Nancy Powell

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Nancy J. Powell, a career Foreign Service Officer, is Director General of the Foreign Service and of human resources for the U.S. Department of State. Prior to this 2009 appointment, she was U.S. Ambassador to Nepal between 2007 and 2009, and, between 2006 and 2007, National Intelligence Officer for South Asia at the National Intelligence Council, the State Department’s Senior Coordinator for Avian Influenza, and as Acting Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. [1]

Earlier, she was U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Ghana, and Uganda. Her sub-ambassadorial foreign assignments included Bangladesh, Togo, Pakistan, India, Nepal and Canada. In Washington, Ambassador Powell was Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Nepal Desk Officer and Refugee Assistance Officer.

Prior to joining the State Department, Ambassador Powell served as a high school social studies teacher, having graduated from the University of Iowa in 1970. In 1972, she taught at Dayton High, one of the smallest high schools in the state––only 100 students for four grades; the mother of a student journalist who would interview her as an ambassador "remembers Ms. Powell’s salt-of-the-earth teaching style and enthusiasm."[2] After six years of teaching at Dayton High, Powell joined the Foreign Service.

She has studied French, Nepali, Hindi, and Urdu. She is the recipient of the Homeland Security Service to America Medal for 2006 for Avian Influenza preparations, and the U.S. State Department Arnold L. Raphel Award for 2003.


Interviews are rare with U.S. Ambassadors in this country, but one has been republished. She praised political developments but expressed concern that they have slowed: "The United States regards Nepal's political transformation over the past two years from a state wracked by insurgency without a democratic government to its current situation of relative peace with a popularly elected Constituent Assembly and Parliament as a tremendous and very positive achievement for which all Nepalis should be proud. However, almost 12 weeks have passed since the April 10 election. There is an urgent need for the political parties to find a way to establish a new government which can address the many pressing concerns of the country's citizens, particularly the need for security through the rule of law. The Constituent Assembly needs to begin its important work of drafting a new constitution."[3]

Issues include a Nepali perception that the U.S. might be planning Nepali policy with India. There is a major concern about Bhutan refugees in Nepal, the unwillingness of Bhutan to repatriate them, and attacks on them by what she agrees are small groups of Nepali extremists.

She expected the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) to lead the new government and it "has expressed a commitment since the CA election to support the private sector, the free market and foreign direct investment, but its actions and those of its supporters will need to match that rhetoric." She said the CPN-Maoists are currently designated on the Terrorist Exclusion list and Specially Designated Nationals list. They are not and never have been on the Foreign Terrorist Organisations list.


  1. Nancy J. Powell, Director General, Human Resources, U.S. Department of State
  2. Sophia Hufford-Jones (April 2008), Wall Street Journal (Classroom)
  3. Anup Prakash (8 July 2008), "Interview with U.S. Ambassador to Nepal Nancy J. Powell", Nepali Times