Name That Embassy: Where The DCM Has Two Official Residences (the Second, For DCM Junior’s Playdates)

Most of this blog’s readers are already familiar with the term DCM.  For those who aren’t, a DCM or a Deputy Chief of Mission is like the chief executive officer or chief operating officer of the embassy. He/She is a career diplomat and acts as Charge d’Affaires (person in charge) whenever the Ambassador is absent from the host country or when the position is vacant. The DCM is responsible for the day to day management of the embassy, ensuring the mission can operate with allocated resources and together with the Ambassador runs the Embassy “front office.”  He/She oversees the heads of sections (Political, Economic, Public Affairs, Management, Consular and the Regional Security Office) at the Embassy and has overall responsibility for mentoring and professional development of the entry-level professionals.

All that serves as a preamble to this:

The Deputy Chief of Mission in Country X has an official residence in the downtown area of the capital city; the location is not too far from the embassy.

The second residence, an apartment is allegedly in the suburbs, in one of the U.S. government compounds in the capital city. The ostensible reason for the second residence is reportedly so the DCM’s spouse would have a place to arrange playdates near the international school where DCM junior is enrolled.

Imagine if you’re overseas and you demand a second USG-owned or USG-leased residence for your kid’s playdates.  Do you know what would happen?  They’d pack you up on a medical evacuation so quickly before you can even say BOO!

But when you’re a DCM, apparently they don’t do that, which we must admit is a nice perk.

Poor contract guards.

They wanted to know what sort of special protection they should be giving to the DCM and his/her visitors when he/she is using the second residence.

As you might imagine, the  security office was not happy about this.

And the housing office was pretty steam up about it.  The Housing GSO reportedly refused to have anything to do with this … um, unusual arrangement.

Luckily, the Housing GSO’s supervising officer …. no, not the GSO but the Management Counselor is said to have arranged the details so the DCM gets the second USG housing. This is the part where we need to point out that the Management Counselor’s Employee Evaluation Report rater is no other than the DCM.

So —

If you were the Management Counselor at this post, would you have “arranged the details” so the DCM gets a second residence?

Or would you have taken out the Foreign Affairs Manual  and  said, “No your excellency, you may not have a second residence.”

Perhaps this should cover as our ethical dilemma exercise for the day.

According to FAM  15 FAM 211.1, the objective of the housing program is “to provide safe and secure housing that is adequate to meet the personal and professional requirements of employees at a cost most advantageous to the U.S. Government. For the purposes of this policy, adequate housing is defined as that comparable to what an employee would occupy in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area, with adjustments for family size and locality abroad.”  The housing provided to employees is based on position rank and family size:  “Where an employee’s position rank is greater or less than his or her personal rank, the position rank determines the employee’s maximum authorization.”  

We have been unable to locate regulations in the FAM that allows an employee to occupy two USG-owned or USG leased housing overseas.  It might be that the FAM in a parallel universe does not specifically prohibit the allocation of two residences to a DCM, especially if one needs an apartment for the officer’s kid’s playdates. But — even if we grant that this is not illegal — holy mother of goat! How can a senior official even think this is not waste and misused of U.S. government property?

In any case, we understand that several mission staffers thought this was just plain wrong and appropriately filed complaints at the Office of Inspector General (OIG).

We heard that State/OIG “passed it on” to the regional bureau which then had a “conversation” of some sort. Subsequent to the conversation with the regional bureau, the keys to the second residence were returned.

We checked with the OIG and this is what we’re told by its spokesman, Douglas Welty:

[I]t is OIG policy not to comment on complaints submitted to our Hotline, nor do we comment on any possible, pending or on-going investigations.

It is also OIG policy to refer  non-criminal, but inappropriate activities to the Department (or bureau) for administrative action – with a request for a response and report of remedial actions taken.

So unless you don’t return the keys … then it becomes a big deal. But if you do return the keys, then things can be forgotten and forgiven? Did the bureau even charged the DCM rental for the use of the second residence? Was any administrative action ever issued? No one knows since that’s all done behind doors because hey, privacy!

In what ethical landscape would anyone consider this appropriate behavior for any public servant, particularly one who is a senior official with mentoring responsibility for our next generation of diplomats?

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Updated May 16@8:37 am to include RSOs under the responsibility of the DCMs.

 

 

 

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