Foreign Service Association Issues New Ambassador Guidelines

As part of a strategic plan, the association suggested several criteria for nominating and confirming ambassadors. They come at a time lawmakers and media reports have raised questions about the qualifications of some recent nominees.

We see these guidelines as a starting point and as the common ground on which all parties unequivocally agree.

Amid criticism over several of President Obama’s recent nominees for U.S. ambassadors, the American Foreign Service Association this week released new guidelines detailing necessary qualities of nominees.

“It is of overriding importance to our members and to all Americans that there be strong, qualified leaders in these positions abroad who can advance policy and serve as the face of our country around the world,” said AFSA  President bob Silverman on a press call on Tuesday.

The “Guidelines for Successful Performance as a Chief of Mission, ” the product of a 10-member working group made up of career and noncareer ambassadors, were adopted by AFSA’s 28-member board in November 2013.

Meant to augment rather than replace existing guidance, especially that in the Foreign Service Act of 1980, the guidelines should serve as a reference for those participating in the nomination and confirmation processes, Silverman said.

“In recent weeks we’ve all seen that the nomination and confirmation process has become highly politicized, as it often does,” Silverman said. “We believe that this document can be a tool to move us away from the rhetoric, away from the ‘gotcha,’ and toward something that benefits everybody, which is capable, qualified individuals leading our embassies and missions abroad, helping to expand trade opportunities for U.S. businesses and enhancing U.S. security for all of our citizens.”

The guideline report includes four broad qualifications:

  • leadership, character, and proven interpersonal skills
  • understanding of high-level policy and operations, as well as key U.S. interests and values in the country or organization of assignment
  • management skills
  • understanding of the host country and international affairs

Before they were released, some questioned whether the guidelines would be hard-hitting enough to overhaul the nominating process.

“Our sense of the guidelines, which AFSA began working on last summer, is that they’re fairly anodyne suggestions, not a call for stricter criteria,” Al Kamen wrote last week in a Washington Post editorial.

Silverman addressed those misgivings, saying that while the guidelines may not seem earth-shattering or groundbreaking, this is the first time that such criteria have been put forth.  “We see these guidelines as a starting point and as the common ground on which all parties unequivocally agree,” he said.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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