State Personnel at Larger Missions

Each U.S. mission abroad is configured differently, but the State Department personnel and offices cited below are typically found in large embassies throughout the world. (Though comprised of uniformed military personnel, the Marine Security Guard Detachment is included in this list because it is very much a part of an embassy’s “close family.”)

Ambassador

The ambassador is the personal representative of the President of the United States to a foreign country and the chief of the diplomatic mission in the country to which he or she is assigned. About 70% of ambassadors are career Foreign Service Officers, while the other 30% are non-career appointees. As the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) has put it: “American Ambassadors are the representatives of the United States government, the U.S. people, and the U.S. values around the world. They lead our overseas posts and manage programs and resources that support those posts and programs. They are diplomatic commanders on the front lines defending our national security."

 

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Deputy Chief of Mission

The second in command and chief operating officer at an embassy, the deputy chief of mission, is also the person who takes over as "chargé d'affaires" when the ambassador is out of the country. Although the role can vary quite substantially depending on the wishes and needs of the ambassador, DCMs typically take the leadership in building embassy teamwork through fostering maximum communication and cooperation between the various sections. A DCM is called on to understand not only the big picture considerations in the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and the host country, but also the specific concerns of every element within the mission. While great attention must be paid to nurturing an “alter ego” relationship with the ambassador, much of a DCM’s time is inevitably spent dealing with management, the mundane issues of life within the embassy family, and “the crisis of the day.”
 

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Office Management Specialist

An office management specialist (OMS) in an embassy may be assigned to a specific section or work directly under the ambassador or DCM in the "front office." Although duties can vary greatly depending on the size of the mission and the particular position, the OMS serves as the communications hub for the office in which he or she works. Typical secretarial and administrative support responsibilities include managing office procedures and office staff, scheduling events, tracking deadlines, maintaining the office filing system and coordinating with other offices. Seen not only as the glue that routinely holds an embassy together, the OMS also will normally be centrally involved in supporting high-level visits, official conferences and major representational activities. It is not uncommon that an OMS will be called on to work extensive overtime because of the political climate of the host country, VIP visits or unexpected events that require his or her professional input.

 

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Political Section

Officers in an embassy’s political section are the resident experts on the host country’s domestic and foreign policies as they relate to U.S. concerns.  Drawing on personal contacts and careful analysis of available materials, they report on the domestic political environment and major developments to advise policy makers in Washington.  They also actively promote U.S. interests in the host country in both public and government-to-government fora.  As reporting officers and action officers, they combine the skills of journalists, analysts and program managers.  Many political officers are given advanced language and area studies training before taking on their assignments.  A large political section may contain subsections dealing primarily with labor issues or political-military affairs.

 

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Economic Section

Economic section officers report on a country’s economic conditions, promote U.S. economic policies, support the interests of U.S. businesses, participate in negotiations, and advise on issues as diverse as trade agreements, financial aid to areas of conflict, poor standards of living, HIV/AIDS, environment, technology and economic policies. Economic officers maintain close contact with a country’s economic officials, economists, business leaders and bankers.

 

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Consular Section

Consular officers have responsibilities in three major areas: visas, American citizen services and internal management.  They process visa applications for tourists, students, business travelers and other temporary visitors as well as for those seeking to immigrate to the United States.  In carefully deciding who qualifies for a visa, consular officers play a crucial role in protecting America’s security.  Consular officers also assist American citizens abroad, help U.S. citizens obtain emergency medical assistance, ensure that arrested Americans have access to legal counsel, renew passports, and facilitate birth registrations, adoptions and repatriation of remains.  In addition, consular officers provide notarial and authentication services for American and foreign citizens when the documents in question will be used within the jurisdiction of the United States.  Management challenges vary considerably, depending largely on the demand for visas, but always include maintaining an effective network for communicating with locally resident American citizens in the event of an emergency.

 

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Public Affairs Section

Officers in the public affairs section (PAS), formerly part of a separate agency known as the United States Information Service, or USIS, are responsible for informing and influencing key local audiences and promoting bilateral educational and cultural exchanges with the host country. Led by the Public Affairs officer (PAO), PAS typically will have separate information and cultural sections. Officers in information sections, including the embassy’s spokesperson (press attaché), provide information on U.S. policies, institutions and social developments to host country media, think tanks, universities, government offices and other institutions. Officers in cultural sections manage the International Visitor Program and Information Resource Centers, and either directly manage the Fulbright Exchange Program or provide strong support to a formally-established binational exchange commission responsible for that program. 

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Management Section

The management section (formerly called the administrative section) has responsibilities for the essential “nuts and bolts” operations of the embassy. Under its supervision are the financial management office (FMO), which handles all the financial matters related to personnel payrolls, rentals, and other expenditures; the general services office (GSO), which is responsible for the maintenance of all the properties owned or leased by the embassy, a human resources management office that addresses personnel matters, an information management office responsible for the embassy’s computers and information systems, the medical unit and the community liaison office (CLO).

 

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Regional Security Office

In overseas posts the regional security officer (RSO) is responsible for all aspects of embassy security, including the protection of personnel, facilities and information, as well as liaison with local law enforcement organizations and other law enforcement agencies at the post. In addition, the RSO conducts investigations and supervises the Marine Security Guard Detachment and local guard force.

In the United States the Bureau of Diplomatic Security investigates passport and visa fraud, conducts personnel security investigations, and provides protection to the Secretary of State and high-ranking foreign dignitaries and officials visiting the United States.


 

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Marine Security Guard Detachment (DOD)

The Marine Security Guards' (MSG) primary mission is to provide internal security services at designated U.S. diplomatic and consular facilities to prevent the compromise of classified information and equipment vital to national security. The MSG’s secondary mission is to provide protection for U.S. citizens and U.S. Government property at U.S. facilities during circumstances that require immediate aid or action. In only the most extreme emergency situations is the detachment authorized duties exterior to such facilities or required to provide special protection to senior diplomatic officers off of the diplomatic compound.

 

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Medical Unit/Regional Medical Officer

About 54 regional medical officers (RMOs) and some 85 Foreign Service health practitioners and physician's assistants are posted overseas in embassies or consulates. In addition, there areabout 20 regional psychiatrists, two regional clinical psychologists, one Foreign Service social worker (in Baghdad)  and nine regional medical technologists. Embassy and consulate health units vary from post to post, depending on the size of the mission, local medical capabilities and the needs of the community. Many embassies have Foreign Service health practitioners who work essentially on their own. Smaller embassies may have only a locally hired nurse in their health unit. The RMO supervises all the practitioners serving U.S. missions in the region and works to ensure the quality of care provided.

 

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Community Liaison Office

The Community Liaison program provides support to U.S. government employees and family members assigned to embassies and consulates.  The CLO works with community members to maintain high morale through orientation activities, cultural and recreational programs, dissemination of information, counseling and referral services, and assistance with security, education and employment for family members. The Family Liaison Office in Washington manages the program worldwide, providing training, program and staffing guidance, resources and advocacy within the foreign affairs bureaucracy.

 

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