I have heard on radio about the US Ambassador in Romania, Hans Klemm, being recalled to Washington:

US Ambassador Hans Klemm will be recalled to Washington, Romanian FM Teodor Melescanu has confirmed on Monday evening. Melescanu said the evaluation of Klemm’s activity here in Bucharest belongs to the US Department of State.

The news also mentioned take it might take several months for US to send another ambassador and I am wondering why so much. Are there many bureaucratic steps a person must face in order to actually become an Ambassador?

Question: What are the steps for a person to become an US Ambassador? (starting with nominations, basically the steps after the ones nicely described here)

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Basically, the President has to nominate a new ambassador and the Senate has to confirm the nomination. Article II Section 2 of the US Constitution states:

[The president] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States...

(emphasis mine)


The following steps assume that the nominee has already become a Foreign Service Officer (for career diplomats) or is close to the President (for political appointees) and is nominated by the President.

Firstly, the nominee has to fill up all the necessary paperwork which includes "financial disclosure forms, questionnaires from senators, background documents, security forms and more".

"If the decision is made by the State Department, in coordination with the White House, to nominate you for an ambassadorship, the next thing that happens is you get about a half a truckload of paper," he noted.

Source: State of play: Becoming an ambassador takes time -- and paperwork

Secondly, government officials then vet the documents and the candidate. If nothing goes wrong, they inform the host country of the nominated ambassador (a process called agrément).

Thirdly, if the host country does not object (it is rare that they object), the nomination is submitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the nominee gets a hearing. Since it depends on the committee whether to hold hearings, nominations sometimes expire at the end of a Congress before they are even considered. Or in other times, hearings are held but delayed for a long period of time.

Fourthly, when the committee approves the nominee through a committee vote, the nomination goes to the full Senate floor for a vote. Again, Senators can force up to 30 hours of floor debate per nominee which can delay the floor vote.

For further information, check out State of play: Becoming an ambassador takes time -- and paperwork.


Here's a simplified timeline of the steps to become an ambassador, taken from the US Embassy to the Holy See site.

Image

  • ah, yes, credentials, that was I am missing in my answer, forgot about that. – Max Aug 10 at 15:40
  • +1. So, it might take more than half an year between the nomination and the Ambassador officially becoming Chief of Mission. – Alexei Aug 11 at 11:24

I think the long delay is due to bureaucratic/political process.

First, the president must nominate someone for the post; he will either ask the US Department of State for a list of candidates that will fit the job (career diplomats) , or just select someone (political appointment).

The candidate must then be confirmed by the US senate; depending on the candidate, the confirmation process can be simple if there is a consensus between all senators on the merit of the candidate, or it can a long process if there are dissensions between the senators.

Note that there are many vacant national ambassador posts today (40-ish), and 60-ish vacant organization ambassador posts.

Reference

Step 1: Donate millions of dollars to the candidate of your choice.

Step 2: Hope your candidate wins.

Step 3: Get nominated as ambassador.

Helpful hint: Read the Wikipedia entry for your country before your Senate confirmation hearings.

Note: The more money you give, the nicer the country you can be ambassador to.

  • Step 1 could also be replaced with some earlier smaller but relatively equivalent act of assistance, or even blackmail, where applicable. – agc Aug 10 at 18:14
  • 1
    True, you could sell him your golf course at a discounted rate, or a nice Manhattan condo building. Threaten to release his Russian sex tape. Any number of things. – mmaceachran Aug 10 at 19:06
  • 2
    Not all ambassadors are donors. Some are career diplomats. Few donors want to become ambassadors to, say, Afghanistan, nor is it in the best interest of the nation for such a position to be chosen based on political patronage (is it in the interest of the nation to choose the Ambassador to the UK based on political patronage? That's another question), so the job is given to career State Department officials with knowledge and experience in the region. – Zach Lipton Aug 10 at 23:09
  • Do you have a source which says that all (or at least the majority) of ambassadorships are given in exchange for personal favors? Or is this answer based on a few anecdotal observations? Which observations? Can you provide any concrete examples? – Philipp Aug 11 at 8:13
  • @Philipp: There is no rhyme or reason as to which country are political appointees and which countries are career diplomats, though most of the later are assigned to nations that are in a general area of expertise (a Career Diplomat who is an expert in Sub-Saharan African affairs may one administration work South Africa and another in Zimbabwe). Japan is currently under a career diplomat, but during the Obama Administration was a political appointee. I do think UK typically gets a political appointee. – hszmv Aug 13 at 17:40

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