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Cablegate: Mission France's Experience with the American Presence

DE RUEHC #4035/01 1930214
R 120207Z JUL 06








E.O. 12958: N/A

STATE 00114035 001.2 OF 005


1. (SBU) American Presence Posts (APP), active in France since
1999, play a key role in this mission's transformational diplomacy
efforts. The concept is replicable in other countries, but Missions
need to remain flexible as they adapt the APP concept to local
conditions. Key factors to consider include mission priorities,
host country infrastructure, recruitment, security, and training.
The US Mission in France is ready to assist colleagues in Washington
and overseas in sharing our experience on APP establishment and

2. (SBU) One-officer American Presence Posts (APPs) have been
operating in France since 1999, but the term "APP" became
considerably better known with the Secretary's January 18, 2006
transformational diplomacy speech at Georgetown. Embassy Paris and
the five APPs in France (Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Rennes, and
Toulouse) have since been approached by numerous colleagues
elsewhere wanting to know more - what exactly is an APP? How do
they operate? What factors need to be taken into consideration when
deciding whether to establish one? In the spirit of sharing what
the US Mission in France has learned over the last seven years, this
telegram aims not only to address such questions, but also to offer
various resources to colleagues in both Washington and overseas who
are considering the viability of an APP elsewhere. The Department
may wish to consider broader dissemination of this message to
overseas posts.

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3. (SBU) This telegram focuses on the APPs in France - posts in
other countries with different goals and/or considerations (such as
different Mission priorities and a different level of host country
infrastructure) may choose to handle things differently. We provide
specific details in certain sections to illustrate how our APPs
function, but an Embassy in another country might very well find
that a different model would better serve their needs.

Why an APP?

4. (SBU) One of the first questions to consider is whether an APP
is the best response to Mission needs. Is a Consulate more
appropriate? Is an APP being considered as a downsizing measure, or
a new geographic presence for the Mission? Is a Virtual Presence
Post (VPP) or an American Corner more appropriate?

5. (SBU) In the case of France, posts with a single American
officer (the core of our APP concept) were chosen to meet a
perceived need. In the early 1990s, the State Department closed
numerous small Western European constituent posts, including the
Consulates General in Bordeaux and Lyon, in order to staff new
Embassy requirements in the former Soviet republics. By the late
1990s, the Mission felt that the lack of American presence was
harming efforts to reach media/opinion leaders and to advance U.S.
commercial interests in France's important regional centers.

The Development of France's APP Concept
--------------------------------------------- -----

6. (SBU) Budget and personnel resources in the late 1990s were
extremely tight, and the Mission chose an approach that utilized
only existing Mission personnel resources and involved little/no
increase in Mission budget. In addition to a lone American officer,
the five APPs in France have between one and four LES employees.
All were drawn from existing Mission personnel slots. Resources
such as vehicles were also reprogrammed from Paris so that the new
APPs did not have to spend large sums of money on equipment and
supplies. One positive factor was the difference between the rental
cost of apartments in Paris and Lyon (the site of the first APP) --
rental savings were so great that residential rental savings covered
almost all of the "new" cost of renting office space in Lyon.

7. (SBU) The Mission has worked diligently to maintain a lean
agenda for these lean posts -- a fairly strict focus on public
diplomacy, commercial advocacy and essential U.S. citizen consular

STATE 00114035 002.2 OF 005

services. This effort requires a senior Embassy coordinator, to
help ensure that "mission creep" is avoided, particularly in the
area of required reporting, official visitor taskings,
administrative requirements, etc. In the case of France, the
Minister-Counselor for Economic Affairs serves as APP coordinator,
in close cooperation with the Front Office, and in regular contact
with FCS, PD, Consular and Management.

What the APPs in France Do...And What They Don't Do


8. (SBU) The APPs in France are designed to shape outcomes rather
than report on them. As mentioned earlier, they have three primary
missions: public diplomacy (PD), commercial diplomacy and American
citizen services (ACS). Our APPs do little "traditional"
political/economic reporting, although officers and local employees
occasionally e-mail updates on local events such as regional
elections, urban unrest and student protests, to Embassy Paris for
inclusion in post reporting.

9. (SBU) The APPs have proven to be powerful vehicles for
building and strengthening relationships with regional officials and
organizations who can help advance our public diplomacy and
commercial objectives. Significantly enhanced relations with
prefects, mayors, universities and chambers of commerce have flowed
from APP activities, and these relations have improved the ability
of Embassy Paris officers, and particularly the Ambassador, to reach
quickly local officials and opinion leaders on matters of interest,
including our global transformational diplomacy agenda.

