“A director of a regional diplomatic courier office has openly expressed he does not want to hire “women of childbearing age”. He achieves this by carefully examining candidates’ resumes when hiring to fill an EFM position. BBag, can you stop this stupidity, considering it’s from an FS-1?”
EFM – eligible family member FS01 – the highest rank in the regular Foreign Service, last step before the Senior Foreign Service; equivalent to a full Colonel in the military
Why this is more than just stupid? SCOTUS:
The Supreme Court decides International Union, UAW v. Johnson Controls and addresses the issue of fetal hazards. In this case, the employer barred women of childbearing age from certain jobs due to potential harm that could occur to a fetus. The Court rules that the employer’s restriction against fertile women performing “dangerous jobs” constitutes sex discrimination under Title VII. The Court further rules that the employer’s fetal protection policy could be justified only if being able to bear children was a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) for the job. The fact that the job posed risk to fertile women does not justify barring all fertile women from the position.
The Supreme Court in Phillips v. Martin Marietta Corp. holds that Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination means that employers cannot discriminate on the basis of sex plus other factors such as having school age children. In practical terms, EEOC’s policy forbids employers from using one hiring policy for women with small children and a different policy for males with children of a similar age.
In Gibson v. West, the Supreme Court endorses EEOC’s position that it has the legal authority to require that federal agencies pay compensatory damages when EEOC has ruled during the administrative process that the federal agency has unlawfully discriminated in violation of Title VII.
Missionwide staffing is 42 U.S. direct-hire employees, including 27 Department U.S. direct-hire employees. The FY 2014 missionwide budget was $8.9 million. Other agencies represented at the mission include elements of the U.S. Departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security. A small number of U.S. military personnel on rotation to Estonia fall under chief of mission authority. The mission has no consulates. The mission’s FY 2015 request for foreign assistance funds totaled $3.6 million for Estonian military stabilization operations and security sector reform ($2.4 million for foreign military funding and $1.2 million for international military education and training). Embassy Tallinn’s missionwide budget for FY 2014 was approximately $8.9 million. Department staffing was 27 U.S. direct-hire employees and 85 locally employed (LE) staff members.
Excerpt from key findings:
The Ambassador and the deputy chief of mission provide appropriate oversight to the country team, and U.S. Department of State sections, in accordance with Section 207(a) of the Foreign Service Act of 1980. However, stronger leadership from the Ambassador and his greater adherence to Department of State rules and regulations are necessary.
The political/economic section is staffed adequately to carry out its policy advocacy and reporting responsibilities but needs to adjust local staff portfolios and the language requirements of its U.S. officers to maximize resources.
The public affairs section is central to mission efforts to carry out Integrated Country Strategy objectives, using traditional public diplomacy tools, media engagement, social media, and regional outreach to amplify policy messages.
The embassy’s consular warden system has not been reviewed, activated, or tested since at least 2011. Worldwide tensions increase the need for an effective warden system with the flexibility to meet multiple contingencies, including the potential interruption of electronic messaging capability.
The aging chancery does not meet—and cannot be retrofitted to meet—even the most basic security standards, and numerous infrastructure deficiencies need to be addressed if the embassy is to remain at its present location.
The telecommunications and power cabling infrastructure throughout the chancery is disorganized and largely undocumented, which limits the ability of information management staff to carry out their duties.
The embassy needs a comprehensive training plan for locally employed staff that reflects priority training needs.
Internal management controls need to be strengthened, with particular attention to separation of duties, documenting processes and standard operating procedures, clarifying backup duties, and reassessing organization structure.
Here is what Section 207(a) of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 says:
Quite impressive, yo!
The ambassador is popular with the Estonian public, helped sold Javelin missiles worth $50–$60 million, met so infrequently with senior Estonian Government officials but succeeded, nonetheless, to get Estonia to accept one Gitmo detainee. This report reminds us of those evaluation reports where the drafter attempts walking on water. Excerpts:
The Ambassador’s interpersonal skills have enabled him to participate effectively in public affairs and other programing in several parts of the country and have garnered him personal popularity with the Estonian public.
