U.S. Embassy Yemen Now on Evacuation … No, on Temporary Reduction of Staff Status

– Domani Spero

 

On September 25, the State Department finally ordered the evacuation temporary reduction of USG personnel from the US Embassy in Yemen.  Below is an excerpt from the updated Travel Warning:

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the high security threat level in Yemen due to terrorist activities and civil unrest.  The Department urges U.S. citizens to defer travel to Yemen and those U.S. citizens currently living in Yemen to depart. This supersedes the Travel Warning for Yemen issued on July 21, 2014.

On September 24, 2014, the Department of State ordered a reduction of U.S. government personnel from Yemen out of an abundance of caution due to the continued civil unrest and the potential for military escalation. The Embassy’s ability to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency and provide routine consular services may be limited. Embassy officers are restricted in their movements and cannot travel outside of Sana’a. In addition, movements within Sana’a are severely constrained and may be further constrained by the fluid security situation.

The security threat level in Yemen is extremely high. The Embassy is subject to frequent unannounced closures.  In May 2014, the Embassy was closed for almost five weeks because of heightened security threats.

Demonstrations continue to take place in various parts of the country and may quickly escalate and turn violent. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid areas of demonstrations, and to exercise extreme caution if within the vicinity of a demonstration.

Read in full here.

In related news, the Official Spokesperson of the State Department released a statement emphasizing that “The Embassy did not suspend operations and will continue to operate, albeit with reduced staff” and that “Consular services have not been affected by this temporary reduction in personnel.”

Serious question — when the USG declares that post is on “temporary reduction” or on “temporary relocation” of personnel, which seems to be the trend these days, are affected personnel considered “evacuees” for allowance and travel purposes?  Or are all the affected personnel put on TDY status to their designated safe havens?  We’re having a hard time locating the citation for “temporary reduction”or “temporary relocation” in the Foreign Affairs Manual.

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Photo of the Day: First Parent-Daughter Assistant Secretary of State

– Domani Spero

 

 

President Obama announced Ms. Crocker’s nomination in October 2013. The WH released a brief bio at that time:

Bathsheba N. Crocker is the Principal Deputy Director in the Office of Policy Planning at the Department of State (DOS), a position she has held since 2011.  Previously at DOS, she served as Chief of Staff to the Deputy Secretary of State from 2009 to 2011.  From 2008 to 2009, Ms. Crocker was a Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer for International Affairs at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  She was the Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support at the UN Peacebuilding Support Office from 2007 to 2008.  From 2005 to 2007, Ms. Crocker was the Deputy Chief of Staff to the UN Special Envoy at the Office of the UN Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery.  Ms. Crocker worked at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on the Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project as a Fellow and Co-Director from 2003 to 2005 and as an International Affairs Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations from 2002 to 2003.  Ms. Crocker was an Attorney-Adviser for the Office of the Legal Advisor at DOS from 2001 to 2002 and from 1997 to 1999.  From 2000 to 2001, she was Deputy U.S. Special Representative for Southeast Europe Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Rome, Italy.  From 1999 to 2000, Ms. Crocker was Executive Assistant to the Deputy National Security Advisor for the National Security Council at the White House.  She has served as an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University, George Washington University, and American University.  Ms. Crocker received a B.A. from Stanford University, an M.A. from Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Ms. Crocker’s father, Chester Crocker is a career diplomat who served as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs from 1981 to 1989 in the Reagan administration.  Click here for his ADST oral history interview (pdf).

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This is late, but here is the Senior Foreign Service Promotion List

– Domani Spero

 

This is late, but we’ve only recently found the list from the congressional records.  We believed these were some of the nominees who were promoted last fall but did not get the Senate’s confirmation until April 2014.  See this for an explanation of the ranks in the Senior Foreign Service.

