Director of the Office of Foreign Missions: Who Is Stephen Akard?

Friday, April 06, 2018
Stephen Akard

Stephen Akard is getting another bite at the apple. Akard was nominated in 2017 to be director general of the Foreign Service, a position for which he was widely viewed as unqualified. That nomination was withdrawn on March 20, 2018, the day after Akard, who worked in then-Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s administration, was nominated to lead the Office of Foreign Missions.

The Office of Foreign Missions provides services for foreign diplomats living in the United States; monitors the activities of these foreign diplomats so that they do not abuse their immunity status; and works to treat foreign diplomats in such a way that their countries will treat U.S. diplomats stationed overseas in the same manner.


The son of teachers L. Philip and Julieanne Akard, Stephen Akard is from Indianapolis. He earned a B.A. in economics and French at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in 1986, and then earned a J.D. and an MBA from Indiana University in 1989. Akard clerked for U.S. District Court Judge James E. Noland after graduating from law school.


Akard was a lawyer in private practice in Indianapolis, as well as teaching writing at Indiana University’s law school. He joined the Foreign Service in 1997, serving in the consulate in Mumbai, India; as a political officer in the U.S. embassy in Brussles, Belgium, and in the Executive Secretariat of the State Department.


In 2005, Akard left the State Department and returned to Indiana as director for international development at the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, (IEDC) a state agency. He was named vice president and general counsel for the agency in 2011 and IEDC’s chief of staff in 2014.


Akard was tapped in 2017 to be part of the Donald Trump administration’s landing team in the State Department. Later that year, he was nominated to be director general of the Foreign Service, a job traditionally given to those with long years of service in the State Department, including at least one ambassador’s post. Akard’s nomination drew fierce criticism from current and former members of the Foreign Service. The job requires Foreign Service experience to keep it from being politicized.


The American Academy of Diplomacy, a group of retired diplomats, took the rare step of writing a letter (pdf) to Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) and ranking member Ben Cardin (D-Maryland). “While Mr. Akard is technically eligible for the position, to confirm someone who had less than a decade in the Foreign Service would be like making a former Army Captain the Chief of Staff of the Army, the equivalent of a four-star general,” the Academy wrote in its October 31, 2017 letter. Ten former directors general of the State Department followed with a letter of their own on December 8. The nomination was returned by the Senate on January 3, 2018.


Akard and his wife, Kay, have three daughters.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Diplomats Unhappy as Nominee With Pence Ties Is Tapped for State Job (by Nicole Gaouette, CNN)

White House Taps Pence Associate to Run Foreign Service (by Robbie Gramer, Foreign Policy)

Official Announcement


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