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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.



Written by thaicables

August 28, 2011 at 6:17 am

Posted in Unclassified

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