Nomination: PN1381-01-113
Date Received: January 30, 2014 (113th Congress)
Nominees: One hundred and ninety-three nominations, beginning with Gerald Michael Feierstein, and ending with David Michael Satterfield
Referred to: Senate Foreign Relations
Reported by: Senate Foreign Relations

Legislative Actions
Floor Action: January 30, 2014 – Received in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
Floor Action: April 10, 2014 – Reported by Senator Menendez, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.
Floor Action: April 10, 2014 – Placed on Senate Executive Calendar. Calendar No. DESK.
Floor Action: April 11, 2014 – Confirmed by the Senate by Voice Vote.
Organization: Foreign Service

List of Nominees:

The following named Career Members of the Senior Foreign Service of the Department of State for promotion into and within the Senior Foreign Service to the classes indicated:

Career Members of the Senior Foreign Service of the United States of America, Class of Career Minister:

  • Gerald Michael Feierstein, of PA
  • Robert S. Ford, of MD
  • David M. Hale, of NJ
  • Stuart E. Jones, of VA
  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield, of LA

 

Career Members of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor:

  • Ronald D. Acuff, of FL
  • Douglas A. Allison, of VA
  • Marjorie Ann Ames, of FL
  • Whitney Young Baird, of NC
  • Erica Jean Barks-Ruggles, of VA
  • Kristen F. Bauer, of MA
  • Paul S. Beighley, of DC
  • Kate M. Byrnes, of FL
  • Floyd Steven Cable, of NY
  • Aubrey A. Carlson, of TX
  • Anne S. Casper, of NV
  • Todd Crawford Chapman, of TX
  • Karen Lise Christensen, of VA
  • Susan R. Crystal, of PA
  • Karen Bernadette Decker, of VA
  • Kathleen A. Doherty, of NY
  • Mary Dale Draper, of CA
  • Michael J. Fitzpatrick, of FL
  • Robert W. Forden, of CA
  • Jennifer Zimdahl Galt, of CO
  • Thomas Henry Goldberger, of NJ
  • Mark A. Goodfriend, of CA
  • Robert Daniel Griffiths, of NV
  • Kelii J. Gurfield, of WA
  • Peter David Haas, of FL
  • Daniel J. Hall, of TX
  • Dennis B. Hankins, of VA
  • Kathleen D. Hanson, of DC
  • Clifford Awtrey Hart, of VA
  • Jennifer Conn Haskell, of FL
  • Donald L. Heflin, of VA
  • Leo J. Hession, Jr., of CA
  • Catherine M. Hill-Herndon, of PA
  • Perry L. Holloway, of SC
  • John F. Hoover, of VA
  • Christine L. Hughes, of FL
  • Thomas J. Hushek, of DC
  • Michael Joseph Jacobsen, of TX
  • Julie Lynn Kavanagh, of VA
  • Michael Stanley Klecheski, of VA
  • Kent D. Logsdon, of FL
  • Matthew Robert Lussenhop, of MN
  • Michael William McClellan, of KY
  • Robin D. Meyer, of DC
  • Jonathan M. Moore, of IL
  • Wendela C. Moore, of VA
  • Kin Wah Moy, of NY
  • Warren Patrick Murphy, of VA
  • Julieta Valls Noyes, of FL
  • Larry G. Padget, Jr., of TX
  • Virginia E. Palmer, of VA
  • Beth A. Payne, of DC
  • Mary Catherine Phee, of DC
  • Claire A. Pierangelo, of CA
  • Lonnie J. Price, of VA
  • Robin S. Quinville, of CA
  • Elizabeth H. Richard, of TX
  • Adele E. Ruppe, of MD
  • Sue Ellen Saarnio, of VA
  • Christian J. Schurman, of VA
  • Kristen B. Skipper, of CA
  • Paul Randall Sutphin, of VA
  • Mara R. Tekach, of FL
  • Michael Stephen Tulley, of CA
  • David A. Tyler, of NH
  • Thomas Laszlo Vajda, of VA
  • James E. Vanderpool, of CA
  • Paul Dashner Wohlers, of WA
  • Steven Edward Zate, of FL
  • Timothy P. Zuniga-Brown, of NV

