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Old 02-08-2009   #1
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Default Insights on DOS / country team culture?

I received this request via email:

Quote:
I am in the military and do a lot of work with country teams (DOS), is there a book you recommend that really goes into DOS culture, how they think and the way they strategize?
Nothing immediately leapt to mind as being really deep on the matter, though a number of things give tangential insights. Can anyone think of a good recommendation, or just care to wax lyrically here?
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Old 02-08-2009   #2
John T. Fishel
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Default Ambassador Edward Perkins

published a memoir called Mr. Ambassador, OU Press in 2007 or 8 more or less. I haven't read it but I suspect it does give a view of the Contry Team.

Cheers

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Old 02-09-2009   #3
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We had a saying out at SOCPAC: "If you've seen one Country Team, you've seen one Country Team."
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"The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)
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Old 02-09-2009   #4
John T. Fishel
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Default I like that Bob

How true it is. Still, there are common elements.

What I'm really waiting for is Tom Odom and Stan to chime in on this.

Cheere

JohnT
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Old 02-09-2009   #5
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Default Possible Book

Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Dobbins has written a book about this time in country which might be useful.
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Old 02-09-2009   #6
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Default not about a country team, but

Robert Earle's Nights in Pink Motel highlights how DOS worked with DOD personnel in Iraq in the '04-'05 period. Earle was Ambassador Negroponte's "thinker" (read strategist) on Iraq. While more memoir than proceedural it has some good insights on DOS culture and approach to strategy.
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Old 02-09-2009   #7
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Default Can you spell unik? uniqe? One of a kind?

Bob's point is too true. Been a member of four of them and each one was truly different. There are many reasons for this, but at the center is the fact that the ambassador is the president's (not DOS') rep in country and can do things pretty much however he/she wants. Instead of more specifics, I think I'll simply recommend The Special Forces Advisors' Reference Book by Research Planning, Inc. Think it was a contract for USASOC and may require AKO access. Some of the info is dated and there are a coupla inaccuracies, but overall, a good effort. Maybe Max 161 can secure a copy.
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Old 02-09-2009   #8
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Default It’s a leadership issue… plain and simple.

Where to begin?

Let’s start with my background as I rant herein…
Since 1984 I have worked in 14 Embassies. Not one was even remotely similar to the others (even though nine were in Africa and the remainder in Europe). With that, I’ll start by saying that Bob’s version is dead on the money. DOS should actually make Bob’s quote part of every State Department Magazine from this day forward

While Old Eagle is perfectly (and theoretically) correct - much like the Defense Attaché is in fact the SECDEF’s rep., the Ambassador is indeed the POTUS’ rep. But, that is where it starts and stops. Fact is (from my point of view), the Ambassador is unlikely during his/her tour to ever directly communicate with the POTUS (unless the POTUS or his better half visits your country), and much like the DATT, will unlikely ever meet the SECDEF (unless he happens to visit your country), yet alone communicate directly with him/her.

So what’s a Country Team and why ?

An executive measure granting the Ambassador the means to coordinate all USG activities to the max effectiveness of US foreign Policy in the country he/she is assigned. Holy Sierra !

The Ambassador is basically responsible for the entire U.S. effort and leadership at post. That is, all USA representatives in or at the country level at the US Embassy. There are actually two versions of country teams - Expanded and "overly classified" conferences. The former includes all the working folks that possess what the Country Team members actually don’t know, and the latter purportedly takes place where the big cheeses try to make sense of US and local policy.

Simpler terms…
Tom Odom (then Colonel Odom) opined “Puzzle Palace” while attempting to explain his abysmal position with (then) OPSCO Stan in Zaire. Not far off the mark even today .

The Ambassador is your Team Leader, and you could actually have one of at least three versions of Country Team Leaders.

1. First (and worst) is a Charge’ d’Affairs (stuck in limbo like an acting person in charge, but unlikely to ever be considered for the position);
2. Second (worst) a political appointee (typically business savvy and smart, but by no means a diplomat) and;
3. Third, a (career) Senior Foreign Service Officer (rising through the ranks with mucho time in service and many Sierra posts with which to back his/her experience as both a diplomat and leader).

I’ve seen shrinks and IGs come and go trying to determine what went wrong with the basic concept at post. We struggled with two primary issues: The Ambassador’s authority and the Ambassador’s abilities.

