WASHINGTON—The U.S. State Department is seeking scientifically literate recruits to join its 4,000-member Foreign Service. The campaign signals the department's recognition that science and technology are key factors in many international economic and political issues.

The department says it wants "unintimidated amateurs"—peopie who know something about science and technology, can identify the foreign policy component of scientific issues, ask the right questions and find the right experts.

They may or may not be trained as scientists. "You may have a degree in physics, but that doesn't always help when you're faced with hundreds of issues overseas," said Bruce Kefauver, executive director of the Bureau of Oceans and International, Environmental and Scientific Affairs within the State Department, which administers the new initiative.

A series of congressional hearings in 1983 put the spotlight on inadequacies in the scientific and technological component of U.S. diplomacy. The State Department, already aware of the problem,...

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