Foreign Service Journal - June 2013 - page 20

JUNE 2013
In fact, one of Congress’
greatest shortcomings is
not imposing new restric-
tions, but failing to clean
up the rabbit warren
represented by the Foreign
Assistance Act of 1961, a
400-page piece of legisla-
tion that has not been systematically amended since 1985. As
a result of patchwork changes over the years, the law contains
a bewildering array of 33 goals, 75 priority areas and 247 direc-
Instead of complaining about the procedures and laws, U.S.
diplomats should take advantage of them, using Congress as
the “bad cop” that must be appeased so that the “good cop”
ambassador can maintain friendly relations with the host
government. The annual reports on human rights, counternar-
cotics and religious freedom that embassy staff members have
to submit are potential leverage to get host governments to do
what they should anyway.
It is true that legislative restrictions on shifting money to
higher-priority activities, and requirements to give key com-
mittees advance notice (and sometimes await their formal
approval) before acting, have hampered diplomacy. But
Congress has been willing in recent years to allow more flex-
ibility. Last year, it approved a $350 million Global Security
Contingency Fund to “address rapidly changing, transnational,
asymmetric threats and
emergent opportunities,”
contingent on prior noti-
fication of congressional
Myth 3: Codels just want
to shop.
The most com-
mon way FSOs encounter
members of Congress is when they travel abroad in delega-
tions. These visits impose heavy demands on embassy person-
nel, who have to spend long hours arranging appointments and
providing support.
While some codels do seem to place a priority
on visiting tourist sites and shopping, the vast majority are
interested in gaining firsthand knowledge of the concerns
and challenges facing both the country and the embassy staff
Instead of begrudging these visits, FSOs should see them
as a great target of opportunity. Where else could they find
members of Congress untethered to their staff, constituents
and lobbyists? Escort officers get hours of face time with the
members, not just 15 minutes in their offices. They can show
the lawmakers proof of how well U.S. programs are going—or
evidence of host-government shortcomings, contrary to what
the country’s ambassador in Washington might be telling the
Hill. They can educate the visitors, and maybe even persuade
them to view some issues differently.
Anne Wenikoff
State Department FSO Ken Kero-Mentz, a former legislative director in the office of Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, addresses the audience of congressional
staffers at AFSA’s educational session in the Cannon Building. Panelists were: from the left, USAID FSO Jason Singer, Commercial Service FSO Steve Morrison, State
Department FSO Elisa Mellinger, Kero-Mentz, keynote speaker Ambassador Charles A. Ray (Ret.) and AFSA President Susan R. Johnson.
Dispelling the myths each side
perpetuates about the other
could benefit both the Foreign
Service and Congress.
1...,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19 21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30,...116
Powered by FlippingBook