As a global power, the United States maintains bilateral relations with 180 countries and is represented at 14 missions to international organizations. These diplomatic missions are headed by a chief of mission (COM), who is nominated by the president, confirmed with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate, and accredited to a specific country or organization.
We live in a complex, interconnected and rapidly changing world. The right actions of nations can promote understanding, appreciation, peace, and prosperity; the wrong actions can cause misunderstanding, predatory practices, or war. This is the domain of diplomacy. The role of chiefs of mission, who must manage these complexities, is critical and challenging. Ambassadors are the primary representatives of one country to another – or from a country to an international organization – in effect, the face, voice, and ear of the sending nation. The actions and words of an ambassador have consequences for U.S. national security and interests far beyond the individual country or organization to which he or she is accredited.
It is essential, therefore, that ambassadors chosen to represent the president and lead our diplomatic missions possess the attributes, experience and skills to do so successfully.
This paper is the product of a group of former COMs, including both career and non-career appointees, who understand the challenges COMs face. They know firsthand what it is like to run an embassy, and the steep learning curve even the best-prepared of ambassadors face when they arrive in-country.
AFSA’s goal is to contribute positively to the ongoing process of selection of COMs by successive administrations. We hope this will assist all involved in the process – from those involved in the selection process, to members of the Senate, to the American people who have a vested interest in having quality representatives abroad, to the prospective appointees themselves – and in so doing, help ensure the success of U.S. foreign policy and the effective and productive functioning of our embassies and missions abroad.