Printer Friendly

Striped pants versus fat cats: ambassadorial performance of career diplomats and political appointees.

On July 2, 1881, Charles Guiteau shot President James Garfield as retribution for Garfield's refusal to provide Guiteau with a plum position in the new administration (Peskin 1977). Patronage excesses and scandals after the Civil War had produced calls for reform of the government bureaucracies, and Garfield's assassination by this disgruntled and delusional campaign worker was the tipping point for the passage of the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883 (Pendleton Act). The Pendleton Act and other civil service reforms that followed were based in part on the concept of a clearly discernible demarcation between politics and administration. As one prominent political scientist (and future president) put it in 1887, "[M]ost important to be observed is the truth already so much and so fortunately insisted upon by our civil-service reformers; namely, that administration lies outside the proper sphere of politics. Administrative questions are not political questions. Although politics sets the tasks for administration, it should not be suffered to manipulate its offices" (Wilson 1887, 210, emphasis in original).

This view of administration emphasized improvement in both personnel and organization as the critical elements of better policy implementation. Reformers argued that expert personnel, protected from the political whims of any given administration, could attain a higher objective standard of performance than appointees who were given jobs, not because of their qualifications or expertise, but as "a recognition of past services or perhaps a credit toward future considerations" for a candidate or party (Mackenzie 1981, xix). Abundant anecdotal evidence--both then and now--suggests that such patronage appointments distributed among campaign workers and donors results in poor agency performance, corruption, and low morale among more public-spirited government workers (e.g., Heclo 1977; Lewis 2008); and all modern candidates and presidents of both parties promise to adopt good governance best practices and pledge not to appoint special interest lobbyists or unqualified hacks to important positions. Demonstrating the performance advantages of career civil servants, a slew of internal federal government and external organization awards for achievement and innovation highlight outstanding performance by careerists across all federal agencies. (1) One frequently cited example of this contrast between politically connected but incompetent appointees and dutiful, expert careerists is presidential appointment of ambassadors at U.S. embassies abroad (see, e.g., Smith 2014).

Yet recent scandals, such as lavish spending on conferences by the General Services Administration (Rein and Smith 2012) and a top Environmental Protection Agency policy maker defrauding the agency of almost $1 million (Simpson 2013), seem to contradict the conventional wisdom that careerists are (less) immune from corruption. Conversely, there are political appointees with exceptional abilities who reenergize agencies and lead innovative programs such as James Lee Witt at the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the 1990s (Lewis 2008). These examples of corrupt careerists and outstanding appointees raise the questions of whether careerists systematically perform better than political appointees and what factors, either in leaders' personal backgrounds or in institutional features, might contribute to variation in performance. Understanding appointee performance matters for presidents and the public: presidents want to know if their appointment strategies and appointees are contributing to achieving their policy and electoral goals, while the public needs information on performance to hold elected leaders accountable.

This article examines ambassadorships, a category of appointed positions normally ignored in the bureaucratic politics and performance literatures, to explain how presidential personnel choices and the specific characteristics of agency leaders influence performance at the individual and agency levels. Ambassadorships offer both substantive and practical advantages for studying the connection between presidential personnel choices and agency performance: (1) though highly visible in presidential politics and foreign policy, we know little systematically about ambassadors and embassy performance; (2) both appointees and careerists fill these positions in comparable bureaucratic contexts; and (3) the availability of comparable measures of performance across contexts avoids some limitations of earlier measures.

Ambassadors have historically been at the heart of debate over appointments and performance, as they have played prominent roles in pivotal crises such as the struggle for independence from Great Britain, in patronage scandals, and in interbranch conflicts over presidential power. Attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities and personnel--most recently in Libya, Egypt, and Yemen (see, e.g., Ghobari and Blair 2012)--also highlight the visibility of ambassadors and embassies to foreign audiences. These positions and the embassies in which they are located also share important functional characteristics with other federal positions and offices, making findings generalizable to other executive branch contexts. And ambassadorships provide methodological leverage for evaluating performance because of a large available sample, variation both across type of appointee (careerist and noncareerist) and within type (background characteristics) for similar positions with uniform appointment criteria and legal authority, and a statutorily designed evaluation scheme with clear criteria for performance. As mandated by the Foreign Service Act of 1980 (FSA), the State Department's Office of Inspector General (OIG) performs embassy inspections and, after each inspection, publishes its assessment of each ambassador and embassy. To measure performance, I draw on these OIG assessments made during embassy inspections from 2002 to 2013.

I outline below what we know about presidential appointments and performance, the problems that scholars confront in explaining and measuring performance, and the literature on ambassadors. I then articulate why evaluating ambassadorial performance can contribute to this literature by providing measures of individual- and management team-level performance of appointees and careerists in the same position. Following a description of the data and methods for examining ambassadorial performance, the empirical analyses highlight the influence of individual-level characteristics of both ambassadors and their deputies. I conclude by laying out the implications of these findings for future study and bureaucratic practice.

Choice and Consequence: Presidential Personnel Choices and Performance

A growing literature explores how presidential personnel choices are inseparable from agency performance. Scholars have focused on one key aspect of performance as agency responsiveness to presidential political control, and extensive empirical evidence underscores the theoretical expectations that appointee placement and ideology influence agency responsiveness. Another important aspect is objective or general management performance. While initial studies of this type of performance suggest that appointees perform worse than careerists, scholars still struggle to overcome the limitations of available measures, making explanation and evaluation of performance at the individual position level and in comparable bureaucratic contexts difficult. These studies use qualitative data on a broad range of position types to explain variation in performance; but, empirically, they have focused only on the specific position types for which quantitative data are more readily available. For an entire class of highly visible presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed appointees--ambassadors--we are beginning to understand how presidents systematically select them but have only scattered anecdotes regarding their performance. Research on ambassadors could provide insight into this specific appointee group and bureaucratic performance generally.

Performance as Responsiveness to Political Principals

Presidents seek to politicize the executive branch bureaucracy by controlling the number and penetration of appointees (Nathan 1975). They see appointments as instruments for dealing with "the inevitably changing short-term pressures of presidential politics" (Moe 1985, 152) and as opportunities for rewarding political supporters--even if agency performance suffers as a result (Lewis 2008). Thus, presidents, driven by electoral and other political goals as well as by policy interests or desire for general good management, seek to identify and appoint people who demonstrate responsive (Moe 1985) rather than neutral (Heclo 1975; Kaufman 1956) competence. Such competence depends in large measure on political skills used in establishing relationships with important stakeholders, managing strategic agency actions to meet political needs, and articulating policy goals that match a president's agenda (Maranto 2011). Presidents ideally want appointees who understand presidential priorities and have substantive expertise relevant to the agency in which they will work (Hollibaugh, Horton, and Lewis 2014).

Beginning with regulatory commissions (Moe 1982; Stewart and Cromartie 1982; Wood and Waterman 1991, 1994), scholars have traced changes in bureaucratic performance stemming from shifts in the partisanship and ideology of presidents and their appointees. Agencies also respond to presidential political or policy needs by changing the extent and timing of enforcement actions (Hudak and Stack 2013; Stewart and Cromartie 1982). Distributive agencies provide other examples of responsiveness, whether in Richard Nixon's efforts to reshape welfare policy through personnel changes (Randall 1979) or the award of grants or contracts to key groups or regions (Berry, Burden, and Howell 2010; Gordon 2011; Hudak 2012).

The Challenge of Defining and Measuring Management Performance

While presidents might define performance as a function of agency or appointee responsiveness to presidential goals, "for members of Congress, clients of the agency, or other interested parties, the definition of good performance is likely to differ." Civil servants have their own policy or ideological preferences and might be frustrated by constantly changing priorities and demands of political appointees (Clinton et al. 2012); and public sector unions would prefer that high-level jobs were reserved for careerists. Both agency employees and agency clients or constituencies could suffer from degradation in general management performance due to presidential prioritization of patronage and politicization.

Because the agencies within which appointees and civil servants work were designed not just for objective performance but also to meet either short- or long-term political goals of the designers (Lewis 2003), presidential selection of appointees and their subsequent performance often reveal these tensions between political goals and institutional management--or, in Wilson's characterization, the inherent conflict between politics and administration. Focusing on objective management performance rather than responsiveness to political principals, scholars have argued that careerists are better equipped to manage agencies and programs than appointees because of agency-specific experience, longer tenures, and management skills developed in the public, rather than private, context (Chang, Lewis, and McCarty 2001; Heclo 1977; Lewis 2008). In contrast, appointees could bring a "constant infusion of new blood" into agencies that provides "fresh ideas and greater sensitivity to other groups and sectors of society" as well as "exceptional energy and zeal to their brief periods of public service that are hard for long-service bureaucrats to match" (Bok 2003, 264). Such energy and external perspective might lead to better management performance in addition to the presidential goal of greater responsiveness.