His support for the military includes advocacy for U.S. military sales. His efforts have helped secure a sale to the Estonian Government of U.S. Javelin missiles worth $50–$60 million.
The Ambassador, however, has not established strong relationships at the Government of Estonia’s ministerial level. In his 2 years as Chief of Mission, he has met infrequently with the Prime Minister or other ministers in the cabinet (less than 12 times during his 24 months in the embassy, in addition to initial courtesy calls or accompanying visitors and at public events). … Despite the infrequency of his meetings with senior Estonian Government officials, the Ambassador successfully led the effort to obtain the government’s acceptance of a Guantanamo detainee—an impressive achievement given the small size of the country and the government’s reluctance.
On getting the Estonians to “yes,” how did he do it? The IG report did not say, which would have been really helpful given how many Gitmo detainees we still need to place elsewhere.
On leadership, the IG report says:
The most significant findings concern the need for stronger leadership from the Ambassador and his greater adherence to ethics principles, Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) guidelines, and security policies.
Buried in the report is this:
[T]he embassy staff rated the Ambassador below average in leadership categories, including vision, engagement, fairness, and ethics. Segments of the mission community, including some U.S. direct-hire and LE female employees told the OIG team that they feel undervalued. .. Some American and LE staff members gave examples of preferential treatment that the Ambassador afforded to specific employees and interns. It is imperative that the Ambassador reverse these perceptions; he indicated that he is willing to work hard to do so, and he began the process by apologizing to his staff before the inspection team’s departure.
On the EEO program, the report says, “The EEO program at Embassy Tallinn requires attention by embassy leadership.” Oy! What happened?
Non-review of visa issuances/refusals:
The DCM has not met requirements in 9 FAM 41.113 and 9 FAM 41.121 to review nonimmigrant visa issuances and refusals. The most recent regional consular officer report for Tallinn, dated January 2014, states that “[t]he DCM did not meet adjudication review standards…since the last regional officer report visit [in May 2013].” A Bureau of Consular Affairs preinspection report found that standards had also not been met between May 1 and July 30, 2014. The DCM’s review of visa adjudications at single officer embassies is especially important, as no other person provides required oversight and quality control.
Things that happen just before the OIG starts work, or leave post:
The Ambassador’s efforts to establish an overall strategic vision, in accordance with 3 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 1214, have not been successful. Few of Embassy Tallinn’s senior leaders can articulate the Ambassador’s overall strategic vision or identify the top priorities contained therein, despite an off-site planning session held just days before the start of the inspection. The Ambassador held the previous planning off site almost 2 years earlier—too long ago to enable employees to have a lasting awareness of his goals and direction. A clear shared vision—key to coordinated team work and productivity—is missing. Greater communication is needed. No structured effort exists to inform the mission employees, including LE staff members, of the outcome of the planning session, which has left a large part of the embassy team uninformed.
At the start of the inspection no program was in place for mentoring the mission’s two first- and second-tour (FAST) employees, and some mid-level officers stated that they would welcome mentoring on career development issues. The DCM structured a FAST program and scheduled initial mentoring sessions prior to the inspection team’s departure.
Counsel from EUR/Office of the Legal Adviser?
Elsewhere on the report, it says that “the OIG team identified instances in which the Ambassador did not appear to adhere to established Department rules and regulations. Each instance was small, but collectively they suggest his disregard for adherence to the rules.” It recommends that EUR, in coordination with the Office of the Legal Adviser, should counsel the Embassy Tallinn Ambassador concerning ways to avoid breaches of Department of State rules and regulations.
What the hey?
[T] he Ambassador has been involved only marginally in efforts that would identify potential opportunities in Estonia for U.S. businesses, as outlined in 18 FAM 015. He agreed to increase efforts in that area, as well as not to pursue Estonian export interests that would not directly result in U.S. jobs.
The IG inspectors cited Section 207(a) of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 on its key findings but forgot Section 207 (c) of the Act?
Oh darn, we almost forgot — whatabout curtailments?
