Trump Economic Adviser Carla Sands to be U.S. Ambassador to Denmark

Posted: 1:16 am ET
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On September 7, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Carla Sands as the next U.S. Ambassador to Denmark. The WH released the following brief bio:

Carla Sands of California to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Denmark. Ms. Sands has been the Chairman of Vintage Capital Group, L.L.C in Los Angeles since 2015; a company recognized by real estate industry as a professional, ethical and highly successful real estate firm. She is also a doctor of chiropractic and has been a television and film actress. Ms. Sands is a leader in the non-profit sector, working with organizations to improve the lives of children and the underprivileged. Demonstrating her commitment to improving education, she has served as a Board Member of Pepperdine University. In addition, Ms. Sands has served on the boards of organizations supporting the arts and culture. Ms. Sands earned a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic College, Marietta, Georgia.

A mored detailed biography is available here via Vintage Capital Group.

Ballotpedia notes that Carla Sands was a district-level delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention from California.  In summer 2016, she was named as one of Trump’s economic advisers. OpenSecrets.org lists her as one of Trump’s 250 donors who shelled out $100k or more for Trump’s inauguration.

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An American Ambassador’s Charm Offensive Via a TV Reality Show

Posted: 3:54 am EDT
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[protected-iframe id=”aedcf8451c23eedc6e2103590baee12a-31973045-31356973″ info=”//player.cnevids.com/embedjs/51cc9fb8bb8f55bdfb000005/video/564654fe94c05f3159000012.js” ]

 

Excerpt via Vanity Fair:

Says Richard Stengel, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy & Public Affairs, “We give ambassadors great latitude and discretion in media engagements in their host countries. Ambassador Gifford has been one of the most creative in identifying novel and innovative ways to connect with his local audience to advance the image of the U.S. and our foreign policy goals.”

His accessibility hasn’t come without his critics: some commentators in Denmark have suggested that Gifford’s celebrity status has made the Danish press less critical of the nice American man from television. The show will end its run this month, though, with no plans for a third season. Gifford’s charm offensive will continue for another year, until the next president assigns a new ambassador to Denmark.

So what does life post posting look like? “I have no idea what we’ll do next,” he says. “I say ‘we’ because Stephen is a big part of the equation [since] he’s moved around the world for me. . . . If he wants to move to Kenya and go work on saving elephants, I’ll figure out what to do, because he deserves that time.”

Read in full here.

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US Embassy Denmark: A Wedding in Copenhagen

Posted: 1:52 am EDT
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Congratulations and best wishes to U.S. Ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford and Dr. Stephen DeVincent on their wedding at Copenhagen City Hall on October 10. A collection of tweets below with some photos:

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The State Dept’s Most Expensive Assignments in the World (February 2015)

Posted: 11:31 EST
Updated: 21:57 PST

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The “cost-of-living” allowance or COLA is officially called “post allowance” in the State Department.  It is an allowance based on a percentage of “spendable income,” i.e. money you can really put your hands on to spend on goods and services.  The allowance is calculated by comparing costs for goods and services in multiple categories – including food (consumed at home or in restaurants), tobacco/alcohol, clothing, personal care items, furnishings, household goods, medical services, recreation, public transportation, or vehicle-related expenses – to the cost of those same goods and services in Washington, D.C.

The State Department’s Office of Allowances determines a ratio between the average cost of goods and services at the foreign post to costs in Washington, D.C.  It then evaluate expenditure patterns between the foreign location and Washington, D.C. to establish an overall cost index, which may be adjusted biweekly for exchange rate fluctuations.  If the overall cost of goods and services at a foreign post, taking into account expenditure patterns, is at least 3% above the cost of the same goods and services in the Washington, D.C. area, the office  establish a post allowance. See DSSR section 220 for more information.

According to state.gov, this allowance is a balancing factor designed to permit employees to spend the same portion of their basic compensation for current living as they would in Washington, D.C., without incurring a reduction in their standard of living because of higher costs of goods and services at the post.  The amount varies depending on salary level and family size.