 

Career Members of the Senior Foreign Service of the United States of America, Class of Counselor:

  • Kelly Adams-Smith, of VA
  • Steven P. Adams-Smith, of VA
  • Jorgan Kendal Andrews, of VA
  • Virginia Meade Blaser, of VA
  • Scott Douglas Boswell, of DC
  • William Harvey Boyle, of AZ
  • Matthew Gordon Boyse, of CT
  • Bridget A. Brink, of DC
  • MaryKay Loss Carlson, of TX
  • James A. Carouso, of NY
  • Melissa Clegg-Tripp, of WA
  • Theodore R. Coley, of VA
  • Kelly Colleen Degnan, of CA
  • Leslie Stephen Degraffenried, of TX
  • Jill Derderian, of MD
  • Thomas M. Duffy, of CA
  • Stuart Anderson Dwyer, of ME
  • Andrew S. E. Erickson, of CA
  • Thomas R. Favret, of PA
  • Tara Feret, of VA
  • Patricia L. Fietz, of VA
  • Frank Jonathan Finver, of MD
  • Dehab Ghebreab, of VA
  • Paul G. Gilmer, of CA
  • Joshua D. Glazeroff, of VA
  • Anthony F. Godfrey, of VA
  • Katharina P. Gollner-Sweet, of VA
  • Francisco Javier Gonzales, of NJ
  • Laura Marlene Gould, of VA
  • Eric F. Green, of DC
  • Allen S. Greenberg, of TX
  • Michael Nicholas Greenwald, of CA
  • Henry Harrison Hand, of DC
  • Todd C. Holmstrom, of MI
  • Henry Victor Jardine, of VA
  • Lisa Anne Johnson, of VA
  • Elizabeth Jane Jordan, of FL
  • George P. Kent, of VA
  • John Stuart Kincannon, of DC
  • Michael B. Koplovsky, of NY
  • Steven Christopher Koutsis, of MA
  • Dale A. Largent, of WA
  • Laura Anne Lochman, of NC
  • James L. Loi, of CT
  • Theodore J. Lyng, of CT
  • Jean Elizabeth Manes, of FL
  • Andrew Cooper Mann, of WA
  • Carlos F. Matus, of MD
  • Wayne Amory McDuffy, of VA
  • David Slayton Meale, of VA
  • David Mees, of MD
  • Christopher Midura, of VA
  • Keith W. Mines, of NY
  • Sarah Craddock Morrison, of VA
  • Susan Butler Niblock, of MD
  • Karen L. Ogle, of MI
  • Kevin Michael O’Reilly, of VA
  • Inmi Kim Patterson, of NY
  • Brian Hawthorne Phipps, of FL
  • Thomas C. Pierce, of OR
  • John Mark Pommersheim, of FL
  • John Robert Post, of DC
  • Lynette Joyce Poulton, of CA
  • Timothy Joel Pounds, of NV
  • Jean E. Preston, of DC
  • Monique Valerie Quesada, of FL
  • David J. Ranz, of NY
  • David Reimer, of VA
  • Richard Henry Riley, IV, of VA
  • Lynn Whitlock Roche, of VA
  • Elizabeth Helen Rood, of VA
  • Kathryn M. Schalow, of VA
  • David Jonathan Schwartz, of VA
  • Dorothy Camille Shea, of DC
  • Adam Matthew Shub, of MD
  • Lynne P. Skeirik, of NH
  • Michael H. Smith, of NJ
  • Thomas D. Smitham, of MD
  • Andrew Snow, of NY
  • Sean B. Stein, of ID
  • James Kent Stiegler, of CA
  • Martina A. Strong, of TX
  • Stephanie Faye Syptak-Ramnath, of TX
  • Gregory Dean Thome, of WI
  • Laurence Edward Tobey, of NJ
  • Laurie Jo Trost, of VA
  • John Michael Underriner, of OH
  • Denise A. Urs, of TX
  • Peter Hendrick Vrooman, of NY
  • Gary S. Wakahiro, of CA
  • Jessica Webster, of DE
  • William J. Weissman, of CA
  • Eric Paul Whitaker, of CA
  • Frank J. Whitaker, of SC
  • Henry Thomas Wooster, of VA
  • Thomas K. Yazdgerdi, of FL
  • Paul Douglas Yeskoo, of VA
  • Marta Costanzo Youth, of MD