To arbitrate between such competing claims, scholars have taken several approaches to studying objective performance of careerists and appointees, including measuring budget forecasting accuracy, comparing internal program evaluation scores, and fielding surveys of agency employees. Drawing on previous literature in economics and fiscal political economy, Krause, Lewis, and Douglas (2006) evaluate state-level budget forecasting and the effects of different personnel systems on the accuracy of those forecasts. They find that forecasting done by state agencies with distinct personnel systems for supervisory versus subordinate levels, such as systems in which gubernatorial appointees manage careerists, was more accurate.

Another approach has focused on performance measures derived from a management evaluation tool designed and implemented by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) during George W. Bush's first term. This grading scheme, the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART), relied on input from agency managers and OMB examiners about a given agency's program design, strategic planning, program management, and results. Gilmour and Lewis (2006) use PART scores to compare programs led by presidential appointees requiring Senate confirmation with those run by Senior Executive Service careerists; they find that appointee-led programs averaged lower scores on multiple management measures. While appointees have higher education levels and more private management experience, programs administered by careerists, with more public management experience and longer tenures, received higher PART evaluations (Lewis 2007). And programs led by appointees whose main experience was on political campaigns performed worse than those led by either careerists or other appointees, suggesting that these appointees' limited substantive or task experience negatively affects performance (Gallo and Lewis 2012). Combining PART scores with agency employee responses in the Federal Human Capital Survey, Lewis (2008) demonstrates that agencies with higher proportions of appointee managers score lower on both measures than those with fewer appointees.

These and other studies seem to validate the extensive qualitative literature and journalistic accounts of the detrimental effect of appointee management on performance. Yet each measure--budget forecasts, PART scores, and survey responses--suffers from limitations that make valid inference difficult across positions, agencies, and administrations. Budget forecasting is a unique technical task that might not be generalizable to other agencies or programs (Gallo and Lewis 2012). One concern about PART scores is the disparate levels of response effort among agencies along ideological or partisan lines (Lavertu, Lewis, and Moynihan forthcoming); another critique indicates that scores could reflect executive expertise in the PART process itself rather than program performance (Gilmour 2006). And survey responses "rely on the impressions of federal employees who may or may not be close enough to agency senior leaders to accurately evaluate performance" (Gallo and Lewis 2012, 221).

These shortcomings reflect the numerous challenges to comparing the effect of appointees on performance across agencies. Because agencies "have different mandates, operating environments, and constraints," any comparative study "requires an acceptable definition of good performance, an identification of the universe of federal bureau chiefs, an acceptable grading scheme, willingness on the part of federal executives to participate, and an approach that is sensitive to differences among federal programs" (Lewis 2007, 1075). Comparing performance across individual agency or office leaders is similarly difficult, as many positions are either not comparable across agencies or there is no variation between careerists and appointees in a given position. Performance measures like PART or survey responses are agency- or program-level measures, reflecting the capacities and efforts of many people; individual performance data are either not collected at all or, in the case of yearly individual evaluations, are not available even in aggregate form due to privacy law.

What We Know about American Ambassadors

There is an entire class of appointed positions--ambassadorships--with features that might address some of the shortcomings of the extant studies of performance. Although presidents typically make more than 200 ambassadorial nominations in a single term, we know little systematically about ambassadorial appointments and performance. Since 1960, the allocation of ambassadorships has fluctuated around 65% careerists and 35% political appointees; and, though some positions have been filled almost exclusively by one type, many ambassadorships alternate between types. (2) Along with descriptive and historical work, often focused on specific ambassadors or crises (e.g., Mak and Kennedy 1992), there is also a limited theoretical and empirical literature on the selection of ambassadors. What we do not know reflects the limitations of the bureaucratic performance literature generally: Are these positions generalizable to other contexts in the executive branch? What affects performance individually or collectively? And is there an agreed-upon definition of performance and a way to measure it?

The commentary from journalists, foreign policy practitioners, and scholars that accompanies every announcement of a prominent ambassadorial appointee highlights the salience of ambassadors in the broader debate about patronage, qualifications, and presidential prerogatives in the appointments process. Decrying the "entrenched political control of the foreign service," George Kennan and other high-level diplomats have argued that appointing noncareer ambassadors is just one of many factors that frustrate diplomats, hinder recruitment efforts, and damage the conduct of foreign policy (1997, 203).

From a presidential perspective, however, ambassadorships should be under political control just like other senior policy-making positions. A former White House staffer who was responsible for selecting political appointee ambassadors recalls how State Department careerists were highly skeptical of political appointees and did not recognize "how important proximity to the president could be."' This proximity can provide presidents with information that does not get filtered through the State Department hierarchy in "a bad game of telephone." And presidents defend what critics derisively call patronage appointments broadly and in ambassadorships specifically on the grounds that general competence and political connections are just as important as public management experience (Gallo and Lewis 2012).

Recent work has begun to add theoretical and empirical examination of ambassadorial selection. An initial study buttresses the conventional wisdom by showing that political appointees typically receive postings in high-income, high-tourism western European capitals such as London (Fedderke and Jett 2012). Hollibaugh (2015) develops and then empirically tests a formal theory to explain presidential selection of ambassadors by incorporating expectations of policy and patronage benefit along with a penalty in policy for less competent appointees; the analyses and results go beyond Fedderke and Jett's (2012) findings to highlight how both domestic and foreign political factors influence presidential choices.

But neither the expansive literature on Senate confirmation nor the expanding performance literature address what happens after the nomination and confirmation of ambassadors--even though they are highly visible in policy and political debates. As Hollibaugh (2015) articulates but much of the general commentary glosses over, there is significant variation between careerists and appointees both within individual ambassadorships and across the class as a whole. Yet we do not have systematic data on this variation; for example, how many political appointees--or, perhaps more interestingly, careerists--have language skills or experience in the countries to which they are sent? What, if any, are the differences in the tasks they perform or the embassies they lead? And, recognizing that not all political appointees perform poorly and not all careerists perform well, are there systematic differences, on average, either between or within types of ambassadors?

Ambassadorial Advantages for a New Approach to Appointments and Performance

Answering some of these questions about ambassadors could also address some of the broader issues yet unresolved in the bureaucratic performance literature. Perhaps for 3 4 no other appointed position has the tension between presidents' constitutional prerogative of appointments and then-professor Woodrow Wilson's ideal of a complete separation of politics from administration remained so palpable and unresolved as it has for ambassadorships. Though generally not a focus of study for bureaucratic politics scholars, ambassadorships offer historical, institutional, and methodological advantages for understanding the effect of presidential personnel choices on bureaucratic performance at both the individual and program or agency levels. First, ambassadors are an important class of appointments in their own right, as they are prominent, and often controversial, in policy and political debates. Ambassadorships are also located in comparable bureaucratic contexts managed by appointees and careerists, providing important variation for understanding factors that influence performance. And there are available performance measures that are comparable across contexts and thus mitigate limitations of earlier measures. Following some historical background on ambassadorships, I describe the institutional context within which ambassadors work, the expectations for why career diplomats could perform better than political appointees in ambassadorships, and how the State Department's process for assessing ambassadorial and embassy performance could yield important new measures of appointee and agency performance.

Ambassadorial Appointments from the Founding to the Present

Throughout our nation's history, ambassadorships have exemplified the debate about presidential choice and government performance. Ambassadors, or ministers and envoys as they were primarily called until the 1890s, played a key role in American independence by negotiating France's entry into the Revolutionary War and securing lines of credit to finance the war efforts. The Articles of Confederation and the Constitution both explicitly authorized the sending and receiving of ambassadors as a core function of government's foreign affairs responsibilities; and the Department of State (originally Foreign Affairs) was the first cabinet department established. Yet ambassadorships also quickly became seen in the public eye as the embodiment of the spoils system rather than as essential positions for conducting foreign policy. (5) And it was contention over an ambassadorship that led to President Garfield's assassination in 1881 and the subsequent passage of the Pendleton Act: Garfield's assassin, Charles Guiteau, had wanted to be appointed either as minister to Vienna or consul general to Paris (Peskin 1977).