Embassy Tallinn’s chief of mission is Jeffrey Levine. Prior to his appointment as ambassador to Estonia, he was the State Department’s director of Recruitment, Examination and Employment from 2010-2012 (HR/REE).
The OIG team who inspected the mission was headed by Marianne Myles who was previously Ambassador to Cape Verde (2008-2010). Prior to her appointment to Cape Verde, she, too was the director of the State Department’s Office of Recruitment, Examination and Employment (HR/REE). She was also Director of Policy Coordination for the Foreign Service’s Director General (DG/HR).
A side note here, HR/REE had three directors spanning at least six years who went directly from HR to an ambassadorship. (Luis Arreaga, the HR/REE director from 2008-2010 was appointed Ambassador to Iceland from 2010-2013). This is an extremely small club to belong to.
So we asked Mr. Linick’s office about its recusal policy. Wasn’t IG Linick concerned about potential conflict of interest in this instance? We also asked if there has ever been an instance when OIG inspectors who are/were FS members recused themselves when there is potential or appearance of conflict of interest?
Over the weekend, we received the OIG’s response to our inquiry. Repeated below in its entirety:
OIG strictly follows the independence standards established by the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE). In order to ensure each inspector is free, both in fact and appearance, from personal, external, and organizational impairments to independence, OIG has a rigorous conflict review within the Office of Inspections (ISP).
Pursuant to this policy, prior to an inspection, every member of the inspection team must review a staffing chart with every employee of the inspected entity, and report, in writing, all prior professional and personal relationships with any such individual. ISP management and the Office of General Counsel carefully review this information to ensure that all ISP teams’ members are independent and free from real or apparent conflicts of interest. This process happens early in the inspection process as ISP assigns staff to individual teams. If any such conflicts are identified, ISP takes action to mitigate the conflict, which could include removing a team member from a team. OIG provides training to all inspectors on CIGIE independence standards and how to avoid conflicts of interest.
Regarding the Tallin inspection, OIG followed its standard procedure in reviewing input from Ambassador Myles regarding any relationships with employees in Embassy Tallinn and concluded her participation in the inspection was appropriate under CIGIE standards and OIG policy.
So there you go.
We must note that for years, the names of the OIG inspection team members were redacted from these publicly released OIG reports. We have railed about those redactions for various reasons. In 2013, when Steve Linick assumed charge of the OIG — the first Senate-confirmed IG since the 2007 resignation of Howard J. Krongard — one of his first actions was to release the names of the inspectors with the publicly available reports. We have not forgotten that.
There is no shortage of criticisms when it comes to the appointments of political ambassadors, of course. But let us point out to something good here. The political ambassadors know when to exit the stage, and that’s a good thing. Even if we’ll never know for sure how hard or how lightly they’re pushed to exit right, we know that they will not be candidates in the State Department’s well-oiled recycling program.
So, what should we make about news of curtailments from an embassy headed by a career ambassador when the official report is handled with such a, um… soft touch?
Embassy Tallinn’s single-officer consular section suffered successive curtailments of assigned officers in the 20 months between February 2013 and September 2014. During that period, eight temporary duty officers provided approximately 10 months of management coverage.
Management operations at Embassy Tallinn were recently disrupted for a 6-month period because of curtailments in the management and general services officer positions.
Wait — that’s three positions, aren’t we missing a few more? The consular section had successive curtailments? Like — how many? There was a year-long gap in the political officer position; was that gap a result of another curtailment?
The IG report on Embassy Tallinn does not answer those questions and does not elaborate the reasons for these personnel gaps and curtailments, which we are told are “old news.”
But see — people do not take voluntary curtailments lightly. Not only do they need to unpack, repack, unpack again their entire household, kids have to be pulled out of schools, pets have to be shipped and there may be spouses jobs that get interrupted. And most of all, in a system where assignments are made typically a year before the transfer season, curtailments mean the selection for the employee’s next assignment back in DC or elsewhere contains pretty slim pickings. The employee may even be stuck in a “bridge” assignment that no one wants. So, no, curtailments are not easy fixes, they cause personal and office upheavals, and people generally avoid doing them unless things get to a point of being intolerable.
