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07/08/2013

Staff at US Embassies

Satellite image of BenghaziSatellite image of Benghazi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was my privilege to serve my country as a US Ambassador, and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life.  It gave me the opportunity to serve my country and also to become familiar with many of the challenges involved in that service.  Certainly my own experiences can not compare to those public servants in the foreign service who represent us all over the world in very dangerous places,  often taking their families along - living among the people of the country, educating their children providing great models of American families.

So it was with much sadness I learned of the deaths of those representing us in Benghazi.  In the immediate aftermath, the loss was compounded more information surfaced about the issues. Their repeated requests for additional security and the lack of support they received from Washington was shocking.

Now, even after the tragic loss of life, there has been seemingly no attention given to managing forward to prevent similar situations.  Instead, discussion and attention has been given to who should be blamed, who knew what and when, a question asked "What does it matter?" and never answered.  

The satellite picture above of Benghazi is similar to the scale of concern over such a loss.

The strategy at the Department of State is do nothing and wait until the media spotlight moves on to the next crisis.  People who continue to demand answers are accused of partisanship instead of genuine concern.  Partisanship may be the correct answer to why there is a continuing investigation - but I ask "What difference does it make?" If partisanship keeps a focus on the tragedy and the prevention of another one - so be it.  Motivation in this case is less a problem than those who would prefer ignoring the problem until it goes away.

To date, no one has been held accountable.  The worst punishment the public has heard about is personnel being transferred to different responsibilities - in some cases higher level positions with higher salaries. This feels like a reward not consequence.

There has been no explanation of change in policy of funding available to make our Embassies more secure....how we decide which posts can be protected well by locally employed staff and which cannot; how does Washington respond to calls for additional security?  Meantime people representing us abroad are less secure and seemingly less valued not only for their service but for their very lives. 

The lack of integrity and the impotence of the immediate US response and the ensuing so-called investigation is appalling.  Why would bright young people interested in serving their country through diplomatic service pursue such a career?  It has been made clear the security of our Embassies and the safety of the people who serve in them has no priority.

Those who serve us abroad deserve our respect and our thanks.  They do not deserve the utter lack of attention to their security and safety that is currently the norm.  

In my book "More Than A Walk on the Beach" , I shared some anecdotes along with some ideas about improving the processes and communication between the Embassies and the State Department.  Now more than ever change must come.  We must not continue to devalue our people abroad.



 

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