Like in other agencies, the civil service reforms affecting the State Department began following the Pendleton Act of 1883 and centered on concerns about recruitment, retention, patronage, and performance. Presidents Grover Cleveland and Theodore Roosevelt issued executive orders that required entrance examinations and merit-based promotion for consuls and diplomats; further legislation in 1906 established a grade classification for consular officials and an inspection system of consular operations overseas (Lodge Consular Reorganization Act of 1906). Then in 1924 the passage of the Rogers Act created the Foreign Service.

The next major legislative reform, the FSA of 1980, explicitly focused on the influence of campaign donations on ambassadorial selection, asserting that ambassadorial appointments "should normally be accorded to career members of the [Foreign] Service" and that "contributions to political campaigns should not be a factor" in such appointments (sec. 304). But extensive legislative reforms, the occasional journalistic piece on the price of ambassadorships, and constant complaints from retired careerists and the AFSA have not deterred presidents (or potential ambassadors). Since passage of the FSA, approximately 74% of ambassadors to countries in the G8 economic group and approximately 54% of those assigned to G20 member nations have been noncareer appointees (AFSA 2013).

Institutional Features of Ambassadorships and Embassies

Though frequently in the news during the presidential nomination and Senate confirmation process, ambassadorships and embassies overseas are often forgotten by the public and even political leaders until a problem or scandal occurs. In spite of the seemingly unique circumstances that keep ambassadors out of the limelight once confirmed, ambassadorships and embassies are, in important ways, similar in function and institutional form to many other executive branch roles and offices that consistently garner headlines. Both in personnel and organization, embassies look like other bureaus and agencies. They have multiple layers of authority, sometimes without clear demarcation of jurisdiction or boundaries; and there are personnel hired through multiple channels, with differing career tracks, benefits, and corresponding incentives. A typical medium-sized embassy, such as in Accra, Ghana, employs around 500 people and has an annual operating budget of approximately $150 million. (6)

All ambassadorships require presidential nomination and Senate confirmation, with the stature and legitimacy that this authority commands both within and without the bureaucracy. Once confirmed by the Senate and at post, ambassadors typically serve terms of limited duration (generally three years); and they lead organizational units with a broad range of personnel and cross-cutting missions. Ambassadors, under "chief of mission authority conferred by various statutes and national security decision directives (NSDDs), have some discretion over the allocation of personnel and resources at embassies. (7) They do not have, however, much control over broader budget or personnel decisions; both American officers and local staff are selected and separated from service through extensive formal procedures subject to civil service and other labor laws. Although these limitations provide ambassadors with little formal control, they still exercise informal influence through tasking decisions, annual evaluations, and, especially for career ambassadors, developing proteges among the mid- and entry-level officers.

Like many other bureaus or agencies with few appointees, the structure of embassy management means that the ambassador, regardless of professional background, works closely with a careerist deputy; in this case, that position is the deputy chief of mission (DCM). There is a traditional division of labor between ambassadors, who focus on external relationships and public engagement, and DCMs, whose emphasis is on internal embassy management. When an ambassador is not at post for any reason, the DCM becomes the charge d'affaires and can act, in most important respects, with the legal authority of the ambassador.

Regardless of who occupies the White House, all ambassadors have many tasks that do not change. As the official representatives of the United States in their assigned countries, they engage in public and private advocacy for U.S. policies and priorities, public outreach with media and other audiences, and providing information to higher-level policy makers in Washington. As chiefs of mission, they are ultimately responsible for leadership of all personnel at their posts and for stewardship of embassy resources. They have to coordinate with other embassies in the region, various bureaus within the State Department, and other executive branch agencies. Office and bureau chiefs throughout the executive branch have similar responsibilities, even if the substantive policy areas differ. Because of these functional and institutional characteristics, explanations of variation in ambassadorial performance could be generalizable to other positions and organizations in the executive branch.

Expectations for Performance by Appointees and Careerists

Given this institutional and historical context, are political appointees filling ambassadorships at a severe disadvantage in comparison to career diplomats? Three primary factors--two applicable to agency management generally and one to ambassadorships specifically--suggest why careerists should perform better than appointees: (1) removing partisan political considerations improves focus on objective or management performance, (2) public management is inherently different from private sector management, and (3) foreign policy is more complex and distinct from other private or governmental activities.

Woodrow Wilson's advocacy for a separation of politics from administration depended on recruiting and training skilled technicians. He argued that merit selection and technical training, by "making [the civil] service unpartisan," would make careerists more effective than appointees (Wilson 1887, 210). By concentrating on administration, civil servants can plan for and implement agency efforts that go beyond a given administration or election cycle. They can be generally responsive without worrying about micromanagement from political principals.

The inherent nature of government compared to private bureaucracy also gives careerists a performance advantage over newly arrived appointees. Because agency managers cannot retain or allocate earnings or surplus, control the factors of production, or select their agencies' goals (Wilson 1989), even appointees with extensive private sector experience could have difficulty adapting to managing personnel and resources within these constraints of a public bureaucracy (Heclo 1977; Lewis 2007). (8) Agency leaders also have to navigate complex intra- and interagency relationships that differ from corporate negotiations (Kaufman 1956; National Commission on the Public Service 2003). At many embassies, for example, the State Department contingent is only 30% of the entire embassy community, with the remaining 70% coming from other agencies (Kennan 1997); this requires that ambassadors understand both the prerogatives and the limits of their chief of mission authority over embassy constituents.

While serving in the U.S. legation to Russia in the late 1890s, Herbert Peirce--a Harvard graduate, son-in-law of a senator, and career diplomat--echoed Wilson's thesis as he argued that diplomacy required specialized, professional skills that are not easily acquired:

   As we would not put a ship into the hands of a commander ignorant
   of navigation, an army under the control of a general without
   military training, a suit at law into the hands of a counsel who
   never opened a law book, a suffering wife and child under the care
   of a person wholly unskilled in medicine; so we should not put the
   foreign affairs of our government into the hands of men without
   knowledge of the various subjects which go to make up diplomatic
   science and consular efficiency. (1897, 919)

This analogy between diplomacy and medicine, law, and military leadership describes the perception that expertise and neutral competence are irreplaceable in the complex environment of foreign policy and national security. Careerist ambassadors could benefit from the leadership and managerial training required for promotion to senior levels of the Foreign Service (Foreign Affairs Council 2003). Recent work on appointments has defined and measured this capacity as subject area expertise--"previous work or educational experience (i.e., graduate degree) in the same subject area as the [agency's] core policy mission"--or task experience in the same "work area as the appointed job (e.g., management, speechwriting, public relations)" (Lewis and Waterman 2013, 46).

Campaign donors and political supporters, without such substantive or task experience, could be ill equipped to develop rapport with foreign leaders, handle adversarial media interlocutors, and analyze local political developments. Political appointees might perform worse than careerists because they do not understand State Department norms, culture, or procedures:

[H.sub.1]: Career diplomats perform better than political appointees as ambassadors.

[H.sub.2]: Careerist-led embassies perform better than embassies led by political appointees.

Auxiliary hypotheses can illustrate the differences in performance based on characteristics of the individual appointees rather than the type of appointee. When Congress formally expressed a preference for career diplomats over political appointees in the 1980 FSA, the Act also listed key qualifications that potential ambassadors--careerist or not--should possess in order to successfully lead an embassy: "a useful knowledge of the principal language or dialect of the country in which the individual is to serve, and knowledge and understanding of the history, the culture, the economic and political institutions, and the interests of that country and its people" (sec. 304). The following hypothesis could evaluate whether these skills influence performance of either careerist or political ambassadors:

[H.sub.3]: Ambassadors with previous regional or language experience (per the FSA) perform better than ambassadors without such qualifications.

Measuring Ambassadorial and Embassy Performance

In addition to the historical background and institutional features of U.S. embassies, there is a long State Department tradition of internal performance assessment that could provide a way to adjudicate between these competing expectations. Since 1906, Congress has statutorily mandated assessments of operations at U.S. embassies and consulates, with the FSA of 1946 even requiring biennial inspections of the management of every State Department operating unit (FSA 1946, sec. 681). The inspectors general established under the 1978 Inspector General Act (sec. 6(a)(2)) in most cabinet departments are expected to leave routine management assessments to existing management bureaus while exercising discretion in the reviews and investigations they choose to conduct as problems arise. State's OIG likewise investigates allegations of fraud and abuse and performs formal audits according to broadly accepted standards. But, uniquely among cabinet departments, State's OIG conducts general management assessments or inspections of operating units based on a statutory mandate (U.S. General Accounting Office 1983); the 1980 FSA sets a specific timetable (every five years) (9) and substantive categories for evaluation (sec. 209). This mandate means that inspections rather than more formalized audits are a much higher proportion of State OIG's oversight activities than in other agencies (U.S. Government Accountability Office 2007). The FSA's requirements thus remove the selection effects inherent to other inspector general investigations of which units get reviewed and when those investigations occur as well as making results comparable across operating units and over time.

