When President Obama nominated Caroline Kennedy in 2013 to serve as America’s ambassador to Japan, there were those who had their misgivings. On the celebrity social circuit, Kennedy knows her game — daughter of the lionized JFK, enthusiastic supporter of Obama, and guest earlier this month of the Obama family at their summer holiday enclave on Martha’s Vineyard.
But Kennedy came to her ambassador’s post with no foreign policy experience, no particular background in Japan or Asia generally, and apparently not much skill at running the $93.6 million-per-year operation that is the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.
This embassy is one of America’s most important outposts, representing American interests to a strategically vital democratic ally and economic partner in an increasingly troubled region. Japan faces a militarizing, expansionist, and economically roiled China, an aggressively rearming Russia, and a nuclear-arming North Korea.
But almost two years into Kennedy’s ambassadorship, the U.S. Embassy in Japan is a mess.
To be fair, the report gives Kennedy good scores for ethics, noting that the Ambassador has “made clear” that “she wants all her activities to be conducted in accordance with U.S. government regulations.” Though it’s far from clear that this message has translated into practice. The report lists numerous problems of waste and mismanagement, including one that sounds especially intriguing in view of the controversy surrounding former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email practices. (Boldface is mine):
OIG’s Office of Evaluations and Special Projects conducted a review and confirmed that senior embassy staff, including the Ambassador, used personal email accounts to send and receive messages containing official business. In addition, OIG identified instances where emails labeled Sensitive but Unclassified were sent from, or received by, personal email accounts.
There’s a lot more, including:
”Living Quarters Allowance Not in Compliance with the Foreign Affairs Manual”
“Actual lodging cost not properly justified”
“Premium Class Train Tavel Policy Does Not Comply With Department Regulation”
“Extra Travel Costs Inappropriately Approved for Using Indirect Routes”
“Employee Evaluation Reports do not Reflect Demonstrated Weakness”