In any case, we like poking into “old news” … for instance, we are super curious if the curtailed personnel from Tallinn similarly decamped to Baghdad or Kabul like those curtailments cited in the OIG report for US Embassy Luxembourg? No? Well, where did they go … to Yekaterinburg?
Did they curtail for medical reasons, that is, was post the cause of their ailments? And no, we have it in excelent authority that no one has microwaved Embassy Tallinn like the good old days in Moscow.
The report says there were curtailments and that “stronger leadership from the Ambassador and his greater adherence to Department of State rules and regulations are necessary.”
Also that the “most significant findings concern the need for stronger leadership from the Ambassador and his greater adherence to ethics principles, Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) guidelines, and security policies.”
Wow! This report is mighty short on details, what happened?
We take special note on the use of the following words: Strong-er. Great-er. Both comparative adjectives, see? Suggesting that chief of mission (COM) already has strong leadership and great adherence to principles and policies.
And this is the report’s most significant findings? That the COM just need to move the dial a notch up?
Are the fine details on ethics, EEO, security flushed out to the Classified Annex of this report, to entertain a limited readership with “need to know” badges? And their inclusion in the annex is for national security reasons?
Strong-er. Great-er. Sorry folks, but it must be said, a heck of a crap-per. Additional post to follow.
What ever happened to the professional American diplomat? Or can the world’s second oldest profession even still be considered a profession in these United States?
Is the State Department, the country’s oldest cabinet department which is tasked with the recruitment, training, education and professional development of America’s diplomats, run by the gang who can’t shoot straight or a corrupt in-crowd of long time bureaucrats entrenched in the department paying just enough tribute to the proliferating number of political bosses to stay in power far past their prime? Or are they one and the same?
The story told in the recent Academy of American Diplomacy report “American Diplomacy at Risk” is that of a once venerable department that has lost much of its relevancy and expertise in the making and implementing of US foreign policy since the end of the Cold War encroached upon by the National Security Council, the US military, the CIA, the National Security Agency and even the Foreign Commercial Service.
Much has been made of “diplomatic readiness” – but how “ready” are American diplomats today? A wise linguist once told me that “it takes twenty years to grow a tree and it also takes twenty years (or more) to develop the skills required to be a consummate diplomat.”
Nearly 60% of the Foreign Service today is composed of officers who have had less than ten years experience and their first three years are spent working entry-level positions often on the Visa Line or in the war zones of Afghanistan or Iraq. What kind of expertise – or diplomatic readiness – does that translate into?
Ambassador Tom Pickering, a seven-time ambassador and former Under Secretary for Political Affairs (P), and Ambassador Edward J Perkins, a four-time ambassador and former Director General of the Foreign Service just did an op-ed for WaPo about the American Foreign Service being too white. And that while our diplomats are “more representative,” we have not made “nearly enough progress.”
That’s changing. Today, our diplomats are more representative. But we haven’t made nearly enough progress. According to the latest statistics, 82 percent of Foreign Service officers (the commissioned career officers serving in embassies and consulates abroad as well as some policy positions stateside) are white. Seven percent are Asian American, 5.4 percent are African American, and 5 percent are Latino. About 60 percent are men. In contrast, the U.S. population is more than 50 percent female, more than 17 percent Hispanic and more than 14 percent African American.
U.S. foreign policy is informed and improved by a wider range of experiences, understandings and outlooks. To represent America abroad and relate to the world beyond our borders, the nation needs diplomats whose family stories, language skills, religious traditions and cultural sensitivities help them to establish connections and avoid misunderstandings.
How can the Foreign Service draw upon the country’s total talent pool? The challenge isn’t only eliminating the last vestiges of discrimination but also actively recruiting the most talented and dedicated people from every segment of society, especially those of great ability but limited means.
