Vice President Mike Pence introduced Thursday that the President will attend two summits within the Philippines and one in Vietnam this November, and earlier than that, he has journeys deliberate to Brussels, Italy and Germany this spring and summer time. However since January 20, there was nobody formally within the vital diplomatic place — and as soon as somebody is known as it takes months, or much more than a yr, for a nominee to be confirmed by the Senate.

There are extra high-profile positions that require Senate affirmation which might be nonetheless open — amongst them are ambassadorships to Afghanistan, France and South Korea, based on the American International Service Affiliation’s web site. However the chief of protocol is an usually misunderstood or totally ignored place that serves an vital perform and has been an official posting since simply after the top of World Struggle II.

Chiefs of protocol work on the State Division, and since 1961, they’ve all held the rank of ambassador. They’re generally former ambassadors themselves and are well-versed in overseas relations and etiquette. They accompany presidents on overseas journeys and coordinate visits of overseas dignitaries to the US, they greet newly put in ambassadors transferring to Washington, they assist choose presents for overseas leaders and so they run Blair Home, the historic guesthouse throughout the road from the White Home.

“The entire idea of protocol is to create the framework for diplomacy,” mentioned Capricia Marshall, who was chief of protocol in the course of the Obama administration. “We work via all the main points earlier than the 2 leaders set foot within the room since you need their focus to be the very critical discussions they are going to interact in.”

One in every of their jobs is to by no means enable the President or the primary girl to be embarrassed. When the Obamas first visited the UK, members of the British press have been aghast when first girl Michelle Obama briefly put her hand on Queen Elizabeth II’s again throughout a reception, bucking royal protocol that nobody touches the Queen. It’s the job of the chief of protocol to be sure that scenes like that don’t occur, however Marshall was awaiting affirmation on the time. (The Trumps are anticipated to go to the UK for a state go to, possible this fall.)

Vacant intervals

There have been intervals when the workplace was vacant whereas a nominee is awaiting Senate affirmation and a profession worker on the State Division has stuffed the place till a nominee is confirmed. In keeping with two folks aware of the workplace, deputy chief of protocol Rosemarie Pauli is appearing as chief till a nominee is confirmed. However the truth that nobody has been put up for affirmation but is uncommon.

President George W. Bush requested Don Ensenat to be his chief of protocol shortly after January 20, 2001, and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put Marshall’s title ahead for Obama’s consideration shortly after his inauguration.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump pose with Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan upon their arrival to the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida, on April 6, 2017.President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump pose with Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan upon their arrival to the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida, on April 6, 2017.

The White Home didn’t reply to a CNN request for remark.

With out somebody within the place, oversights have already occurred in the course of the Trump administration.

“I cringe after I see President Xi (of China) sitting to the left of President Trump,” mentioned a former American diplomat. “You need to at all times have your house of prominence to your proper since you’re exhibiting your visitors respect.”

To date, Trump appears extra relaxed about protocol, although, and even involves the door of the West Wing to greet overseas leaders himself, including a private contact that was once the job of the chief of protocol.

The chief of protocol is typically the primary American with whom overseas diplomats ever converse at size after they go to the State Division to current their documentation from their overseas workplace making them an envoy. This course of will nonetheless go on and not using a chief of protocol in place as a result of profession employees on the State Division, who keep of their jobs no matter who’s president, will fill the void. However not having somebody within the put up is a missed alternative, former diplomats mentioned. One former diplomat within the Obama administration likened it to a senator’s workplace with no senator.

“One factor that is lacking is having a de facto consultant of the President who is targeted on constituent providers and that constituency is the diplomatic corps,” the individual mentioned on the situation of anonymity.

Not a precedence?

However the place seems to not be a precedence for Trump, whose proposed budget would reduce State Department funding by $11 billion, or nearly 30%.

Tyler Abell, chief of protocol throughout President Lyndon Johnson’s administration, mentioned he isn’t frightened if the place goes unfilled for some time.

“Someone has to do the job and so they do not should be sitting at a desk with the title of ‘chief of protocol’ on it,” he mentioned. “Plenty of work is run of the mill.”

It took Nancy Brinker, who served as US ambassador to Hungary from 2001 to 2003 and as Bush’s White Home chief of protocol from 2007 to 2009, greater than a yr to be confirmed. Brinker mentioned whomever Trump nominates ought to perceive diplomacy and hospitality.

“The farther you go from the US the extra vital it turns into. There is a large quantity of message in gestures,” she mentioned.

One other key element of the job is ensuring that visiting leaders are completely satisfied. For example, Brinker mentioned, when the president of Mongolia got here to Washington he wished to go to Arlington Nationwide Cemetery, so she and her employees organized for it. Brinker met with Trump in March however they didn’t focus on the place at any size.

Consequential place

The duties of the job are extra consequential than they appear.

“It’s a must to consider this in human phrases and take into consideration primary wants. You don’t need a hangry diplomat,” Marshall mentioned.

She was referring to a gathering between Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in New York when she was so centered on different particulars that she forgot to supply meals for the delegations. When she requested Netanyahu if he wanted something, he replied, “A cup of espresso and a cookie could be good.”

Embarrassed, she raced to the resort kitchen.

Ensenat, Bush’s chief of protocol from 2001 to 2007, mentioned he supplied to assist the Trump administration with names and steerage however has not heard again.

“For the chief that you simply’re interfacing with, having somebody they’ll at all times look to from huge issues to little issues is vital,” he mentioned. “The hosts do not wish to cope with some advance man who’s 20 years previous.”

It’s the chief of protocol who briefs the President on the customs of different international locations. It may be so simple as telling the President a standard greeting within the native speaker’s tongue or ensuring he is aware of sure head of state is fasting so he won’t be consuming lunch that day. Generally on visits to overseas international locations or throughout a gathering with a visiting dignitary, solely these with ambassador rank are allowed within the room, so by default, the chief of protocol is the final individual to temporary the president.

“I am frightened they’re going to title some Manhattan socialite,” Ensenat mentioned of Trump’s deliberations “It’s very the fallacious job for a socialite, they’re going to be disillusioned. It is not a glam job. It is nitty-gritty work.”