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Thread: Finding Diplomats for Perilous Posts

  1. #21
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    If DOD is a an example

    You do get paid more in DC.
    I came from Europe with a very high COLA
    The higher BAH in DC More than makes up the difference
    Military get BAH in the states, but civilian employees of the government do not earn housing allowances in the United States. Federal civilian employees earn housing allowances and cost-of-living adjustments when stationed overseas, so they nearly always earn more overseas, though, like the military, its a benefits package, not just base salary. I've never heard anyone at State or DoD complain about getting by pay cut by moving overseas. It's usually the opposite.

  2. #22
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    Default Government Civilians....

    ... do get locality pay which differs depending on location within CONUS.

  3. #23
    Groundskeeping Dept. SWCAdmin's Avatar
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    Foreign Service folks routinely refer to their time back at Foggy Bottom as their "economic hardship" tour.

    Loss of gov't sponsored quarters means loss of rental income from having to evict the folks that they've had in their house back in the rear, so the mortgage is a hit. Loss of gov't purchased private schools for some. Housekeepers, babysitters, staff, etc. cost more than $50 and two chickens a month. All that on top of loss of any overseas differential, etc. A few clicks of windage on locality pay doesn't make a dent.

  4. #24
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    Default Yes...

    ... understand that - just pointing out that there is such an animal.

  5. #25
    Council Member Beelzebubalicious's Avatar
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    Default Embassy cultural section

    I know Embassies have cultural sections as part of public affairs and these do cultural exchanges and such, but anyone heard of a cultural section that would primarily be involved in anthropological or sociological research and reporting? In my experience, the Embassy people I come across are quite estranged from local people and are much less informed than Peace Corps, USAID, USAID contractors, etc. I know they get briefings and training on local culture, but this would be Embassy funded research on the cultural components of specific issues. Could be political or economic issues, but from a cultural perspective.

  6. #26
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beelzebubalicious View Post
    I know Embassies have cultural sections as part of public affairs and these do cultural exchanges and such, but anyone heard of a cultural section that would primarily be involved in anthropological or sociological research and reporting? In my experience, the Embassy people I come across are quite estranged from local people and are much less informed than Peace Corps, USAID, USAID contractors, etc. I know they get briefings and training on local culture, but this would be Embassy funded research on the cultural components of specific issues. Could be political or economic issues, but from a cultural perspective.

    Good question and no answer that you would hope for; I have been in or around 6 different embassies and the DoD head as Defense Attache in 2. Very few show any interest in what you suggest. I did a long cable out of Zaire on the alternate economy using a couple of sources who just kept a running diary for a week on how they got buy. Only one FSO showed interest in it and he was in the political section, not economics. Stan and I gave the econ a officer a crash course on Zairian information management when rumors and reports of dreams suggested all US 100 dollar bills were bad.

    Worst sensing of social environment by a senior FSO? Here are some candidates:

    A Dept Assistant Secretary of State who came into Zaire on a push democracy tour ands asked me how I was going to reform the Zairian Armed Forces

    The Deputy Chief of Mission in Zaire who routinely quoted his cook at country team meetings

    The Chief of Mission/Charge in Zaire who dismissed the Rwandan refugee crisis in 1994 as something that would blow over in 2 weeks

    An FSO in Rwanda who at a local American community meeting in March of 1994 dismissed concerns over military style drilling by the Interahamwe as boy scout activity

    An Ambassador in Zaire who dismissed the RPA led and organized invasion in 97 as the establishment of a local security zone

    These are just a few.....

    Tom
    Last edited by Tom Odom; 07-15-2007 at 08:39 PM.

  7. #27
    Council Member Nat Wilcox's Avatar
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    Default Beelzebubalicious, supply may be an issue too

    ...anyone heard of a cultural section that would primarily be involved in anthropological or sociological research and reporting?
    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    Good question and no answer that you would hope for; I have been in or around 6 different embassies and the DoD head as Defense Attache in 2. Very few show any interest in what you suggest.
    If you search marct's posts, he has said some interesting things (and as been involved in academic debates, and written some interesting articles) about norms of professional conduct in the anthropological community. Even if government agencies increased their demand for this, it seems to me (from what marct has said) that it might be difficult to find willing suppliers of the relevant expertise.

    ps to Tom-- Your book on Rwanda sounds extremely interesting and I plan to buy it and read it soon.

  8. #28
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    Default With winners like these

    it's a wonder that we get anything right! And I'm sure we can find plenty of military geniusesto help out, too.