The only publicly available data on diversity that we were able to locate is one done by State/HR in 2009 and published online by AFSA, which includes the FY08 Foreign Service workforce diversity statistics.
click for larger view | extracted from 2009 data (pdf)
The latests stats cited by the Pickering-Perkins op-ed says that “82 percent of Foreign Service officers (the commissioned career officers serving in embassies and consulates abroad as well as some policy positions stateside) are white. Seven percent are Asian American, 5.4 percent are African American, and 5 percent are Latino.” The numbers they citedo not include the Foreign Service specialists (DS, HR, IT, etc).
But let’s look at those numbers against the pie chart and see what they look like. From 2009-2015, we have total gains of 1.4% and total losses of 1.66% or an overall loss of 0.26%. Take a look:
Wait, we have not gone anywhere in the last five years? It is, of course, possible that the numbers will not be as flat if this category includes the Foreign Service specialists. Maybe there is some improvement in the diversity hiring for FS specialists. Maybe it’ll look a lot better when we include those in the calculations. Or maybe not. See, there’s no way to tell how well, how bad, or how flat are those numbers since they’re not available publicly.
We’re wondering if this is the real reason why the demographics and diversity stats for the American Foreign Service is not publicly available. We’d be happy to update this post if State/HR or the Office of Civil Rights would helpfully send us the most current numbers, including the diversity numbers from the promotion statistics.
Oops, here is the workforce racial breakdown from 2013 (thanks A!):
Extracted from Department of State – Diversity Statistics Full-time Permanent Employees – as of 09/30/13
A related topic, the current Director General of the Foreign Service Arnold Chacón (with Alex Karagiannis) also penned a lengthy piece in the May issue of the Foreign Service Journal. Below is an excerpt:
[T]he Bureau of Human Resources is committed to an overarching goal: to recruit, retain and sustain a diverse workforce geared to succeed in 2025 and beyond. We are moving forward on three tracks.
First, we are partnering with AFSA to develop and implement a professional code of ethics for the Foreign Service, based on our core values of accountability, character, community, diversity, loyalty and service.
Second, we are focusing on improving operational effectiveness.
Third, we want to devote greater resources to professional development. Partnering with the Foreign Service Institute and the Management Bureau’s Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing and Innovation, we are using the Culture of Leadership initiative to better align recruitment, training, bidding and assignments, and employee performance management. FSI is revamping many of its courses to concentrate on concrete, practical training and coaching, not just mentoring.
Within HR, we are advancing in three areas:
Recruiting and developing talented employees with diverse backgrounds (through internships and fellowships, and disability hiring), expanding our marketing strategies and underscoring our merit-based system;
Enhancing and integrating leadership and management skills (mandatory supervisory training, coaching for chiefs of mission and their deputies); and
Undertaking performance management and assignment reform (new FS employee evaluation form, overhaul of selection board operations, improved recognition and rewards, modernized assignment system, and targeted details beyond State).
If you’re looking at 2025, it would probably be helpful to see what the workforce would be like in say, 2020.
BLS projections say that every race and ethnicity is projected to grow over the 2010–2020 period. However, the share of White non-Hispanics in the total resident population is expected to decrease.
Over the next decade, the workforce will become even more racially and ethnically diverse. The share of minorities in the labor force will expand more than ever before, because immigration is the main engine of population growth and because Hispanics and Asians have high labor force participation rates. BLS projects that, by 2020, Hispanics (18.6 percent), Blacks (12.0 percent), Asians (5.7 percent), and all those belonging to the “all other groups” category (2.9 percent) will make up nearly 40 percent of the civilian labor force.
Asians: Asians accounted for 4.4 percent of the labor force in 2000 and 4.7 percent in 2010 and are projected to increase their share to 5.7 percent in 2020. The continued immigration of this group to the United States, coupled with the group’s high participation rates, contributes to its increasing share of the labor force. The Asian labor force totaled 7.2 million in 2010, and BLS projects this number to increase to 9.4 million in 2020.
Blacks: Blacks accounted for 10.9 percent of the labor force in 1990 and 11.6 percent in 2010; they are expected to increase their share to 12.0 percent in 2020. The increase in the share of Blacks in the total labor force comes mainly from higher birthrates, a steady stream of immigrants to the country, and the very high labor force participation rates of Black women.