10. (SBU) To ease the burden on the APPs' limited resources,
periodic reports (F-77, Consular Package, Overseas School Reports,
Human Rights Report, Religious Freedom Report, etc.) are handled
almost exclusively by Embassy Paris. The Paris duty officer also
handles all after-hours emergency calls for the APPs, although of
course in a true emergency the Paris duty officer would then contact
the APP officer.

11. (SBU) Embassy Paris provides most of the management support
for the APPs. All vouchers, for example, are processed in Paris.
It would be erroneous, however, to conclude that APP staff spend
little time on management issues. In the absence of a GSO, it is
the APP staff themselves who must deal with the local telephone
company, find repairmen to fix broken equipment, go to the store for
supplies, and much more.

12. (SBU) PD Paris provides a large part of the speaker and
cultural programs as "offers" to the APPs following bi-annual
strategy sessions with the APPs. Adequate APP program support
requires adequate personnel in Paris to handle this important
country-wide program coordination. Overall PD budgets for posts
with APPs should consider the increased program value of APP
programming and reflect these additions in the basic PD personnel
and program, including travel, budget planning for a post.
Initially, the APPs were designed to handle only a small percentage
of American citizen services, with Embassy Paris providing more
complicated services such as prison visits, but today the APPs in
France handle a wider range of citizen services. (There has been
almost inevitable "mission creep" in this area as the APPs have
become better established in their respective communities.)

13. (SBU) None of the APPs in France can send or receive
telegrams (although they do have access with OpenNet hookups to
Webgram and the ALDACs), and none of them handle any classified
material. If a telegram needs to be sent, the officer e-mails the
text to a Paris colleague.

Regular Consultation in Capital is Key
--------------------------------------------- -

14. (SBU) Embassy Paris hosts a semi-annual Principal Officers
Conference for APP and ConGen chiefs in April and October of each
year. In addition, APP officers usually attend an in-country
commercial and public diplomacy conference each year. These visits,
as well as other occasional TDY visits to Paris, provide important
opportunities to review Mission MPP goals, review common
concerns/challenges and give these lone officers in the field the
chance to meet key counterparts in the Embassy. A key benefit of
these meetings is to enable the APP principal officers to share
their "best practices" with one another -- a powerful learning tool,
in our experience.

The APP "Model"...Not a Strait-Jacket
--------------------------------------------- ---

15. (SBU) One of the key concepts to keep in mind when developing
an APP is the importance of flexibility. Mission needs, and
personnel/budget realities loom large, as do regional differences
between various APP sites. The five APPs in France each have only
one American officer and share the same three principal missions,
but are structured differently:

STATE 00114035 003.2 OF 005

APP Bordeaux has two local employees. One local employee covers
both commerce and PD; the other covers both management and ACS.

APP Lille has one local employee who focuses primarily on commercial
work, but who is not a Commerce Department employee. Since Lille is
only one hour by train from Paris, a Paris-based local employee
handles most of Lille's PD programming.

APP Lyon has four local employees. One is paid by the Commerce
Department, one is paid out of PD funds, one focuses exclusively on
ACS, and one is responsible for management and secretarial matters.

APP Rennes has two local employees. One covers PD, ACS, and
management; the other focuses primarily on commercial work but is
not a Commerce Department employee.

APP Toulouse has two local employees. One is paid by the Commerce
Department; the other covers PD and ACS.
16. (SBU) As the above illustrates, there is not a specific "APP
model" which should be copied - not even within France, where each
of the five APPs was set up in response to regional specificities.
(Rennes, for example, is home to France's largest regional daily, so
APP Rennes tends to be more PD-focused. Toulouse is home to Airbus,
so APP Toulouse tends to focus more on commercial work. APP Lyon
has a much larger American citizen "constituency," and is thus the
only APP with a full-time ACS local employee.) Petty cash funds
differ from post to post, as does the size of the territory covered.
One shape and size does not fit all, whether inside France or

What Has Worked Well for APPs in France?
--------------------------------------------- -------

17. (SBU) Good communication is essential: communication of APP
priorities, communication between APP chiefs and the Embassy, good
communication links between the APPs and their State Department
colleagues. (See next section for some of our lessons learned.)

18. (SBU) APPs look for synergies to help accomplish their goals.
A day trip to an outlying city in an APP's "territory" can include
a visit to an American company, meetings with local political
figures, a media interview, a speech at a local school, and the
provision of consular services to resident American citizens.
During such a day, the officer may discover an International Visitor
Program candidate, run across a potential distributor for American
products, and inspire a class of French schoolchildren to set up an
exchange program with a class of American schoolchildren.

