Archive for January 13th, 2007

Representing You Abroad

I’ve been learning a TON in my orientation so far.  We go all day from 8-5 with anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour for lunch, but normally we have brown bag lunch sessions, so it’s not that relaxing.  We get a few 15 minute breaks during the day.  But otherwise I’m in training the whole time.  Whether we’re learning about how to process a voucher or how to bid or what the State Department’s mission and structure is.   I believe next week we’ll be having an overview of US politics and diplomatic history.  And to whet your appetite, in the coming weeks the Undersecretary of Political Affairs, R. Nicolas Burns, will be speaking to us.  If you don’t know who he is, he’s the #3 in the State Department, behind the Secretary and Deputy Secretary.

Yesterday, we learned about all the different types/numbers of “embassies,”  meaning embassies, consulates, etc.

I found it very interesting, so I thought I’d share here.  Hopefully you’ll learn something as well.

167 Embassies – Almost exclusively based in the country’s capital city

64 Consulates General – In between an embassy and consulate

21 Consulates – Based in areas of importance to Americans, such as business centers

10 Missions and Delegations – Such as our Permanent Mission to the UN or NATO

1 Interest Section – This is the Swiss Embassy – US Interest Section in Havana, Cuba

53 Consular Agencies – Non-paid employees (not necessarily American) who assist Americans overseas

6 Branch Offices –  Offices in for example Kosovo where we want representation but doesn’t process visas or other things

5 American Presence Posts – 1-person posts where we have a business interest – mostly in France

16 Virtual Presence Posts – Either on the web or traveling consulates

? US Liaison Office – An intermediary post before an embassy is created – an example is Tripoli, Libya

1 American Institute – An NGO in Virginia and Taipei, Taiwan – we don’t have formal diplomatic relations with the country

We have diplomatic relations with 189 countries, with the largest embassy being Cairo, Egypt.  I believe Mexico City is #2.

I also learned about the employee breakdown of the State Department.

There are 56,000 State employees, with 79% based overseas (mainly FSNs) and 21% domestic:

  • 6,700 Foreign Service Officers – that’s me!
  • 4,400 Foreign Service Specialists – some like an engineer or HR specialist
  • 7,900 Civil Service employees – based in the US
  • 37,000 Foreign Service Nationals – host-country employees who maintain the continuity of the post and provide invaluable expertise

On a side note, all those 6,700 FSOs are as many as the Department of Defense has in its band!  Yep, we’re lean and mean!

That’s just a little of what I’ve learned.

During my 1st week,  I’ve heard from 4 or 5 ambassadors.  Pretty cool!

We’re enjoying our 3-day weekend.  We have done some more research on posts today, plan on checking out a church tomorrow, and walking around DC on Monday.


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