The Hispanic labor force was 10.7 million in 1990, 16.7 million in 2000, and 22.7 million in 2010. BLS projects that the Hispanic labor force will reach 30.5 million in 2020 and the Hispanic share in the total labor force will increase considerably over the next decade. In 2000, Hispanics composed 11.7 percent of the labor force, a share that increased to 14.8 percent in 2010. BLS expects that Hispanics will make up 18.6 percent of the labor force in 2020.
And by the way, it looks like the 55-years-and-older age group is also projected to increase to 41.4 million in 2020, and their share in the labor workforce is expected to reach 25.2 percent that year.
We have heard often that “the Department wants its workforce to reflect the diversity of the country we represent to the world.” In 2020, the American workforce will be 18.6 percent Hispanic. DGHR’s recruitment strategy will have a hard time catching up with that. There’s nothing new or particularly innovative with internships and fellowships, and we’re not sure how much of a dent those made in the last five years. Are they going to make a difference in the next five years? In ten years? We have 16 Diplomats-in-Residence across the country who are responsible for providing guidance and advice to students, professionals and the community about Department careers. What kind of results do they get? Do they venture to state and community colleges?
If the State Department wants its diplomatic workforce to reflect our country’s diversity, it will need more than a handful of internships and fellowships to get there. And if it does not get there soon, it may be forced to do so soon enough by a changing electorate, and congressional priorities reflected by that change.
Read more about the labor force projections to 2020 from BLS here (pdf).
The State Department and USAID will be hosting a Family Member Employment Forum this Thursday at the George Marshall Center. This is described as “an event for family members from all agencies under Chief of Mission Authority who are going or returning overseas and are interested in employment outside the mission. Career development experts will share information on the latest hiring practices and trends. Family members will share their employment challenges and successes within their respective career fields (legal, medical, education, accounting, and finance).” Check out the forum Agenda:2015 Family Member Employment Forum Agenda
Meet one-on-one with career counselors
Network and learn from fellow EFMs
Learn to develop your global network
Develop a strategy for employment outside the mission
On May 5, Secretary Kerry made a brief stop in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. He is the first Secretary of State ever to visit Somalia. He met with Somalian leaders at the Mogadishu airport but did not go into town. State Department official told the press that this is due to “a huge, huge logistical and security challenge.”
“The last thing we need is something to happen when the Secretary is on the ground. And I don’t think we have the confidence of taking him out of – off the grounds of the airport…
[W]e’re making plans to make our presence more enduring in Somalia. As you know, we announced a new Foreign Service career ambassador for Somalia, and once that ambassador is on the ground, our office will continue to be here in Kenya. But once the ambassador is on the ground, we’re going to have a much more enduring TDY footing in Somalia. We’re going to be there much more regularly with a bit of a – a bit more larger footprint.
Below is a quick recap of US-Somali relation via history.state.gov:
1960 | Somalia achieved its independence in 1960 with the union of Somalia, which had been under Italian administration as a United Nations trust territory, and Somaliland, which had been a British protectorate.
1960 | Diplomatic relations were established on July 1, 1960, when the U.S. Consulate General at Mogadiscio (now Mogadishu) was elevated to Embassy status, with Andrew G. Lynch as Chargé d’Affaires.
1969 | The Somali army launched a coup which brought Mohamed Siad Barre to power. Barre adopted socialism and became allied with the Soviet Union. The United States was thus wary of Somalia in the period immediately after the coup.
1977 | Barre’s government became increasingly radical in foreign affairs, and in 1977 launched a war against Ethiopia in hopes of claiming their territory. Ethiopia received help from the Soviet Union during the war, and so Somalia began to accept assistance from the United States, giving a new level of stability to the U.S.-Somalia relationship.
1980s | Barre’s dictatorship favored members of his own clan. In the 1980s, Somalis in less favored clans began to chafe under the government’s rule. Barre’s ruthlessness could not suppress the opposition, which in 1990 began to unify against him.
