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Close Obama ally rated worst ambassador in the State Department

The State Department inspector general’s office released its scathing report on the leadership of former ambassador to Kenya Scott Gration Friday, saying that Gration ranked dead last among dozens of ambassadors reviewed in recent years. Gration resigned suddenly June 29 after viewing the report, but he did not offer a written response to the report ...

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

The State Department inspector general's office released its scathing report on the leadership of former ambassador to Kenya Scott Gration Friday, saying that Gration ranked dead last among dozens of ambassadors reviewed in recent years.

Gration resigned suddenly June 29 after viewing the report, but he did not offer a written response to the report released today.

The State Department inspector general’s office released its scathing report on the leadership of former ambassador to Kenya Scott Gration Friday, saying that Gration ranked dead last among dozens of ambassadors reviewed in recent years.

Gration resigned suddenly June 29 after viewing the report, but he did not offer a written response to the report released today.

"The Ambassador has lost the respect and confidence of the staff to lead the mission," read the report. "Of more than 80 chiefs of mission inspected in recent cycles, the Ambassador ranked last for interpersonal relations, next to last on both managerial skill and attention to morale, and third from last in his overall scores from surveys of mission members. The inspectors found no reason to question these assessments; the Ambassador’s leadership to date has been divisive and ineffective."

The assessment of Gration goes downhill from there.

"The Ambassador has damaged the cohesion of Embassy Nairobi’s country team by underscoring differences between offices working directly with Kenya and those with regional responsibilities. Country team members, particularly those from other agencies, relied on the recently departed deputy chief of mission to maintain a sense of common purpose at Embassy Nairobi. Unless corrected there is a risk that the country team will become dysfunctional," the report stated.

Gration consumed his staff with what he called "mission essential tasks" that provided "almost no value" to the State Department or the rest of the U.S. government working on Kenya, the IG found. Gration made it clear he disagreed and would not implement U.S. government decisions, insisted on using his personal email for official business, and refused to even read the cables coming from Washington, the report said.

"Notwithstanding his talk about the importance of mission staff doing the right thing, the Ambassador by deed or word has encouraged it to do the opposite," the report said.

The IG reported that Gration refused to meet with most prominent Kenyans, journalists, and even his senior embassy staff, who would try unsuccessfully for months to get in touch with him.

Gration’s big project was one he started called Let’s Live, which set the goal of reducing Kenyan infant mortality by 50 percent in one year, but the program was never funded and confused everyone in Nairobi working on the Global Health Initiative (GHI) programs in Kenya, including the Kenyans.

"At the Ambassador’s initiative, the embassy has spent considerable time and effort on Let’s Live without advancing the GHI. At the same time, Let’s Live has damaged mission morale and negatively affected relations with senior Kenyan health officials," the report said.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Gration disputed the report and said using his commercial e-mail was not a security issue. "I did rock the boat. I made changes in priorities, and changes can be very hard," he said.

Gration, a retired Air Force general, was one of the first senior military figures to openly support and actively campaign for President Barack Obama in 2007 and was embraced by the team that would eventually form the president’s closest national security inner circle. Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough once described Gration as one of the top three national security advisors to Obama, along with former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig and former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Merrill McPeak. He was rumored during the transition to be a candidate to lead NASA.

He took over as ambassador to Kenya in February 2011 following a controversial two-year stint as Obama’s special envoy for Sudan.

UPDATE: Gration sent the following statement on the IG report to The Cable:

The State Department Office of the Inspector General’s report on the American Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya released today contains an egregious number of categorically false statements.
Since I announced my resignation, I’ve been flooded with letters of support from members of all branches of government, Kenyan leaders and the international community. These letters are testaments to my effective leadership, superb job performance, unyielding loyalty to U.S. government decisions and relentless efforts to promote American ideals and best interests.
Most of all, I’ve been deeply disappointed by the State Department’s decision not to give me the opportunity to refute the report’s false statements.

While I seek to clear my name against the report’s baseless allegations, I remain committed to improving human conditions and promoting American values wherever I can make a positive difference.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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