Amalia  Babayan
Associate professor, PhD at the Department of Diplomatic Service and Communication of the Faculty of International Relation of YSU

The deputy chief of mission (DCM) at an embassy is second in command and serves as the chief operating officer of the embassy, coordinating the different embassy sections and varying goals in an effort to create one strong united team. The DCM must always know what’s going on inside and outside the embassy, keeping the ‘big picture’ in mind. "Without the DCM, the ambassador risks becoming overwhelmed with management tasks, and section heads would be left to their own devices to pursue priorities and make decisions that may not reflect the larger policy or management interests of the U.S. government,” explains Danny Russel, the DCM at Embassy Nicosia.

Danny Russel, 48, works closely with the ambassador, serving as his ‘alter ego’, frequently substituting for him – serving as acting ambassador, or charge d’affaires, when the ambassador is absent from the country – and speaking for him in setting out requirements and priorities. The DCM also has a "responsibility to offer creative dissent when appropriate and make sure the ambassador has considered counter-arguments and potential risks before making a decision.” Danny notes: "Once a decision is made, it is my job to ensure it is carried out effectively.”

The ambassador relies on the DCM to keep him informed and to be the key liaison with all sections of the embassy. In practical terms, Danny’s role – and that of most DCM’s – is to get the maximum performance from all elements of the mission by keeping them all coordinated; ensuring that Washington gets the information, advice and support it needs; providing feedback and reality checks to the ambassador; intervening when needed to head off or resolve problems; serving a crisis manager; and attending to the security, morale and well-being of the embassy community. "If you can’t find 10 minutes for any of your people, you shouldn’t be a DCM,” he maintains. In his more public role, Danny is constantly engaged with the host government, the media, various local groups, American citizens and business representatives, and diplomats from other countries.

Embassy Nicosia is a medium-size embassy housed in a heavily fortified but attractive building on a compound close to downtown. Cyprus is a small, divided Mediterranean island. The "Cyprus Problem” – the standoff between the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot sides of Cyprus – is the key substantive issue facing the embassy. The island is split into two heavily armed camps, one backed by Greece and the other by Turkey, and separated by a buffer zone patrolled by UN peacekeepers. The embassy is active working with both sides and the UN negotiators to help promote a peaceful settlement and to reduce tensions and the risk of a military incident. "We must operate as a dual embassy in many respects,” Danny explains, "because there are two distinct languages and cultures on the island.”

The embassy also handles a range of transnational challenges confronting embassies worldwide, such as terrorism, narcotics, arms shipments, environmental destructions, and illegal immigration. The DCM must coordinate the U.S. response to all of these issues.

Danny chairs the Embassy’s Action Committee and the Law Enforcement Working Group, and is responsible for managing Embassy security. He is also the primary point of contact at the embassy for the State Department’s Bureau of European Affairs. Every morning he receives an "overnight note” from the Cyprus Desk in Washington, which provides feedback, guidance, questions and ‘action requests” (sometimes called taskings). The DCM distributes these to the appropriate section or individual, who must ensure the appropriate action is taken, whether it is a political officer making a demarche to the host government, an administrative officer arranging vehicles for an official visitor, or any number of highly varied requirements. At the end of the day, he sends a shorter report back to the desk responding to questions, flagging new issues, and conveying an informal heads-up on items of interest. Most evenings, he attends at least one event: a diplomatic reception, a drop-by at someone’s party, a dinner or concert, or a Marine House TGIF party.

The DCM has a highly demanding job, and must be able to juggle numerous issues at once. "The Foreign Service is very rich in talent, and one of the great joys of being the DCM is being able to harness the energy, talent, and know-how of the team,” says Danny. While it’s a serious job, "you also need to have a sense of humour, so that you don’t take yourself too seriously and so you can put people at ease and help them work together without friction.”

After college, Danny was seized with wanderlust and set out to travel the world, getting as far as Japan, where he studied martial arts and Japanese. He spent six years working for a Japanese firm in New York City, and "gradually came to worry that the Japanese were doing too good a job figuring out America while we Americans were not doing enough to learn about the world and protect our interests.” This led him to the Foreign Service. Since joining in 1985, he has served in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan; the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York; Seoul, South Korea; and Washington D.C. He was chide of staff to Under Secretary of State for political Affairs Tom Pickering, and spent a year as a Cox Fellow, writing the book America’s Place in the World, published by Georgetown University. He attended Sarah Lawrence College and the University if London. He and his wife, Keiko, have three children. His next posting is as DCM for Embassy the Hague, Netherlands.

Sh. Dorman (ed.). Inside a U.S. Embassy: How the Foreign Service Works for America: 12-14.
2246 reads | 16.04.2013

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