19. (SBU) APP work relies heavily not only on synergy, but also
on creativity. Maybe an APP cannot find a US speaker for an
African-American History Month program, but knows a local university
professor who has the appropriate background. Maybe the APP cannot
present a medal to a former member of the French resistance who
served as a truck driver with Patton's Third Army, but they can
invite him to share his wartime experience with a group of American

20. (SBU) Each of the five APPs in France produces a monthly
report highlighting key projects. Any readers interested in more
detailed examples of "APP results" are invited to contact us using
the e-mail address in the final paragraph of this telegram.

What Hasn't Worked So Well?

21. (SBU) The APPs originally attempted to rely strictly on
commercial e-mail. However, Internet-only connections made
coordination with other State Department colleagues difficult. The
eventual connection (with adequate bandwidth) of the APPs to the
State Department OpenNet system greatly improved matters, as well as
providing access to an important array of OpenNet services,
including Webgrams and ALDACs. We probably waited too long to
dedicate the necessary funding to this issue, but our subsequent
investment in adequate bandwidth has paid off. If post can fund
adequate bandwidth and if local infrastructure permits, we believe
that OpenNet is superior to an Internet-only connection.

22. (SBU) Because of France-specific circumstances, different APP
activities are funded from State/PROG, State/PD and/or FCS budget
resources. This has created some complications, as APPs and various
fund managers sometimes have to sort through which expenditure is to
be funded with which fund cite. If possible at post, a single
funding source would reduce administrative burdens on both APP and
Mission B&F staffs.

23. (SBU) Another ongoing issue that the APPs continue to
struggle with is how to adjust USG accounting and control mechanisms
to the small size of the posts, irrespective of where the funds
originate. Management controls are of course necessary, but many of

the current requirements (such as some of the procedures for
reporting petty cash expenditures, for being reimbursed for toll

STATE 00114035 004.2 OF 005

fees on short day trips, and for documenting use of the official
vehicle) can be particularly cumbersome for such small posts.
Embassy Paris has already put in place a number of innovative pilot
programs to address some of these issues and continues to explore
other possible approaches to ease the administrative burden.

Logistical Notes

24. (SBU) Consular services: All visa operations are centered in
Paris, and none of the APPs issue emergency passports (due to the
controls that would need to be put in place in order to protect
blank passport covers). The APPs do, however, provide virtually all
other citizen services (passport applications, reports of birth,
notarial services, prison visits, mortuary certificates, etc.).
Since the APPs have no ACS software, completed applications for
passports and reports of birth are forwarded (after any oaths are
taken) to AmEmb Paris or CG Marseille, who then enter cases in the
ACS computer system, print the reports of birth (and death), etc.
The APPs have no cashiers, so clients must pay by credit card or
money order. No cash is accepted. Since the APP officer is often
out of the office (either on official travel or at events), all APPs
in France operate on a "by appointment only" system. Some APPs
designate certain days as "consular days" and concentrate their ACS
appointments on those days; others give appointments whenever the
officer is available.

25. (SBU) Financial transactions: APP staff use a combination of
petty cash and a government purchase card to handle most small
financial transactions. For larger purchases and bills, the APP
officer signs off on the initial bill and forwards it to the Embassy
for payment.

26. (SBU) Office space: After an earlier failed experiment (in
Lille) operating out of the officer's apartment, all APPs now lease
commercial office space in buildings which have other offices also
operating out of them. APP Lyon originally operated out of the
Chamber of Commerce, an excellent arrangement in terms of easy
access to key contacts.

27. (SBU) Ranks, titles, and privileges: All APP officers in
France are at the 02 level and have the diplomatic title of Consul.
For all intents and purposes, the French government treats the APPs
as regular Consulates. APP officers do not receive ORE.

28. (SBU) Security: APPs are staffed by one local guard (with a
backup guard available during the absence of the primary guard).
The APPs have a hardline door that separates the exterior door from
the interior offices, but once someone has cleared the initial
security check, there is no separation between the visitor and the
APP employees. Additionally, each APP is equipped with a Mailscan
XRay unit for mail screening and a Walk Though Metal Detector (WTMD)
for visitor screening. Obviously, what works in France -- a country
with sophisticated security services and good cooperation with the
U.S. and the U.S. Mission -- may not work similarly in other

29. (SBU) Supervision: APP officers report to the Embassy Paris
Economic Minister-Counselor, who serves as a liaison between the
APPs and the many Embassy offices (especially the Commercial
Service, Consular Affairs, Management, and Public Diplomacy) that
have claims on the APP's time. The Paris DCM is their reviewing

30. (SBU) Switchboards: The APPs do not have switchboard
operators or receptionists. Instead, they use pre-recorded outgoing
messages and voice mail when (as is often the case in such small
posts) no one is in the office to answer the phone.

