One part of the ARB-Cuba report addressed guidance provided to the chief of mission (see ARB on Havana Syndrome Response: Pray Tell, Who Was in Charge?):
The ARB report reveals: “In exploring the guidance given to the COM regarding his responsibility for the security of all executive branch employees, the Board learned the COM did not have a letter of instruction. Presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed ambassadors all receive a letter of instruction from the President detailing their responsibilities. Typically the responsibility for the safety and security of American citizens and U.S. government employees features prominently in these letters. In other posts where a COM is not Senate confirmed, the Department sometimes issues a letter of instruction from the Secretary of State which serves a similar purpose.”
On February 19, 2021, the State Department updated 3 FAM 1420, the Transfer of Office for Chiefs of Mission and Other Principal Officers. The updated regs actually is in referenced to “Designated Chief of Mission” positions. Assignments as CdA a.i. to designated COM positions go to the D Committee for approval and are approved by either the secretary or deputy secretary. See 3 FAH-1 H-2425.8-2(B). The new updates also notes that Designated COMs must “receive a briefing on intelligence oversight responsibilities from the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) and confirm in writing that they have read and understood the Secretary’s guidance to individuals performing the functions of a COM (3 FAM 1427).”
One section addresses the general policy:
3 FAM 1422 GENERAL POLICY
(CT:PER-1028 ; 02-19-2021)
(Applies to Foreign Service Employees Only)
a. This policy establishes the roles, responsibilities, and processes for ensuring relevant statutory and other requirements are met when designating individuals to serve as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim (CdA a.i.) in the absence of the Chief of Mission (COM). The requirements set forth in this policy apply regardless of the length of time the individual will be serving as CdA, a.i. This policy also addresses transfer of the principal officer at consulates and interest sections.
b. The term “transfer of office”, as used here refers to the permanent or temporary transfer of the authorities and responsibilities vested in the principal officer for the management of the post and the conduct of its operations. A permanent transfer of office occurs whenever an officer relinquishes charge of a post and does not expect to resume charge of that post, or whenever directed by the Department. A temporary transfer occurs whenever an officer relinquishes charge of a post with the expectation of resuming charge of the post.
c. The legal authorities cited in 3 FAM 1421 support the practice of designating principal officers at certain posts as CdA, a.i., Consul General, or principal officer with COM authority. These three categories are referred to as Designated Chiefs of Mission (List available at 2 FAH-2 H-112). Incumbents in Designated COM positions are not appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate and do not have the ambassador title. They also do not receive a Letter of Instruction by the President. The policy in 3 FAM 1420 also applies to individuals serving as Designated COMs and provides guidance to those individuals on their responsibilities. Designated COMs, like other CdAs, a.i. need approval by the Under Secretary for Management (M) and required guidance and briefings, but because Designated COMs are not filling in during the absence of a COM, the transfer of office provisions in 3 FAM 1420 do not apply.
Another section addresses the criteria for individuals serving as CDAs. This update says that individuals on a Foreign Service limited non-career appointment or a while actually employed (WAE) appointment, which is an appointment into the Civil Service, do not qualify as career FSOs and therefore may not serve as CdA, a.i. See 3 FAM 1427 for guidance outlines responsibilities for CdA, a.i.s.
3 FAM 1425 CRITERIA FOR INDIVIDUALS SERVING AS CDA
a. Any individual serving as CdA pursuant to Section 502(c) of the Foreign Service Act must be a career FSO. This includes retired career FSOs recalled for service under section 308(a) of the Foreign Service Act. Recall appointments are approved by the director general of the Foreign Service and the individual recalled must also be approved by the Under Secretary for Management (M) in order to serve as CdA, a.i. Individuals on a Foreign Service limited non-career appointment or a while actually employed (WAE) appointment, which is an appointment into the Civil Service, do not qualify as career FSOs and therefore may not serve as CdA, a.i.
b. Factors regional bureaus may consider when nominating individuals to serve as CdA, a.i. include: past experience as CdA, a.i. or DCM, experience managing multi-dimensional and complex teams, experience working with the interagency, relevant country and regional experience, number of years of service, and demonstrated ability to mentor and lead staff.
c. Pursuant to Section 502(c) of the Foreign Service Act and Delegation 462, M approval is required in order for an individual other than a DCM or suitable senior officer at post to serve as CdA, a.i. The regional bureau’s assistant secretary must send an action memo to M identifying the individual identified to serve as CdA, a.i. and outlining the individual’s qualifications and the rationale for designating the individual’s qualifications and the rationale for designating the individual as CdA, a.i.
d. Individuals who serve or are expected to serve as CdA, a.i. for more than 30 consecutive days, including Designated COMs, must also have authorization to access to Sensitive Compartmented Information. Additionally, he/she must receive a briefing on his/her intelligence oversight responsibilities from the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR). If already at post, he/she should contact INR/OPS to receive a secure virtual briefing.
e. Regional bureaus must ensure that the individual does not travel to post or assume charge until required briefings have been completed.
f. Prior to departing for post, any individual who will be serving as CdA, a.i. must confirm in writing that he or she has read and understands the Secretary’s guidance to individuals performing the functions of a COM (3 FAM 1427). If already at post, this written confirmation should be part of the notification process outlined in 3 FAH-1 H-1425.