This institutionalized tradition of performance evaluation and its standardized format provide a potential new source of performance data to augment research that has relied on PART scores and survey responses for performance measures. The extensive historical record makes it possible to identify the universe of ambassadors and clearly distinguish appointees from careerists (Lewis 2007). And by focusing on positions within the same executive department and with uniform titles, statutory authority, confirmation requirements, and performance mandates for political appointees and career diplomats alike, there is no variation in the broader departmental culture or statutory authority across positions. But there is variation in some key institutional features--such as embassy size and location--that are of interest for comparing the personal and subdepartmental institutional characteristics that might influence performance.

Data, Measures, and Methods

To evaluate ambassadorial and embassy performance, I analyze data compiled from 197 inspection reports released by the State Department's OIG between 2002 and 2013, and posted to their online report archive. (10) The FSA of 1980 (sec. 209) specifies that these inspections should determine "whether policy goals and objectives are being achieved and whether the interests of the United States are being represented and advanced effectively." OIG inspection teams meet with department officials in the Washington geographic bureaus with responsibility for each inspected embassy and then travel to the embassy to conduct interviews, collect survey data from embassy employees, and observe embassy operations. The reports of these inspections are thus a rich source of data for empirically determining if careerists perform better than appointees at the individual level and if careerist-led embassies outperform embassies headed by appointees.

Each OIG inspection examines the following statutorily designated areas of performance at embassies: Policy Implementation, Resource Management, and Management Controls. For Policy Implementation, the OIG inspection teams evaluate "whether policy goals and objectives are being effectively achieved; whether U.S. interests are being accurately and effectively represented; and whether all elements of an office or mission are being adequately coordinated." (11) Inspectors look at the ambassador's traditional diplomatic functions such as how well the ambassador conveys U.S. priorities and positions to the host country government, the flow of information from the embassy to key Washington audiences, and the ambassador's public activities and media relations. They also assess the ambassador's internal leadership and management: the critical relationship between ambassador and DCM, coordination between various agencies in the embassy, mentoring of entry-level officers, and management of local staff. For Resource Management and Management Controls, the teams conduct more technical and formulaic assessments, which are similar to official audits, as these areas involve more complex statutory and regulatory guidelines for expending funds, operating government-owned buildings and vehicles, and managing both American and foreign national staffing.

Following the inspection, OIG prepares a report comprising six main sections: (1) Key Judgments, summarizing the major achievements and areas of concern identified by the inspectors; (2) Context, providing an overview of U.S. relations with the host country; (3) Executive Direction, which focuses on embassy leadership; (4) Policy and Program Implementation, evaluating the political, economic, public affairs, and consular sections; (5) Resource Management, which assesses human resources, financial management, and facilities maintenance operations; and (6) Recommendations. In this article, I draw primarily on the Key Judgments, Executive Direction, and Policy and Program Implementation sections because these are the areas in which ambassadors have the most discretion and around which the debate about careerist versus appointee leadership revolves.

The inspections' frequency and uniform assessment criteria, prescribed by statute (FSA 1980, sec. 209), provide for within-case comparison of appointees and careerists, and cross-case analysis of ambassadors and embassies. Because the inspections are not undertaken as a response to problems, but are instead scheduled at relatively consistent intervals, there is not a selection effect of including only poor or excellent embassies or political or career ambassadors in the data. There are also embassies (Buenos Aires, Kabul, Nairobi, Phnom Penh) in the data set with a political ambassador at the time of one inspection and a career diplomat in the top position during another inspection; these cases could help address concerns about endogeneity or whether some factors omitted from the analysis might predict both what type of ambassador, political or career, is selected and how the ambassador performs.

Unlike surveys or other opt-in research methods, these inspections do not depend on the "willingness ... of federal executives to participate" (Lewis 2007). And because the FSA designated the areas for evaluation, the assessments are, at least in principle, fairly consistent across reports and over time. This framework for evaluating performance provides an acceptable definition of good performance and an acceptable grading scheme (Lewis 2007), both critical components of valid comparisons of executive performance.

Measuring Ambassadorial and Embassy Performance

The data set includes multiple measures of ambassadorial and embassy performance drawn from the OIG inspection reports. To measure general performance, I extract from the Key Judgments and Executive Direction sections every sentence that mentions the ambassador, DCM, or both. (12) There are 5,881 sentences, with an average of 29.9 sentences per report. After coding the leader referenced in the sentence (ambassador, DCM, or both) and whether these sentences are merely informational (1,741) or include an evaluative judgment of performance (4,140) from the OIG inspectors, I code each evaluative sentence for a negative or positive evaluation (0,1; 85.6%) (see Table 1). I then create a performance score (0-1,0.77) for each ambassador by calculating the proportion of positive evaluative sentences.

I also derive two other performance measures to examine more detailed hypotheses about ambassadorial leadership: executive team facilitation of interagency coordination and political and economic reporting quality. I focus on interagency coordination because it is one of the few chief of mission responsibilities specifically articulated in the FSA: "under the direction of the President, the chief of mission to a foreign country shall have full responsibility for the direction, coordination, and supervision of all Government executive branch employees in that country" (1980, sec. 207(a)(1)). And consequently, it is one of the main emphases of the OIG inspections, as inspectors evaluate "whether all elements of an office or mission are being adequately coordinated." (14) A possible mechanism for a performance advantage for career diplomats over political appointees is an understanding of interagency relationships developed through public management experience. The measure of interagency coordination (1-3, low, medium, high) could indicate if this mechanism is at play.

The measure of political and economic reporting quality (1-3, low, medium, high) reflects the debate about how much managers, either political appointees or careerists, can influence civil servants in the hierarchy below leadership. Whether the latest trend in U.S. diplomatic efforts is a focus on digital outreach or empowering civil society organizations, the core diplomatic function of embassies remains the gathering of information and reporting back to policy makers in Washington. Political and economic reporting quality is thus a feasible proxy for embassy performance and could indicate whether ambassadorial type or characteristics are factors in how other officials respond to leadership. While OIG reports also discuss other areas of embassy performance, reporting quality depends primarily on American Foreign Service officers in the political and economic sections rather than the effectiveness of local staffers in human resources, financial management, or facilities maintenance.

Though the inspections also evaluate resource management and management controls, measures of performance in these areas are likely to be less central to ambassadorial performance. There are more prescriptive regulations for procurement, personnel hiring or firing, accounting standards, and property management than for handling interagency conflicts or reporting critical political developments to Washington in written format. With less apparent discretion and limited time to influence the more logistical aspects of embassy performance--along with the traditional delegation of such responsibilities to the DCM--ambassadors are unlikely to expend significant time or effort on these areas of performance, making them less central to a broader analysis of ambassadorial performance.

Key Factors for Performance

For measures of individual- and embassy-level factors that might influence performance, I draw on the criteria most often cited in journalistic and political commentary about ambassadorial qualifications. The primary distinction made is that between career diplomats and political appointees (0,1; 30.8%); these are coded based on the State Department's historical listing of ambassadors and the congressional records of nominations. For countries where no fully accredited ambassador is assigned because of a diplomatic dispute, such as Burma, or where there is a consulate inspected independently of an embassy, such as Hong Kong or Hamilton, Bermuda, I include the chiefs of these missions as ambassadors. A DCM temporarily serving as charge d'affaires, that is, as the acting or interim ambassador while awaiting a Senate-confirmed ambassador, is coded only as a DCM (5.3%).

An initial look at the performance scores derived from evaluative sentences conforms to the expectation of poorer performance by political appointees, as the mean performance score for political appointees is lower than for career diplomats (see Table 2).