    On that cheery note --

    JohnT

  9. #29
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    I was blessed in my 3 embassy postings to have engaged political and econ officers who really tried to grasp the cultural underpinnings of what was going on. It was essential that they do that because in all 3 cases, the populations involved were doing things that ran against the "conventional wisdom" of Washington. One of the countries had both AID and Peace Corps programs. Talking with those folks was extremely enlightening because they interfaced with different populations than the rest of us did. I am proud to say that I got out a lot, especially to neighborhood bars, in order to judge the mood of the "street" -- and to drink. (Not necessarily in that order).

    It's sometimes hard to figure out what drives Washington, however. I remember a tasker to the embassy in Belgrade to report on the status of mouflons in the mountains in the final days running up to the Kosovo war. Hmmm.

  10. #30
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Heh. I can agree with all that...

    Quote Originally Posted by Old Eagle View Post
    I was blessed in my 3 embassy postings to have engaged political and econ officers who really tried to grasp the cultural underpinnings of what was going on. It was essential that they do that because in all 3 cases, the populations involved were doing things that ran against the "conventional wisdom" of Washington. One of the countries had both AID and Peace Corps programs. Talking with those folks was extremely enlightening because they interfaced with different populations than the rest of us did. I am proud to say that I got out a lot, especially to neighborhood bars, in order to judge the mood of the "street" -- and to drink. (Not necessarily in that order).

    It's sometimes hard to figure out what drives Washington, however. I remember a tasker to the embassy in Belgrade to report on the status of mouflons in the mountains in the final days running up to the Kosovo war. Hmmm.

    Agree wholeheartedly with your first para, been there and one that as they say. As an aside, there are places where it is REALLY hard to find Bourbon...

    On the second, I'm inclined to blame human fallibility and ego, not in that order. One gets to a position in DC (or, too frequently, just a Position...) and is suddenly anointed with superior knowledge and capabilities and need pay no attention to the folks who know the terrain. We spend millions of dollars annually training FAOs and then the Generals ignore them. It is obvious to me that the same thing applies to the political appointees at Foggy Bottom with respect to the FSOs out in the world.

    The terrible thing about that is that the nation is paying a penalty as we speak for years of that foolishness...

  11. #31
    Council Member Beelzebubalicious's Avatar
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    I've traveled and lived abroad a good portion of my life and have been around Embassies and have certainly known quite a few people who have worked for the US Embassy. Many of the people I know are in it for the travel and lifestyle (benefits).

    I have considered entering the foreign service, but I am held back for many of the reasons stated in this thread. I also have an adverse reaction to bureaucracy and starting with the application process, the whole business seems to be an exercise in bureaucracy. The process seems to reward those who persevere and prove adept at negotiating bureaucracy.

    Regarding Anthropology, I have a Masters Degree in Applied Anthropology (hence my interest in the subject I posted) and while it's generally true that Anthropologists are hesitant and careful about how their research and information is used, the applied field is full of people like myself that are more interested in finding useful applications for Anthropology. I really see nothing wrong with helping the foreign service better understand the cultures they operate in and how to utilize this information to support diplomatic efforts. To those who say that the information can also be used for "other" purposes that the Anthropologist might not agree with, that's true of anything anyone does and cannot really be controlled. Is it better to go out in the world and try to better understand and improve it or sit up you ivory tower and pontificate? Plus, what are we really talking about here? structured tools for understanding people better or WMDs....

  12. #32
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    Default Bubba!

    If you want to be an FSO, then go for it. You can be extremely effective if you have the desire to get out and get the people to people contact you need. In small embassies, bureaucracy is at a minimum because there isn't enough staff to afford the luxury. Everyone has to pull together. Avoid the big posts and you will have a lot of flexibility.

  13. #33
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Eagle View Post
    If you want to be an FSO, then go for it. You can be extremely effective if you have the desire to get out and get the people to people contact you need. In small embassies, bureaucracy is at a minimum because there isn't enough staff to afford the luxury. Everyone has to pull together. Avoid the big posts and you will have a lot of flexibility.
    Bubba,

    I would second that recommendation. Forgive my earlier post in that I was not trying discourage anyone seeking a career in this field. I encourage all who want to learn and expereince the world. Where I was very fortunate was in Rwanda where I had 2 Ambassadors who were switched on, a USAID Mission Director equally adept, the Chief of Staff of USAID (the entire agency) with us for months at a time, aroving Ambassador who served as regional envoy, and a political officer who was an activist. All of these gentlemen were not the type who simply stayed in an office.

    The real issue is leadership in the individual mission; in the case of Rwanda we had real leaders. In my case in Zaire with Stan, we did not. In Stan's case with the Ambassador who was there before I arrived, that Ambassador was a leader.

