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APRIL 2017







January-February issue

of the


was of special interest largely—but by no

means entirely—due to its focus on the

change of administrations. What I found

most compelling were the pieces by

two old (should I say aging or elderly?)

friends and former colleagues,

Ambassadors Ed Peck and

Tom Boyatt.

Ed set forth a persua- sive, but I believe some- what superficial, plea to

end political ambassadorial

appointments; Tom outlined the executive branch’s “consti- tutional officers” that include

ambassadors, ministers and

consuls. The latter are precisely

why I challenge Ed’s goal.

The power to name ambassadors

resides with the president, subject, of

course, to Senate ratification. I am sure

Ed recognizes that all presidents are loath

to undermine or diminish their limited

powers and, hence, are understandably

unwilling to end the practice of nominat-

ing political allies, whether “bundlers” or

distinguished former officials, academics

or others with excellent qualifications.

That power is not going to be ceded—

not now, not ever—barring constitutional

amendment. And that’s not going to hap-

pen. Let us grow up and acknowledge that

fact. If I speak heresy, so be it.

Where we may be able to make some

progress is in ensuring that the Sen-

ate carries out its obligation to ensure

appointees are well qualified for the posi-

tion. I have had the honor to serve under

five political appointee ambassadors,

including Eliot Richardson and Kingman

Brewster; I also had the opportunity to

see Edwin Reischauer in action in Japan.

They were all extraordinarily able,

more than equal to most of their career

peers. Do we wish to lose this type of

“political” ambassador? I certainly don’t.

I also had the opportunity, as director

of Northern European affairs, to oversee

the operations of embassies headed by

eight political appointees, only four of

whom seemed competent to me, and

a couple of those only at the

margin. But then one of the two

career ambassadors in that

group of countries was relieved

for improper behavior.

My bottom line is to urge

AFSA and its members to

accept that no president

is going to give away the

ambassadorial appoint-

ment power; that the

Senate is legally obligated to ensure

ambassadorial nominees are well quali-

fied, and should be pressured to meet

that goal; and that highly distinguished

Americans from outside the Service can

perform as well as or better than their

career counterparts.

That most political appointee ambas-

sadors do not should tell us that the core

problem is not the concept, but its execu-

tion: ensure the Senate confirms only

those who are well qualified.

Jack R. Binns

Ambassador, retired

Tucson, Arizona


Fully into State?

Bilateral economic development

assistance continues to be an important

U.S. diplomatic tool in our complex and

fractured world. Thomas Adams high-

lights this well in his January-February

article, “Foreign Assistance: Time to Sharpen a Vital Diplomatic Tool.”

If adopted, his eight well-thought-

out recommendations for improvement

would make our assistance more effec-

tive and efficient.

But Adams does not address the pecu-

liar administrative status of our main

assistance agency, the U.S. Agency for

International Development. I was with

USAID at its creation, being a project offi-

cer with the predecessor agency Devel-

opment Loan Fund. Presently USAID is

neither fish nor fowl, being half in and

half out of the State Department.

The duplications and costly overlaps

of USAID and State are substantial. Mr.

Adams notes that State houses a large

assistance operation—the President’s

Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

In addition, both entities have

humanitarian relief offices, development

assistance policy and planning offices,

assistance budget and congressional

liaison operations, as well as manage-

ment offices.

The Trump administration may opt

to leave things as they are. But if the

administration truly wants to reduce

duplications and make the management

of assistance more rational and effective,

and less costly, there are two options.

One is to make USAID a separate

agency again, mustering in it all State

Department development activities and

as many of the other assistance spigots

around government as possible (e.g.,

the Millennium Challenge Account, the

Overseas Private Investment Corpora-

tion, the Trade and Development Agency

and others).

The other is to fold the rest of USAID

completely into State as a separate Devel-

opment Bureau and specialty (cone)

equal to other bureaus and specialties,

at the same time absorbing as many of

the other spigots as possible and gaining

greater influence over the rest.

The first option seems unlikely; the

trend is to reduce the number of pro-