re: "US Diplomacy Is Also FDA, USDA, EPA ..."
"Many people are unclear as to what "diplomacy" consists of, and generations of American Foreign Service Officers have tales of how they explain to friends and family that working for the "State" Department does not mean a dreary job in Harrisburg or Tallahassee or some other state capital. "What do you do?" in an embassy, anyway?
Well, anything that the US Government does, to be concise. In small embassies in small countries, that often entails a State Department FSO representing the interests of agencies not present. In Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean, that meant me handling monthly US Air Force flights and occasional US Navy ship visits, since there was no Defense Attache at our embassy at the time."
Our embassy on Mauritius, in sunny Port Louis, is great example of our far-flung diplomatic service. Three or four officers in one of the capital's few multi-storey officer buildings are the United States for a vast stretch of the Indian Ocean. From Port Louis, they also cover the Seychelles as a "virtual presence post."
"The State Department, in tandem with GAO concerns about the burgeoning presence at US embassies abroad, set up an Office of Rightsizing the U.S. Government (USG) Overseas Presence. They even put together this handy "Guide for U.S. Agencies Planning Overseas Representation."
"Rightsizing" is an appropriate term. Even in small countries, the US Embassy is often the largest one in town, since there is a kind of minimum staffing threshold below which the US does not seem to be able to conduct its business."
Sometimes we don't get this right, but it's under near-constant review as to a particular mission's needs and the availability of resources at the Department and the home agencies of our various "tenants."
""Downsizing" the American presence overseas has sometimes been carried to extremes. About ten years ago, I remember seeing a large empty space in the middle of the Economic Section in the US Embassy in London. "Oh, that's where the Treasury people used to sit" was the explanation. In one of the world's financial capitals - the home of The City, LIBOR, the EBRD - the US Treasury Department had decided to pull its people out."
Obviously Treasury had other priorities at the time.
"When the Gulf War loomed in late 1990 and flared briefly in early 1991, the US Embassy in Algiers drew down, evacuating families and nonessential staff. The skeleton staff remaining was tiny, but allowed the US to maintain essential operations. One officer that the Ambassador insisted on retaining was the Agricultural Attache. Why, when he sent away such key people as the consular and public affairs officers? Simple: Algeria depended on imports of US grain to feed its people. No US wheat: riots in the streets. The agricultural trade relationship was a key factor in stability.
Next time someone asks what diplomats do, give a thought to the unsung diplomats of the USDA. And the FDA, the FAA..."