Things to Keep In Mind When Considering Establishing an APP
--------------------------------------------- --------

31. (SBU) The US Mission in France strongly believes that APPs
are not just for France - the experience is certainly replicable in
other countries. Certain factors, however, should be kept in mind
when considering whether an APP is the appropriate choice in a
particular country.

32. (SBU) Consular Commissions: If consular work is part of the
APP's mandate, a current consular commission will be required for
the American officer. Close coordination with CA is important to
determine whether the officer has sufficient experience or requires
current training.

33. (SBU) Host country infrastructure: The APPs in France rely
heavily on the French postal system, courier services, France
Telecom, ATMs, and local internet and cellphone service providers.
APPs in countries with less-developed infrastructures would need to
be more creative (a necessity for any APP officer) about how they
conduct business.

34. (SBU) Recruitment: It is vital that the American officer and

STATE 00114035 005.2 OF 005

the local employees be people who can work independently and who
will do whatever it takes to get the job done, even if certain tasks
do not appear in their job descriptions. An FSN-10, for example,
may also be responsible for taking the official vehicle to the
mechanic or for stuffing envelopes in advance of the 4th of July
reception. The American officer must be willing not only to give
speeches (which the officer often researches, writes, and translates
on his or her own), but also to maintain the files, drive 2-3 hours
(each way) to other cities on official business (often not returning
until late at night), etc. Heavy evening, weekend, and holiday work
is the norm. Fluency in the local language is crucial - outside the
capital city, fewer contacts tend to speak English, and limited
resources make it difficult for local employees to serve as
interpreters. Virtually all of the APP officers' meetings,
speeches, and media interviews are in French - someone without at
least a 3/3 (preferably a 3+/3+) would be unable to meet the basic
requirements of the job.

35. (SBU) Security: Security in the host country is one of the
most important factors when considering whether to establish an APP.
How reliable are the host country security services should there be
an incident at the APP? How much of a threat exists against US
interests in the host country? Does a Consul who drives an
unarmored car with no guard incur an unacceptable risk given the
host country's security environment? Competent local police and a
stable security environment are critical to the success of an APP.

36. (SBU) Training: Given that APP officers and local employees
cover such a wide range of activities, it is best to provide as much
training (and consultation time) as feasible in both Washington and
the capital city (crucial for developing relationships with Embassy
colleagues upon whom the APP relies heavily) before an employee
begins a job at an APP. Previous officers with limited commercial
experience have found NFATC's export promotion and commercial
diplomacy courses useful; the PAO training course is also an
excellent introduction to PD resources. Cross training is also key
for local employees, who back each other up when one or more are on

APP Performance -- An OIG Assessment
---------------------- --------------------------

37. (SBU) The Office of the Inspector General carried out an
inspection of U.S. Embassy Paris in October and November 2004. This
was the OIG's first opportunity to examine a well-established
American Presence Post program. OIG findings are encouraging. To
quote from the OIG summary (see oigweb.state.gov): QUOTE. Embassy
Paris's innovative use of one-officer American Presence Posts in
provincial regions have proven highly effective in promoting trade,
conducting public diplomacy programs, and providing American citizen
services at a relatively low costs. UNQUOTE.

APP Lessons Learned - France

38. (SBU) Based on Embassy Paris experience:

-- Choose an APP mission that reflects the realities of limited
staffing and resources.
-- Avoid mission creep. A senior Embassy coordinator is helpful.
-- Facilitate communications between APPs and capital, and among the
APPs. France found this to be our single most valuable
non-personnel investment.
-- Recruitment, recruitment, recruitment. APP chiefs must be
adaptive, low-maintenance and versatile. Contact skills and
language skills are key. This job is not for everyone.
-- Senior Embassy officials can be force-multipliers for the APP.
Successive U.S. Ambassadors have made frequent visits a way to
publicize and reinforce APP efforts locally.

What Resources Can the US Mission in France Offer Others Considering
------------------------------ ---------------
-------------------------- ---------------------

39. (SBU) We are already supporting numerous visits by Department
officials who are interested in seeing an APP "in action," and would
be happy to organize similar visits with officers from Embassies who
are considering establishing an APP in their host country. Another

option would be for one of our APP officers or local employees to
travel either to another post or to the Department (for example, in
conjunction with a PAO conference or the COM conference) to give
presentations on the APP concept.

40. (SBU) The US Mission in France would be pleased to respond to
any additional queries concerning APPs, as well as to provide sample
copies of the APPs' monthly reports. The point of contact for such
inquiries is Embassy Paris Economic Minister-Counselor Thomas J.
White at whitetj@state.gov and/or APP Lyon Principal Officer Angie
Bryan, who can be reached at bryana@state.gov. Readers are also
invited to consult the APP portions of the Embassy Paris website at


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