1991 | After joining forces, the combined group of rebels drove Barre from Mogadishu in January 1991. No central government reemerged to take the place of the overthrown government, and the United States closed its embassy that same year, although the two countries never broke off diplomatic relations. The country descended into chaos, and a humanitarian crisis of staggering proportions began to unfold.
1991| The U.S. Embassy closed on January 5, 1991, and all U.S. personnel were withdrawn after the collapse of the central Somali government.
1992 | In December 1992, the United States began Operation Restore Hope. President George H.W. Bush authorized the dispatch of U.S. troops to Somalia to assist with famine relief as part of the larger United Nations effort.
A Marine sentry prepares to close the gate to the Joint Task Force Somalia headquarters during the multinational relief effort Operation Restore Hope. (Department of Defense/Joe Gawlowicz)
1993 | On October 3, 1993 Somali warlord Muhammad Farah Aideed’s forces shot down two Black Hawk helicopters in a battle which lead to the deaths of 18 U.S. soldiers and hundreds of Somalis. The deaths turned the tide of public opinion in the United States. President Bill Clinton pulled U.S. troops out of combat four days later, and all U.S. troops left the country in March 1994.
1995 | The United Nations withdrew from Somalia in March 1995.
2013| The United States did not sever diplomatic relations with Somalia. Through the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, the United States maintained regular dialogue with transitional governments and other key stakeholders in Somalia, and after January 17, 2013, with the newly recognized central government of Somalia.
The 2016 presidential election is some 18 months away. Some folks who are hoping to land a gig at some of our European embassies are expecting to get busy just about now. About 2/3 of all ambassadorial appointments will go to career diplomats but about a third will still go to top supporters of the winning candidate, most of them heavy lifters when it comes to rounding up funds to help get their candidate elected. That’s not going to end anytime soon. See list of Obama Bundlers via OpenSecrets. Click here for Obama’s ambassadors during his first term, click here for the current appointees. Click here for George W. Bush’s Pioneer Fundraisers who got similar appointments. @PhilipArsenault has the breakdown of appointments for both presidents, both terms here.
In any case — apparently, the not quite so rich has a new lament this election cycle. “Who needs a bundler when you have a billionaire?” One fundraiser interviewed on WaPo says, “Bundlers felt they were part of the process and made a difference, and therefore were delighted to participate. But when you look at super-PAC money and the large donations that we’re seeing, the regular bundlers feel a little disenfranchised.” All that money is moving the ground under their feet, and disrupting the status of the new incarnation of rangers, pioneers, and bundlers.
It is highly unlikely that the next President of the United States will appoint Super-PACs as ambassadors to Paris, London, Madrid or Brussels, etc.. So folks, calm down! While waiting for the call, folks should gear up learning about what American ambassadors do. Oh, interested individuals also need to figure out which posts to avoid for various reasons. It could be that the official ambassador residence is too small, or smaller than the house the appointee is accustomed to, or too old, or needs a new roof, or new paint, or new floors, or has bad toilets (and new appointee ends up supervising repairs and all that). So put that on the to-do list but for now, an excellent book to read is Ambassador Dennis C. Jett’s book, American Ambassadors, The Past, Present and Future of American Diplomats, because it’s delightful and informative and everyone should know what he/she is getting into. Also mark your calendars; the author will be giving a talk on the book at AFSA on June 11th from 2:00 to 3:30 pm. Many thanks to Ambassador Jett and Palgrave Macmillan’s Claire Smith for permission to share an excerpt from the book with our readers.
On the face of it, the first ambassador for whom I worked seemed perfect for the job. If the director of a movie called up central casting and told them to send over actors to audition for a role as an ambassador, he would have been a shoo-in for the part. He had, in fact, been an actor, costarring in movies with Marlene Dietrich and Shirley Temple. He had also been a successful politician, elected to Congress twice and as governor of Connecticut. The Connecticut Turnpike is named after him.
