Why would you send a first-tour officer to Banjul?

Map of The GambiaImage via Wikipedia

State’s OIG has released a compliance follow-up review (CFR) of its inspection report of the US Embassy in the Gambia.  The Office of Inspector General (OIG) provide Department senior managers with progress reports on the status of inspec­tion recommendations and provide OIG with a quality assurance assessment of its work.  The compliance review took place in Washington, DC, between January 4 and 29, 2010; in Dakar, Senegal, on February 1, 2010; and in Banjul, The Gambia, between February 2 and 9, 2010.

Excerpts:

The United States does not have major interests in The Gambia. The principal rationale for the embassy is to demonstrate interest in furthering respect for human rights, enforcement of the rule of law, and positive Gambian engagement in global affairs. Policy decisions in Washington point to an increase in the number of direct-hire Americans assigned to Banjul. This counters consideration of conceivable downsizing at the embassy.

Talks about weak management …

Management at Embassy Banjul has been weak. Record keeping was in disarray with many documents missing or actions not carefully documented. American employees have departed Banjul without settling outstanding personal accounts. The response to the 2008 inspection’s recommendation relative to the chief of mission’s management control statement was pro forma, and the relevant recommendation is reissued by this CFR.
[…]
Neither the Ambassador nor the previous deputy chief of mission (DCM) came to Embassy Banjul with embassy management experience. The current DCM served in her last tour as DCM in another African post. She takes an active role in attempt­ing to build a team atmosphere among all personnel. Most embassy staff believe that she sets clear standards and expectations, and holds people accountable for their actions. The Ambassador must play an equally large role in improving morale. Both of those leaders should place greater emphasis on the sponsor program for new American direct-hire arrivals so that their initial experiences in The Gambia are posi­tive.

They washed their representational china in the restroom sink, so?

With the exception of the Ambassador’s office, the rest of the office spaces are mostly unadorned and singularly unattractive. The restrooms are functional but antiquated. Representational china is stored in an anteroom just outside the Ambassador’s restroom and washed in the restroom sink. In short, the chancery is in need of much attention and care from the Department. A chancery makeover would help to improve the morale of Embassy Banjul’s staff and the im­age of the U.S. Government.

DG’s curtailment template and post’s staffing woes …

Subsequent to the 2008 inspection of Embassy Banjul, four American direct-hire employees have curtailed. This represents almost fifty percent of those assigned. Each of the curtailments was unique, but the impact on post operations and staff morale is a matter of concern. Revisiting the circumstances surrounding the curtail­ments is not the purpose of this CFR. However, lessons can be drawn from these incidents:

The Department should, to the extent possible, avoid assigning first-tour officers or those without prior experience to posts such as Embassy Banjul where there is only one person assigned to each section or function.

The Bureau of African Affairs is responsive to requests for logistics support, but apparently either less informed or less inclined to initiate action on problems such as those preceding the troubling curtailments at Embassy Banjul. The bureau needs to proactively reach out to Embassy Banjul and similar small embassies. A vibrant dialogue, in this case on sensitive human resource management issues, may have resulted in solutions less disruptive to post operations and ultimately less costly to the U.S. Government.

Confronted with difficult personnel decisions, those involved in human resources management should reach back to the Department and regional officers (e.g. regional human resources and medical personnel) for guidance and assistance in solving performance-related problems in a way that will keep personnel at post. Curtailment or loss of confidence should be last resort measures. Prior to the most recent curtailment at Embassy Banjul, the Ambassador sought and received generic guidance from the Director General’s office relative to curtailments.

Mentors and supervisors at posts such as Embassy Banjul confront major obstacles in inculcating a sense of professional accomplishment or satisfaction if—as it appears to be in the case—there is little or no feedback from Washington to indicate whether or not the embassy is on target in its work.

More post staffing woes…

The direct-hire GSO curtailed in early 2009. The new management officer ar­rived in August 2009, and curtailed in December 2009. The former DCM left post in the summer of 2009, and the current DCM arrived shortly thereafter. The only American continuity in the management section was the American eligible family member in the assistant GSO position.

In the past few years, seven Department LE employees have left the embassy after applying for special immigrant visas (SIVs). Another six have applied for SIVs but are still working. At least two of the latter have been approved and are discuss­ing their departure dates. These SIV issuances and applications represent a large proportion of the LE staff.3 Two employees who have been approved for SIVs but who have not yet left the embassy are the motor pool supervisor and the procure­ment assistant, both key positions. The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act and Embassy Banjul’s SIV policy state that “the Ambassador may recommend” to the Department of State that certain employees or former employees be designated as special immigrants to the United States. Thus, such recommendations are permis­sive but not prescriptive. The Ambassador has been generous in approving SIVs for LE staff, but the negative impact on embassy operations has been considerable, with such a relatively large number of SIVs being approved within a short period of time. Prudent management might have dictated a more gradual approach.

