The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2021

16 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2021 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL 2017. “I’ve witnessed their passion, their energy, their courage up close. I’ve seen what they do to keep us safe, to make us more prosperous. I’ve seen them add luster to a word that deserves our respect, diplomacy. If confirmed, it will be the honor of my life to help guide them.” Ambassador Linda Thomas-Green- field is Biden’s pick for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (which will again be elevated to a Cabinet position). “On this day, I’m thinking about the American people, my fellow career diplomats and public servants around the world,” she said at the press conference. “I want to say to you, ‘America is back. Multilateral- ism is back. Diplomacy is back.’” “The challenges we face—a global pandemic, the global economy, the global climate crisis, mass migration and extreme poverty, social justice—are unre- lenting and interconnected, but they’re not unresolvable if America is leading the way,” she added. Biden, who has pledged to rejoin the Paris Agreement on climate change, nomi- nated former Secretary of State John Kerry as a special envoy on climate. Kerry will be a Cabinet-level official and will sit on the National Security Council, underscoring the Biden administration’s commitment to fighting climate change. “To end this crisis, the whole world must come together,” Kerry said. “You’re right to rejoin Paris on day one. And you’re right to recognize that Paris alone is not enough. At the global meeting in Glasgow, one year from now, all nations must raise ambition together, or we will all fail together. And failure is not an option.” Vice President–elect Kamala Harris said a top priority of the Biden admin- istration will be to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control. “Our challenge here is a necessary foundation for restoring and advancing our leadership around the world,” she said. “And we are ready for that work. We will need to reassemble and renew Amer- ica’s alliances, rebuild and strengthen the national security and foreign policy insti- tutions that keep us safe and advance our nation’s interests.” Biden also nominated Jake Sullivan, who served previously as director of policy planning at State and as national security adviser to Vice President Biden, as his national security adviser. Scaling Back Pay-to-Play Ambassadorships? S enator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) has intro- duced a bill—S4849, the Ambassador Oversight and Transparency Act—that seeks to curb the number of political appointees being slotted into ambas- sadorships, Foreign Policy magazine reported on Oct. 26. “While our country has had some excellent ambassadors from outside the ranks of the career Foreign Service, over the past few decades, an increasing number of nominees have few credentials but have made large campaign contribu- tions,” Kaine told the magazine. “This bill will require presidents to justify their noncareer nominees by citing their specific relevant skills and allow greater oversight and accountability of these appointees.” Former diplomats and experts who track ambassadorships told Foreign Policy that “the bill would represent one of the most significant reforms in four decades.” Out of President Donald Trump’s 189 ambassadorial appointments, 81 (or 43 percent) have been political, according to the AFSA Ambassador Tracker. Between 1953 and 2008, 32 percent of ambassador appointees were political, according to research by Ambassador (ret.) Dennis Jett. Kaine’s bill would require the State Department to publish financial disclo- sures on political donations going back 10 years, Foreign Policy reports. Presidential administrations would also be required to outline an ambas- sadorial candidate’s language skills and knowledge of the country to which he or she is appointed. AAD Advocates 13 Steps on Diversity I n a Dec. 1 press release signed by Ambassadors (ret.) Thomas Pickering and Ronald Neumann, the American Academy of Diplomacy urged the State Department to take “specific steps” to “foster a climate of inclusion, increase accountability and transform the U.S. diplomatic service to a more competitive service truly representing the nation.” The steps are, in summary: Contemporary Quote The teammeets this moment, this team behind me. They embody my core beliefs that America is strongest when it works with its allies. Collectively, this team has secured some of the most defining national security and diplomatic achievements in recent memory, made possible through decades of experience working with our partners. That’s how we truly keep America safe without engaging in needless military conflicts, and our adversaries in check, and terrorists at bay. —President-elect Joe Biden, announcing his national security team on Nov. 24.