We put together a list of countries and posts with the highest State Department COLA rate as of January 2015. Posts in Europe (EUR), Africa (AF), East Asia Pacific (EAP) and the Western Hemisphere (WHA) are represented.  No posts from South Central Asia (SCA) and Near East Asia (NEA) made it to this top list.  The traditionally expected expensive posts like Tokyo, Vienna, Hong Kong, Sydney and Rome are all in the 35% COLA rate and are not included in this list (we chopped the list at 42%; representative posts in France at the 42% rate are included).

Note that we added a couple of columns for the cost of a McDonald’s meal (or equivalent) and cost of a regular cappuccino from numbeo.com, a crowdsourcing site for cost of goods and services around the world. For another snapshot  on most expensive cities for expat employees, click here with data from the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Worldwide Cost of Living ranking (costs compared to NYC) and Mercer’s Cost of Living surveys from 2014.

DOS | Most Expensive Assignments in the World (February 8, 2015)

DOS | Most Expensive Assignments in the World (February 8, 2015)

 

 Update:
Corrected the spelling for Ediburgh. Also the Allowances Bi-Weekly Updates dated February 8, 2015 indicate several changes on the COLA table, so we updated it to reflect that newest data. Switzerland went from 90% to 100% in this latest update. Shanghai, Copenhagen, Auckland and Wellington went from 50% to 42% COLA posts.  Helsinki, Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Versailles and Oslo were all downgraded from 42% to 35%, so we took them off this table. It is conceivable that the rankings in allowances will change again in a couple of weeks or in a few months.  The bi-weekly updates are located here.  The original list we did based on end of January data is located here.

 

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Happy Birthday America! 4th of July Celebrations From Around the World

— Domani Spero
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The 2014 July 4th celebrations at our diplomatic missions actually started this past February, with the U.S. Embassy Kathmandu celebration of the 238th Anniversary of the Independence of the United States of America on February 22, 2014. This was followed by  the US Embassy in Oman which hosted its independence day event on March 25, 2014 (see Open Season: This Year’s July 4th Independence Day Celebrations Officially On). Here are the well-timed red, white and blue celebrations that caught our eyes this year.

 

U.S. Consulate Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

In an unprecedented tribute to U.S. Independence Day, Rio de Janeiro’s iconic the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro was lit with the colors of the American flag on July 3, 2014.  U.S. Consul General to Rio de Janeiro John Creamer and Christ the Redeemer rector Father Omar Raposo  were at the monument for the special lighting, which happens as Brazil hosts approximately 90,000 U.S. tourists for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Pretty cool!

USCG Rio/FB

USCG Rio/FB

U.S. Embassy Tallin, Estonia

This 4th of July cake was so huge that it needed six people to carry it into the event hosted by Ambassador Jeffrey Levine.  We think that this cake was made by the  Radisson Blu Hotel in Tallinn. We don’t know many many years the hotel has been making this cake for the annual event but just below the photo is the time lapse video showing the making of the 300KG 4th of July cake for Embassy Tallinn a couple of years ago.  Amazing!

 

Independence Day Celebration, June 26, 2014 Photos by U.S. Embassy Tallinn

Independence Day Celebration, June 26, 2014
Photos by U.S. Embassy Tallinn

 

U.S. Embassy Nairobi, Kenya

 

U.S. Embassy Kampala, Uganda

4july14_uganda

U.S. Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan

Flags of the 50 United States hanging above the Independence Day celebration at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday,June 24, 2014. (Photo by Musadeq Sadeq/U.S. State Department)

US Embassy Kabul/Flickr

 

U.S. Embassy Beirut, Lebanon

Ambassador David Hale hosted a celebration on June 17 at BIEL with Lebanese officials, members of Parliament, and Embassy guests in attendance.