There’s nothing wrong with Country Teams and there’s no secret in dealing with them. It’s a leadership issue… plain and simple.
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Old 02-09-2009   #9
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Default OK, Stan, tell us how you really feel

Coupla more points.

As Stan points out, there are usually two levels of meetings in any embassy: a broad information-sharing meeting and a policy meeting. Broader meetings are useful to learn what other off-the-wall offices are doing and to share the U.S. government position on issues with a broad audience so that everyone is speaking with one voice. The smaller policy meetings are used to sync activities of those offices directly engaged with the HN on policy-type issues (DCM, POL/ECON/CIA/DATT-SDO).

As opposed to a military hierarchy, State types appear to enjoy getting "buy in" and consensus. It's a culture thing. Can you spell kumbahya?

In contrast to Stan, my experience with the politicos was more positive (2 out of 3). In fact, I was very comfortable working with the two business people because they understood resource management and WANTED to make decisions rather than water things down to a consensus. But I digress.
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Old 02-09-2009   #10
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Default Chiefs of Mission

While I generally agree with Stan in his characterization of Charges d'Affaires, I have seen one who, in fact, assumed "command." that was Dave Passage in El Salvador between Tom Pickering and Ed Corr.

I'd also note that the "political" ambassadors come in many stripes - not all are businessmen. John Kennedy appointed Edwin Reischouer (sp?), the foremost US scholar of japan, as his ambassador to Japan to nearly universal praise. Kennedy also appointed John Kenneth Galbraith, the Harvard economist, as his ambassador to India where he did very well during the PRC invasion of India. Ronald Reagan appointed fellow actor ans Screen Actors Guild President, John Gavin, ambassador to Mexico to a chorus of "boos" from people who did not know that Gavin was a native Spanish speaker, a reserve Naval intel officer with an IMA assignment to USSOUTHCOM, and the private phone number of his friend Ronnie (something Galbraith had for Kennedy).

While the quality of FSO's as ambassadors tends to be both more even and generally high quality, there are some who are clearly better than others. As Stan says, it is a question of leadership and whether the ambassador exercises command or not and if he does, does it well. I have seen both.

Cheers

JohnT
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Old 02-09-2009   #11
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Default Can't add much to what's above but I would note...

The desire for consensus is generally strong but sometimes DOS 'guidance' leaves little room for maneuver. As John T illustrates, there are sometimes personal connections that transcend the normal chain.

Stan is correct on the leadership issue -- but a weak Ambassador can be 'led' by an astute Political Counselor (one case) or CIA Station Chief (another case). An overly belligerent DAO can wreak havoc (a third case) with even a good and strong Ambassador. Surprisingly, in all three cases, IMO the net result was positive for the US.
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Old 02-09-2009   #12
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Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Old Eagle View Post
In contrast to Stan, my experience with the politicos was more positive (2 out of 3). In fact, I was very comfortable working with the two business people because they understood resource management and WANTED to make decisions rather than water things down to a consensus. But I digress.
Colonel BB, Touché !

To quote one of the most formidable "highly classified" CT meetings I ever had the pleasure of leaving after informing the Leader of the need for awareness training to school-age children...

Quote:
It seems like a lean end of year, accounting month, but it should correct itself though after the 30th (of September). One might nevertheless get a slight pay cut. I asked about mine safety... Although I explained, the response was - we have to watch expenses, OPSCO. Which is a bit like asking when the next bus goes and being told the subway station is at the end of the road. LMDAO (well, at least nowadays) !
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Old 02-09-2009   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
While I generally agree with Stan in his characterization of Charges d'Affaires, I have seen one who, in fact, assumed "command." that was Dave Passage in El Salvador between Tom Pickering and Ed Corr.

I'd also note that the "political" ambassadors come in many stripes - not all are businessmen. John Kennedy appointed Edwin Reischouer (sp?), the foremost US scholar of japan, as his ambassador to Japan to nearly universal praise. Kennedy also appointed John Kenneth Galbraith, the Harvard economist, as his ambassador to India where he did very well during the PRC invasion of India. Ronald Reagan appointed fellow actor ans Screen Actors Guild President, John Gavin, ambassador to Mexico to a chorus of "boos" from people who did not know that Gavin was a native Spanish speaker, a reserve Naval intel officer with an IMA assignment to USSOUTHCOM, and the private phone number of his friend Ronnie (something Galbraith had for Kennedy).