When enacted in 1980, the FSA specified key qualifications for potential ambassadorial appointees: "a useful knowledge of the principal language or dialect of the country in which the individual is to serve, and knowledge and understanding of the history, the culture, the economic and political institutions, and the interests of that country and its people" (sec. 304). To measure language skills (0,1; 67.5% for ambassadors, 0,1; 80.9% for DCMs), and regional experience (0,1; 71.1%; and 0,1; 86.3%), I use official State Department biographies, available either on the department's website or, in more recent cases, on the embassy's website. If the biography expressly states that an ambassador or DCM speaks the language of the country or describes prior experience in positions that would have required language skills, I code language skills as a 1. In some cases, the OIG reports directly comment on language proficiency or prior regional experience. (15) Table 3 indicates the distribution of these background characteristics among political appointees and career diplomats.

Table 3 also includes institutional factors that could affect performance. State Department statistics and the OIG reports provide measures for location, operating environment, and size. I identify location based on the State Department's assignment of embassies to six regional bureaus. This measure of location could highlight whether different bureaus within the State Department are better or worse at assigning and supporting ambassadors, with performance possibly varying simply based on regional bureau effectiveness.

Related to location is the environment within which ambassadors lead embassies. Some countries have well-developed political, social, and physical infrastructure that make life and work much easier; others are less developed and sometimes incredibly dangerous for civilian workforces. The State Department and other agencies, based on the Overseas Differentials and Allowances Act passed in 1960, compensate employees beyond their base salaries when conditions are difficult. The two main allowances for difficult conditions are post hardship differential and danger pay (16); these are distinct from cost-of-living allowances that are paid to government employees abroad and domestically based on differences in basic expenses. Post hardship differential (0-35) is the percentage added to basic compensation for "service at places in foreign areas where conditions ... differ substantially from conditions ... in the United States." Such differences include availability of medical care, physical hardship, or crime levels. Danger pay (0-35) is similarly a percentage of base salary in addition to regular compensation for service in locations "where civil insurrection, terrorism, or war conditions threaten physical harm or imminent danger to all U.S. Government civilian employees." Table 3 shows that political ambassadors, though predominantly nominated to European posts, also serve in other geographic regions and in most levels of hardship and danger pay posts.

Because the complexity of managing an organization could depend on the scale of the organization, I measure embassy size as a proxy for such complexity. An ambassador in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, for example, is chief of mission for an embassy staffed by 2 other State Department officers and 16 local employees. By contrast, the ambassador in Beijing or Bangkok confronts the task of leading over 500 American employees from multiple agencies and local staffs of over 1,000. Embassy size (14-2,319) (17) is measured as the total number of direct-hire American personnel and locally employed staff, which includes host country nationals, U.S. citizens hired locally, and third-country nationals.


Because the ambassadorial scores are censored, I use tobit (or censored normal) regression models as a more consistent estimator than ordinary least squares (OLS) regression of the effects of appointee type, ambassadorial characteristics, and institutional features on the overall ambassadorial scores for each report. I also use robust standard errors because the sentences used to compile the scores are not independent, violating the assumptions of both OLS and tobit regression. (18) I then estimate ordered logistic regression models to analyze the influence of ambassadorial and embassy characteristics on interagency coordination and reporting quality.


To test the main hypothesis that career diplomats perform better as ambassadors than political appointees, I first estimate Tobit regression models of the influence of different ambassadorial and embassy characteristics on the proportion of positive evaluations by report. The first model only includes the type, with model 2 including indicators for the ambassadors' language skills and regional experience. Models 3 and 4 include embassy-level characteristics, with model 4 also estimating the effects of a DCM's characteristics on evaluations (see Table 4).

These results suggest that politically appointed ambassadors perform worse generally than career diplomats, with a 10% reduction in performance score on average for political appointees compared to careerists. Though the estimates indicate a statistically significant effect from the living and working conditions as measured by hardship differential, the substantive effect is minimal; and the size of an embassy has no effect on ambassadorial performance. And, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, neither do ambassadorial language skills nor regional experience--contrary to what the FSA articulated as critical skills for any chief of mission.

An ambassador's language ability does, however, appear related to facilitating interagency coordination (see Table 5)--even as ambassadorial type and regional experience do not. The expectation was that career diplomats should be able to better manage interagency relations because of their public management and agency-specific expertise. But the estimates from these ordered logistic regression models show little difference between careerists and appointees--possibly because one significant influence on interagency coordination could be completely out of the ambassador's control: the capacity and cooperation of agency heads assigned by their agencies in Washington. At the embassy in Beijing, for example, competition for direction of economic policy simply reflects interagency squabbles in Washington. There is no clear hierarchy based on seniority because "most agencies ate represented in Beijing by senior officers of equal rank." The OIG inspectors also noted that "[s]everal mission staff members characterize economic policy coordination as 'Washington in Beijing'" (U.S. Department of State, OIG 2010).

The effect of language capacity on interagency coordination could stem from those political appointees who combine language skill with an understanding of Washington political realities to successfully direct coordinated efforts and resources to the most critical issues. Both career diplomats and politically appointed ambassadors with language skills could also benefit from higher trust and engagement with local audiences, giving them insights and increased credibility when trying to coordinate agencies with differing interests and capacities.

These estimates, like those in Table 4, also demonstrate that a post's level of hardship matters, though the substantive effects on interagency coordination are small. Hardship could be connected with the challenge of recruiting capable personnel, especially for agencies such as the Treasury Department in which the primary mission is not normally related to preparing for and performing in difficult overseas locations. If agencies cannot send their most adaptable and capable personnel, poor interagency coordination could result in large measure from the initial assignment of personnel rather than from poor embassy leadership. Another reason why hardship differential could affect interagency coordination is the challenge posed by underdeveloped infrastructure. Many embassies have grown in size in a patchwork fashion, with new offices and buildings added over time. In countries with poorly designed and maintained transportation and information technology infrastructure, simply meeting face-to-face or coordinating between agencies in different offices or locations can be extremely difficult.

Another hypothesis addresses the level of influence a chief of mission could have on the performance of other sections further down in the embassy's hierarchy. Estimates of an embassy's quality of political and economic reporting indicate that ambassadorial type is significantly related to reporting quality (see Table 6)--but language skills and regional experience are not. Without prior embassy experience, political appointees might not know what the expectations are from Washington audiences for political and economic reporting; and they might not provide in-depth oversight of the political and economic sections, either themselves or through the DCM, that could improve reporting performance.

These findings provide an important starting point for further analysis, as they indicate that there is empirical support for the perception that politically appointed ambassadors perform worse than career diplomats. Another implication of these findings is that the criteria laid out in the FSA do not necessarily address characteristics critical for performance. In some cases, the State Department assigns career diplomats to ambassadorships for which they have neither regional nor language expertise; and both ambassadors and DCMs without such qualifications perform well on measures of leadership and internal management.


Though nominally chief executives over more than 2.5 million federal civilian employees and almost 1.5 million active-duty military personnel, modern presidents directly control a much smaller organization of 3,000 to 4,000 presidential appointees. But because this core group has immense influence on what executive branch agencies do, presidents spend significant political capital and institutional effort to recruit, select, and direct appointees. While presidents hope to reap electoral and other political benefits from patronage appointments, they also want political control of agencies and responsive performance from appointees.

Along with an extensive historical and qualitative literature on appointments and appointee performance, scholars are developing deeper theoretical and empirical treatments of presidential appointment decisions and consequent effects on aggregate bureaucratic performance. Yet even with the expansion of the literature explaining what appointees do and how well they do it at the program or agency level, there is no systematic assessment of the individual appointment choices of presidents and performance at the individual appointee level.

This article seeks to contribute to this part of the presidential literature by examining appointments and performance at the individual level using new data on the effects of presidential personnel choices on ambassadorial performance. The conventional wisdom--that politically appointed ambassadors are detrimental to the conduct of U.S. foreign policy and this transmission of information--has few, if any, critics. Yet there has not been any systematic examination to either endorse or refute the anecdotal claims of harm to our diplomatic efforts. The results above suggest that the stark dichotomy of career diplomats and political appointees explains some, but not all, of the differences in ambassadorial performance. Appointee performance varied widely: many political appointees received the highest praise from inspectors, but a few were by far the worst performers. And while careerists systematically performed better than appointees, there were some underperforming careerists as well. Embassy size had little effect on performance, but higher hardship differentials levels, reflecting challenging living and working conditions, were detrimental to performance.