Via US Embassy Lebanon/FB

Via US Embassy Lebanon/FB

 

U.S. Embassy New Delhi, India

U.S. Embassy Canberra, Australia

Embassy Canberra ran a social media Independence Day contest and came up with MasterChef Australia contestants akitchencat
and The Bread & Butter Chef Kylie Ofiu  as winners to join them for the 4th of July bash.  American chef Tory McPhail also arrived in Canberra last week and got the Embassy kitchen prepped and ready to feed over 600 people for the event hosted by Ambassador John Berry.

Photo via US Embassy Canberra/FB

Photo via US Embassy Canberra/FB

 

U.S. Embassy Wellington, New Zealand

This year’s Independence Day event in Wellington hosted by DCM Marie C. Damour had a#USA culinary theme.  Check out some U.S. recipes at: http://www.discoveramerica.com/usa/culinary-landing.aspx Discover America. And here’s the Kentucky Honey!

Photo via US Embassy New Zealand/Flickr

Photo via US Embassy New Zealand/Flickr

 

U.S.Consulate General Auckland, New Zealand

U.S. Independence Day Event in Auckland, July 3, 2014.  U.S. Independence Day Event in Auckland, July 3, 2014.

U.S. Independence Day Event in Auckland, July 3, 2014.

U.S. Embassy Bangkok, Thailand

 

U.S. Embassy Rome, Italy

A Villa Taverna l’Ambasciatore Phillips ha ospitato il ricevimento per il Giorno dell’Indipendenza, per celebrare l’America e l’amicizia con l’Italia, tra musica, hamburgers e, ovviamente… Fireworks!!

U.S. Embassy Seoul, South Korea

 

Via US Embassy Seoul/FB

Via US Embassy Seoul/FB

 

U.S. Embassy Quito, Ecuador

 

U.S. Embassy  Tel Aviv, Israel

We’re excited to have @dominos with us today. Happy 4th, America. #july4tlv pic.twitter.com/HfyN1Wziyw

U.S. Embassy Valleta, Malta

Embassy Malta had Route 66 as its event and menu theme; the celebration includes vintage American cars on display in the compound.

4july14_malta

Photo via US Embassy Malta/FB

U.S. Embassy Madrid, Spain

U.S. Consulate General Barcelona, Spain

 

U.S. Embassy Copenhagen, Denmark

Rydhave, all ready to receive over 1.000 of Embassy Copenhagen’s closest friends and contacts. Entertainment this year was provided by Basim, and the band The Sentimentals. The Embassy’s own Sonia Evans performed the American national anthem.The food at the event was supplied by CP Cooking.

 

Photo by US Embassy Denmark

Photo by US Embassy Denmark

 

U.S. Embassy London, United Kingdom

 

U.S. Embassy Ottawa, Canada

 

 

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Officially In: Rufus Gifford — From Obama for America to Denmark

By Domani Spero

On June 14, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Rufus Gifford as the next Ambassador to Denmark. The WH released the following brief bio:

Rufus Gifford most recently served as Finance Chair of the Presidential Inaugural Committee.  He served as Finance Director for Obama for America from 2011 to 2012, and as Finance Director for the Democratic National Committee from 2009 to 2011.  From 2008 to 2009, he was the California Finance Director for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, after working as a political consultant in California from 2004 to 2008.  From 1998 to 2004, Mr. Gifford was Creative Executive for Davis Entertainment, an independent film company based in Los Angeles.  He is currently a Federal Club Member of the Human Rights Campaign and a Partner in Conservation for the World Wildlife Fund.

He received a B.A. from Brown University.

Denmark_Copenhagen_EXT1_944_1

US Embassy Copenhagen, Denmark
State Department Photo

Here is WaPo:

Gifford, an indefatigable — some beleaguered donors have said maybe too indefatigable — fundraiser, was the key person behind the campaign’s $1 billion war chest.

The longtime Democratic fundraiser and activist in the gay community would be the second openly gay ambassador named to a NATO ally. The first, James Hormel, served in the latter part of President Bill Clinton’s second term as ambassador to Luxembourg.

