The Foreign Service Journal, April 2024

10 APRIL 2024 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL LETTERS A New Idea to Speed Ambassadorial Confirmations As of mid-March, more than three years into the Biden administration and at a time when international challenges are especially daunting, more than 20 American ambassadorships and nearly a dozen ambassadorial-level positions at multilateral organizations remain vacant. e Senate and White House share responsibility for this problem, but one idea would speed part of the process. e failure to con rm American ambassadors is the diplomatic equivalent of the U.S. military operating without its top generals, compromising strategic leadership, coordination, and the ability to respond to international crises e ectively. Moreover, in a world that operates on optics, having vacant ambassadorial posts signals vulnerability and diminishes our standing on the global stage. ough some of these positions still have a previously con rmed incumbent in place or a capable Foreign Service o cer serving as acting, those interim o cials lack the standing of a Senatecon rmed ambassador when it comes to interacting with host country o - cials and harmonizing the sometimesdivergent agendas of the multiple federal agencies represented at the embassy. e slow ambassadorial con rmation process is a long-standing problem, which some view as intractable. But one new idea has the potential to speed it up. In 2011 the Senate overwhelmingly approved a change to con rmation procedures in a bipartisan 89-8 vote. at change designated 272 presidentially appointed positions as no longer requiring committee action unless a senator requests it. Eliminating the requirement to hold a committee hearing and vote moves those nominations directly to nal Senate action. No ambassadorial positions were included in the 2011 reform. Our proposal would expand on that reform to remove the requirement for a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing for ambassadorial nominees to the 100 or so smaller, but still important, embassies as determined by the Department of State in its Overseas Sta ng Model. e model ranks embassies from 1 to 5+, with higher numbers assigned to larger embassies. Currently, 103 of the 175 U.S. embassies are in the lower categories 1, 2, or 3. Typically, ambassadorial nominees to smaller embassies are con rmed by unanimous consent after a committee hearing attended by only a few senators. Allowing those nominees to be cleared for nal Senate action without a hearing would make the con rmation process far more e cient and e ective. It would reduce the time nominees wait for Senate action, reduce the time those embassies are without a con- rmed ambassador, and, importantly, increase the Senate’s ability to focus on vetting nominees to lead the larger embassies. As in the 2011 reform, any senator could still request a committee hearing and vote on any nominee to a smaller embassy. We understand that reforms to Senate procedures demand thoughtful consideration and should never be entered into lightly. However, the persistent vacancies in American ambassadorships represent a critical lapse in America’s ability to lead and in uence on the global stage. is commonsense reform of internal procedures is the Senate’s prerogative to adopt without obtaining agreement from the House of Representatives or the president. We urge the Senate to do so. Ambassador Ronald E. Neumann, President, American Academy of Diplomacy Ambassador Eric S. Rubin, Chair, Foreign A airs Council Tom Yazdgerdi, AFSA President A Superb Edition I just read the January-February 2024 Foreign Service Journal and congratulate you on a superb edition. I was delighted to see that my high school, Arroyo High in San Lorenzo, California, was featured in “ e High School Foreign Service Association: Engaging Aspiring Diplomats” by Ivan Pankov. In 1958 I was in the rst graduating class from that high school. anks to this article, I am now in contact with Arroyo’s HSFSA group and was invited to speak with the students. I was also most pleased to read Harry Kopp’s excellent article, “AFSA’s First Hundred Years.” Harry and I, along with an amazing group of junior FSOs, served together in the early 1970s at our embassy in Warsaw. It is good to see that Harry has lost none of his super writing skills. Well done, FSJ! Charles Richard Bowers Ambassador, retired Nashville, Tennessee