Related to these questions about the effects of ambassadorial and embassy characteristics on performance is the need to identify the mechanisms through which leaders might affect performance. Though challenging, finding ways to clearly demarcate the distinct individual components of embassy performance could provide a better understanding of appointee/civil service interactions and consequent effects on program or agency performance. For example, is there a coattails effect for careerist ambassadors or other careerist agency leaders? Such an effect would come from the possibility that career Foreign Service officers or civil servants might perform better for career ambassadors who can have significant influence over their career trajectories. For diplomats who rotate assignments every two to three years, impressing a high-ranking career ambassador could lead to plum assignments and faster promotion.

Further work focusing on ambassadors could refine our understanding of responsiveness in both political and policy realms. For example, two prominent campaign donors in the 2008 election cycle who received ambassadorial appointments from President Obama resigned after State Department inspectors found significant problems at their embassies; (19) both subsequently raised significant funds for President Obama's reelection campaign and for other congressional candidates. Their demonstrated foreign policy and managerial competence was low, but, from a presidential perspective, was that performance less important than the political benefit derived from their financial support in two elections?

And because many other agencies conduct similar inspections or audits, this data collection method and the findings are generalizable beyond the embassy context and even beyond the American bureaucratic context. Canada similarly evaluates its career diplomats and politically appointed ambassadors, and these performance reviews are publicly available. (20) With more such systematic evidence of how appointed and career agency leaders can influence bureaucratic performance, presidents and other political leaders could make better decisions--and be held more accountable when their decisions damage agency performance.


American Foreign Service Association. 2013. "History of Appointments--G8 & G20." History of Appointments: G-8 & G-20. (accessed June 7, 2013).

Benito, Gabriel R. G., Sverre Tomassen, Jaime Bonache-Perez, and Jose Pla-Barber. 2005. "A Transaction Cost Analysis of Staffing Decisions in International Pperations." Scandinavian Journal of Management 21 (1): 10-26.

Berry, Christopher, Barry Burden, and William G. Howell. 2010. "The President and the Distribution of Federal Spending." American Political Science Review 104 (4): 783-99.

Bok, Derek. 2003. "Government Personnel Policy in Comparative Perspective." In For the People: Can We Fix Public Serviced, eds. John D. Donahue and Joseph S. Nye. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 255-72.

Chang, Kelly, David E. Lewis, and Nolan M. McCarty. 2001. "The Tenure of Political Appointees." Presented at the Midwest Political Science Association Annual Meeting, Chicago. (accessed July 22, 2015).

Clinton, Joshua D., Anthony Bertelli, Christian R. Grose, David E. Lewis, and David C. Nixon. 2012. "Separated Powers in the United States: The Ideology of Agencies, Presidents, and Congress." American Journal of Political Science 56 (3): 341-54.

Collins, Jim. 2001. 300 Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap ... and Others Don't. New York: HarperBusiness.

Fedderke, J. W., and D. Jett. 2012. "What Price the Court of St. James? Political Influences on Ambassadorial Postings of the United States of America." Working Paper. http://www. (accessed July 16, 2015).

Foreign Affairs Council. 2003. Task Force Report: Secretary Powell's State Department, http://www.unc. edu/depts/diplomat/archives_roll/2003_04-06/fac/fac.html (accessed July 156, 2015).

Foreign Service Act of 1980. Pub. L. No. 96-465, October 17.

Gallo, Nick, and David E. Lewis. 2012. "The Consequences of Presidential Patronage for Federal Agency Performance." Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 22 (2): 219-43.

Ghobari, Mohammed, and Edmund Blair. 2012. "U.S. Embassies Attacked in Yemen, Egypt after Libya Envoy Killed." Reuters, September 13. us-protests-idUSBRE88C0J320120913 (accessed February 3, 2014).

Gilmour, John B. 2006. Implementing OMB's Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART): Meeting the Challenges of Integrating Budget and Performance. Armonk, NY: IBM Center for the Business of Government.

Gilmour, John B., and David E. Lewis. 2006. "Does Performance Budgeting Work? An Examination of the Office of Management and Budget's PART Scores." Public Administration Review 66 (5): 742-52.

Gordon, Sanford C. 2011. "Politicizing Agency Spending Authority: Lessons from a Bush-era Scandal." American Political Science Review 105 (4): 717-34.

Heclo, Hugh. 1975. "OMB and the Presidency--The Problem of 'Neutral Competence'." Public Interest 38 (Winter): 80-98.

--. 1977. A Government of Strangers: Executive Politics in Washington. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.

Hollibaugh, Gary E., Jr. 2015. "The Political Determinants of Ambassadorial Appointments." Political Science Quarterly 45 (3): 445-66.

Hollibaugh, Gary E., Jr., Gabe Horton, and David E. Lewis. 2014. "Presidents and Patronage." American Journal of Political Science 58 (October): 1024-42.

Hudak, John J. 2012. "The Politics of Federal Grants: Presidential Influence over the Distribution of Federal Funds." Ph.D. diss., Vanderbilt University, 084834/unrestricted/HUDAK_DISSERTATION_FINAL.pdf (accessed July 22, 2015).

Hudak, John J., and Kevin Stack. 2013. "Enforcement Discretion and Presidential Electoral Politics." Presented at the Midwest Political Science Association Annual Meeting, Chicago. http://www.jblei. com/documents/notes/notes/HudakEnforcementDiscretion.pdf (accessed July 22, 2015).

Inspector General Act of 1978. Pub. L. No. 95-542, October 12.

Kaufman, Herbert A. 1956. "Emerging Conflicts in the Doctrines of Public Administration." Public Administration Review 50 (December): 1057-73.

Kennan, George F. 1997. "Diplomacy without Diplomats?" Foreign Affairs 76 (5): 198-212.

Krause, George A., David E. Lewis, and James W. Douglas. 2006. "Political Appointments, Civil Service Systems, and Bureaucratic Competence: Organizational Balancing and Executive Branch Revenue Forecasts in the American States." American Journal of Political Science 50 (3): 770-87.

Laver, Michael, Kenneth Benoit, and John Garry. 2003. "Extracting Policy Positions from Political Texts Using Words as Data." American Political Science Review 97 (2): 311-31.

Lavertu, Stephane, David E. Lewis, and Donald P. Moynihan. Forthcoming. "Government Reform, Political Ideology, and Administrative Burden: The Case of Performance Management in the Bush Administration." Public Administration Review.

Lewis, David E. 2003. Presidents and the Politics of Agency Design: Political Insulation in the United States Government Bureaucracy 1946-1997. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

--. 2007. "Testing Pendleton's Premise: Do Political Appointees Make Worse Bureaucrats?" The Journal of Politics 69 (4): 1073-88.

--. 2008. The Politics of Presidential Appointments: Political Control and Bureaucratic Performance. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Lewis, David E., and Richard W. Waterman. 2013. "The Invisible Presidential Appointments: An Examination of Appointments to the Department of Labor, 2001-11." Presidential Studies Quarterly 43 (1): 35-57.

Lodge Consular Reorganization Act of 1906, Pub. L. No. 59-83, April 5.

Loughran, Tim, and Bill McDonald. 2011. "When Is a Liability Not a Liability? Textual Analysis, Dictionaries, and 10-Ks." The Journal of Finance 66 (1): 35-65.

Mackenzie, G. Calvin. 1981. The Politics of Presidential Appointments. New York: Free Press.

Mak, Dayton, and Charles Stuart Kennedy. 1992. American Ambassadors in a Troubled World: Interviews with Senior Diplomats. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Maranto, Robert. 2011. "Career-Political Relationships: Going beyond a Government of Strangers." In The Trusted Leader, eds. Newell Terry, Grant Reeher, and Peter Ronayne. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 265-92.

Matusik, Sharon F., and Charles W. L. Hill. 1998. "The Utilization of Contingent Work, Knowledge Creation, and Competitive Advantage." Academy of Management Review 23 (4): 680-97.

Moe, Terry M. 1982. "Regulatory Performance and Presidential Administration." American Journal of Political Science 26 (May): 197-224.

--. 1985. "The Politicized Presidency." In The New Direction in American Politics, eds. John E. Chubb and Paul E. Petersen. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 235-72.

National Commission on the Public Service. 2003. Urgent Business for America: Revitalizing the Federal Government for the 21st Century. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.

Nathan, Richard P. 1975. The Plot That Failed: Nixon and the Administrative Presidency. New York: Wiley.

Overseas Differentials and Allowances Act of 1960, Pub. L. No. 86-707, September 6.

Peirce, Herbert H. D. 1897. "Our Diplomatic and Consular Service." Arena 17 (May): 909-21.

Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883, ch. 27, 22 Stat. 403.