Gifford’s ex-partner Jeremy Bernard — also a formidable fundraiser and major Democratic pol — is the first man and the first openly gay person to be White House social secretary. Gifford and Bernard, who remain good friends, had been called one of Washington’s top “power couples.”

If confirmed, Mr. Gifford would succeed Washington lawyer Laurie Susan Fulton who was appointed into office in May 2009 and departed post in February 2013.  Senior Foreign Service Officer Stephen Alan Cristina is currently Charge d’Affaires a.i.  Of the last 19 ambassadors appointed as chief of mission to Denmark since 1960, 17 or 89.5% had been political appointees.

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Related items:

 

Related articles

 

 

 

 

 

US Embassy Denmark: A Flat Stanley-Mission, Well Sort Of, But Not Really – Oh, Confusion!

About a year ago, we posted about the OIG inspection of the US Embassy in Denmark (see State/OIG on US Embassy Denmark: “Ambassador has, in effect, become a first-line supervisor”).

Two items stand out from that report:

  • The embassy staff perceives that the Ambassador is unwilling to delegate authority, and that this weakens the chain of command and disempowers section leaders, making it difficult for them to organize their work and to hold officers within their sections accountable.
  • The Ambassador has, in effect, become a first-line supervisor, and can be harsh in dealing with any lapses she perceives.[REDACTED]

State/OIG had since concluded a Compliance Follow-up Review (CFR) which took place in Washington, DC, between October 31 and November 4, 2011, and in Copenhagen, Denmark, between November 7 and 17, 2011. The report was recently posted online. Excerpt below:

Although the mission seemed to be functioning adequately, the inspection team found [REDACED] problems with senior mission leadership. In response to several key judgments on leadership, the team recommended that the Ambassador return to Washington for consultations that had not been possible before her arrival in Copenhagen and issued three other recommendations that sought to clarify the chain of command. In a meeting with the deputy inspector general in December 2010, the Ambassador asked for a CFR. She felt that the inspection was unduly critical because it did not take into account the fact that it was conducted just as a new team, which she had selected, arrived.
[…]
The inspection report for Embassy Copenhagen, issued early in 2011, noted problems of clarity in delineating the responsibilities and authorities of the DCM; problems with senior mission officers understanding the chain of command, including section chiefs’ responsibilities for the work of their subordinates; and problems of communication and transparency across the mission. Inspectors issued three recommendations intended to address these problems. Mission officers told the CFR team that they have seen some improvement and many believed their relationships with the Ambassador have also improved.

As was the case at the time of the inspection, the Ambassador prefers to run a relatively flat organization; the Ambassador reaches out to individual officers for information or to assign them tasks. Often, section chiefs are unaware of assigned tasks until advised by their subordinates. While it is the prerogative of the Ambassador and DCM to operate a relatively flat organization, including reaching out directly to any member of the mission, the absence of a clear system to keep supervisors informed about those contacts hinders section chiefs’ ability to maintain oversight and quality control over their officers’ work. This practice also results in a loss of accountability, and in the case of some entry-level officers, their involvement with special projects may have limited their exposure to the core programs that they need to master.

Image from Wikipedia

Reissuing the inspection recommendation to distribute an administrative notice that delineates a clear chain of command will not, in itself, address the issues identified by the inspection. The Ambassador believes the current approach works best for her. The system has not resulted in obvious lost opportunities or unforced errors. Nevertheless, this approach has the effect of denying the Ambassador the shaping and enrichment of her thinking by professionals with experience in Department processes, as well as some who have experience and understanding of Denmark. Additionally, some officers do not feel that they have been able to do the jobs they expected to do. Compared to the original inspection, survey results from mission staff in personal questionnaires completed prior to the CFR have not significantly improved, and overall mission morale, as measured by the OIG survey, is about the same.
[…]
The Ambassador has established guidelines for messages and emails that the DCM may approve. It is not always clear to mission staff the exact criteria for messages the DCM is authorized to approve. By default, there is a tendency in all sections to assume the Ambassador will want to approve most messages. That assumption is correct.

