer, security and defense markets, have signed on, Kerry said.
The secretary said the VIP program is particularly important to him, reminding reporters and others at the press conference that he has been involved in veterans issues "literally, since the day I returned from Vietnam."
Kerry was a co-founder of Vietnam Veterans of America. He also was involved in the battle for veterans to be compensated for Agent Orange exposure and for increasing life insurance on servicemembers raised from $12,000 to $500,000.
Kerry said the VIP program "is not just about what the State Department can do for veterans. It's really based on the notion that veterans can do a lot for the State Department, and we'd be foolish not to try to reach out and harness this talent that exists."
"Being a veteran doesn't automatically qualify you to be on the right side of any given foreign policy issue. It doesn't work that way," he said. "But it's a perspective. The experience of being a veteran does qualify you to speak with a voice that is a little bit different, and also helps you to validate ways in which we can project American voice and values abroad."