The Foreign Service Journal, December 2007

will fly. That’s why you need a good deputy chief of mis- sion, who can make sure that as ambassador you don’t cut people off at the knees. You should be the last person they come to to settle a problem.” Involving non-State personnel in the working life of the embassy can also help head off any communication problems. Staples says he insisted on members of other agencies serving on the embassy’s housing board and recreational association. In addition, all newcomers to post had to be sponsored by a representative of a differ- ent agency from their own. It was, he says, “a way to build trust and break down barriers.” Often such efforts can tilt more to personal tastes. For example, Gillespie recalls a story about an ambassador who took new recruits mountain-climbing in order to get to know them and build a sense of camaraderie. The advent of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s “transformational diplomacy” has in some ways made the task harder by spreading out embassy resources over broader geographic areas. That’s made it all the more important, Staples says, to ensure that everyone with a stake in a policy issue, “is involved and listened to, and has input into it. You can’t have a decision made in the mission and then have people go back to individual agen- cies and recommend that back in Washington it be opposed. It should never get to that point if you’ve done the consultations in the field. There should be no sur- prises. If there are differences, everyone should be up front about them.” When Things Go Wrong But what do you do when things go really awry? When, for example, you discover an agency project going on behind your back that threatens overall mission goals? As you might expect, it’s a judgment call. “The ambas- sador has tremendous convening authority,” says Gil- lespie. “If he knows and understands and cares to use it, he can usually get into a Cabinet secretary’s office.” At the same time, he says, “A good desk officer at State should have contacts or know how to make them within other F O C U S D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 7 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 23