Oh, dear! And this is just one more example why a political ambassador can have a bumpy ride at an overseas mission.

The State Department, including its embassies and consulates overseas are hierarchical creatures. They are all versions of a pyramid with large numbers of people at the bottom and fewer people as you get to the top, arranged in order of rank, grade or class. Members of these structures mainly communicate with their immediate superior and with their immediate subordinates. That’s the way its been since …well, since the beginning of time.

Then you get an ambassador who prefers to run her embassy as a “relatively flat organization.”  We presume from reading the report that this includes less management layer, more direct staff input, shorter chain of command, and more direct tasking of entry level officers and other staff. Which cuts off “oversight” and “quality control” by supervisors and midlevel managers; a hallmark of flatter organizations where responsibilities are shifted from levels of management directly to employees, empowering them to take charge.

At an embassy where the flat experience without a doubt is limited to a visit by Flat Stanley, there will surely be a clash of undiplomatic proportion which results in some motion sickness and disorientation for everyone.

There will be confusion.  Of course, the chain of command is suddenly unrecognizable. The more senior officers may suddenly feel like spare wheels and less important. Information as power no longer works.

Regretfully, chewing a gum would not help if you have Visually Induced Mission Sickness (VIMS); that’s the ailment for those suffering disorientation from being out of the loop.

The less senior employees may suddenly feel empowered but also concerned, after all, if the big boss is giving them direct assignments, who will be their rating officers? And if their rating officers or reviewing officers are out of the loop, how do you get a performance review that would snag tenure or promotion?

Oh, Confusion, you naughty child of organizational culture clash!

What this show is that bureaucracies despite touting smarts and innovation and whatnot, and despite good intentions are true creatures of its cultures, which can often be fixed and rigid, and coping mechanisms are not as agile as needed.

Update: 4/18/2012 @11:18 pm

The point I missed on the OIG Denmark report —

One of our readers told us that we’ve missed the point in the report.  Like – “Embassy Copenhagen isn’t very big–so we’re not talking about layer upon layer of intermediate managers.”  Okay, we got that.  So if everything has to go to the big boss for approval (or if everyone thinks it should), we’re told that is “sclerotic.” Yep, the wheels on the bus grinds to a slow-mo.

“If first-line supervisors don’t know what their staffs are doing, they can neither manage them properly nor provide the advice any ambassador should need and want.  And if junior officers are being diverted from their functional tasks and aren’t learning core skills and programs, then they are not being prepared for advancement (and the work they getting paid for isn’t getting done, thus wasting taxpayer funds).  This isn’t innovation, it’s micromanagement.”

And we get all that.  But we rather think that the preference for a flatter structure is a management style not an innovative initiative per se in this case.  Micromanagement is not an unknown issue at State, where some career ambassadors and DCMs are known to be so themselves, and employees learn to managed up, as they say in those corridors (although most if not all trust their DCMs to sign off on things that need approval). If ELOs are not doing visa interviews and are instead sent window shopping or something, then we’d be very concerned about taxpayer’s funds. But if they are doing special projects prioritized by the chief of mission, included in the embassy’s strategic plan or whatever they call those things these days, they’re still doing a job for the mission, just not the job written in their work requirement statements. Disruptive, yes, but is it wasteful? The OIG report did say that this has “not resulted in obvious lost opportunities or unforced errors.”  Our correspondent’s point taken, but we still think of this under the larger umbrella of a culture clash.

We’d hate to be in that DCM’s place though.

Domani Spero

 

Related post:
State/OIG on US Embassy Denmark: “Ambassador has, in effect, become a first-line supervisor”

Related items:
-03/31/11   Inspection of Embassy Copenhagen, Denmark (ISP-I-11-19A) March 2011  [4434 Kb]
-04/09/12   Compliance Follow-up Review of Embassy Copenhagen, Denmark (ISP-C-12-20)  [534 Kb]