The Foreign Service Journal - March 2017
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MARCH 2017



No “Grace Period” for

Political Appointees


n Jan. 5,

The New York Times

reported that President Donald

Trump’s transition staff issued a blanket edict requiring all politically appointed

U.S. ambassadors—without exception—to

depart their posts on the day of the inaugu-

ration, Jan. 20.

News of the order prompted an unusu-

ally public discussion of the American

practice of awarding key ambassadorships

in exchange for political favors.

Speaking to NPR on Jan. 6,

AFSA Presi-

dent Ambassador Barbara Stephenson

confirmed that it is normal practice for

political appointees to leave at the same

time as the president who appointed them.

Stephenson added that, when politi-

cal ambassadors do leave, there’s always

a deputy ready to step in. The person is

invariably a career diplomat with at least

a decade, and very often two decades or

more, of experience.

The Post and Courier

of Charleston,

South Carolina, echoed that sentiment in a Jan. 16 editorial, “Don’t Cry for the Ambas-

sadors.”The piece pointed out that “these

plum job holders are not professional dip-

lomats, andmust rely on Foreign Service

officers to run their embassies. Those pros

will stay on the job.”

The Post and Courier

also noted that

political appointees are traditionally sig-

nificant donors to presidential campaigns

and suggested that because Pres. Trump

did not have any large donors to his cam-

paign (excluding himself), this could be an

opportunity tominimize the selection of

non-career ambassadors.

In its story on the Trump edict, Germa-

ny’s international broadcaster, Deutsche

Welle, spotlighted Ambassador Ed Peck’s

column in the January-February


Service Journal (“Why U.S. Ambassadors Should Be Career Professionals”).

DWnoted that “some career Foreign

Service officers are suggesting Trump

make an even bigger break with tradition

and curtail the practice of appointing big

donors, activists and friends to ambassa-

dorial positions at all.”


—Gemma Dvorak,

Associate Editor