Peskin, Allan. 1977. "Charles Guiteau of Illinois: President Garfield's Assassin ."Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 70 (2): 134-35.

Randall, Ronald. 1979. "Presidential Power versus Bureaucratic Intransigence: The Influence of the Nixon Administration on Welfare Policy." American Political Science Review 73 (3): 795-810.

Rein, Lisa, and Timothy R. Smith. 2012. "GSA Conference Went 'Over the Top'." Washington Post, April 4. awards- ceremony-gsa-event-planner (accessed January 27, 2014).

Rogers Foreign Service Act of 1924, Pub. L. No. 68-135, May 24.

Simpson, Ian. 2013. "Ex-EPA Adviser Admits to Fraud, CIA Stint Claim, 13 Years of Lies." Reuters, September 27. (accessed January 27, 2014).

Smith, Alexander. 2014. "Obama Under Fire after Appointing Major Donor as Norway Envoy." NBC News, January 24. major- donor-as-norway-envoy (accessed January 27, 2014).

Stewart, Joseph, Jr., and Jane S. Cromartie. 1982. "Partisan Presidential Change and Regulatory Policy: The Case of the FTC and Deceptive Practices Enforcement, 1938-1974." Presidential Studies Quarterly 12 (4): 568-73.

U.S. Department of State. 1833. Report from the Secretary of State on the subject of our diplomatic intercourse with foreign nations, January 31. = llrd&fileName=015/ llrd015.db&recNum = 402 (accessed July 22, 2015).

U.S. Department of State, Office of the Inspector General. 2010. Report of Inspection: Embassy Beijing, China, and Constituent Posts. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of State. https://oig. (accessed July 22, 2015).

U.S. General Accounting Office. 1983. State Department's Office of Inspector General Should Be More Independent and Effective. Washington, DC: U.S. General Accounting Office.

U.S. Government Accountability Office. 2007. Inspectors General: Activities of the Department of State Office of Inspector General. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Williamson, Oliver E. 1981. "The Economics of Organization: The Transaction Cost Approach." American Journal of Sociology 87 (3): 548-77.

Wilson, James Q. 1989. Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It. New York: Basic Books.

Wilson, Woodrow. 1887. "The Study of Administration." Political Science Quarterly 2 (June): 197-222.

Wood, B. Dan. 2009. "Presidential Saber Rattling and the Economy." American Journal of Political Science 53 (3): 695-709.

Wood, B. Dan, and Richard W. Waterman. 1991. "The Dynamics of Political Control of the Bureaucracy." American Political Science Review 85 (3): 801-28.

--. 1994. Bureaucratic Dynamics: The Role of Bureaucracy in a Democracy. Boulder, CO: West view Press.

(1.) E.g., the Roger W. Jones Award for Executive Leadership, awarded annually by American University's Department of Public Administration and Policy: (accessed July 15, 2015).

(2.) The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) maintains data on ambassadorial appointments since 1960. All ambassadorships are subject to presidential appointment and Senate confirmation, and thus all ambassadors.---regardless of professional background--could be described as presidential or political appointees. In this article, I refer to presidentially appointed ambassadors who are career Foreign Service officers as "career diplomats" or "careerists" and to those who are not as "political appointees. As ambassadorial vacancies occur, especially at the beginning of a new presidential term, State Department leadership and the White House Presidential Personnel Office (PPO) jointly determine those positions that career diplomats will fill and those that noncareer appointees will take. The State Department provides lists of careerist candidates for the designated careerist positions to the White House, and the PPO develops candidate lists for the other positions. The president then makes the formal appointments for all positions.

(3.) Personal interview, March 5, 2014.

(4.) Ibid.

(5.) In a report to President Andrew Jackson, forwarded to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Secretary of State Edward Livingston wrote in 1833 that "ministers [ambassadors] are considered as favorites, selected to enjoy the pleasures of foreign travel at the expense of the people; their places as sinecures; and their residence abroad as a continued scene of luxurious enjoyment" (U.S. Department of State 1833).

(6.) Figures as of 2009: (accessed July 22, 2015).

(7.) For staffing, see the NSDD-38 process ( {accessed July 16, 2015}) that allows ambassadors limited control over interagency staffing at embassies; for funding, see, for example, the Ambassador's Special Self-Help Fund Program ( {accessed July 16, 2015}).

(8.) The economic and business literatures on human capital and performance describe one key difference between insiders (careerists) and outsiders (appointees) as private knowledge (Matusik and Hill 1998) or asset specific human capital (Williamson 1981). Careerist ambassadors, like corporate executives, should perform better than appointees or outsiders because they possess the comparative advantage of private knowledge gleaned from years of State Department experience: "Private knowledge is unique to the firm.... [It] includes such items as a firm's unique routines, processes, documentation, or trade secrets" (Matusik and Hill 1998, 683). Diplomatic skills cannot be imported from other areas, meaning that careerists' skills are "asset specific and come "from learning by doing" (Williamson 1981, 555). Business scholars have also argued that promoting executives from within a company rather than hiring outsiders leads to better performance (e.g., Benito et al. 2005; Collins 2001).

(9.) Congress has repeatedly waived this five-year requirement; in spite of the waiver, OIG has generally kept within a year or two of the five-year prescription based on funding and other priorities. OIG does incorporate risk-based prioritization in its inspections but not for the timing of an embassy inspection. Instead, OIG emphasizes certain operational areas at every embassy inspected such as information technology and security capabilities.

(10.) There are 208 reports in the data set, but there are 11 reports from embassies at which there was no full-time chief of mission evaluated by the OIG team. In these cases, the OIG teams evaluated the DCM in the role of charge d'affaires.

(11.) See (accessed July 22, 2015).

(12.) In embassy parlance, the executive leadership team of the ambassador and DCM is referred to as "front office," "executive team," "post management," "executive leadership," and so on. The data set includes sentences with such phrases, coded as references to both the ambassador and DCM.

(13.) I initially conducted two pilot evaluations of the reports before focusing on the individual sentences. In the first pilot study of 40 reports, a research assistant and I separately rated ambassadorial performance on a 1-5 scale. The second pilot study used an automated content analysis dictionary for evaluating the negative or positive tone of the reports; this method was based on prior work in political science focused on presidential rhetoric (Wood 2009) and political party positions (Laver, Benoit, and Garry 2003), as well as in finance (see Loughran and McDonald [2011] for analysis of corporate 10-K statements). While both of these pilot studies captured a general sense of performance and reflect the scores from the evaluative sentences, neither was sufficiently precise to distinguish performance attributable to ambassadors, DCMs, or embassies generally.

(14.) From the report's section on "Purpose, Scope and Methodology of the Inspection," typically included after the cover sheet. See, for example, Inspection Report Number ISP-I-09-30A from Embassy Baghdad, (accessed July 22, 2015).

(15.) I also code an indicator variable if English is either an official or predominant language in the country, and the results are not statistically or substantively different if I include it.

(16.) See Department of State Standardized Regulations sections 510 and 65 1 for definitions and the Office of Allowances for historical rates, (accessed January 28, 2014).

(17.) Embassy Baghdad's total employment does not include the approximately 13,500 contractors at the time of the 2009 inspection report and just below 11,500 at the time of the 2013 report. I also excluded contractors for other embassies; even without the contractors in the total, Embassy Baghdad employs more direct-hire Americans than any other embassy.

(18.) There are several other potential weaknesses in the reports' data. Because inspection teams consist of a mix of career civil service and Foreign Service officers (sometimes retired ambassadors on contract), there could be bias based on personal connections or experience. Foreign Service personnel in OIG rotate out to new assignments and inspection team composition changes slightly each year--and early reports in the data set include the names of inspection team members, allowing for appropriate coding of reports by inspection team. For later years in the data set, however, the names of the inspectors are redacted. Thus, to control for changing inspection team composition, 1 also estimated the models with controls for year of inspection; the results are similar substantively and statistically, with only reports in 2011 showing a statistically significant decline in scores. This decline is likely due to highly negative reports for political appointees in Luxembourg and Valletta, Malta, both of whom resigned after the reports were released to the public.

Related to this, the level of redacted material in reports is another possible source of error. For example, four recent reports, all about embassies led by political appointees, contained few redactions compared to reports on other struggling embassies led by career diplomats. See "State Dept OIG Reports: Oh, Redactions, Is Double-Standard Thy True Name?" standard-thy-true-name/ (accessed February 3, 2014).

