US ambassador to Malta 'rebuked' in State Department report
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US ambassador to Malta 'rebuked' in State Department report

An internal investigator of the US State Department has rebuked the U.S. ambassador to Malta for spending too much time writing on subjects such as abortion and his Catholic beliefs to the detriment of American diplomacy.

The report, released by the State Department's inspector general, says Douglas Kmiec's "outside activities have detracted from his attention to core mission goals," and his articles distract embassy officials forced to review his writing.

Kmiec is well known as a pro-life Catholic backer of President Barack Obama.

CRITICISM OF AMBASSADOR

With regard to the ambassador, the report says:

"The Ambassador had been at post more than a year at the time of the inspection, and had achieved some policy successes. He is respected by Maltese officials and most mission staff, but his unconventional approach to his role as ambassador has created friction with principal officials in Washington, especially over his reluctance to accept their guidance and instructions.

"Based on a belief that he was given a special mandate to promote President Obama’s interfaith initiatives, he has devoted considerable time to writing articles for publication in the United States as well as in Malta, and to presenting his views on subjects outside the bilateral portfolio.

"He has been inconsistent in observance of clearance procedures required for publication. He also looks well beyond the bilateral relationship when considering possible events for the mission to host in Malta.

"His approach has required Department principals, as well as some embassy staff, to spend an inordinate amount of time reviewing his writings, speeches, and other initiatives.

"His official schedule has been uncharacteristically light for an ambassador at a post of this size, and on average he spends several hours of each work day in the residence, much of which appears to be devoted to his non official writings.

"At the same time, he has not focused sufficiently on key management issues within the embassy, including the NEC. The Ambassador pursues an active public diplomacy program and while he is popular with the Maltese Government and public, he meets infrequently with senior government officials, business executives, and diplomatic colleagues outside social events.

"The Ambassador advised the inspection team that he intended to discontinue his outside writings and focus on matters that directly pertain to the embassy and priorities outlined in the Mission Strategic and Resource Plan (MSRP). Within weeks of the team’s departure, however, he resumed drafting public essays that addressed subjects outside his purview as Ambassador to Malta and detracted from his core responsibilities. These activities also detracted from the core responsibilities of embassy staff members who devoted time and effort to reviewing and editing the ambassador’s drafts and seeking approvals occasionally after the writings had been submitted for publication from Department officials."

The report recommended that the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs should require the Ambassador to report on his efforts to refocus attention on mission priorities and eliminate his use of embassy and Department resources on non-official writings.

MISSION STRATEGIC AND RESOURCE PLAN

The report says that the Ambassador established new priorities for the MSRP shortly after his arrival in 2009. They include regional security cooperation, the promotion of environmentally sensitive commercial investment, and the resettlement of irregular migrant populations.

"Although the Ambassador clearly articulates his priorities in various settings, his staff’s understanding of these priorities is significantly less clear. The Ambassador needs to consider methods of forging a more cohesive team around a clearer, shared understanding of MSRP goals," the report says.

It says that political reporting focuses on maritime issues, including shipping involving Iran and other countries of concern. The public affairs section (PAS) has done a commendable job reaching out to Malta’s migrant population, many of whom are Muslims from Africa. The consular section operates effectively and efficiently. Visa applications have fallen significantly since Malta joined the visa waiver program in 2008.

"Reporting rightly focuses on maritime issues related to Malta’s busy sea lanes, including the enforcement of sanctions against Iran and other countries of concern, as well as migration and refugee resettlement.

"Washington consumers were uniform in their praise for reporting on these high priority issues from the political section and the embassy’s large Defense attaché office. In addition to reporting, the section has led efforts to secure Malta’s support for more effective sanctions against Iran, despite the financial benefits Malta receives from the large number of Iranian ships flagged in Malta and their use of the country’s ports."

The report says a number of Washington consumers said they would welcome additional reporting on economic issues, Malta’s positions on key EU issues, and occasional profiles of Malta’s political and economic leaders. Commercial promotion opportunities in Malta are limited, but the embassy has helped U.S. companies win tenders and arranged visits to the United States for Maltese Government authorities to view U.S. technology and systems.

Coordination between the Defense attaché office and the political section was found to be good, with responsibilities and information properly shared between them.

"The two work together particularly well on maritime issues, and the Defense attaché office handles a number of issues that normally would fall to larger political sections, including 'Leahy vetting' and the International Military Education and Training program. Visits by U.S. Navy ships have fallen dramatically as a result of new policies toward countries like Malta that do not have Status of Forces Agreements with the United States. In 2010 Malta had only one ship visit, where previously 25 ship visits a year were common. This change has significantly reduced the time the embassy spends on force protection and related issues although it also has reduced the outreach benefits of more numerous ship visits," the report says

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