2005 Paul A. Volcker Career Achievement

James Jeffrey

Helped establish U.S. Embassy in Iraq and serves as the chief operating officer of the Mission.  Spent more than three decades as a diplomat going “where the need is the greatest and the risks are the highest.”

Think about what you are doing five days from now. You probably have some tentative plans, but nothing that will require much preparation. Now imagine being told that five days from now your job is going to be transferred to Baghdad, and you are expected to help open up the largest U.S. embassy in the world in the middle of a war zone. To top it all off, imagine that you are getting this news 36 years into your career, a time when most of your peers are on the glide-path to retirement. Obviously, this is inconceivable to most, but for the State Department’s James Jeffrey, this is reality. And looking at his career in government, Jeffrey’s Baghdad assignment is par for the course. From his military service in Vietnam to his post as Ambassador to Albania, Jim Jeffrey has consistently gone where the need is the greatest and the risks are the highest, making his post in Iraq a logical crowning achievement to a remarkable life in public service.

Jeffrey is the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, a post that is roughly equivalent to being the chief operating officer. In this position, he oversees more than 5,000 employees, representatives from 12 federal agencies, a $1 billion budget and the distribution of $18 billion in reconstruction aid. He also helped lead the transition from the Coalition Provisional Authority to the U.S. Embassy, an unprecedented logistical challenge. And since former Iraqi Ambassador John Negroponte left in March 2005, Jeffrey has assumed all of his duties, making him the de facto Ambassador to Iraq.

Jeffrey’s leadership style can best be described as “leading by example.”Whether it is touring polling places before elections or helping to fill sandbags to shore up a facility, he consistently demonstrates his willingness to do anything in support of the mission. And knowing that his personnel often face dangerous situations, he has made a point of not shying away from potentially hazardous assignments. He regularly visits regional embassy offices and embedded personnel across Iraq. He also inspects checkpoints and other facilities outside of the Green Zone and takes an active interest in the security and well-being of all embassy employees and associates.

“He is an outstanding example of all that is best in the Foreign Service where we send so many men and women into dangerous places on difficult assignments,” said W. Robert Pearson, Director General of the Foreign Service. Pearson also said the Embassy employees deeply respect Jeffrey, and his leadership is one of the primary reasons that many State Department staff have remained committed to this challenging assignment.

A public servant of 36 years, Jeffrey has served in many difficult and demanding capacities. He was an officer in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. Since 1977, he has acted as a Department of State Foreign Service Officer in several different roles. He was Deputy Chief of Mission in both Kuwait and Turkey and Ambassador to Albania. On five day’s notice, he resigned this Ambassador’s post to accept an assignment to Baghdad as the ambassador’s deputy.

When James Jeffrey’s country has needed him, he has been there, no matter where “there” was and no matter when they asked. His latest diplomatic appointment is likely to end soon, but his service to our country will fortunately continue. For his sake, let’s just hope that he gets more than five days notice before heading off to the next seemingly impossible assignment.