Post report, a historical remnant from 2004 …

The 2009 inspection report included an informal recommendation that Embassy Banjul update its post report. At the time of the CFR, the embassy Web site con­tained a post report with most sections dating to 2004. The post report provides updated information for prospective bidders and family members, as well as others interested in Banjul.


Related Item:

OIG Report No. ISP-C-10-52 | Compliance Follow-Up Review of Embassy Banjul, The Gambia, April 2010


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Officially In: Maura Connelly to Beirut

Vista de la ciudad de Beirut, Líbano.Image via Wikipedia

On June 3, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Maura Connelly to be Ambassador to the Republic of Lebanon. The WH released the following brief bio:

Maura Connelly is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. She is currently a Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. Prior to that she was the Charge d’ Affaires for the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, Syria. Ms. Connelly previously served as the Political Minister-Counselor for the U.S. Embassy in London, U.K. and was the Deputy Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem. She was also the Deputy Counselor for Political Affairs for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York. Other overseas posts include Jordan, Algeria and South Africa.

Connelly received a B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and a Masters in National Security Studies from the U.S. Naval War College.

Related Items:
June 03, 2010 | President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

http://lebanon.usembassy.gov/


Officially In: Daniel B. Smith to Athens

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On June 3, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Daniel B. Smith to be Ambassador to the Hellenic Republic.  The WH released the following brief bio:

Daniel B. Smith is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. He is currently the Executive Secretary of the State Department. Prior to that he was the Executive Assistant to the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. He previously served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs. Dr. Smith has also served as Executive Assistant to the Under Secretary for Global Affairs; Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for European and Canadian Affairs; and Country Officer for Czechoslovakia. Overseas posts include Bern, Istanbul, Ottawa and Stockholm.

He received his B.A. from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Stanford University.

Related Item:
June 03, 2010 | President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

http://athens.usembassy.gov/


Officially In: Eric Benjaminson to Libreville

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On May 27, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Eric Benjaminson to be Ambassador to the Gabonese Republic.  The WH released the following brief bio:

Eric Benjaminson is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. He currently serves as Minister Counselor for Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, Canada. Mr. Benjaminson previously served as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassies in Namibia and Burkina Faso. He was also the Counselor for Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Belgium. Washington assignments include Special Assistant to the Acting Assistant Secretary for Economic Affairs and Economic Officer in the Office of Southern African Affairs. Other overseas posts include Beijing, Sweden, Canada and Nigeria.

He received a B.A. in History from the University of Oregon.

Related Items:
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts, 5/27/10



http://libreville.usembassy.gov/


Officially In: J. Thomas Dougherty to Ouagadougou

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On May 27, President Obama announced his intent to nominate J. Thomas Dougherty to be Ambassador to Burkina Faso.  The WH released the following brief bio:

Thomas Dougherty is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. He currently serves as Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Mr. Dougherty previously served as acting Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs and Director for West African Affairs.  He was also Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassies in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Malawi.  Other overseas posts include Cameroon, Germany, Eritrea, the Republic of the Congo, Saudi Arabia, and Senegal. 

Mr. Dougherty received a bachelor’s degree from Brown University.


Related Items:

President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts, 5/27/10

http://ouagadougou.usembassy.gov/


Confirmed: Nominations for State/ECA, PC, OPIC, and IJC

The following executive nominations were confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday, June 22, 2010:

PN1251 *      DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Judith Ann Stewart Stock, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Educational and Cultural Affairs).

PN1155 *      PEACE CORPS
Carolyn Hessler Radelet, of the District of Columbia, to be Deputy Director of the Peace Corps.

PN1216 *      OVERSEAS PRIVATE INVESTMENT CORPORATION
Elizabeth L. Littlefield, of the District of Columbia, to be President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

PN1493 *      OVERSEAS PRIVATE INVESTMENT CORPORATION
Michael James Warren, of the District of Columbia, to be a Member of the Board of  Directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation for a term expiring December 17, 2011.

PN1420 *      INTERNATIONAL JOINT COMMISSION, UNITED STATES AND CANADA
Lana Pollack, of Michigan, to be a Commissioner on the part of the United States on the International Joint Commission, United States and Canada.

CONFIRMATIONS — (Senate – June 22, 2010)