Career Members of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, and Consular Officers and Secretaries in the Diplomatic Service of the United States of America:

  • Raymond Bassi, of VA
  • Mark S. Butchart, of MD
  • Richard A. Capone, of VA
  • Janet A. Cote, of NV
  • Carolyn I. Creevy, of VA
  • Jill E. Darken, of IL
  • Bartle B. Gorman, of VA
  • Aleen Janice Grabow, of WI
  • Robert Allen Hall, of PA
  • Ralph A. Hamilton, of OH
  • Roger A. Herndon, of PA
  • Bruce J. Lizzi, of MD
  • David Lee Lyons, of MD
  • Michael M. Mack, of VA
  • Kathleen A. McCray, of VA
  • Alex G. McFadden, of FL
  • Beverly Doreen Rochester, of NV
  • Thomas Gerard Scanlon, of VA
  • Dean K. Shear, of VA

The following named Career Member of the Foreign Service of the Department of State for promotion within the Senior Foreign Service to the class indicated, effective October 12, 2008: Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service of the United States of America, Class of Career Minister:

David Michael Satterfield, of MO

Control Number: 113PN0138101

 

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Tired of Another War? Operation Repeat Iraqi Freedom Officially On In Iraq. And Syria.

– Domani Spero

 

Only yesterday:

 

Before you know it, this fellow on Twitter live-tweeted the strikes :

 

The Pentagon soon confirmed the air strikes:

 

Here is the official statement

 

Here’s a YouTube video of the ISIL strike:

 

The new coalition of the willing includes five Arab countries: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar:

 

The five Arab countries and their planes:

 

President Obama’s statement on the Syria bombing:

 

Here is the congressional notification:

 

Here is a longer letter (there were two?) citing authority to carry out Public Law 107-40 and Public Law 107-243).  We’re now at war in Syria, and for the third time, in Iraq:

 

Still “no boots on the ground!?”

 

How much will all this cost?

 

Did Congress say/do anything?

 

How about those war predictions?

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As of this writing, the State Department has not announced any new Travel Warning for Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain or Qatar.  The last Worldwide Caution notice was published on April 10, 2014.

One post out of the five Arab countries in the coalition, the US Embassy in Jordan, has issued a Security Message noting the coalition strikes against ISIL targets and the likely increased of police presence at public and diplomatic buildings throughout the country.

The only other post in the area to issue a Security Message citing “regional events” is the US Embassy in Lebanon.  Embassy Beirut advises U.S. citizens that coalition airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets in Syria have begun and notes an increased in kidnappings in  northern and eastern Lebanon. Both embassies say that there is no specific threat against U.S. citizens in their respected countries but caution citizens to exercise security awareness and maintain a heightened level of vigilance.

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Media Operations Centers in Afghanistan: $7.2Million Build/Suspend and Demolish Projects

– Domani Spero

 

They’re called MOCs or Media Operations Centers (MOCs). We’re building them in Afghanistan.  One State Department grant was for the construction of one MOC at Balkh University for $3,782,980. A second grant was for the construction of another MOC at Nangarhar University for $3,482,348. The grant awards totaled $7,265,328, and the periods of performance for both grants were October 1, 2013, through December 31, 2014.   According to State/OIG, these grants were executed in Afghanistan by Omran Holding Group (OHG) with two subcontractors, Capitalize Omran—a company based in Washington, DC, responsible for managing the overall project—and TriVision Studios, the firm responsible for outfitting the MOCs with broadcasting equipment. Apparently, the contraction construction related to both grants was suspended in January 2014 and has not resumed. On September 18, State/OIG recommended the immediate termination of the two grant agreements. Why?

