Officially In: Michael C. Polt to Tallinn

Tallin, Estonia - St. Olaf Church / Iglesia de...Image by Claudio.Ar via Flickr

On September 25 President Obama announced his intent to nominate Michael C. Polt to be Ambassador to the Republic of Estonia. The WH released the following official bio below:

Michael Polt is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and has been the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Legislative Affairs since August 2008. Prior to that he was a State Department Senior Transatlantic Fellow to the German Marshall Fund of the US. Mr. Polt was sworn in as United States Ambassador to Serbia and Montenegro in May 2004. Following Montenegro’s secession from the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, Mr. Polt became the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Serbia. He completed his Mission to Serbia in August 2007.

During his three decades as a career diplomat, Mr. Polt served as U.S. Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Germany and Deputy Chief of Mission and Charge’ d’ Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Bern, Switzerland. He has also served as Senior Advisor to the Director General of the Foreign Service for Management Reform and was a key member of the Senior Management Steering Board directing the State Department’s 2003-2005 multi-million dollar reinvention of its Diplomatic Communications System. Mr. Polt has held other senior positions in the Department of State, as Deputy Director for European Security and Arms Control issues, and in Panama City as Political Counselor of the U.S. Embassy during the time leading up to the U.S. military action against the Noriega regime in 1989. Earlier in his career, Mr. Polt was assigned to Embassies in Bonn, Mexico City, and Copenhagen, as well as the U.S. Consulate in Bremen, Germany.

Mr. Polt received his bachelor’s degree from American International College and his master’s from University of Tennessee.

* * *

All U.S. diplomatic officials accredited to Estonia were withdrawn from Tallinn on September 4, 1940. The Legation in Tallinn was officially closed on September 5, 1940. In 1991, the United States announced its readiness to re-establish relations with Estonia and Embassy Tallinn was established Oct 2, 1991, with Robert C. Frasure as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.

Since 1995, we have had three career diplomats and two non-career appointees assigned as US Ambassador to Tallinn. The last two were political appointees with the most recent one, Stanley Davis Phillips of North Carolina, appointed US Ambassador to Estonia on March 21, 2007-2009. If confirmed, Ambassador Polt would take over the reins of running US Embassy Tallinn from career diplomat, Karen Decker, who is the chargé d’affaires ad interim.

Related Item:
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts, 9/25/09

Reviewing Diplomatic Readiness

Gaps in Staffing, Experience and Languages

The Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia conducted a hearing last week on “A Review of U.S. Diplomatic Readiness: Addressing the Staffing and Foreign Language Challenges Facing the Foreign Service” (Thursday, September 24, 2009 | 02:30 PM | Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 342).

[view archive webcast]

This hearing addressed critical issues affecting diplomatic readiness; specifically foreign service officer (FSO) language capabilities and hardship post assignments. These issues have been highlighted by two U.S. Government Accountability Office reports requested by this Subcommittee (see links to reports below).

Member Statements


Panel 1

  • Ambassador Nancy J. Powell [view testimony]
    Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources
    U.S. Department of State

  • Mr. Jess T. Ford [view testimony]
    Director, International Affairs and Trade
    U.S. Government Accountability Office

Panel 2

  • Thomas D. Boyatt, President of the Foreign Affairs Council
    Delivered by Ambassador Ronald E. Neumann, (Ret.)
    [view testimony]
    American Academy of Diplomacy

  • Ms. Susan R. Johnson [view testimony]
    American Foreign Service Association

Related Items:

Department of State: Additional Steps Needed to Address Continuing Staffing and Experience Gaps at Hardship Posts | GAO-09-874 September 17, 2009

Department of State: Comprehensive Plan Needed to Address Persistent Foreign Language Shortfalls | GAO-09-955 September 17, 2009