The Foreign Service Journal - July/August 2014 - page 18

strated competence” that the Foreign
Service Act requires the department
send to the Senate for each nominee.
The White House has now agreed to
make those certificates public, thanks
to AFSA’s effort. But while that is a small
step toward greater transparency, the
certificates of competence will not be
the smoking gun that proves a nomi-
nee’s incompetence.
These certificates are, in reality,
one-page summaries of the kind of basic
biographic information that any Google
search would produce. The lack of
foreign policy credentials of the Norway,
Hungary and Argentina nominees was
obvious, but drew little attention.
It took the videotape of their hearings
to create the controversy. Recognizing
that, the State Department has put out a
solicitation to hire a contractor to prepare
nominees for congressional testimony.
So the hearings may be less of an obstacle
for the incompetent in the future.
Predicting Success
and Failure
A bad hearing may not be a good
predictor of who will fail as an ambassa-
dor, however. Many will argue that is not
the case and insist that knowledge of the
language, history and culture of a coun-
try is essential. But that knowledge, with
the exception of fluency in the language,
can be acquired fairly quickly. Moreover,
the lack of such knowledge does not
irrefutably portend failure.
If aspiring ambassadors realized that their performance will
be measured and that their failures could become very public,
theymight think twice about buying the job if their only
qualification is the size of their checkbook.
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