While the quality of FSO's as ambassadors tends to be both more even and generally high quality, there are some who are clearly better than others. As Stan says, it is a question of leadership and whether the ambassador exercises command or not and if he does, does it well. I have seen both.

Cheers

JohnT
Hey John,
I may have ever-so-slightly over exaggerated how inept a Charge could be
Concur, there have been several with leadership skills and to be fair, most end up manning the ship after the new administration dumps the Ambassador. Yet another issue regarding Country Teams.

Ken has a valid point: So long as the remainder of the Country Team is prepared to cover your back. In my days our Ambassador backed the DAO and snubbed the rest for not investigating their perceptions and findings. It wasn't long however (following the Ambassador's departure) before the Charge discounted our reporting based on his domestic's (cook's) "reports".

I don't think we have a cookbook for dealing with Country Teams. Old Eagle had four great tours and I had 12 Sierra Embassies and two OK Embassies (Estonia was not one of the OK tours BTW).
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Last edited by Stan; 02-09-2009 at 06:04 PM. Reason: lost a para here and there ! Copy and paste !
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Old 02-09-2009   #14
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Quote:
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Hunter S. Thompson never let that slow him down....maybe you shouldn't either.
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Old 02-10-2009   #15
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Hey Bob,
A brief response from Tom Odom (His server is blocking access to the discussion board at this time).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
We had a saying out at SOCPAC: "If you've seen one Country Team, you've seen one Country Team."
Quote:
As for Bob's world--tell him 2 Majors from group found out that one
country team was not the same as was the one I was in....

Best

Tom
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Old 02-13-2009   #16
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Default Thoughts on the country team

A few thoughts in response to the original question below, having served in several embassies:

The country team SHOULD BE the mechanism that keeps all the disparate elements of an embassy in synch -- not unlike a daily or weekly BUA to a CG, but generally more interactive.

That said, a country team is like the NSC in that it ultimately reflects what the boss (the ambassador) wants/needs out of the team. It can be a tightly run synchronization process or a very loose Kaffeeklatsch, and being able to adapt is an important skill for those in the mix. As somebody said below, the effectiveness of the country team is at bottom a leadership issue.

Most country teams are far more "interagency" than just State and DOD -- generally any agency head is included, at least in the weekly routine, though it's true there is sometimes a "core" country team that may be smaller. Think USAID, CDC, Commerce, Customs, DEA, etc. etc. So for you bureaucratic cultural anthropologists out there, a good country team can be a gold mine!

Seriously, though, the country team may just be the most effective interagency coordination mechanism the USG has. Most of the time, participants understand they need to synchronize their efforts and act constructively. Yes, as in any office setting, there is usually one or two stereotypical characters to be found (the whiner, the withholder, the suck-up, the clueless, the climber, etc.). Those generally don't correspond to agency affiliations, either. But unless there is really a leadership vacuum at the top, you can usually expect to get done what you need to get done.

A lot of good basic information about how an embassy works can be found in the American Foreign Service Association's Inside a U.S. Embassy. It doesn't go into the differences in corporate cultures between State and DOD, but it's otherwise informative. I'll try to post some observations I've learned about State-DOD cultural differences later.

OTW
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Old 02-25-2009   #17
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Default DOS/Country Teams

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?
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Old 03-03-2009   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stan View Post
Hey John,
I may have ever-so-slightly over exaggerated how inept a Charge could be
.
Not in the case you and I lived through....


Yep I am back....

Freed at last to post

Tom
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Old 03-03-2009   #19
John T. Fishel
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Default Wecome back, Tom!

As I said at the beginning of my post, I generally agree with Stan on Chargees. I thought it was, however, useful to point out that that some are quite good at taking charge. I admit that it's rare. Ran into one DCM (was Chargee while Amb was out of town) who was really afraid of his own shadow. the only good thing he did was to schedule an appointment for me with the AMB.

Back in the dark ages of the 1960s, when I was doing my doctoral research in Peru, my dissertation advisor who was in country on a research project (for the first year of my work) characterized the Amb, whom he knew, as someone who would never make an error of commission. This guy was a careeer FSO - probably had been a Chargee more than once...

Cheers

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Old 03-03-2009   #20
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I have not read this book but it seems to offer insights into the institution, politics and professionalism, section on Iraq DoS engagement, org chart.

Career Diplomacy: Life and Work in the U.S. Foreign Service
by Harry W. Kopp (Author), Charles A. Gillespie (Author) October 2008

Table of contents - http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/1589...pt#reader-link
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