Based on preliminary results of the audited sample, OIG identified areas of concern related to two construction grants being executed in Afghanistan by Omran Holding Group (OHG) that require immediate attention. These areas of concern include misuse of Government funds, significant noncompliance with Federal regulations, and inaccurate financial reporting. Additionally, OHG failed to comply with the terms of one grant agreement by beginning construction without required design approval, and also began construction of the building in the wrong location. We therefore recommended, among other actions, that the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA) immediately terminate grant agreements S-AF200-13-CA-012 and S-AF200-13-CA-014 with OHG, and that the Bureau of Administration’s Office of the Procurement Executive (A/OPE) develop Department guidance regarding the use of Federal assistance funds for overseas construction.

 

So one MOC was constructed without the required design approval:

“The grants required that the recipient develop building designs for the MOCs and that these designs be approved by the Department prior to the commencement of construction. However, OHG “jumped” the construction schedule and began to construct the Balkh University MOC in December 2013, without prior approval from the Department. As a result, certain aspects of the newly constructed structure were not in accordance with the Department’s requirements for the building design.”

The same MOC was constructed in the wrong location, and had to be demolished no later than October 31, 2014.

“OHG began the Balkh University MOC construction in the wrong location, based on the direction of a local Afghan government official who did not have the authority to direct the grantee, resulting in the need to demolish the new structure.” 

How did we end up from design/build to build/demolish?

State/OIG may have an answer:

“OIG also noted concerns related to the Department’s oversight of construction grants, in general. Specifically, the Department had no policies or procedures for awarding or overseeing construction grants, which resulted in ineffective construction grant agreements. For example, the OHG grant agreements lacked details that are normally included in construction contracts, and the terms and conditions were created by the GOR without documented input or approval from Department legal representatives or construction specialists.”

The Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA) and the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) concurred with the recommendations with the later noting that the termination letters for each award are currently in the clearance process. A response from the SRAP also notes that the Public Affairs Section (PAS) at embassy Kabul has “obligated more than 975 awards totaling over  $270,000,000  under extraordinarily challenging circumstances.”

Think about that for a moment.

We don’t know how many MOCs have been constructed in Afghanistan, but in January 2013, the State Department announced a $325,000 award for “the completion of the PAS-funded Media Operations Center (MOC) at Herat University”and a maximum award for $200,00 for the  the operation and maintenance of this facility for a period of up to 24 months.  In spring 2013, the US Embassy in Kabul also announced the inauguration of a state-of-the-art Media Operations Center (MOC) at Kabul University.  The Embassy provided a $2.67 million grant to the HUDA Development Organization, to build and equip the Media Operations Center there.

So just to round-up, our precise and active verbs for these Afghanistan projects now include: design, build, suspend,complete, equip, maintain, and demolish. Also terminate.

Although, possibly, terminate is only good until a new grantee can be located to complete these grants.

Read the audit here (pdf) and weep.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Follow the Money, Foreign Assistance, Govt Reports/Documents, Media, Regional Bureaus, State Department, U.S. Missions, US Embassy Kabul

Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports and Briefs — Published August 2014

– Domani Spero

 

Note that some documents are web-accessible but most are in pdf formats.

