Cablegate: Nomination of Michael D. Sweeney for the Powell

Published: Wed 1 Jun 2005 08:56 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: A. STATE 92063
B. STATE 79836
1. (U) I nominate Michael D. Sweeney for consideration as
one of the EAP Bureau's nominees for the Powell Fellows
Program. Michael is a tenured FS-03 Foreign Service
generalist who has distinguished himself while working in the
Consular and Political sections in Embassy Bangkok. He is
the type of officer whose strong qualities should be nurtured
early in his career, and the Powell Fellows Program is an
excellent opportunity to provide him with exposure and
development that will redound to the Department's benefit.
Mike's contributions to the Mission in his current position
as the Embassy's human rights officer have been exceptional.
He is known for his initiative, insightful written work,
astute cultivation of government and NGO contacts, and
general ability to stay far ahead of the curve on reporting
or any of the many projects for which he is responsible.
Mike is widely respected by American and Thai staff for his
maturity and motivation, and for his openness to people and
Examples that highlight Mike's performance and abilities come
easily to mind. Mike's Thailand 2004 Chapter for the Human
Rights Report (HRR) was praised as one of the best in the
region. His early drafts were balanced, detailed and clearly
written. He negotiated careful edits with the Department.
Mike also authored several of the most relevant cables sent
from Bangkok, including an analytic piece, "Thaksin's Victory
-- Credit the Man, Innovative Policies, and the Thai Rak Thai
Political Machine." That cable in particular illustrated
Mike's great versatility. When the tsunami disaster strained
the Political section's ability to properly cover the
national elections, Mike easily stepped up to a central role
in reporting on domestic politics, adroitly drawing on
knowledge gleaned from being our lead reporter on Thai civil
society. Mike's cable on the views of the new foreign
minister toward Thai-Burma relations, "New Face, Same
Policy," also influenced Washington. In updates to senior
colleagues, briefings to visitors on his areas of
responsibility, and exchanges with Thai officials and
politicians, Mike's verbal skills mirrored his writing; he
was always organized, informed, articulate and to the point.
Remarkably, Mike could make such presentations in either Thai
or English -- he is by far the best Thai language speaker in
the Political section and is rivaled by only a handful of
other Americans in the entire Mission.
Mike's leadership potential is especially impressive. He is
relatively new to the Foreign Service, but entered after over
10 years of work experience, most of it overseas, in
community development, human rights and refugee work. He
brings good judgment and a seasoned background to his efforts
to improve the way goals are achieved in the Mission. He has
organizational and managerial skills equal to much more
senior officers, and time and again in Bangkok has made
superior contributions to the work of the Consular and
Political sections. He implemented a Department grant
supporting Thai citizenship for hill tribes. Working closely
with USAID, he was the prime shaper of a USD 1 million
program to improve freedom of the press in Thailand.
2. (U) I would like to participate in the Powell Fellows
Program because I want to broaden my leadership skills,
including the ability to find creative solutions to problems,
enhance openness in our profession to innovation, and
ultimately to become a more effective diplomat. Since
joining the State Department in 2001, I have learned that
leadership requires the ability to see problems and solutions
to those problems in a multidimensional way, beyond the
traditional top-down bureaucracy that holds our many
administrative and decision-making systems together. Being
part of large regional missions like Manila and Bangkok,
which constitute a vast array of agencies, I have experienced
the need to contrast and compare different work cultures from
various offices and agencies at post. I have had to learn to
make meaningful contacts with key officers from other
agencies that helped me do my job better. Lastly, I learned
the importance of promoting the State Department's key
programs and policy initiatives within the context of the
interagency Mission team. All of these efforts required
One recent of example where my own leadership skills were
called to task was during discussions about Economic Support
Funds (ESF) for Burma. I was tasked with organizing
logistics for a joint State Department - USAID team visiting
the Thai-Burma border and Bangkok. The goal of the trip was
to find out the best way to spend funds earmarked by Congress
to support pro-democracy groups working for democratic change
inside Burma. Yet even as closely as State and AID work
together, I found a real culture gap: in work vocabulary,
budget cycles, and even the mundane details of protocol at
meetings. At the end of the trip, after a week of traveling
and 12-hour days of site visits and office calls, team
members were asking the question, "What now?" For a while,
it appeared that no one wanted to make the suggestion we were
all dreading: another meeting. I found myself in a
situation where leaders can often find themselves thinking,
"Who is going to ask the question, speak up and make a
suggestion and get the ball rolling?" Well, I did. Almost
overnight, rather than letting the joint team just get on a
plane the next day and go back to DC, I organized a late
afternoon meeting of all the relevant offices and section
chiefs (including the Ambassador and AID Mission Chief) to
get a summary of the findings of the team and to learn more
about the many offices at post that work on Burma. If I had
not looked beyond my control officer role and seen the larger
interagency picture, that meeting and the possibilities for
further interagency and interoffice exchange on one of the
most important issues to this Mission and to the U.S., would
not have taken place.
I think broadening this experience even further through a
program of contacts with leaders in politics, academia,
research centers and other sectors would be an excellent
chance to build on the leadership skills I have achieved thus
As I come near the end of my second tour as a Foreign Service
Officer, I look forward to the challenges facing me as
Consular manager in Vientiane, Laos. My goal following that
is to seek increasing management responsibilities at a larger
Consular post, such as Guangzhou or another larger post in
another geographic region. I would also like to pursue work
in either the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
(DRL), or Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), where I
can use my background and personal interest in human rights,
civil society and refugees to lead others in our shared task
of implementing the management of human and other resources
to accomplish our foreign policy objectives.
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILE © Scoop Media