Responsibilities of a Diplomatic Officer

Diplomatic Officers might have to reassure American families in overseas crises.
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A diplomatic officer works for the U.S. Department of State, which is the lead government agency implementing U.S. foreign policy. According to the Department’s website, it has missions in 265 locations around the world. Its core duties are to promote the national interest around the globe and support U.S. economic and commercial interests in foreign locations. A diplomatic officer in the State Department can discharge her duties in one of five career tracks.

Consular Officers

    Consular officers are usually based overseas. According to the State Department’s website, they are responsible for assisting U.S. citizens in foreign countries. All diplomatic officer roles require sound judgment and fortitude under pressure. For a consular officer, though, these qualities are particularly important because they have to provide reassurance to people who may have been traumatized or are suffering from shock. If necessary, the consular officers are responsible for organizing the evacuation of U.S. citizens. Other responsibilities include countering illegal immigration and transnational fraud, facilitating foreign adoption, and dealing with contingencies such as cross-border child abduction.

Economic Officers

    Economic officers may be based overseas or in the U.S. Their primary responsibilities are to promote trade relations with other countries. According to the U.S. State Department’s careers website, some economic officers come from the private sector, which gives them an advantage in developing relations with foreign companies, getting to know foreign markets, and then applying that knowledge to the advantage of U.S. firms working abroad. An economic officer’s responsibilities will also extend to looking at technological, energy and climate-change issues and how they impact U.S. foreign policy.

Management Officers

    Management officers manage embassies and consulates. They have regular managerial responsibilities. They manage properties, budgets and are also people managers. They need to be highly resourceful, having to deal with crises and contingencies in other countries. They are responsible for the smooth running of embassy operations, and they ensure security in U.S. embassies and consulates. Finally, they are responsible for routine services agreements with the host country and local businesses.

Political Officer

    Political officers manage the details of U.S. foreign policy implementation. A key responsibility is engaging foreign governments to win agreements on shared aims. A political officer has to develop a network of contacts that could be political or non-political, but must be beneficial to U.S. interests. She must also analyze political developments in the host country and report back to senior State Department officials. Finally, she has to work with other diplomatic officers to facilitate VIP visits to the host country.

Public Diplomacy Officers

    The key responsibility of public diplomacy officers is to manage the perception of the U.S. in the host country. This is very largely a media-management job; they’re charged with ensuring the right message is carried in the foreign press. They have to build a network of media professionals, politicians and opinion formers, and engage that network with a positive image of America. The State Department's website reports that public diplomacy officers also work with political officers to help promote good relations with the host country.

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