-08/29/14   Latin America and the Caribbean: Key Issues for the 113th Congress  [598 Kb]
-08/29/14   Organization of American States: Background and Issues for Congress  [433 Kb]
-08/29/14   Special Immigrant Juveniles: In Brief  [317 Kb]
-08/29/14   Taiwan: Major U.S. Arms Sales Since 1990  [646 Kb]
-08/28/14   The “1033 Program,” Department of Defense Support to Law Enforcement  [234 Kb]
-08/28/14   The Islamic State in Syria and Iraq: A Possible Threat to Jordan? – CRS Insights  [84 Kb]
-08/28/14   Unaccompanied Children from Central America: Foreign Policy Considerations  [451 Kb]
-08/27/14   The New START Treaty: Central Limits and Key Provisions  [436 Kb]
-08/27/14   The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR)  [53 Kb]
-08/26/14   Conventional Prompt Global Strike and Long-Range Ballistic Missiles: Background and Issues  [452 Kb]
-08/26/14   NATO’s Wales Summit: Expected Outcomes and Key Challenges  [317 Kb]
-08/26/14   The 2014 Ebola Outbreak: International and U.S. Responses  [625 Kb]
-08/21/14   China’s Economic Rise: History, Trends, Challenges, and Implications for the United States  [646 Kb]
-08/20/14   Climate Change and Existing Law: A Survey of Legal Issues Past, Present, and Future  [514 Kb]
-08/20/14   The “Militarization” of Law Enforcement and the Department of Defense’s “1033 Program” – CRS Insights  [66 Kb]
-08/19/14   Cuba: U.S. Restrictions on Travel and Remittances  [504 Kb]
-08/19/14   Iran Sanctions  [709 Kb]
-08/15/14   Domestic Terrorism Appears to Be Reemerging as a Priority at the Department of Justice – CRS Insights  [97 Kb]
-08/15/14   Latin America: Terrorism Issues  [530 Kb]
-08/15/14   Manufacturing Nuclear Weapon “Pits”: A Decisionmaking Approach to Congress [656 Kb]
-08/15/14   Same-Sex Marriage: A Legal Background After United v. Windsor  [234 Kb]
-08/15/14   State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2015 Budget and Appropriations  [558 Kb]
-08/14/14   The U.S. Military Presence in Okinawa and Futenma Base Controversy  [654 Kb]
-08/13/14   U.S. – Vietnam Economic and Trade Relations: Issues for the 113th Congress  [408 Kb]
-08/12/14   Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights  [497 Kb]
-08/08/14   Ebola: 2014 Outbreak in West Africa – CRS In Focus  [243 Kb]
-08/08/14   Iraq Crisis and U.S. Policy  [578 Kb]
-08/08/14   U.S. – Vietnam Nuclear Cooperation Agreement: Issues for Congress  [336 Kb]
-08/07/14   Guatemala: Political, Security, and Socio-Economic Conditions and U.S. Relations [449 Kb]
-08/07/14   India’s New Government and Implications for U.S. Interests  [310 Kb]
-08/07/14   Reducing the Budget Deficit: Overview of Policy Issues  [410 Kb]
-08/07/14   U.S. – EU Cooperation on Ukraine and Russia – CRS Insights  [135 Kb]
-08/06/14   2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review: Evolution of Strategic Review – CRS Insights  [243 Kb]
-08/05/14   China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities – Background and Issues for Congress  [4552 Kb]
-08/05/14   Maritime Territorial and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Disputes Involving China: Issues for Congress  [1348 Kb]
-08/05/14   Safe at Home? Letting Ebola-Stricken Americans Return – CRS Insights  [195 Kb]
-08/04/14   Indonesia’s 2014 Presidential Election – CRS Insights  [55 Kb]
-08/01/14   “Womenomics” in Japan: In Brief  [232 Kb]
-08/01/14   Gun Control Legislation in the 113th Congress  [539 Kb]
-08/01/14   Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations  [907 Kb] 

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Madam ★ Secretary Debuts With a Crisis But Without Her Ops Center and Gray-Haired Advisors

– Domani Spero

 

Last week, CBS’ new kid in the block, Madam Secretary had its premiere screening event at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington D.C.  The cast and crew were joined by special guest Madeleine Albright.