He came from a wealthy and illustrious lineage—his family included a senator, an admiral, and another ambassador. They could trace their roots back to the pilgrims. Tall, handsome, and silver-haired, he was fluent in several languages. According to one expert on style, he was “one of the most polished gentlemen in America” for more than half a century. He was also named ambassador three times by three different presidents. In referring to him, a journalist once wrote: “If the United States could be represented around the world the way it is represented in Argentina, it would be loved by the peoples of all nations.”
In reality, the ambassador was a disaster—and a dangerous one at that. Although he seemed to some to be the perfect diplomat, those who knew him better considered him, in effect, a threat to national security. The reason for such a divergence of opinion is that there is more to being an ambassador than simply glitz and glamour.
And when it came to John Davis Lodge, there was little else.
I did not know all of that when I was assigned to Buenos Aires as my first diplomatic posting. In early 1973, I had only been in the Foreign Service for a few weeks. All newly minted Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) are introduced to the State Department through a six-week course, a kind of boot camp for bureaucrats. There the raw recruits get basic training about the government they are to represent. Toward the end of the course, the fledgling FSOs are given a list of all the postings in the world that are available for their first tour of duty. They have to decide on their preferences and then hope that the personnel system answers their prayers.
Having grown up and been educated mainly in New Mexico, where the Hispanic and Native American cultures had an influence on even a transplanted Northeasterner like me, I decided Latin America would be my first choice. Because Argentina seemed the most exotic of the possibilities in the southern hemisphere, that country was at the top of my list. As luck would have it, none of my peers ranked it as high, so the job was mine. But first I had to take additional training, including learning Spanish.
It was then that I came across an article in the Washington Post about Lodge written by Lewis Diuguid, the paper’s Latin American correspondent. In essence, the article said that Lodge was all style and no substance; dinners at the elegant ambassadorial residence inevitably dissolved into songfests, with Lodge belting out his favorite tunes from Broadway shows. The article claimed that Lodge kept four staff members in the embassy’s information section engaged full time in trying to get the local press to run photos and articles about his latest social activities.
Diuguid implied that Lodge’s desire to appear in the newspapers did not extend beyond photographs and the society pages. The article went on to quote anonymous sources, who said a serious conversation with Lodge was impossible and that if anyone had any real business to conduct with the embassy, they went to see the deputy chief of mission, the number two person in any embassy and one who is always a career diplomat.
As I read the article, I found it hard to believe it was not grossly exaggerated. I wondered how someone in such an exalted position could be such an apparent lightweight. A few weeks after arriving in Buenos Aires, I had the opportunity to witness Lodge in action. He gave a large formal dinner at the residence for a visiting official from Washington. It was not a social occasion but rather an important opportunity to gather impressions on how the new government would conduct itself. One big question was whether Peronist officials would even come to the dinner. It was feared they might not if hostility toward the United States was going to again be one of Peron’s policies.
The evening unfolded, however, as if the Diuguid article had scripted the event. At the end of the sumptuous meal, as coffee and dessert were being served, Lodge called over an accordionist who had been providing soft background music. With this accompaniment, he burst into song while still seated at the table and rolled off a number of tunes. We all then adjourned to the ballroom, where he continued the entertainment. Among his favorite Argentine guests was a couple whom he summoned to join him at the grand piano. While the husband played, the wife and Lodge sang duets from Porgy and Bess and other Broadway hits.
As the show dragged on, the Peronist officials signaled they wanted to talk to the visiting official and the deputy chief of mission privately, so they all slipped off to the library. The Peronists made it clear that the new government would be open to a constructive and productive relationship with the United States, unlike in the past. This was a significant shift in policy that would be welcomed in Washington.
Finally, after the songfest, the guests began bidding the Lodges good night and thanking them profusely for the evening. The embassy staff members were always the last to leave; it was customary to stay until dismissed by the ambassador. As we waited for this to happen, Lodge learned of the discussion that had taken place in the library while he was singing in the ballroom. He became furious at his deputy, ranting that he had been stabbed in the back before but never in his own home. Unmoved by the success of the discussions, Lodge continued to berate the poor man in front of all of us. That evening I learned an important lesson: a country is not well served by an ambassador who thinks entertaining is the most important of his duties.