    In the case of Rwanda, Ambassador Rawson was very qualified as a Rwandan cultural specialist; he was a missionary child and spent time among the Hutu in Burundi. He had 2 tours on the ground as an FSO. Ambassador Gribbin had 2 tours in Rwanda, had run the Rwandan desk in State, and had been a Peace Corps volunteer. He too firmly grasped the culture.
    Neither were inclined to put up with or listen to reporting officers who did not get out and work their sources at whatever level.

    So as Old Eagle said, go for it.

    Best

    Tom

  14. #34
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    Default FSO's-The Ground Truth

    In my travels..met many fine and dedicated foreign service officers. Most were doing rather routine jobs with the normal perks most officers have when posted outside the United States.

    But, Iraq and Afghanistan are different situations, in deed.

    The "politicalization" of so many tiers of our government have often shadowed the "ground truth". The truth of the situation is the only way decision can be made to resolve the issue. By hiding the fabric of the truth in empty words, say for example.." we are making progress.." is like the story of the Emporer Wore No Clothes fairy tale..or.. one will believe what he/she wants to believe.

    Case in point: While in SE Afghanistan in 2003, a dedicated (and about to retire in 2 more years) FSO was in our compound representing Dept of State. His mission was to gauge the "local politics" of issues and challenges representing the political dimension of that particular time in Afghanistan.

    It was obvious the governor of this particular province was corrupt. Other issues were so apparent of a political nature, it seemed like "progress" was going backwards.

    I commented one evening..."why don't you tell Kabul ("The Embassy") the ground truth about what is really happening..?" His reply.."I have two kids in college.."

    His comment represents a wider challenge for those who want to progress up the diplomatic ladder, yet somehow wish to minimize the "bad news" or the "ground truth".

    The new Secretary of State must assure those who are now serving and those who may serve, the opinions of the "good, bad and ugly" are welcome as long as the report is truthful, substantiated and documented.

  15. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by negotiator6 View Post
    In my travels..met many fine and dedicated foreign service officers. Most were doing rather routine jobs with the normal perks most officers have when posted outside the United States.

    <...snip...>

    The new Secretary of State must assure those who are now serving and those who may serve, the opinions of the "good, bad and ugly" are welcome as long as the report is truthful, substantiated and documented.
    What I believe is going on is a substantial revolt within the FSO against the need to serve in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and let's face it, places like Khazakhstan and Dacca, Bangladesh.

    But that's where future history is being made, and Rice was wise enough to push for this. The FSA report of several months ago was simple pushback against the policy of putting senior people in Ulan Bator when they are used to getting Helsinki.
    "History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it."-Winston S. Churchill

  16. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by section9 View Post
    What I believe is going on is a substantial revolt within the FSO against the need to serve in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and let's face it, places like Khazakhstan and Dacca, Bangladesh.
    Serving at the embassy in Astana, Kazakhstan (although I still much prefer Almaty over Astana) is in no way comparable to Dhaka, Bangladesh - let alone to Afghanistan or Iraq. You can enjoy yourself to the point of getting in serious trouble in Kazakhstan.

    In any case, State has made significant changes in their hiring process, and is actively looking for people able and willing to serve in the hot zones. However, as with so many other agencies, as well as our beloved military, systemic lasting change comes only slowly and with great pain. That's the nature of any lumbering bureaucracy.



  17. #37
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    CSIS, 15 Oct 07: The Embassy of the Future
    The truest test of the value to our nation of the U.S. diplomatic presence abroad is whether the people we ask to represent us effectively promote American values and interests.

    Diplomacy is a vital tool of national security. The aim of this report is to make the diplomatic pursuit of U.S. interests abroad even more effective than it is today. Our diplomats and those who support them must have the right tools and capacity to do their work. This is an urgent national priority. Transnational threats, including terrorism, put U.S. citizens and national interests at risk. Potential competitor nations are emerging on the global stage. Anti-Americanism can have lethal consequences for our nation and its citizens. Operating in a higher threat environment is part of today’s diplomatic job. Traditional diplomacy—where government and social elites interact in highly formal channels—is being transformed. U.S. diplomats will still need to influence foreign governments, but increasingly they will work directly with diverse parts of other nations’ societies. The Embassy of the Future Commission envisions an embassy presence in which U.S. officials reach out broadly, engage societies comprehensively, and build relationships with key audiences effectively.

    This project is called the “Embassy of the Future,” but “embassy” is meant in a broad sense, of which embassy buildings are only one dimension. The commission underscores that the U.S. presence and our diplomacy are about our people—Foreign Service, Civil Service, Foreign Service nationals and other locally employed staff—and their capacity to carry out their mission.....
    Complete 88 page paper at the link.

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