 

Last night, the show finally aired, sandwiched between 60 Minutes and The Good Wife.  Twitter reacted with excitement, ugh and in between; take your pick. Here are our favorite reactions:

 

In the long history of the Secretaries of State of the United States, from Thomas Jefferson in 1790 to-date, the appointees have been predominantly male, white and old. It doesn’t look like like we’ve ever had one appointed in their 40’s nor have one with kids running around Foggy Bottom’s corridors. And we’ve never had one who did a minor make-over and with a short skirt, stopped the presses.  So this secretary of state is a tad unrecognizable.  But, okay, we’ll go along with the premise for now. We’d have liked to see her at the UNGA this week, but the UN’s TV magnets from  Iran and Venezuela will not be around this time, so never mind.

The pilot episode involves a couple of young American hostages held in Syria.  They were released in exchange for $1.5 million in kind (medical stuff and such), which may still be considered ransom payment.  According to  TVGuide, the second episode deals with a fiery attack on the U.S. Embassy in Yemen, and the third deals with an Edward Snowden-inspired whistle-blower/hacker causing havoc throughout the State Department. TVGuide promised that each situation will be resolved rather neatly.  By a secretary of state who is perfect in every way. Now, where’s the fun in that?

Here is a photo tweeted last week with the lead star Téa Leoni who played Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord, and her staff during an official dinner for the King of Swaziland and his merry wives. What’s wrong with this picture?

 

The most glaring one, of course!  Where are the rest of the Swazi guests, or more to the point, why are the secretary’s staffers sitting in on the principal’s table drinking champagne instead of more important D.C. invitees? Pardon me, they’re all note-takers?!

The staffers except for a couple look like they just got out of A-100 or the campaign trail.  Where did the SecState’s gray-haired advisors go?  Nooooo, not the broomroom!  Will Secretary McCord go to PTA meetings and curriculum nights?  Will she cook her own dinners or have take outs?  And who’s doing the laundry?  The pilot episode also showed us the secretary of state in her pajamas, are we going to see her with scrunchies next?

Next week’s episode is reportedly about an attack on U.S. Embassy Sana’a. Let’s see if the show will bring in the Secretary’s Ops Center and if anyone will be dragged before Congress for talking points. We’re watching. We want to know how long she can have it all.

The reviews are in, here are some of them:

The Hollywood Reporter: Leoni and Daly are a great couple, and if Madam Secretary does one important thing and nails it in the pilot, it’s making their marriage and family believable. Knowing that Elizabeth is grounded and sensible and funny at home — meaning she’s handling the mother and wife thing just fine, unlike so many women on TV who are great at their jobs and a disaster in their personal lives — gives hope that the series can be multidimensional.[...] And while it’s fun to see Leoni put out some international terrorist fires behind the scenes — while figuring out a way to get her point across delicately at State Department dinners that she’d rather not have — other parts of Madame Secretary need work.

Vox: Madam Secretary seems terrified the audience will miss something, to the degree that all of the characters might as well be walking around wearing index cards emblazoned with any given scene’s subtext glued to their foreheads. It is not a subtle show, and it mistakes copying the surface moves of Good Wife — to say nothing of other quality TV dramas — for being able to match that show’s depth. There’s promise here, but it’s already rapidly deteriorating.

TVline: The show’s biggest challenge will be making Elizabeth’s home life as compelling as her work life (something the pilot struggled to do despite some nice chemistry between Leoni and Daly). Also, the government cover-up subplot will likely elicit a collective eye roll from conspiracy-fatigued TV viewers.

Variety: “Madam Secretary” has enough interesting pieces, as well as a great big world of trouble to mine, to have significant potential. The premiere, however, doesn’t bode particularly well for being able to maximize those assets, and as they say in diplomatic circles, the devil is in the details.

USAToday: [U]nlike Good Wife, Secretary seems to fear that anything but the most straightforward plotting will lose us. Twists are too few, solutions too simple, and knowing moments too often canceled out by silly ones.

Some good news though for aspiring actors — according to Politico, in addition to real-life news events, we should expect some cameos from real-life Washingtonians. The Madam Secretary people threw in an invitation,  “We would love to have people from Washington come through, and real people in the media, to make the world — to ground it in reality, because we want this to feel like a recognizable version of Washington.”

