AFSA on Ambassadorial Appointments

To [Ambassador] Greeting:

Reposing special trust and confidence in your Integrity, Prudence, and Ability, I have nominated and, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, do appoint you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to [country], authorizing you hereby to do and perform all such matters and things as to the said place or Office do appertain, or as may be duly given you in charge hereafter, and the said office to hold and exercise during the pleasure of the President of the United States for the time being.

In testimony whereof, I have caused the Seal of the United States to be hereunto affixed.

Done at the City of Washington this [x] day of [x] in the year of our Lord two thousand and [x] and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and [x].

-From the Presidential Commission for U.S. Ambassadors

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, along with congressional leaders from both parties, have called for strengthening the Department of State, our premier foreign policy institution. In doing so, they join their voices with those who have long argued that diplomacy is a major instrument of national security.

For nearly a century, starting with the Rogers Act of 1924, Congress has expressed its strong support for building a professional diplomatic corps. The Foreign Service Act of 1980 states that "positions as chief of mission should normally be accorded to career members of the Service." Further, ambassadorial nominees “should possess clearly demonstrated competence to perform the duties of a chief of mission, including … useful knowledge of the language … and understanding of the history, the culture, the economic and political institutions, and the interests of that country.” Furthermore, it declares, “Contributions to political campaigns should not be a factor” in appointments. It is high time to apply these legislated criteria to all nominees – career and non-career.

The American Foreign Service Association continues to urge that experienced and qualified members of the Foreign Service generally be appointed to represent the United States as ambassadors. AFSA believes that America is best served - as in the case of its uniformed military - by having experienced and knowledgeable career officers fill positions in our career diplomatic service. We acknowledge that many talented individuals have come from outside the career ranks to ably serve as ambassadors; however, this practice should be exceptional and circumscribed. Our new guidelines for successful performance as a chief of mission clearly demonstrate the qualifications each nominee - career and non-career - should possess to represent America abroad.

For historical interest, click here to read the transcripts from President Nixon's grand jury testimony in 1975, where very candid discussions took place regarding the sale of ambassadorships to political contributors.

In the News