Sidebar on Ambassadors as Chief Executive Officers (CEO) of Multi-Agency Missions

Bureau of Resource Management
November 15, 2011

Our embassies in the field today look and operate very differently than in the past. Many have a large presence with representatives from a number of agencies of the U.S. Government who run, manage, and implement programs that advance the array of U.S. interests overseas.

As the President’s representative, the Chief of Mission, commonly an Ambassador, directs and supervises all activities in country and coordinates the resources and programs of the U.S. Government through the Country Team, with the exception of employees under the command of a United States area military commander and other exceptions consistent with existing statutes and authorities. For some time now, the Ambassador has been the Chief Executive Officer of a multi-agency mission. And the best Ambassadors play that role effectively. For example, our mission in Kabul, Afghanistan, which includes more than 550 State and 390 USAID personnel as well as 1,000 locally employed staff. A large portion of our work there consists of traditional diplomacy. But our Ambassador also leads 300 civilians from 11 other Federal agencies, including disaster relief and reconstruction experts helping to rebuild the country; specialists in health, energy, communications, finance, agriculture, and justice; and military personnel working with the Afghan Government and military to partner in the fight against violent extremists. Meanwhile, our post in Brussels has dozens of U.S. Government agencies represented, all of which are engaged daily with host government ministries, the institutions of the European Union, businesses, and civil society.

“...we are empowering our Chiefs of Mission...”

Today, given the wide array of U.S. agencies and actors and the corresponding need for coordination and leadership, it is essential that all Ambassadors are both empowered and held accountable as CEOs. While the Country Team is the primary vehicle for that direction and coordination, not every agency has an attaché in every country and Chiefs of Mission must also reach back to the interagency in Washington on issues of strategic planning and implementation that relate to agencies not represented in the field. In this regard, we are empowering our Chiefs of Mission by:

  • Working with the National Security Council and other agencies to ensure that U.S. Government personnel understand and internalize their accountability to the Chief of Mission. By sharing presidential guidance outlining the Chief of Mission’s role and responsibility to all agency representatives before they depart for post, we coordinate with other agencies represented at our embassies to ensure that the Chief of Mission can contribute to the home agency’s evaluation of all personnel at post.
  • Engaging our Chiefs of Mission in interagency decision-making in Washington. By participating in this process, Chiefs of Mission more effectively understand, support, and balance the goals and objectives of all agencies represented at post.
  • Prioritizing interagency experience for service as a Chief of Mission. By expanding our evaluation tool, we are better able to assess a Chief of Mission (or Deputy Chief of Mission) past experience working with the interagency or managed multiagency missions. Some of these tools include seeking feedback from other agencies and considering service at other agencies, such as USAID, promotions to the Senior Foreign Service, as well as recommendations for presidential appointment as Chief of Mission.
  • Enhancing training and evaluation for Chiefs of Mission. By ensuring that new Ambassadors receive sufficient training so they can fulfill their mission and responsibilities, coordinate across the interagency, and deliver results on the ground, our Director General, in coordination with our Director of the Foreign Service Institute and regional bureaus are taking the lead in developing and managing ongoing training processes. Enhancing evaluation of Chiefs of Mission includes more regular reviews as part of the Chief of Mission and Deputy Chief of Mission evaluation process to determine how well they are performing in managing a multi-agency mission.

Through these efforts, our Chiefs of Mission are better equipped to serve as CEOs of multiagency missions and our foreign relations are being led more effectively. Our diplomats are seeing the whole and understand how programs of different agencies fit together—and fit within our overall objectives in a country.