What are you waiting for? Go. Call. Now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Snapshot: Top 30 State Department Contractors (Based on Highest Dollar Amounts)

– Domani Spero

 

According to State/OIG, after several media reports were written about the use of confidentiality agreements that limit the ability of contractor employees to report fraud, waste, or abuse to Inspectors General or other oversight entities, it sent a letter in August 2014 requesting information from the thirty companies which have the highest dollar amount of contracts with the Department of State. The list does not indicate their rank in any particular order:

Screen Shot 2014-09-21

Screen Shot 2014-09-21

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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State Department/USAID OIG Published Reports — August 2014

– Domani Spero

 

All reports in pdf files hosted at http://oig.state.gov and http://oig.usaid.gov. A very short August list from State/OIG:

USAID/OIG August reports:

 

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Yemen Rebels With “Death to Amreeka” Logo Take Over Sanaa

– Domani Spero

 

On September 13, 2014, ambassadors to Yemen from ten countries, including the United States and the UK released a statement of “grave concern” on the  rising threat to the security of Yemen:

The Group of Ten Ambassadors notes with grave concern the rising threat to the security of Yemen posed by actions of groups and individuals who oppose full and timely implementation of the political transition in accordance with the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative and its Implementation Mechanism, as well as the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference, and as called for in UN Security Council Resolutions.  The Group reaffirms its abiding commitment to the peaceful transition process as outlined in the GCC Initiative and calls on all parties to abide by the founding principles of the Initiative aimed at ensuring the security, stability, and unity of Yemen.
[...]

The Group of Ten Ambassadors further condemns Ansar Allah’s public statements, which essentially mean threats to overthrow the Yemeni government and holds the group responsible for the deterioration of the security situation in Sana’a, for not fully withdrawing from Amran, and from engaging in armed clashes in al-Jawf as provided in the UNSC Statements of 11/07/2014 and 29/08/2014.

 

Photo via US Embassy Sanaa/FB

Photo via US Embassy Sanaa/FB

As clashes escalated and advanced into the capital city, the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa released an emergency message on September 18.  No updated message has been posted as of this writing:

The Embassy informs the public that ongoing clashes are now affecting the area around 60 Meter Road after Madbah Junction near Eman University.  Due to the continuing civil disorder and the escalating threat of violence, the Embassy advises all U.S. citizens to exercise great caution, avoid travel along 60 Meter Road beyond Madbah Junction, and use Movenpick Road to travel to the airport.    

On September 19, Al Jazeera reports of continued fighting in Sanaa:

On September 20, a tweet from the UK ambassador to Yemen:

 

Also on September 20, a statement from the UN:

A proposal not an agreement:

Curfew imposed:

The UN Yemen deal was signed today, after Huthis rebels swooped on key institutions across Sanaa, including the government headquarters and military sites, after an apparent surrender by security forces, according to France 24:

 

Early on September 21, Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindwa also tendered his resignation:

A notable part of the newly signed UN-brokered agreement according to Al Jazeera is that the annex, which was not signed by the Houthis, stipulated their withdrawal from Sanaa, Jawf and Amran within 45 days:

 

Need something further to read on this?

 

Okay, now this:

It is.  See this Houthis gallery via Al Jazeera from 2013.

According to Al Jazeera, the Houthis took over several government buildings in Sanaa including the defence ministry’s headquarters, the army headquarters, the parliament building, the Central Bank and the national radio station.

This Middle East Institute piece by Charles Schmitz on the Huthi Ascent to Power says that “The Huthi movement today must choose between pressing ahead militarily and provoking a bloody civil war in the capital or using its considerable political capital to form a wider, more inclusive and legitimate government in Yemen, to begin to address Yemen’s pressing problems. The movement appears to waiver unpredictably between the two options.”

No official statement either from Embassy Sanaa or the State Department concerning the latest developments or movements of personnel has been released.  We will update if we learn more.

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