Finally, several DCMs at embassies inspected early in the period were later appointed ambassadors at embassies that were inspected later in the period; and eight ambassadors held ambassadorships in different embassies during two separate inspections.

(19.) See State Department inspection reports from the Office of Inspector General, Report Number ISP-I-11-17A, January 2011 and Report Number ISP-I-12-08A, January 2012. system/files/156129.pdf (accessed July 22, 2015); (accessed July 22, 2015).

(20.) The Office of Inspector General for the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development posts its inspection and evaluation reports online at (accessed July 22, 2015).


U.S. Coast Guard Academy

Evan T. Haglund is an assistant professor of public policy at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. He studies the presidency and executive branch agencies, pausing on presidential appointments and agency performance.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this article was presented at the Southern Political Science Association annual meeting, January 2014. I am grateful to the Lewis Lab Group for suggestions and comments throughout the development of this project, as well as the reviewers for their helpful critiques. I also thank CariDrinnon for research assistance.


Sentences Referencing and Evaluating Embassy Leadership

Sentence Subject    Informational    Positive   Negative   Sentences

Ambassador alone         798           1490       252         2540
DCM alone                372           695        104         1171
Combined                 571           1358       241         2170
Total                    1741          3543       597         5881

All sentences in Key Judgments and Executive Direction
sections of OIG reports that reference the ambassador,
deputy chief of mission (DCM), or both.

Ambassadorial Performance Score by Type

Ambassador Type        Reports   Average Score   Min./Max.   Std. Dev.

Career Diplomats         133         0.79          .2/1        0.17
Political Appointees      64         0.73          .1/1        0.20
All reports              197         0.77          .1/1        0.18

Score is proportion of positive evaluations from all evaluative


Ambassadorial and Embassy Characteristics

                                Career     Polit teal
                               Diplomats   Appointees    Total

Personal Characteristics
Language Skills                   102          31         133
                                (77.4%)     (48.4%)     (68.0%)
Regional Experience               114          26         140
                                (85.7%)     (40.6%)     (71.1%)
Embassy Characteristics
Total Employees                   501         531         511
Hardship Differential (0-5)       23           41         64
(10-15)                           30           10         40
(20-25)                           59           11         70
(30-35)                           21           2          23
Danger Pay (0-5)                  109          62         171
(10-15)                           12           0          12
(20-25)                            9           1          10
(30-35)                            3           1           4
Regional Bureau
Africa                            44           5          49
East Asia Pacific                 22           8          30
Europe                            21           29         50
Near East                         18           3          22
South Central Asia                10           3          13
Western Hemisphere                18           16         34

Total Employees excludes two reports that
had all employee numbers redacted.


Ambassadorial Performance Scores

Covariates                      (1)       (2)       (3)       (4)
Ambassador characteristics
Political Appointee           -0.07 *    -0.06    -0.10 *   -0.09 *
                              (0.03)    (0.03)    (0.04)    (0.04)
Language Skills                          0.01      0.02      0.01
                                        (0.03)    (0.03)    (0.04)
Regional Experience                      0.01      0.02      0.03
                                        (0.04)    (0.04)    (0.03)
Deputy Chief of Mission
Language Skills                                              -0.01
Regional Experience                                          -0.00
Embassy characteristics
Total Employees                                    0.00      0.00
                                                  (0.00)    (0.00)
Hardship Differential                             0.00 *    -0.01 *
                                                  (0.00)    (0.00)
Danger Pay                                         0.00      0.00
                                                  (0.00)    (0.00)
Constant                      0.80 *    0.79 *    0.84 *    0.86 *
                              (0.02)    (0.04)    (0.05)    (0.06)
N                               197       197       195       163

Estimates from tobit regression, standard errors
in parentheses.

* indicates significance at the 0.05 level.


Interagency Coordination

Cmariates                     (1)       (2)       (3)       (4)
Ambassador characteristics
Political Appointee           0.11     0.14      -0.24     -0.68
                             (0.37)   (0.43)    (0.48)    (0.54)
Language Skills                       0.82 *    0.83 *     0.82
                                      (0.39)    (0.40)    (0.54)
Regional Experience                    -0.54     -0.33     -0.26
                                      (0.45)    (0.46)    (0.52)
Deputy Chief of Mission
Language Skills                                            -0.24
Regional Experience                                        0.07
Embassy characteristics
Total Employees                                  0.00      0.00
                                                (0.00)    (0.00)
Hardship Differential                            -0.03    -0.05 *
                                                (0.02)    (0.02)
Danger Pay                                       -0.01     -0.02
                                                (0.02)    (0.02)
[[tau].sub.1]                -2.58     -2.55     -3.03     -3.76
                             (0.31)   (0.55)    (0.64)    (0.91)
[[tau].sub.2]                -1.17     -1.11     -1.59     -2.08
                             (0.21)   (0.50)    (0.59)    (0.85)
N                             191       191       189       161

Estimates from ordered logistic regression,
standard errors in parentheses.

* indicates significance at the 0.05 level.


Embassy Reporting Quality

Covariates                      (1)       (2)       (3)       (4)
Ambassador characteristics
Political Appointee           -0.86 *   -0.76 *   -0.92 *   -1.06 *
                              (0.32)    (0.37)    (0.41)    (0.47)
Language Skills                          0.57      0.67      0.39
                                        (0.36)    (0.37)    (0.49)
Regional Experience                      -0.22     -0.03     0.07
                                        (0.38)    (0.40)    (0.44)
Deputy Chief of Mission
Language Skills                                              -0.34
Regional Experience                                          0.14
Includes Embassy-level           N         N         Y         Y
[[tau].sub.1]                  -3.15     -3.03     -3.43     -4.06
                              (0.34)    (0.52)    (0.59)    (0.86)
[[tau].sub.1]                  -0.97     -0.83     -1.13     -1.76
                              (0.19)    (0.43)    (0.50)    (0.77)
N                               193       193       191       162

Estimates from ordered logistic regression,
standard errors in parentheses.

* indicates significance at the 0.05 level.


Interagency Coordination

Cmariates                      (1)       (2)       (3)       (4)
Ambassador characteristics
Political Appointee           0.11      0.14      -0.24     -0.68
                             (0.37)    (0.43)    (0.48)    (0.54)
Language Skills                        0.82 *    0.83 *     0.82
                                       (0.39)    (0.40)    (0.54)
Regional Experience                     -0.54     -0.33     -0.26
                                       (0.45)    (0.46)    (0.52)
Deputy Chief of Mission
Language Skills                                             -0.24
Regional Experience                                         0.07
Embassy characteristics
Total Employees                                   0.00      0.00
                                                 (0.00)    (0.00)
Hardship Differential                             -0.03    -0.05 *
                                                 (0.02)    (0.02)
Danger Pay                                        -0.01     -0.02
                                                 (0.02)    (0.02)
[[tau].sub.1]                 -2.58     -2.55     -3.03     -3.76
                             (0.31)    (0.55)    (0.64)    (0.91)
[[tau].sub.1]                 -1.17     -1.11     -1.59     -2.08
                             (0.21)    (0.50)    (0.59)    (0.85)
N                              191       191       189       161

Estimates from ordered logistic regression,
standard errors in parentheses.

* indicates significance at the 0.05 level.


Embassy Reporting Quality

Covariates                      (1)       (2)       (3)       (4)

Ambassador characteristics
Political Appointee           -0.86 *   -0.76 *   -0.92 *   -1.06 *
                              (0.32)    (0.37)    (0.41)    (0.47)
Language Skills                          0.57      0.67      0.39
                                        (0.36)    (0.37)    (0.49)
Regional Experience                      -0.22     -0.03     0.07
                                        (0.38)    (0.40)    (0.44)
Deputy Chief of Mission
Language Skills                                              -0.34
Regional Experience                                          0.14
Includes Embassy-level           N         N         Y         Y
[[tau].sub.1]                  -3.15     -3.03     -3.43     -4.06
                              (0.34)    (0.52)    (0.59)    (0.86)
[[tau].sub.2]                  -0.97     -0.83     -1.13     -1.76
                              (0.19)    (0.43)    (0.50)    (0.77)
N                               193       193       191       162

Estimates from ordered logistic regression,
standard errors in parentheses.

* indicates significance at the 0.05 level.
COPYRIGHT 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2015 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Haglund, Evan T.
Publication:Presidential Studies Quarterly
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2015
Previous Article:Presidential rhetoric and Supreme Court decisions.
Next Article:Presidential particularism in disaster declarations and military base closures.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters