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Old 03-03-2009   #21
Old Eagle
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Stan and I endured a coupla less than stellar Charges in Tallinn. I also know that Stan had issues with the Ambo, but I got along well (but then, I lived in Finland and commuted once or so a month.)

The main problem I had with career FSOs was that they were too beholden to the DoS bureaucracy -- "The desk doesn't think that's a good idea." For God's sake! A desk is an inanimate piece of furniture; I don't care what it thinks. Career guys always had one eye on follow-on assignments, so getting too full of themselves was not a great idea.

On the other hand, I had one politico who called the president's private secretary and scheduled an Oval Office visit that Main State had disapproved. Another called the Secretary of State AT HER HOME at 0500 to explain that her staff was misleading the leadership on a particular issue. Career FSOs aren't going to do that.

I also saw great FSOs who were out and about in adverse environments, acquiring ground truth and meeting with dissidents that would have been unaccessible otherwise.

So I guess the underlying lesson is that all generalizations are bad, even this one.
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Old 03-03-2009   #22
John T. Fishel
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Default OE very interesting...

Of course, the politicos tend to remember that they are "the President's personal rep" and do not work for DOS or the SECSTATE. True for FSOs who resign to be amabassadors and then are reinstated but your point is well taken regarding the costs of going around former and future bosses.
OTOH, I knew a politico who thoght that because he was a Republican politician and had met Pres RR, he could ingnore DOS and rid roughshod over his FSO subordinates. He had a very short tenure as ambassador.


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Old 03-06-2009   #23
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At one time I was responsible for preparing military guys to work in embassies. Having also worked in an embassy, I thought this is the best thing that I have seen that lays out the differences in mind set.
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Old 03-07-2009   #24
Tom Odom
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For anecdotal accounts I would offer my memoirs concerning life in around 6 dipomatic missions and inside two country teams, one disastrously dysfunctional and the other very well led. Journey into Darkness: Genocide in Rwanda reviewed on SWJ here

I would also point to Ambassador Robert Gribbin's work on Rwanda In the Aftermath of Genocide: The US Role in Rwanda

Another SWJ member's work is Contra Cross, which also offers insights on country teams. I reviewed it here


Last edited by Tom Odom; 03-07-2009 at 10:24 AM.
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Old 03-09-2009   #25
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The country team meeting is the primary tool that the Ambassador uses to coordinate US policy for that country. How the Ambassador chooses to use that tool -- ie, structure and lead the meeting -- is up to them.

I've been in DOS for about 6 years, and after taking part in country team meetings under 5 Ambassadors and 2 CDAs I find Bob Jones's SOCPAC quote -- "if you've seen one country team, you've seen one country team" -- to be the most concise encapsulation of the country team experience I've ever come across.

As Stan, Old Eagle, Tom Odom, and others point out, the country team's meetings will reflect the style of that particular Ambassador or CDA. Some meetings will be a series of loosely-structured, section-by-section updates and free-wheeling issue discussions, whereas other meetings will be very concise and to the point. (I clocked my shortest country team meeting, in Burundi several years ago, at about 11 minutes.) Some meetings will be used to share information and make key decisions, other meetings can turn into free-for-alls, where even the GSO tries to have input on political or security/CT-related decisions, and most meetings will fall somewhere in between.

All of these types of meetings (yes, even the maddening free-for-alls...) can be useful when employed properly, and knowing how to function effectively in either environment is a critical survival skill for anyone with a role on the country team.

One point that should not be a revelation to anyone, but that still bears making, especially for those with limited country team & DOS experience, is just how much country team business actually gets done & decided *outside* the country team meeting. An Ambassador will probably arrive at the country team meeting with a fairly clear idea of where he wants to go with an issue; if not exactly where, then at least a good idea of the direction in which he wants things to move. A smart country team participant will prepare accordingly and will try to make sure, that for any issue that will be formally decided in country team, he has already talked with and lined up support from others with a stake in the issue. This includes talking with the Ambassador *before* the meeting. (I've been surprised at the number of people I've seen who've gotten this part dead wrong.)

As in any bureaucratic culture, the informal networks at an Embassy are often at least as important and influential as the formal networks. So playing Texas Hold 'Em and having a few beers on a Wednesday night with the A/RSO, the deputy from pol shop, the MSG Det Cmdr, the Commerce Dept rep, and the DCM's OMS's husband suddenly takes on a new importance...

As a counterpoint to one of Old Eagle's comments, many of us "State types" -- especially those of us hired in the last several years, many of whom come to the Department with significant private sector experience -- really do wish that there was more focus on results and less on process at DOS. Many of us "enjoy" this process the same way we would "enjoy" beating our heads against a brick wall all afternoon. At the same time, we understand that the structure of decision-making at State mainly operates through buy-in, compromise, and consensus, and so that's the game we play.

I just read the AF guide to State/DOD cultural differences for which Abu Jack posted a link. I think it's a great read and a concise explanation of both cultures, and would be useful for anyone from State or DOD who has to work with folks from the other Dept. I also found it fairly prescient in some areas, by anticipating the challenges that State and DOD have had in working closely together in Iraq and Afghanistan, given that it was written in 1998.

I'm curious if any of the other DOS folks on SWJ have any input here....?
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Old 03-09-2009   #26
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Default Mars and Venus

I thought the Mars-Venus discussion was useful, too (if one keeps in mind always that generalizations do not reflect the full diversity of an organization, of course). Clearly, the differences are also linked to the nature of the mission. The "structure of decision-making at State mainly operates through buy-in, compromise, and consensus," as chrisleslie puts it, precisely because the nature of our mission is to make things happen through that same buy-in, compromise, and consensus. Shouldn't surprise that the institution therefore attracts the kind of people it does. However, by the end of the 1990's a lot of us were seeing that our mission was becoming more results-oriented, long before Dr. Rice announced we were going to be "transformational." We were doing a great deal of work in eastern Europe, for example, that aimed at actually shaping events rather than just reporting on and analyzing them. That requires more of the interagency/teamwork skills than the traditional individualist analyst skills of an earlier FS generation. Someone who can "make things happen" through teamwork and leadership is far more valued now than a decade ago.
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Old 03-09-2009   #27
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I am heartened to hear that the "shaping" mission is gaining traction in the FS. The "observe and report" crew, I think, was a phenomenon of the post-Vietnam era. As I mentioned above, I had the pleasure of serving with several great FSOs who were willing (some even thrived) getting outside the wire and mixing it up with the locals. Of those, many, if not most, had served in CORDS teams downrange. In this day of expanded connectivity and OSINT sources, members of overseas missions have to provide some meaningful value added. IMHO, shaping the security environment is a critical function of those missions.
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Old 03-10-2009   #28
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There's always been a component of "shaping" to State Department work, it's just that until the last 15-20 years, the "target" of the shaping was different -- basically, it was other governments and governmental institutions. So an FSO did a lot of observing and reporting, but also under instruction would attempt to effect change (another way of saying "shape") in the behavior of the government or government institution he was accredited to (e.g. the MFA). Now, with non-governmental factors/issues/actors much more important in the international environment, the "shaping" mission has expanded to include these, and we therefore need to be working with a much broader cross-section of society in order to move things in a particular direction, no matter which country we're in. We also therefore need to have additional tools and skills, which is something frankly we're still lacking to a significant extent (Hello, Congress??).

What hasn't changed is that this still largely requires the persuasive, collaborative approach that sometimes drives my military colleagues crazy (though not the smart ones). You can't order a district council or municipal director around any more than you can order a Foreign Ministry official around!
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Old 11-08-2009   #29
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Cool walking the talk on increased resources for DoS

Originally Posted by davidoff View Post
Does anyone know if DOS funding will increase soon, either directly or through the stimulus, to bridge the gap between the mission and our current capabilities?
uh, no. Secretary Gates made the case. Secretary Rice argued in front of Congress with Gates by her side. Secretary Clinton is taking up the case. At the end of the day, resource levels are roughly the same for FY 10.

My two cents on this is that entrenched DoD contractors and their enablers in Congress are barriers to significant shifts. Obama achieved a token victory by capping production of the F-22. But appropriations to DoS have not increased.

For example, Congress still funds State's new S/CRS through appropriations to DoD with the understanding that they will transfer the money to State so that DoS can fulfill one of their new core missions, reconstruction and stabilization.

Maybe we will see some change in FY 11 for spending in calendar 2012.
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